Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Man I'm having a great day.

Man my day is going just fantastic.

Shapeways apparently changed the limit on bounding box size from being by object to being by shell. this means that though the total object (IE entire stl) is above the limit a single shell or part in that object is not and thus failing.  

<<<Begin Rant>>>
So I resolved the error of thickness on many of my models and come to find out a new bounding box rule has been put in place making some of my smaller objects mess up.


You know what shapeways, I'm starting to feel like an abused girlfriend.

You want me to make objects conform to all your rules. Fine tell me the rules when they fucking change.  Or when things are added. Just email me when you change your design rules page. is that so hard to ask. or maybe have a changes notice when I log in.

Or maybe. and this is a bit of a radical suggestion here.  Maybe you should have the upload tool check for things like Minimum bounding box size.  Cause see I believe things like wall thickness are hard to check. But bounding box size is not. its something video games on my iphone can check without straining the processor.

I just repaired these files and uploaded them and it didn't error then. If your size check would have just checked this I wouldn't have to be embarrassed yet again when dealing with my very pleasant customers.

They've been very nice and patient while I fix things.  I've been frustrated and melancholy about problems with files I thought I was done with.  But they have been polite and understanding.

Don't get me wrong shapeway's, your support team has been nice and all. Always so keen to tell me what I've done wrong. But that again is sort of the abuse of it all. Its all my fault. Its all my mistake.  Nothing you could have done would have fixed this.  No notice sent out would be helpful, no I have to obsess over design rules I thought I learned every time someone orders a model I made a year ago.

Rules like this minimum bounding box and the ever changing wire rules. the lack of clarity on what's detail vs wall rules.  And even the constant wall thickness lottery are symptoms of the same abusive relationship.  You don't know how and when to talk to me.

See I'm getting married so I've been thinking a lot about relationships.  My soon to be wife and I love each other.  Spending time with eachother isn't' a chore its a joy.  We have different interests but we share and enjoy that we are each different.

Now shapeways, I like you a lot.  We share this great hobby of making digital objects become physical but really all there is between us is the physical.  I have spent countless hours trying to make things perfect for you but you're never satisfied.  You just keep raising the bar. over and over again.  If its not what you wanted you could have told me to make some changes when you're demands changed.  But no I have to be blind sided with things. And there are my friends who just want to by some miniatures caught in the middle.  So I have to scramble and redo the whole damned thing to satisfy you. If I don't someone's feelings will be hurt.

And lets not talk about the pricing. Everytime I have to fix stuff for you the price seems to go up. Things get blown a little bit bigger each time and what happens? You get to charge a teeny tiny bit more.  My friends pay the consequences of you not telling me what I need to do.

It just gets old shapeways. you have to tell me things before an issue arises.  Not when things go bad but before they fall apart.  All I want you to do is talk to me.  Is that so much to ask.

Oh yeah and I want you to call fucking Netfabb and have them build you a proper design rules check algorythim for me to test things with before upload.  Fuck.

<<<End Rant>>>

After some consideration I will begin backing up my STL files from shapeways with the intent of removing them from the service.  The goal being to pull everything down and fix it before returning it to sale.  This will be time consuming, frustrating, and will likely mean many products are never returned to shapeways.  but it also won't happen while I'm doing a wedding so it will likely start in February or march.  sigh.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


I have posted several repaired models that had previously failed.

The protoss and Claptrap's chief among them. I'm slowly working through weapons to make them compliant with the new FD/FUD limitations.

Protoss squad
Claptrap squad
Halo Pistol
Halo Plasma Pistol
Advanced Rifle
Advanced Intrasonic Rifle
Advanced Infrasonic Pistol
Advanced Ingrasonic Cannon

To be repaired
Advanced Thermal Laser variants.

I have approximately 200 weapons many of which were designed for the old FD design rules where wire thickness was allowed to be lower.  I'm considering redesigning all my weapons with standard handles for better printing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

More Notices

It has again come to my attention that apparently some materials that I have intentionally disabled have arbitrarily been re-enabled by Shapeways.  This is specifically problematic with WSF and its relatives as it has apparently been enabled on many of my products. Another thing I need to fix eventually.

Also apparently the model update tool is not working correctly at present so to repair models i have to upload entirely new copies.

Shapeways is getting to be a headache.  The change in modeling rules is frustrating but somewhat necessary to insure they make "quality" products. of course quality here is relative because the increased model limitations are starting to make FD/FUD essentially the same design wise as WSF which was a shitty product to begin with. And since this type of printing generally abolishes tiny detail it can't really compete with finished production casting anyway.  Still I can tolerate that to some degree.  But webpages just not working is another story.

I spend hours modifying a model. Running it through magics to seal it.  running it through netfabb to compare it to design rules (always seem to miss something).  then try to upload it only to not have the update button work so then have to use the new upload function, and waste even more time resetting parameters in shapways.

I'm just frustrated.  Shapeways support is looking into both the issue of materials turning themselves on and the issue of the update page not working. Hopefully its resolved quickly.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quick Notice

Firstly everyone forgive me regarding how long its been since I have updated this blog or added content to my Shapeways shop. I'm presently planning my wedding for December of this year. It's a fantastic and happy occasion but it leaves little time for modeling or other projects.  I appreciate all the email requests and best wishes I've gotten as well as everyone's patience.

The main reason for this post however is that it has come to my attention that Shapeway's hasn't been able to send correspondence to one of my email accounts for approximately two to three months.  This means I haven't gotten failure to print notices for objects ordered for that entire time.  If people have anything they have ordered that failed send me an email or private massage and I'll try to fix it.

In case people wonder, failures are happening because Shapeways has been adjusting the print rules for Frosted Detail and Frosted Ultra Detail to insure better print ability. In the long run the new print restrictions will eventually lead to more consistent and successful print of higher quality in FD/FUD. In the short run the results basically mean that thin wires now have a minimum of .8mm to print better at 1mm (same as WSF).  Since most of my wires have been made at .75 its just bellow print-ability and for safety some heavy beefing up is needed.

I'm slowly fixing things as I get time. with 650 products this will take a while. My priority for repairs is things that have failed on ordering.

Please bare with me.

present errors I know of.

Claptrap (claptrap's antennae)
Protoss (energy blades failed)
Halo Pistol (trigger guard)
Advanced Sonic Rifle (presumably all sonic weapons as its the dish that caused the error)

Shapeways is getting me a further list of the messages I missed but I'll get on these ASAP.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Update and Kickstarter

Hey, I know I've been slow to update lately. Its because I've been working on commissions.  I've not really been available as most of my free time has been taken up by a mixture of actual job work and commissions.  I'm not sure that will change much but I finally am free to actually let people know what I've been working on.

So here it is.

