Friday, 5 April 2013

Bigger Fish in the Sea

A set of fighters for the Aquan Fleet was my second project, this time I wanted to tackle something bigger. I quite like the original Aquan sculpts by Spartan Games. The fish-like appearance reminded me of some of my favourite vessels from Star Wars, but the smooth lines and an "alien" look usually wins me over. Here are some of my painted versions of their models:

As the game Firestorm Armada grew, so did the number models available. Unfortunately the new Aquan Fleet releases were quite different in appearance from the original models. The detail on the model was greatly increased, but this had a negative effect on the smooth fish-like appearance that I was so fond of. A couple of Spartan's renders as an example (courtesy of the black ocean):


Nice looking designs, very good work, but they missed all the character of the originals, I felt. Was it a new sculptor? I never found out.
So as you can probably guess by now, I decided to design my own replacements.

I started with the Destroyer first. In-game the destroyers are specialized long-range vessels with cloaking capabilities. More analogous to a modern submarine. They tend to be slower than the typical cruiser. This specific destroyer has powerful side weapons, and weak frontal ones. The Destroyer model didn't reflect that very well. It looks front-oriented, with very little weaponry displayed on the sides.

Looking at real fish for inspiration, I thought the flounder and the mola-mola had some potential. I liked the shape and thought that the powerful side weapons could be best represented by oversized orbs (mega-lasers) since the weapons are usually portrayed as small protruding spheres and ovals.
This was the final design:

There was another unsuccessful design which looked similar, but didn't turn out very well. It was an experiment in new software, but the biggest problem was the size of some of the details. The engines and weapon ports were too small and needed to be increased. The second version, shown here, addressed most of these problems and added a few more details. I 3D printed 3 of them (a full squad) and painted them up to match the rest of the fleet.

During the build there was a little "wiggle" and you can see the effect in the mid-section of a few of them. This is a specific drawback to the Vflash 3D printer system I use. The models are built upside down, and gravity can be your enemy as the build platform moves. Sometimes the layers of material end up slightly misaligned, causing the stepped effect. A little sandpaper and body-filler can solve the problem, but some areas are hard too hard to reach, or too deep.

The next model to tackle was the dreadnought. A "dreadnought" in this game is simply a larger-than-usual battleship. In the case of the Aquan Fleet, the dreadnought is also a carrier vessel as well as a fighting vessel. The design that Spartan Games came up with left me cold. It's a big departure from the originals. Tentacles? Why would a space ship ever need tentacles? It looks a lot like a gicantic squid of sorts, and resembles this Romulan ship from the new Star Trek in concept:

Cool, but it just doesn't match the theme, in my mind. I went a different way, sweeping the ship backwards instead of creating a giant mouth. The Spartan design placed the launch bays in the front, creating a giant shot-trap, practically inviting the enemy to target the weakest part of the ship as it approaches. I put my launch bays towards the rear face, gave it 3 sides to maximize surface area for weapon pods (to match the in-game statistics). And voila!

It was a tricky CAD design, that required plenty of planning. However, with more experience I'm now able to get a little more detail in, like panel lines and such things.

The build was troublesome. When I printed out a 1:1 paper version of the above image, I thought it looked too small. So I bumped it up by 10%. Big mistake. When I 3D printed the model it was way too big ... It looked out of place. I scrapped it, and reprinted it 20% smaller, again a mistake. Sheesh. This one was too small! I reprinted it a third time -- at the original size I had designed it and it was perfect. I guess the lesson is "don't second guess yourself" but I second guess myself all the time and usually it helps! The build:

Here it is painted and based with some fighters for comparison:

And here it is with the other Spartan Games battleships for comparison:

Both of these designs are available from my shapeways shop. They are a little expensive compared to the Spartan Games models, but I may look into casting them someday which would greatly reduce the price. I have a lot to learn before I can make high quality castings, so it may be while ....

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Another Carrier Vessel

I was very happy with my first carrier vessel. I wanted to add another slightly smaller vessel of similar style. It followed the same star ship design concepts as the first using the same construction elements as before -- armoured outer belt with weapons, inside surface has the vulnerable openings for deploying fighter craft, with a bastion/tower command section inside. I thought I'd change it up a little so I put the bastion towards the back of the doughnut. I had a few sketches and I knew where to begin. After some initial CAD work, this is what I ended up with. rather than being a horseshoe, this one looked a little more like a canoe.

I added a few details and 3D printed it. It took about 7 hours to build and I was able to fit 2 of them on the pad. The build went well and most of the detail was retained, but I wasn't happy with the design. The bastion at the back didn't work as well as I thought it might. You can see the result below with some paint slapped on.

I was unhappy with it and I wanted to make some changes. Back to the drawing screen!
One of the big advantages of 3D CAD software over hand-sculpting is making changes. Just like altering a paragraph in a word processor, you are able to go back to the original file and add/delete to the work you have already done rather than start all over again. Once you have made changes, you can reprint the file without any more trouble or waste. 

Here's the modified rendering. You can see the bastion is separated and moved towards the center of the doughnut. 

Unfortunately I had already made 2 of them and I didn't want to throw them out. The material is expensive. Instead of reprinting the whole thing, I made a custom part that would fit into an area of the models that I would remove by hand. I'm a model maker after all, so I have the skills and tools. 
I printed the new part, cut off the modified area with a jewelers saw, and then glued it together. The joint needed a little body-filler and sanding.

Here are the two finished models:
The final design is available for purchase from shapeways. It is known as the "Rushi Fleet Carrier" and is a little smaller than the "Rushi Battle Carrier". Take note, the model come in three parts and you'd need to order them all to put it together properly. This will permit customization at a later date -- perhaps an alternate bastion for a command ship or special-purpose vessel.