Thanks to the first episode of the fifth season of The Expanse, I remember that in a future, not all space ships are exciting or glamorous.

Take the Barbapiccola above. According to an Expanse wiki, the Barb was taken by refugees escaping Ganymede and harbored them for a year before they traveled through the ring gate to settle on Ilum. As you can see, there’s absolutely nothing sexy about this ship. It’s a cluster of shipping containers strapped to scaffolding arranged around an engine, with what we assume to be living quarters and a control room somewhere in the mess.

Not all ships from The Expanse are so ugly. The Rocinante is the central ship in the series, ferrying James Holden and crew to places where they get to stick their nose into every last plot point. The Roci is a Martian gunship, so it’s a bit more high performance, has armor, and significant weaponry and sensors (I assume). As a result, it looks better and is intended to be imposing despite the fact that ships in The Expanse rarely get close enough to one another to actually see each other visually.

My first task for creating an uglier ship was to get some kind of “glue” together, and I figured out that in Blender, I could start with a cube and elongate it to “scaffold” size. Then, using a Triangulate modifier, the quads would turn into triangles. Applying a Wireframe modifier after that, and the whole thing would become more or less hollow. When I ramped up the thickness property of the Wireframe modifier, the edges became struts. If I apply an Array modifier, this single block will turn into a repeating girder.

Ideally I’d subdivide each cube’s face and then use Triangulate to get a more crisscross lattice look, but it’s still a work in progress.

More importantly, though, I went back to a very early idea I had a few years ago when I first started working with Blender for one iteration of my ill-fated “Project Universe” game: a low-fi cargo ship. Thankfully I don’t have any images lying around of my attempt to create a cargo container during that period, but I do have an image of the one I’ve been working on now.

I can say with certainty that this is a lot better than the original one and it’s not even done. Originally this was going to be my “high poly” version, but then I started added hardcore geometry that couldn’t be “faked” with the maps that the high poly objects would generate for the low poly version. Considering I’m really only doing this modeling for the sake of modeling, I guess I don’t really care so much, but considering I’ve never really done the “hi-lo workflow”, I suppose I should do it some day.

Like my bitching about having the engine pod but no ship worthy of it, I’m primarily making “parts” right now. This container has a basic object — the container — and a separate object — the clamps on top — so I can use clamps on a superstructure with or without containers. We’ll see how it works.

Sound off!

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