If you are in the market for some cool terrain check them out.  It's my first major terrain pieces so I'll be following everyone's feedback closely.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


A verdict has been handed down in the Chapterhouse Vs GamesWorkshop case.  By the jury at least.  Among the things Chapterhouse was ruled as using fairly was the SHAPE of the shoulder pad.  The public is still waiting for the official judge's ruling but it looks like after market shoulder pads are legal within a certain context.  Obviously this ruling will be appealed by Games Workshop but to what extent the jury decision will be changed is questionable.

What this means is that the shape of the shoulder pad is not a protected sculptural element according to American law.  This does not make the icons for space marine chapters unprotected.  Custom chapter icons on traditional shoulder pad shapes are legally acceptable.  I have yet to decide if I will begin moving my own custom shoulder pad designs onto shapeways to be sold.  At this time I believe it prudent to wait for the appeals court to decide before I do anything.

Also I won't lie, this decision makes me quite happy.  GamesWorkshop lost a portion of their claims but Chapterhouse didn't lose all theirs.  In the long run the decision has laid a foundation for future bits production which can be followed by designers such as myself.  I look forward to seeing if this creates a more balanced market for miniatures or if GW responds by trademarking models before they publish a codex.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Update on Life

Wow I'm tired.  I haven't updated my blog in almost a month and for that I'm sorry.  I promised to show you a painted example of the heavy armor.  Trouble with that is I actually have to paint them.  I honestly haven't found the time.  I have them assembled and primed but I have gotten no farther.  It's the story of my entire miniatures collection.  It grows but I can never seem to complete an army.

So what has taken my time?

Well a gaming table actually.

My gaming group got together shortly after my last blog post and while drinking a lot we decided it would be quite nice to build a gaming table. 

I can’t stress how much alcohol was involved in this decision because it has proven quite the undertaking.  We aren’t the most graceful or skilled carpenters on the planet. In fact I’d have to say our skill level with “Craft (furniture)” is roughly -4 ranks averaged between us. 

However with several pints of Guinness anything is possible.

So I was tasked, possibly as a cruel joke, with coming up with a perfect gaming table design.

So that I did.

After our RPG session we drank and discussed options and the materials we could use.  We hashed out our basic needs and what level of complexity we were talking about.  Some of my gamer colleagues and I even field tripped to local home supply stores to see potential materials for the build.

Afterwards, armed with all this critical intelligence I sat down with another beer and google sketchup to plan.   I put the design together in google sketchup so that people can take a look at it in 3d. 

At its core the table design we came up with is modular so we can reformat it to fit our needs.  Made up of 3 separate segments, the two outside segments are self-supporting and hold up the central segment.

The first section is a relatively small table sized at 32”x48” followed by a center projection section also at 32”x48”, and the last section with a size of 48”x48”.  When combined, this will make a single table 4’ by 9’4” table suitable to fit our large 10 person gaming group.  In the center of this large table is an LCD projector rear mounted to display dynamic content on the tabletop itself.  The entire surface of the table is covered in plexiglass mounted on piano hinges so maps and gaming aids can be put under them and wet or dry erase markers used directly on the table top.  In all, great for RPG gaming. 

Or we can remove the projection section to make a 4’ by 6’8” table.  This size is perfectly sized for table top wargaming, having a standard 4’ b6 6’ surface with 4 inches on either side for models in reserve or removed from game. 

Or we can separate the 4’ by 4’ table giving us a single square table.  This is perfect for traditional 4 player board games or smaller skirmished based table top games.

The 2’8” by 4’ table also works for smaller board and card games with 2 to 4 players.  Or it can be tucked out of the way for entertaining.

The frame of the table is sturdy design using 2x2 and 2x4 lumber to distribute the weight.
Along the outer edge of the table are mounted K-Rails, a snap fit rail system traditionally used in garages. Here we use it for mounting shelving to expand the surface as needed. The K-Rail system acts as both the lip of the table top and lets us mount temporary table space around the outside of the table as well as mount cup holders, dice towers, and other amenities wherever we sit.

Kobalt makes K-rail shelves, baskets, and so on that, with minor modification, can serve the needs of any gaming group without trouble.  Our basic design mounts a 12” by 18” piece of 3/4th inch particle board onto two flat K-rail brackets with a piano hinge at the back to mount plexiglass.  This simple structure adds a single seating place with enough room for the player to roll dice and store their character sheet under plexiglass and use markers to track health and so on.  Other designs can be made and the player or group could customize these shelves to whatever they need or simply go without them entirely.

The structure is supported by its two end sections.  Each one is mounted on a set of 4” by 4” legs mounted on locking casters.  The legs are 30” long with 2” casters, once flush mounted with the top the table stands roughly 32” high.  This is a tiny bit higher than a normal table for sitting but slightly low for a standing counter top. We found this was a good medium for both standing and seated gaming.  The casters make the table easy to move around.  The large size and sturdy nature of the legs allow the table to support the center section of the table for the projector.  This insert is pinned on with aluminum pipe.  Though it may support a side seat it is mostly intended to simply mount the projector.  Minor modifications could make this table free standing or mount other equipment like an LCD TV or monitor.

So that’s the design.  Lets see some pictures.

Needed Supplies
1/2" Masonite                         x1  32"x48" + x1   48"x48"  +  x2 2" strips 48" and x2 2" strips 28" long
1/8" Plexi                                x2  32"x48" +  x2 24"x48"                                    Note: the largest plexi we found was 32” x 48” if you can find bigger it might be a cheaper build.  This is the most expensive part, doesn’t count any plexi for K-rail place settings.  Roughly 250 bucks here, literally costs as much as the entire table (minus projector).
2 part epoxy                                        1 tube                          Used to glue plexi to hinges.
2” Flush Seat Wooden Screws   x100                                    Used to mount the K-rails
2x2                                    53'6"                            ~7 boards Cuts are below.
2x4                                    39'2"                            ~5 boards Cuts are below.
3/4" Aluminum pipe               3'                                 holds table sections together
3/4" U-bracket                                    x16                  holds up the pipe that holds table sections together
3” Flush Seat Wooden Deck Screws   x100                                    Used to build the frame.
4x4                                          20’                       ~2 boards Note: alternatively you can use folding table leg kits but each section will need to be self supporting.
Casters –locking                     x8                                    screw on casters best.
Cotter pins                              x8                                    Ace has them individually, need to get ones that will fit the pipe bought to hold tables together.
 Glass Mounting Kit                x1                                    not sure on this, you need to mount a mirror at a 45 degree angle for the projector to get a focal length of 5 feet not sure on the fittings needed for that, I assume, duct-tape
K-Rail Track                                    26'7”                                    ~8 six foot rails
L-brackets                               x32                                    used to mount the legs. Note: not needed if you use folding leg kits
LCD projector                        x1                                    standard long throw projector that has rear mounting settings.
Mirror                                     x1                                      Minimum 12"x12" preferably larger                                    16” or 18” square would be best
Piano Hinge                            x6  12"                          Sold individually   
White Craft Paper                                    32"x48"                                    this is the projection surface, you can use craft paper, tracing paper, or any other semitransparent surface with an opacity of around 70%.  You can buy drafting paper that has this opacity and ½” grid lines.
Wire Cart +casters no top      x1                    used to mount the projector, could be a board with casters honestly, just needs to be flat and can mount a projector and mirror.

