Insider 1-28-2011

Some of you may have picked up on the hint I dropped last week about this week’s battle engine showcase. And I’m certain most of you caught the little easter egg Ed hid in his blog yesterday. Well today I am excited to show you a 3-D render of the work in progress Cygnar Storm Strider.

After seeing the above image, I had to sit down and chat with our in-house sculptor Ben Misenar about his role in taking the battle engines from paper to full-blown sculpt.

Tell me about what you do at Privateer Press.

I am the digital straight-line sculptor. If it looks mechanical, then it'll likely end up on my plate. My sub-job is harassing Brian Dugas to keep his ever-expanding ego in check.

How did you approach sculpting the battle engines?

I start most of my models by trying to pick out the simplest core components, and then I work my way out to the details. In some cases it's easier than others. The Cygnar battle engine is pretty straightforward, with a lot of simple geometric shapes. The Protectorate battle engine, on the other hand, is dripping with tiny details. This model was so detailed it required a joint effort between a traditional sculptor and myself to complete. I did the bulk of the modeling, and the traditional sculptor used epoxy putty to add the filigree on the final model.

Can you give us a quick run down of the 3D sculpting process?

Most of my work is done using Rhino 3D, which is a CAD-based design software that has a much friendlier user interface than traditional CAD. Shapes in Rhino are defined by edge curves in most cases, so I usually start with a series of curves that conform to the main shape of the model. I then create surfaces from those edges until I finally end up with enough surfaces to define a solid part. That part can then be fine-tuned until it matches the art reference.

Once the sculpt is done, all of the zeros and ones that make up the files are uploaded to a rapid prototyper. The prototypes prints the final 3D model by building it layer by layer using the same kind of technology you would find in a ink jet printer.

What are some of the challenges presented by larger models like the battle engines?

Scale in digital modeling is somewhat irrelevant. There really isn't much of a difference between modeling something the size of a character and creating a massive battle engine. Model complexity is the main factor in determining how challenging it will be to actually make something, and even a 30-mm figure can get pretty intense.

When something is made in clay or putty it's all done at scale, so you know exactly what you're going to end up with when you get the final casting.

With digital modeling I can view my models as large as I like on screen. The challenge is to train my perception so when I zoom in I still make the gaps, rivets, pipes, and other details stick out or cut in deep enough to look right at the final scale.

Which battle engine is your favorite?

Of the three that I've worked on, I would have to say the Protectorate Vessel of Judgment is my favorite. It has definitely been the most challenging, and that may be the main reason I like it so much. They're all pretty freakin' sweet, though!

A big thank you to Ben for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk with me.

Cygnar was my first and favorite faction, and the Storm Strider is everything I ever wanted from a Cygnar battle engine. Bristling with voltaic energy, it really hits all the right visual and gameplay beats. Personally, I can’t wait to paint up a couple for my own collection. Ben was even nice enough to render what to expect from the final model.

I don't know about you, but that looks so real even I can't believe it's just a digital model!

Tune in next week as our insider look at all things Battle Engine continue. Just make sure to take breaks from starring, the glow will strain your eyes!