Saturday, 1 September 2012

Introducing the Rapier

Saturday, 1 September 2012
Fleet Troopers need fire power. Every Trooper, regardless of their rank or role, get issued with the Rapier. The most reliable weapon the Fleet have ever had. It is a powerful pulse laser, which weaves light and raw energy into translucent blue bolts. Ammunition is beamed directly into a small store on-board so a belt feed is not required.

The six fixed barrels contain their own 20 gauge (200 damage per round, 50 rounds per turn) pulse laser mechanism, providing 6 times redundancy. It connects directly to the Trooper's Cyber but can be fired without operating sensors.

My love/hate relationship with the Rapier

I drew the Rapier in pencil back in 1999 and it was superb. A 2D side elevation drawing on 5mm squared paper. Sadly, I lost it. Since then, I've been trying to repeat it - regaining the old magic. Each time I try, I get close to what I want but miss the bar and that annoys me so intensely, I can't return to the image again for ages. I tend to redirect some energy into the text of the setting or work on another project entirely.

How I design

I start with a drawing. I have a cheap Wacom Bamboo tablet and GIMP and I just sketch. If I am not near my computer and the mood takes me, then I sketch on paper. I prefer digital because rubbing out and line thickness is easier. It takes some getting used to as your eye is not tracking the line as it appears from the tip of a pencil but tracking across the screen.

Each Icar item starts as a bunch of shapes. I am big on straight lines, arcs and circles. If I like the shape (roughly) then I'll fill some detail. I'll keep going until I think it's no good and then stop and start with a new bunch of big shapes.

If it is a weapon that I am having trouble with, I try different styles to keep myself going. If it is still not working for me, I change the music I am listening to, adjust the blind next to my desk, try drinking something different and so on. It doesn't have to be a huge paradigm shift (try drawing upside down or in a coffee shop) as a combination of little things works just fine.

Once I am happy with the overall sketch, I transfer it into 3D. Getting them into 3D is a long process of tweaking and fiddling.

Rapier examples

The five images below show 5 attempts at the Rapier, each binned at different stages. I did 25 attempts in the end - some made their way into 3D before I gave up. They are not chronologically the same weapon, they each one is a different stab at the weapon. Below the image, I explain why I binned each design. I'm going into more detail than before to help you understand why it's been a pain.
  1. The initial idea for the Rapier was that the forearm of the Trooper went inside the weapon. This removes the need for handles. The problem with this is that it is a bit cumbersome - fine for the "clompy" Troopers of old but no good for the new reinvention. I don't like where the barrels meet the rear half. I tried to imagine it in 3d with the grey but it wasn't right.
  2. This is still a series of shapes - went wrong really early.
  3. I liked the idea of having two circular sections at the back but it made the whole thing too long. Also, bit where the barrels meet is still bad.
  4. This one has a lot of detail because I quite liked it. I like that the rear half is grabbing the barrels. I experimented with holes in the barrels but that is something I did when I was 14 and don't see the need these days.
  5. My favourite of the five but still to fat - too chunky. Too... too... wrong. This was design #24 and it was here that I realised I was heading in the wrong direction entirely.

Here are another batch from a week or two later:
Didn't like any of those either. The second one down shows the shapes stage of drawing a weapon for Icar. It really is very rough at that point.

Know when to stop

So I sat myself down at the computer and gave myself an evening without distraction. I left my headphones on but didn't play music (am I the only one who does that?). It gives a deadening to the ear that helps me focus. I'm writing this post in the same way. I gave myself one sketch and one sketch only. I came up with this:


To throw myself off the scent of the other images, I drew the weapon left-to-right. Rather than begin with a series of curves, I started with straight lines and then added a minimal number of curves. I didn't like the detail much but that was OK because the design always morphs a little when going into 3D. I didn't want to spend too long on detailing the model but I had a few ideas that might make it more interesting. This is the final Rapier, which will be built onto a weapon sheet soon.


I couldn't copy the drawing verbatim because there are some lines that just don't make sense. Also, where the barrels meet the barrel cover on the right looked really odd so I had them going into a very simple cylinder first. I am please with the result - not 100% happy but then I could spend the rest of the year fiddling and it would never get done. There is a time to stop and this is it.
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