Wood Cuts
2x2 - x6 48" - x6 29" - x4 45"
2x4 - x4 32" - x6 41" - x2 48"
4x4 - x8 30”
masonite - x1 32"x48" - x1 48"x48" - x2 32"x2"  - x2 44"x2"
K-rail - x4 48" - x4 32"

K-rail flat mount brackets - 2 per seat/expansion shelf
MDF - 18" x 12" per seat/expansion shelf     x1 8'by4' MDF board cut down into segments

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Star Marine Heavy Armor Assembly and Review Part 1...

Well as I said I was really waiting to do a blog about my Star Marines.  Now I'm going to do this as a review of sorts.  Yes I know it seems stupid to be reviewing my own work but it’s necessary.  I’ve had a lot of questions about print quality with shapeway’s miniatures so I thought this was a good time to address that issue.  Also I felt it was a good time to address some of the ways we have to handle Shapeways products that is different than traditional miniatures.  So hopefully you’ll be getting an honest critique along with some lessons learned to fulfill your plastic addiction.

OK so first off, packaging and shipping.  I ordered these miniatures on March 31st at around 8 pm and they arrived Tuesday April 9th at 2:02 pm according to the packaging slip.  That's a Sunday and there is a weekend in between so that's roughly 7 business days to print these models and ship them to me from Shapeway's New York facility.  Realistically they probably shipped out the Wednesday or Thursday after I placed the order.  I'd call that pretty good turn around considering GW ran out of Dark Vengeance boxes day one on release and it took almost 3 weeks to get more stock to my local game store.  Ironically Shapeways sent a little apology note to me because they think 7 business days is to slow.  I really applaud Shapeways for their standards of service here.

The box is a sturdy cardboard box and the product is completely wrapped in large bubble wrap.  No bubble mailers or flimsy card stock packaging.  Inside the bubble wrap everything is in its own thick zip-lock polybag.  Nice little resealable bits containers for those who want them.  I use them for partitioning out models my wife sells on ebay. 

I will say I'm not sure how larger items ship.  Plastic miniatures in a baggie seems fine to me but two pieces of metal jewelry sliding across each doesn't make me feel good about the finishing.  I'd hope they bag metal items individuality and wrap larger items directly in bubble wrap before bagging. No idea though because all these are small scale parts and I'd say good packaging for what I ordered.

Here we have the gravity hammers and torso's in bag.  Sorry for the glare, the polybag is about 4 or 5 mil thick and glossy so its hard to get a great picture.  Shapeways actually sorted all these bits themselves, my model simply put them in the smallest amount of space possible so clearly their people are good at their jobs.

They packed the legs, shields, and backpacks together.  Torsos, legs, and backpacks were all hollowed to lower the price a bit. Even though they are hollow they are still quite sturdy and all survived the printing process without problems.

Everyone's favorite, shoulder pads.  These are just generic shoulders, no iconography.  But they turned out well enough.

Here are the arms sprues. I chose to make sprues for the arms rather than loose bits because the hands are extremely small and I thought they might get lost.  this is also the only place we see any breakage.  A couple of hands and arms came off sprue.  Because the parts were in the bag i'm guessing this happened in shipping.  Specifically the break point was the sprue where it joins the base of the part.  This was a 1mm diameter wire that was supporting the weight of the pieces and no damage was done to the bits themselves.

Ok so here we are getting into the interesting shots.  I've removed the bits from their bags and washed them (not shown).  I've ordered these miniatures in Frosted Detail.  Frosted Detail and Frosted Ultra Detail are essentially the same material.  FUD has a lower possible thickness and a slightly lower minimum detail than FD but thicknesses below .8mm are extremely weak in both materials making them very brittle.  As a result the price for FUD can’t be offset any farther by thinning and still have a model that won’t break during game play.  Ultimately it comes down to the minimum detail, 0.2mm vs 0.1mm doesn't sound like a lot and I’ll argue isn't enough to justify the cost of FUD over FD.  I have more opinions on print materials I’ll cover later on but basically keep in mind the cost difference is more for the printing time that it takes to print in FUD than for the actual material costs.

Photographing Frosted Detail is like trying to photograph an ice sculpture.  It main body is transparent and it’s outer surface has a white “frost” to it making it hard to make out detail.  In these photograph’s I’ve increased the contrast so you can see a bit more detail than the original unedited photo.  

Here we see the Shield and Backpack design.  You’ll note the raised plates on the shield’s face have flattened out a bit during printing.  Each step of the plates is approximately .25mm because the minimum detail is .2mm for FD its hard to discern exactly where the levels change, they are still noticeably different levels just a little flatter than originally designed.  This detail loss is minor but worth noting, I’ll be pointing it out as I go along.

The backpacks are much more detailed because their surface changes are much larger than the subtle rounding of the shield.  The only real loss of detail is in the vents along the sides of the pack which have filled in during printing. this is because I didn't make the vent's surface deep enough to really pop out. If you are using FD for making masters for casting your surface detail will be very important to you and sadly this lose, while minor to me, might be deal breaker.

Here we see two parts, the Torsos and the Hammer. The torso’s are hollowed out so they have a more transparent quality than the other bits.  The inside of the torso is a hollow bubble that I’ve put holes in the bottom and sides (shoulder mounts) on headed torso’s I also do a neck hole.  You’d think this would make the model fragile but it’s actually quite sturdy.  Think of it like an egg, structurally the force applied when squeezing the torso is spread across the entire surface making its crush strength much higher.

The detail on the torso turned out quite well.  You can clearly see the joins along the ab armor as well as the ribbing on the power cables.  Some detail is lost along the top of the capsule.  It's hard to make out in the photo but the square visor plate that is in the center of the capsule's face is almost totally gone.  this is caused by two things. First if I go back to my 3d model I can see the square's raised rim is extremely shallow, I can't get a clear measurement but it is probably below that 0.2 mm detail level.  Secondly you can just make out slight lines going left to right along the surface, this is the print grain of the model.  The printer head orientation gives all 3d printed models a grain and sadly that grain has caused some loss of detail.  It happens and can mostly be avoided if I had made the detail deeper to begin with.

