Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Designing Plausible Spacecraft for Role-Playing Games Part IV

Aaaaaaaand, we're back!


     This is where we get down to the nuts-and-bolts of making all the cool ideas from the pre-viz come together into a coherent whole.  This is mostly a matter of personal taste and style, so there are not a lot of specifics I can offer on designing the general look of your craft.  Its up to you, your influences, your audience, and your personal skills.  But I can add  to my unofficial List-O-Design-Rules:

6. Fictional Spacecraft are  Either Anthropomorphic or Iconographic.

     This is part and parcel with the human condition.   Even real spacecraft, whose designs are influenced far more by money, politics and the inescapable physical limitations of chemical, disposable rockets, fall into one of these two categories.  The Soyuz/Progress capsule is an excellent real-world example of this.  Its a ball, bell and cylinder-simple, efficient shapes- yet they combine to define the entire eastern bloc space design ethic in a way that is instantly recognizable.  In fiction, probably the most iconographic spacecraft is the Enterprise.  Say what you will about it being a totally non-plausible design, you know what that design is.  The point is illustrated by the many different versions that have been made over the years; original, A-E, reboot- they are all recognizable as "The Big E" in design.  I think that, despite Doug Drexler's awesome designs, the titular ship from the television series Enterprise, the NX-01, sort of doomed the show because of its lack of the iconographic design.
     Anthropomorphic is a bit of misnomer.  What I mean is "ships that look like animals and stuff"  Does anybody know the word for that?  The mental process involved is called matrixing and referes to the human trait of finding patterns in random images and things like seeing faces in the light socket and stuff.  The point is, a ship that invokes a certain object through similar design invokes the emotional impact of that object.  I'll offer two examples for this, on animal and one inanimate.  The K-03 midbulk transport Firefly-class from the show of the same name is an excellent example of a spacecraft that invokes an animal.  Or, more to the point, two animals.  It has a bulbous, glowing abdomen that gives the Firefly its name, and the long, graceful swan neck that make it remind one of a bird in flight.  The ship is also iconographic in the sense that it is instantly recognizable and unmistakable for anything else, so its a double whammy of WIN.
   The Imperial Star Destroyers from the Star Wars franchise are also iconographic to the point that they have inspired the off shot prequel designs, but they are also anthropomorphic- if that's the right word- in that they all bear the general shape of a spear or arrow head.  This primitive, lethal imagery is part of what makes the Star Destroyer so ominous and dangerous looking.
   That, and they're freaking huge...

   So any way, how does this apply to our project Valkyrie, do you ask?  In order to make the spacecraft memorable and therefore lucrative, I want to make it either iconographic, anthropomorphic, or both.  Iconography is kinda something that a design has to earn, in a way, but anthropomorphic can be accomplished easily.  Now, I realize not everybody reads manga- I hardly ever do myself- so lets take a look at the inspiration for the project, the DS-12:
     See, isn't she cute?  Looks kinda insect like, which is good, because - like an ant -  the Toy Box 2 scurries along busy orbits and cleans up debris.  The Valkyrie is designed to clean up debris as well - its function in the game world is to clear the orbital space between asteroid colonies that have been cut off since the Geat War.  The part of the DS-12's design that stuck with me the most is the round protrusion in the bow and the "bumper guard" that covers most of the dorsal surface. 
      After doing some research on real-world debris removal scenarios, I came upon the "laser broom" proposal.  It resonated with an idea I had about using a species of fusion torch to vaporize debris.  So I''ve decided that the Valkyrie will have an armored spine, a thrust nozzle on the bow, and several pairs of robotic arms for grabbing the big salvage.
     After playing around with the elements I had collected and the design principles we've outlined, I come up with the basic design for our space scow:

     The design, to me, is invokative of a mole and a angry, angry beetle.  This is what I want for reasons that will be revealed later.
Now, the exterior is not designed in a vacuum (no pun intended).  I also played with the interior, remembering that living space in a purely free fall spacecraft is only about half the size of what's needed in gravity, I'm just adding in a simple cylinder and connecting tube for the life system.  I also have to account for the fusion generators, propellant tanks, support trusses and hard science-y stuff.  Fortunately, I have Photoshop!  So, here is the skeleton of the Valkyrie superimposed:

     So you see, eveything fits.  We now have a plausible design that looks cool, does what it it's supposed to do, and invokes the imagery I want it to. 

     That's it for today, folks.  Tomorrow, we'll start designing the interior in detail.


1 comment:

  1. i too have thoughts on mostly the power systems for a viable long term self sufficient (no fuel from out side needed) systems / 1. there is of coarse nuculear propulsion or even a like the cylons used a sea rai type inport and a jet type output using space itself to propulse a vehicle. or a solar type compreser or others. as a nuculear explosion that is direckted through a "direcktional exhaust" should be able to break the speed of light based on a internal skeliton that is rigid as well as maliable without rupturing the hull. on a larger type craft such as aircraft carier where as the other on fighter or yard type dogs as i dont draw but my theories may be sound yet to test and a controled thermonuculear detonation. given the gravity of space should not take much push to get and stay going. if the detonation could be controled based on "size of detonation" would be optimal for larger vessels. yes in the 50's the nuked space so it is in fackt safe. i was thinking for the larger aircraft type cariers like the movie 2012 where the blue secktions are for take off and landing on the sides as were it gives plenty of space "internal" for engine experimentation for several diferent types i've had on my mind there was a show on sci fi a while back that the i beams were dircktional and seemed to go hand in hand with the sort of thrust expeckted from numerous engine scinarios.
    am trying to stay away from the internal combustion as well as the standard rocket even with cylinder air like a welder underwater it works but i do believe we could do better.


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