A secret report from within the Build.

January was a productive month. I’m not done with CG prep for the next chapter but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was at the beginning of the year.┬áThe rest of this entry is spoiler heavy and perhaps more importantly contains no screenshots. I’m through the vehicles and on to environments and I’d like the first appearance of those to be on the page as that’s what they’re designed for. That doesn’t prevent me from talking about what I’ve been modeling, though!

  • 2014 began with The Atlas – A Titan Mark XII, “sequel” to the Titan Mark II Cheops that’s been floating around since 2006. Scheduled to show up mid-chapter. A from-scratch asset with a more organic look than previous spaceships; as it has the same mutant N-64 controller layout as the Cheops I referred to it as the “Geigerprise” a few times on IRC.
  • Valkyrie class fighter – A Viper-esque aerospace fighter inspired by the Saab Draken, detailed in the January blog post.
  • The Oberon – A palette-swap of the Daedalus, done for plot purposes and as an opportunity to re-use the first edition “stealth” paint job.
  • The Pollux – Sister ship of the Castores. Rather than spend a lot of time reverting parts of the Castores model and adding onto it I forked the final Silo file of the Foundation class hull and went from there. The Pollux is obviously the same class of ship – it’s also obviously modified, featuring a number of plot details including a docking and transport mechanism that can handle Mark II and Mark XII Titans. The ship also has guns (from the Atlas), a slightly longer nose, and new engines. The only downside of doing the Pollux as a continuation rather than a modification was that I had to re-smooth all imported geometry again – fortunately, that didn’t take long and the results were well worth the effort.
  • Daedalus accommodation compartments – The ship has six of these. Three appear in the next chapter, though only one gets a good amount of screen time. The compartment was expanded from the wardrobe – I cloned that compartment and spent a work session stripping it down, rebuilding it as an accommodation space, and updating texture maps. As of this writing these environments are still in development, though as of the day before this writing the bulk of the geometry that’s going into them has been completed. In fact after I post this I’ll be spending most of the rest of the day importing assembled props into the primary accommodation space and doing test renders. I hope to have the required Daedalus interiors finished this week.
  • Daedalus accommodation assets – These are the bits that are going into the accommodation space. I exported the compartment into silo, merged it into a single object to make it less of a Giant List Of Text in the scene viewer, and then modeled a bunch of equipment in place. The accommodation space used as reference will be the first completed and these props will be used to populate the others.
    • Cabinet – A 3×1 locker evolved from the Wardrobe cabinets. Contains folded cloth visible through the vents; has “working” hinges and latches.
    • Rack – A pull-out bunk featuring additional storage space and plenty of attachment points for bungee cords, which won’t be used in the scene but help sell the idea that gravity is a thing the ship usually doesn’t have. I had initially envisioned the rack as a complicated telescoping fold-out mechanism but opted for a kit system instead – the front pulls out and is held in place by struts, which are also the mounts for the jigsaw bits the inflatable mattress rests on. Greg’s compartment doesn’t appear in the story so I don’t have to worry about implementing his vertical rack space. For years I’d envisioned the bunks being an either/or thing that folded out and down from the wall and had mentally developed them with Greg’s space as the baseline – that turned out to be more design effort than it was worth, especially given how much of the existing rack mechanics are hidden by the compartment layout. There’s no sense in working through what amounts to an exercise in mechanism pornography if it’s not going to get any screen time!
    • Fold-down Desk & Computer Terminal – A wall-mounted desk, complete with the Deadalus equivalent of a VT100 as well as a keyboard and mouse. The desktop/lid has the logo of the “Osbourne Equipment Corporation,” which is a three-way reference to The Osborne Computer Corporation, Ozzy Osbourne, and DEC. The logo may not be visible in the comic, as it’s under the desk in West’s compartment and the other compartments are currently planned to be shot as close-ups.
    • Folding chair – A spidery stowable folding chair with its own wall mount. The chair was designed as a thought exercise during an afternoon walk, sketched out on paper, and implemented almost exactly as drawn. I’m fairly pleased with how it came out – it’s mechanically sound and looks like a feasible design.
    • Desktop Calendar, Reading Lamp, Magnetic Picture Frame, Tablet Computer – A few relatively simple props that help make the environment look more lived-in.
    • Food Cubes and food cube storage rack – Given how rack space works on modern naval vessels and the space shuttle it seems crazy to give everyone their own room, especially when the space allotted is larger than the bedroom I grew up in. I balanced this out by having each accommodation space contain the person’s food supply and spacesuit. The corn-flavored power bars likely came from a Food Cube.
    • Exoderm 588 Space Activity System storage container – A color-coded sealed trunk containing the spacesuit of the person in the accommodation space. I stopped short of modeling the interior of the trunk, though I did build working lids/doors and made sure that the interior space is large enough to fit a helmet, air pack, boots, gloves, etc. I may flesh out the trunk interior for use in a scene later in the chapter – I haven’t decided yet. Like the chair the trunk was designed in my head during a walk, sketched out, and then implemented almost exactly as drawn. A combination of a Borderlands loot chest and band gear I hauled during my brief time as a roadie.

At this point the only bits remaining on the to-do list for the accommodation space are assembly, lighting, a shitload of test rendering, and bunk blankets – those will probably be handled as some sort of cloth simulation, which will be the learning part of this environment. Late last week I did just enough work with a cloth system to confirm that it’ll do what I want – I also confirmed that there’s no point in doing the work until I have a fully assembled environment for the cloth to react to, so I haven’t done anything useable with it yet. I also have no idea how the “blanket” will react to the meshsmoothed geometry of the pillows and mattress, though I’ll find out soon!

After the Daedalus interior spaces are complete I’ll be moving on to the Sabrosa sickbay, and after that… back to the script. I haven’t worked on that since early January. Hell I haven’t thought about it since early January. As mentioned previously 3d modeling is where the fun is at the moment and while it’s not the loud sweaty messy kind of fun it is a thing that I enjoy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, mind you – my workspace just isn’t geared for it. I’m currently juggling more projects than usual in a flailing attempt to make money and while that sort of stress is bad for writing, doing lots of 3d modeling work seems to take the edge off.

So, that’s what I got done in January. The accommodation space is roughly four-fifths complete at this point. After that all that remains is Hrazny mrDat and the Sabrosa sick bay, each of which present their own challenges. HD is an inhabited earth-like planet that needs painfully high-res surface and cloud maps that can’t be half-assed, and the sickbay will be the first new-from-scratch interior I’ve built in awhile. It doesn’t need to be detail porn but I do want it to be more UPMC than UFOP and it’s an environment that will be seen again in future ATC books; at this point I’ll settle for “spartan and moodily lit.”