Frosted Detail’s plasticity is lower than the ABS plastics used by most miniatures companies that do plastics but it’s still higher than most resin products.   That means it will flex rather than break most of the time but it’s still brittle enough that if you step on it, it doesn't so much smoosh down as it does shatter like glass.  I was particularly worried about this issue with the Hammer’s handle.  The thinnest part of the handle is 1mm exactly so it’s right on the line of minimum wire detail.  However the hammer, both head and handle, turned out quite well.  The lines on the head are pretty crisp, the detail on the hand grip of the handle filled in slightly but over all this is a symptom of me again designing to close to the 0.2mm minimum detail thickness.

Ah the legs.  I won’t deny I’m a bit of a leg man and I’m quite proud of the quality of the legs on this design.  Here we see the photo’s of the design’s legs so you can get an idea of their quality.  The hollow in the legs here is not uniform and has trapped raw material inside the leg design. The result is these bits look a lot whiter than the other bits.  The surface texture of 3d printed materials isn’t smooth.  In the case of FD and FUD it leaves a white frosted glass sort of texture but this is slight enough that very little detail is lost in printing (provided we mind the minimum detail levels).  The legs surface have nice subtle curves as I intended.  You can clearly make out details like the thick cabling and the hydraulics on the caves.  I’ll count these as the best printed bits so far.

The arms, these are the only parts I put on sprue and the only parts that “broke” during printing.  As you can see several hands fell off the sprue, I have them I just didn’t bother photographing them here.  One piece of advice, don’t sneeze around these bits.  FD and FUD are much lighter plastics than traditional ABS and ABS is already pretty light.  A slight breeze sent the hands flying and a strong blow made the legs hit the wall of my living room.  Luckily I lost nothing but bare that in mind when working on these.

Anyway, all the sprues are 1 mm and they warped a lot.  The hands are the smallest pieces of the actual figure, each knuckle is 0.7 mm, they are quite well defined and you can see the definition in the fingers. Sadly the photos of the hands are blurry because my camera hated photographing tiny white objects.  I believe because of the backdrop it was confused.  You can roughly see the shape of the fingers in the photos thanks to some contrast manipulation but they are there.

The whole lot of figures and weapons waiting to be assembled.  No real detail in the pictures but it gives you an idea of how big this lot of plastic is.

Once I had cleaned and photographed everything I went to work assembling.  I've modeled my designs so they assemble in much the same way as GW’s miniatures do.  Waist ball joint, neck ball joint (if a neck is present this doesn't have one), and a flat arm joint on the torso. My arms have a round joint so you can sand them flat at various levels to make different arm positions.  I've assembled my first Star Marine in a fairly generic pose and mounted him/her on a 40mm base.

This photo has no contrast manipulation or anything like that going on, it’s simply under the work lamp on my bench.  Thanks to the lighting you can make out some of the detail on the miniature but just barely.  You can see the gritting on the hammer head, the segmented plates of ab armor, the raised rim on the shoulder pads, etc.  Everything goes together smoothly and apart from pinning the hammer and sanding the shoulder joint on the arm to make a flat surface I’ve not manipulated the figure.  

A side by side picture.  Though really dark, the figure on the left is a plastic space marine terminator from games workshop, shown for scale only (painted as an art lesson by a friend).  The Star Marine in contrast is much taller than its counterpart.  About 8mm at the top of head, 3 at the top of the back icon.  That’s a pretty big difference and one that is a systemic design flaw on my part.  I know from my measurements that the torso’s and arms are completely correct scale wise with other figures.  The Star Marine is just to leggy.

I had this trouble with my original Female Marines as well. Basically I’m human accurate on my anatomy which means the legs aren’t foreshortened like most 28mm figures. The result is they are just to tall compared to the rest of the body on the table top.  I need to revise the legs to make them shorter.  That alone should bring the model into line with other 28mm figures, though an entire rescaling might be in order.  Not sure, tweaking is always a battle.

One thing, the figures aren’t bad for 28mm but they would be closer to being a “true scale” soldier than I intended.  I’m not sure but I might make two separate lines, one “true scale” one “heroic scale” depends on demand and how much work it is to maintain both.

Side by side the GW Termi is much chunkier than my Heavy Star Marine.  The position of my figure's head would be above the Termi's which makes it a bit awkward like standing next to a pro basketball player and trying to reach the top shelf.

I also had another concern with the figure which will likely prompt a design change.  The Hammer's main handle survived printing without issue but then was to small for me to drill and pin. Maybe i'm not coordinated enough but it proved to be a bad idea to drill a 0.75mm hole in a 1mm plastic rod.  I opted instead to remove the 1mm handle body and instead drill into the 1.5mm grip and pin directly to the hand.  I'm considering the idea of redesigning the hand and hammer, and probably a lot of weapons, to eliminate this wasted handle all together.  Possibly going to hollowing the handles entirely so they fit over 1mm or 0.75mm brass rod.  This would make the weapons a bit cheaper and make the models easier to assemble. Its also something that casters can't do easily that makes sense for 3d printing.

I've done a light drybrushing of flat white paint onto the figure.  It allows you to see some of the detail that was obscured by the frosted surface.  A trick of the light means that the white turns gray here so the gray spots are the highest spots, raised edges and such. Most of the figure has nice clean edges but you can see that the face has a sort of horizontal grain that just shows up in the wrong spot this time.  There is also a light pebbling everywhere that's about as noticeable as the soft pebbling found on metal models. After painting it generally disappears.

Wide shot of the figure under better lighting.  You can see the white on the surface of the translucent white figure.  A bit more detail is visible here but more detail will be visible once the figure is fully painted.  I really can't stress enough how hard it is to photograph translucent white models with a 10 year old digital camera.

My Thoughts
Well quite obviously I must admit that I have some kinks to work out with my modeling.  Its must easier to scale a weapon than a human figure.  The inconsistencies of the figure jump out a lot more on printing than a slightly over sized sword does.  Weapons and other bits like that are much more subjective and can be less accurately scaled than a body part.  I also need to make detail elements larger to insure they show up correctly. This is an extension of the same problem I had with WSF but its much more manageable at this detail level.

I also have to say that FD and FUD aren't perfect materials.  I'd like to see materials with a lower minimum detail and a more crisp surface texture than the fuzzy frosting on these materials. I've also seen a lot of home projects that appear to turn out better detail on materials and some projects like wax and photo resins can print at much smaller details.  FD is the best price point though which makes it at least passingly acceptable.  If shapeways is listening do a kickstarter for a higher resolution 3d print material for a lower cost. In fact, start several kickstarters one for high res material, another for 3d wax printing for molding capabilities, and another for actual 3d printing of RTV mold products, and maybe one for adding automated spruing for models uploaded.  Anyway point is FD is the best we can get right now balancing price and material availability so I will have to live with it.

Ok so that's it for now, don't worry I'm not done yet. I'm going to assemble these guys and paint them up so you can see the quality. As I paint the models I hope the detail will pop out better. Till next time, enjoy...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

In Defense of the Breast Plate

This is the second post I’ve done without major 3d modeling content so I’ll try to keep this somewhat short. My last one, a background piece, was long. Maybe long enough people lost interest but I hope it was satisfying for those who read it.  I like background so it kept me entertained to write a foundation piece for a mythos I’m slowly creating with my miniatures. Not that GW’s existing mythos isn’t entertaining, just, sometimes you want to do something new and interesting.  Really the primary impitous behind this is that I want to kill sometime while waiting for miniatures to arrive so I can blog them.

Anyway, this time I wanted to blog a bit about an aspect of my personal projects that has gotten me some flak in my gaming circles.  Namely, as one female gamer put it, my “Fetish for Tit Armor”.  Now I don’t expect this to matter to a lot of gamers.  Sexy armor is as old a fantasy trope as Eleves being archers or Dwarves carrying hammers.  But the propensity of games to do “babe” armor on their miniatures has been criticized recently.

There are a number of bloggers that have attacked chainmail bikini’s and skimpy space suits with a vehemence that makes you less than proud to be gamers.  The often spoken notion that gaming is becoming less of a man’s hobby has encouraged these critiques.  This is generally done out of the perception that the sexy armor trope is sexist and thus should be discarded.

Obviously not everyone feels that way, and I myself don’t as you could have guessed from the title of this article. It’s hard to form a cogent argument against something like this.  The perception goes that if you support the sexy armor trope you are automatically a sexist pig, and admittedly there are a lot of those in the hobby.  But beyond that I really think very few people really have considered why armor like that exists in fantasy or scifi literature.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments against sexy armor.  The most prominent among these arguments being safety and/or impracticality.  This argument goes that receding body coverage is unsafe on the battlefield or simply impractical to be considered armor.  I always agree with this to an extent but it’s also an issue of cultural subjectivity.  There has been an obsession in first world nations with the value of human life for a long time now.  Throughout the first world nations in Europe the movement from hide and leather armors to part and full plate has captured the imagination of fantasy authors.  To such a point that we interpret full plate armor as the standard of the world when it isn’t now nor was it then.  The more affluent countries in Europe and other areas like Japan used full armor extensively for hundreds of years but that wasn’t the norm.  Throughout Asia, Africa, Mesoamerica the standard was lighter armor that protected the core of the body and the head.  Limbs, regardless of how important to you or I were considered expendable and rarely armored.  These lighter armor often left large swaths of the body exposed. They also tended to hang on the body making female anatomy more visible when women were allowed to be warriors.  The fantasy trope of the nomad barbarian half naked living among beasts is essentially true in some parts of the world.  The primary concern with these lighter armors was generally speed and maneuverability.  Segments of the body, like arms and legs, were uncovered so the soldier didn’t have as much weight to move while in action.  Even into the middle ages common soldiers were only lightly armored. Archers rarely wore anything more than chain shirts, while city watches and spearmen were lucky to have breast plates to shield their hearts and lungs.

Other arguments include that it’s entirely an aesthetics issue.  That the idea of curvy armor only has the purpose of being pleasing to the eye, specifically the male eye.  Again this is quite true to some extent. As a man I admit that female curves are attractive, that’s why most sports cars are so curvy.  It’s just bred into me to like those soft curves.  At the same time that isn’t the only thing that is forged into those curves.  Most men can attest that there are times when women are simply frightening.  Like a tigress protecting their young a woman can be more fierce and brutal than any man could hope to be. Along with the attraction of those curves a woman’s body calls to mind that absolute willingness to destroy anything that threatens her family.  This dichotomy of beauty and ruthlessness is a part of femininity that shouldn’t be forgotten. Stopping sexism is all about gender equality but it also is tempered with the truth that some things men or women can’t do.  No one can complain that women not peeing standing up is sexist, it’s a fact of human physiology and as such must be accepted. All we can do is offer equal bathroom facilities and be done with it. It’s true that women can be soldiers just as well as men can but we must also acknowledge that they have tools at their disposal that men don’t. Both the disarming allure of the female body and the frightening ferocity of a woman’s mental and biological drive to fight for what she holds dear are weapons that men rarely can achieve.  There is a psychological component to warfare that aesthetics plays a big part in.  No matter how gruesome we don’t question the idea of littering things with skulls and wicked blades in table top gaming.  The ancient Greeks would mold chiseled abs and pecks into their body armor for psychological effects.  There are even some accounts of Pict women fighting naked on the battle field against roman soldiers.  Regardless of how you feel about the female form arguing that because it’s aesthetically pleasing doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place on the battle field.  That may mean it has more of a place there than you’d like to admit.

Bullet trap cleavage theory, somewhat addressed as a safety issue, is also one particular argument trotted out.  This goes essentially that the cleavage shape on a breast plate makes it either A. funnel weapons fire to the heart, or B. structurally unsound.  There is some scientific evidence that would support this except for the fact that no scientific study has ever been done that actually examines this.  As a practical issue in melee combat the “breast” shape of the armor is no more or less effective against blows.  At range, any shot that would fall inside the “V” of the cleavage was already a center of mass shot which if it has the velocity to penetrate your armor was already a kill shot anyway regardless of whether it glances to the heart or passes through the lung.  I read one very scientific sounding article that said a women falling on her face in breast armor would die from a shattered sternum. An interesting scientific quandary that totally ignores any internal padding worn under fitted armor.  As though, the soldier was totally naked under the armor.  There is a certain amount of truth that surface bends, such as the concave cleavage area, are structurally less durable than a convex surface.  But most male armors aren’t a simple convex shape like classic plate armor.  They are often just as sculpted, albeit as a male body or generic design, as a female armor plate. The issue here is simply it may be less structurally sound than a classic breast plate but is it any less structurally sound than the male counter parts? Truth be told probably not.

There are of course concepts I can’t really defend in the field of sexy armor.  I don’t understand the concept of combat heels.  High heels have no purpose other than to affect posture.  Some shoe design are intended to shift the weight of the body off the heel towards the ball of the foot but there really is no evidence they would serve a tactical purpose.  There could be said to be a cultural significance to the incorporation of heels in a female boot.  If the culture has a specific focus on feminine posture as a key sexual trait of women you could lump that into the argument for aesthetics of psychological warfare.  However from my perspective the added mobility of flats vs heels on the battlefield would trump any psychological benefits.  Alternatively, in science fiction settings where zero G combat is the norm magnetic, spring, or rocket heels would be a tactical advantage but only if the heel actually represented these design integrations, a normal heel would still be a detriment to movement.

Of course the overriding reason that is the real impetus behind these arguments is simply that it makes female gamers uncomfortable.  Truthfully, some portrayals make me uncomfortable too a lot of the time.  There is always a balance between a strong feminine characteristic and a sexpot pinup girl.  It’s sometimes hard to fix where that line is drawn in your mind. It generally has to come down to the question of is this sexy for no other reason than its sexy to me, or is it part of some larger design aesthetic that is helping me represent a kick ass character that also happens to be female, and yes sexy to some degree.  Truthfully the worst offenders in my opinion are GW’s Madonna Warriors.  I’m ashamed to own a Sisters of Battle army even though I got it second hand.  And over the years as I tried to push the sisters out of the army first by adding storm troopers and then by adding inquisitor retinues I’ve come to grips with the fact that the army is just sexist drivel.  The Power Corsets and bra’s pointier than their swords is of course now considered quant in 40k.  They are a throwback to the age of 1980s female rockers like Madonna and Cindy Lauper.  That doesn’t make them right with modern sensibilities but at least it makes them somewhat understandable.

I could go on and on but really I have made my point. Generally the truth is that sexy armor isn't just about sexism.  There are real reasons that armor should be feminine.  Femininity is a part of the human condition.  The idea that women must emulate men to be perceived as strong is has been an aspect of the women’s liberation movement and its one that has been changing slowly.  Women can be feminine and still be strong without giving up what makes them feminine. Those who balk at the female form on the table top I must ask is it the sexy armor you don’t care for or is there something so psychologically terrifying about the idea that women are part of your gaming reality that you are afraid to acknowledge their right to be there and be themselves, in the game or playing the game.

Star Marine Heavy Armor, Softsuit Variant, Outfitted for Female Operator.
The Softsuit variant of the Star Marine Heavy Armor replaces the Tactics and Logistics Capsule  (TLC) for a breast plate of hardened thermo-ferric composites. The term Softsuit is something of a misnomer as the armor has nearly the same level of operator protection as its TLC equipped Hardsuit cousin.  Often used in atmosphere or controlled environment engagements where total vacuum seal is unnecessary.  It is favored by officers for its mobility and freedom of vision not afford by the TLC's visual assist systems.  The body of a Softsuit is fitted to its occupant in a process that is performed by the operator's house, often making some or all of the suit's equipment a heraldic heirloom.

Star Marine Joslyn of House Crowan being fitted for heavy armor.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Fluff Piece

Imperial Archive Item 978-2-9002999818-1. 
Excerpt from Prime Austerean Hercanius’s Treatis on the History and Culture of the Star Marines
Transcript of videolog 17… Dated 9th of Azzigas Vorpal, in the Year of our Empress Ompheria 2013
Marker 1. Origins and Legends of the Star Marines
Screens 23 to 37
Sol Prime Institute of Philosophy:  Department of Reasonist History: Chair Ameritus, Master of Reason, Physician of Imperial History, First Duke of Io, the Lourde Prime Austerean  Hercanius of the Noble House Thormalian by way of House Xaratian

… to best understand the nature of the Star Marines one must understand the anvil upon which they were forged.

               Officially the Star Marines are comprised of those noble households who carry the title of Knight of Stars in Service to the Empress.  However this was not always the case.  In the early days of colonial expansion before the formation of the Empire Solus Humanity was ruled by various competing religious organizations known as Corporations. It is believed that this early colonization effort was done in effort to seek freedom from religious censure.   As such these Corporations lead the people’s spiritual journey even as they funded their physical migration across the stars.

                For several hundred years mankind expanded across the Orion Spur.  During this period humanity encountered countless worlds teaming with life however sentient life proved elusive.  It was eventually hypothesized by Reasonists that while life was common sentience was a cosmic rarity reserved for only a handful of species throughout the galaxy, possibly the universe.  This lead humanity to define the “Mandate of the Heavens”.  The mandate was a political and social doctrine expounded as part of the Corporate religions of the day. It stated that humanity, due to its intelligence, was entitled to colonize the galaxy without end.

               Without external conflict it was inevitable that humanity created conflict from within.  The Corporations divided humanity along lines of their particular faiths.  Coupled with the relative isolation of early colonies due to the primitive nature of spacial travel the result was drastic cultural drift between colonies.  Social, economic, and political rifts between the colonies and their governments resulted in war.

               A group of colonies petitioned to secede from the colonial government.  What followed has variously been called the Civil War II, the War of 10 Corporations, and the First Imperial War. Lasting 14 years various Corporations formed military organizations and swallowed other colonies.  Secessionists fighting for freedom from the oppressive theocracy of monetization formed a new organization.  A culture of merit based on nobility and coherent family social structures was formed.  Nearly 2000 years ago the outmoded religious worship of wealth  was swept away and the First Emperor Volcunas The First united the colonies under the banner of the Empire Solus.

               In their earliest inception the Star Marines functioned as a militant arm for one of the many Corporation Theocracies.  They proved themselves to be highly skilled and honorable warriors during the war.  Thus Emperor Volcunas took them into his service and granted them title of nobility within the empire in return for their fealty.

               The Star Marines and their households were integrated into the structure of the nobility and ordered by Emperor Volcunas to toil in service to the Skylourde.  For much of the life span of the Empire they did just that.  The Star Marines became feared acting in the name of the Skylourdes in service of the Emperor.  But this was not to be their destiny for as we know we are not alone in the galaxy.

               In 1818 of the new imperial calendar the outer colonies were struck by a powerful imminent threat.  The Aether invaded human space to “cleans” planets of human “infestation”.  Though it would take the empire much time to know the Aether’s intent it was immediately clear they were a technologically superior malignant force.

               Perhaps most tragically humanity’s only saving grace was the thorough and methodical nature of the Aether’s attempted Genocide.  Colony by colony the Aether deployed their fleets in blockade systematically hunting and eradicating humans regardless of their age, race, or affiliations.  Emperor Tricerras and the Conclave of Noble Houses proposed diplomatic solutions and refused to hear propositions to the contrary.

               Then Skylourde Daltrian made a pact with the crown prince Voldayaas to assassinate the Emperor.  Prince Trivoltas, second in line to the throne, discovered the plot and called his brother out in council.  But by then it was too late Emperor Tricerras died by heart failure attributed to pulmonary micro fissures likely caused by nano-explosives inside the heart wall.   Voldayaas and Trivoltas both declared themselves Emperor before the funeral rights were complete and the War of Succession began.

               During this time the Aether had the run of the outer colonies.  It was widely claimed that the Imperial Core Provinces were better protected. And with good reason, many sectors included both Provincial Defense Fleets as peace keeping and humanitarian forces as well as the Independent Noble Fleets used to protect the shipping interests of the Nobility.  During the War of Succession these fleets were mobilized by various groups to fight for various governmental factions. Initially it was merely a quarrel between bothers as Voldayaas and Trivoltas fought for the throne.  However other factions appeared and vied for political or economic superiority.

               With the war taking its toll in the Provinces the Colonies were left to fend for themselves. Less wealthy, and often with limited military and technological resources the Colonies stood little chance against the Aether. Refugee fleets migrated core ward with each newly decimated colony.  Survivors of the atrocities were rare but other colonies were easily inspired to evacuate.  In the provinces the refugees found little respite as military forces were often used to blockade their entry or otherwise engaged in military actions of their own.

               For their part the Star Marines refused deployment until the Empire was stable again.  Skylourde Daltrian ordered the household lands of the Star Marines ceased claiming they were in violation of their oaths.  In response the Star Marines declared then 3rd princess Collianna the rightful heir of the throne.  As the princess was merely 13 and no female had inherited the throne in a thousand years the Star Marines were publicly mocked for their allegiance.  But that mocking ended following the summary execution of Skylourde Daltrian.

               Claiming orders from the Empress the Star Marines publically forsook their homes.  In a broad public show they burned their ancestral homes and joined into a single fleet.  While vastly outnumbered the Star Marines were quite a fighting force and dispatched any forces that stood in their way.  They didn’t bother attempting to capture strategic systems instead battling their way to Sol where they enthroned the Empress. One there they left a small but well-armed honor guard and took the primary fleet into the Colonies.

               For many among the nobility it became a simple choice, support one of the brothers who had been fighting a bloody war across the Provinces or accept the arguably illegitimate rule of their younger sister who willingly sacrificed her own safety to protect the Colonies.  For the people the choice was much simpler. After two years of war and the constant threat of annihilation from the Aether the Empress was a sign of change and hope, a fresh beginning.

               Initially perceived as a week monarch the Empress changed such perceptions by her first declarations in office.  Only days after the Conclave of Noble Houses ratified her coronation the Empress declared the Matriarchy.  The Empire Solus would be ruled by an Empress, the eldest daughter of the ruling house. The eldest son would become Regent of the Empire and master of the ruling house in absence of the Empress.  The second eldest daughter would be the Duchess of Blades, a rank formerly titled Blade Lourde colloquially known as the master of assassins.  The second eldest son would inherit the title of Lourde of the Watch, charged with enforcing the succession and counting the genealogy of the noble houses.

               Some noble houses challenged the decree at first but these challenges were swiftly dealt with by force and often lost in the wash of political intrigue of the day.  Her second decree was even more controversial declaring the War in the Heavens.  The Aether’s action had declared war on all of humanity, and so all of humanity would face them.  The Empire Solus was henceforth at war with the Aether and all production and technology in the Empire would be used, first and foremost, to fight the Aether.  In short order a new Skylourde was appointed and each house of noble birth was ordered to appoint a Skymarshal that would oversee their fleet.  The Noble fleets were distributed across the empire with the responsibility of engaging Aether forces where ever they appeared. At the same time the Homeguard Fleets were to be convert for military use and production of ships and munitions was to be increased.  In the colonies the Star Marines had one task, delay the Aether, the longer they held the more time the Empire had to prepare.

               The Star Marines held the Aether in the colonies for 26 years.  Early engagements didn’t bode well for the Star Marines as Aether forces were clearly superior in technology and number.  They soon adopted an ambush strategy. Operating behind Aether lines the Star Marines fractured into Cavalier Fleets, small rag tag forces mixing elements of Star Marine forces with remnants of colonial militias.  These smaller battle groups could react faster and assault Aether forces with greater haste.  Often breaking Aether blockades and freeing civilians and military forces trapped by them.

               For several years the Aether showed no measurable response to the Star Marine’s tactics.  They continued their systematic approach without change.  It wasn’t until the battle of Caldinocht that the Aether changed their tactics.  Caldinocht was a Colonial shipping hub in the Caldaros sector.  The Aether set upon it with only minor warning but instead of their normal tactic of besieging the planet they pyroformed the planet from orbit.   Their biochemical weapons igniting the planet’s atmosphere and turning all life to ash.  This rightly provoked the Star Marines into open conflict with the Aether.

               As Caldinocht burned the Star Marines descended upon the massed Aether fleet.  For days the Aether held ground as the Star Marines and the Cavalier fleets hurled themselves against their enemy. With the death toll in the billions from the one engagement the Aether finally retreated on the 12th day. 

Both sides learned much from the conflict.  Alongside their standard battle tactics the Aether began baiting traps to draw the enemy in.  For their part the Star Marines began using outriders forming a loose network of warning systems to inform other fleets and colonies of Aether were movements.  They also learned that while technologically advanced and extremely powerful Aether vessels were cumbersome and impossibly difficult to maneuver.  Soon after Aether ships began being drawn into Star Marine traps.

Thereafter the war became a great game of cat and mouse.  The Aether and the Star Marines fighting to take and keep ground respectively.  The greatest commanders among the Star Marines were able to make the Aether spend a hundred ships to take a single colony.  But for every Aether fleet removed from the game the Star Marines lost a dozen or more.  Each loss meant the Star Marines took another step towards Sol and the eventual extinction of the human race.  Each ship downed was a resource that couldn’t be replaced with ease.

For 26 years they held against a superior foe.  Early on it was believed that the Aether could be stopped simply by attrition but 26 years of attrition proved that wrong.  One thousand three hundred and sixty-two star systems fell to the Aether in those 26 years.  An estimated 42 trillion souls taken, and for each one the Star Marines made the Aether pay dearly.  On the 5th of Azzigas Nol, 1846 nec the Aetherian 1st fleet entered the Noridian Province at around 1:42 am local standard time.  They were met by the Veridian and Ordanian Home Fleets and engaged seven minutes later.  The battle would last for 21 days and the Alcarian, Boromian, and 5 other Home Fleets would join the battle before the Aether would retreat. This was the first true victory of the war.

It is unknown if the Aether can understand any of the many human tongues.  It is known they can recognize the Banner of the Stars.  Icon of the Star Marines, a cascade of gold and crimson freckled with 1362 stars.  Raised high upon the bows of the Cavalier fleets that precede the counter strike.  On that day the Aether turned tail and fled before it and they have run from it ever sense. 

We have been at war for two hundred years.  Five generations have faced the Aether and pushed them back into the abyss.  The Star Marines, her royal highness’ Knights of the Stars have lead that charge. They have held the line. They have given more fought harder than any human might in the face of such odds.  Thus you must understand that in the forge of battle and against the anvil of sacrifice and adversity they have been wrought.  Nobility, courage, and sacrifice, the shining light of a star guiding for the sake of all humanity.  As they pledge before the Empress herself, “the War in the Heavens began with an act of Genocide it will end with the very stars quaking at our wrath”.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Behold The Star Marines

I realized I promised a small expose on my Star Marine Heavy Armor last week and have yet to deliver.

Firstly let me say that Star Marines have sort of taken over my imagination.  For the first year or more of my designing I was heavily focused on making "Space Marine Compatible Parts".  Items that could be considered aftermarket parts for GW's space marine line, or related lines.  Now, well, I like GW's line well enough but recent expanses in what I do and how I do it have meant that where before I'd design a shoulder pad or sword for a soldier now I'm designing whole figures and complete families of weapons.  Its a large difference that erodes the marriage between Warhammer 40k and my 3d modeling.

The point is that while my 3d bits are usable for 40k I'm no longer exclusively focusing on using them there as exemplified by the appearance of new weapons that don't have a standard analog in the 40k rules.  Ultimately when starting the Star Marine Heavy Armor design I had to, or rather got to, consider a wider array of science fiction details when creating them.  I love 40k but its a restrictive environment to design for.  While the background of 40k has been rich and vibrant for years the design studio's literary and artistic choices are tightly controlled.  As Games Workshop grows there is less and less room for outside artists to create anything "lasting" in the 40k universe.

Obviously I don't expect Games Workshop to change their fluff to fit my projects in.  But with the unpredictable shifts of fluff and what is official army design it makes it impossible to really create something and say it will last for any length of time.  That's their prerogative, its their universe, I have no say in the matter.  However I'd argue that most miniatures gamers would like to at least pretend all their assembly and hard work would last and maybe all their scratch building was at least theirs not the manufacturers vision.  Custom painting on chapter color schemes and pinning and glueing new poses on your officers can only take an army so far.

When I started looking, I mean really looking, at what I loved about Space Marines in the Warhammer 40k setting I had to admit it was some very specific things that games workshop really didn't do very well portraying.  Firstly, in a setting ostensibly devoid of advanced technology the Space Marines are top of the line.  Secondly personality wise the marines are essentially space knights, ok maybe monastic knights but knights in space.  And third they are elite warriors, a tragic brotherhood of arms destined to die fighting a pointless war.

In context Space Marines in 40k aren't particularly advanced.  While their armor is advanced it really doesn't look it and most weapons they use have been co-opted into the imperial guard either as man portable heavy weapons or simply special weapons to outfit squads of standard soldiers.  Their vehicles and aesthetic choices are less technologically advanced than they are, metal slab construction from the industrial revolution.  I suppose it fits the setting but doesn't really speak to what I love about them in the fluff.

Space Marine chapters, while regimented functioning as a fighting force are less knightly in action than they are barbarous in play.  There is a strong game play emphasis away from armies facing down their enemy with some kind of chivalrous code and more towards massed fire or super weapons to deal with any comers.  Arguably each official chapter has its own roots and play style.  If you want space knights pick up black templars, at least until they get a new codex and then they'll be less chivalrous knights and more blood thirsty nutters with swords chained to their hands.  The old deathwing always sounded in the fluff as awesome elite knights facing enemies in single combat but now they are heavy weapon wielding crazies that stay at mid range shooting people from the dark.  Sad.

Of course my biggest problem is the elite nature of the Space Marines.  They are supposed to be big, they are outnumbered but fight on.  They breath so they fight on.  They fight so they can keep fighting.  To call a fluff space marine a soldier is a misnomer.  They are samurai, they are immortals, they are shinobi, they are black ops, they are devil dogs, ultimately they are the marines.  the best of the best, they fight against odds and against time to save their crumbling empire.  But marines are all to routine now. They were once elite but with the advent of more unique codex options in other books their prices have dwindled compared to the mass of weaponry other armies produce.  The result is that while many armies claim to be a horde army the marines feel like one.  They have no unique mechanics or super amazing troop options just the same bland sameness in each area of the org chart.  This coupled with the push to require more and more troops results in largely samely built units in armies that are built the same as the next guy.  People complain about spam, space marines have become spam in a can. A largely identical codex sprinkled with minor amounts of franks red hot sauce in the hopes that people will mistake the burn for flavor.

Why is this important? well when I think of all these truths I wanted to reach into other parts of science fiction to fill all those missing rolls.  My biggest inspiration is of course, Star Ship Troopers. Hienlein's novels are powerful fiction and while repeatedly adapted, even into a table top game, they are rarely portrayed as I always envisioned them.  Perhaps its the fact that no official vision of them exists that makes me so enamored with the design.  I've also chosen heavy influences from anime series's like Armored Trooper Votoms and Gundam 079 and 080.  Their down to earth tactical portrayal of future combat with mech suits and power armor are great inspiration for anyone wondering what space combat might one day become.

So lets talk Star Marines...

Here we see the Star Marine Heavy Armor in its entirety.  This unposed version is built in a modular manner. each body part is its own color as seen here.  This allows me to pose the armor in virtually any pose then solidify it to make a final model.  As a master model it also allows me to construct parts for the design quickly and easily.  You'll notice that the design appears much more technologically advanced than many 28mm soldier models.  I've made a concerted effort to make the soldier's power armor look both practical in terms of its defensive value, and in terms of its strength enhancement capabilities.  In the 40k setting marines are strong before they put on the armor.  Here the standard soldier wears a hydrolic suit to achieve the same thing.  I wanted the super human nature of the warrior to come not from some biological enhancement but from what they do with what they are given.  Its after all, the use of tools that has made humanity survivors throughout history, we adapt or die.

The armored torso of the Star Marine Heavy Armor is designed to be asexual. I'm a huge fan of representing femininity on the battlefield as both a character and a weapon but here the protective value of the armor is its primary function, not its aesthetics.  The front of the torso is heavily armored, its abdomen guarded with articulated segmented plates.  It's chest sweeps up the front of the body becoming a full head and shoulder armor.  The hard carapace protects body and mounts various sensory devices on its outer hull.  A variant torso depicts the chest armor open, its upper canopy pulled back to reveal the operator's face. the The only exposed cabling on the torso is along the shoulder joint wrapping around behind to connect the power lead from the power pack.  The cabling here used not for internal power systems but to run induction power through the arms of the suit to weaponry when necessary.  When mounted with a shoulder pad the exposed cabling is protected from attack except from directly underneath the arm.  I am proud to point out how much the armor's torso looks like a Sontaron soldier.

The arm itself is a beefy structure.  It isn't just armor but power cables and hydrolic systems as well.  The arms were roughly inspired by artwork from the graphic novel "Starship Troopers: dominant species"  there the armor of the mobile infantry is depicted as bulky powered armored space suits.  The arm structure is traditionally human, covered in large molded plates and jointed to allow for maximum movement.  The hands of these models are modular.  there is a 1.5mm peg that allows you to swap weapon hands, here I've used closed fists but my final sprues include fists, pistol grips, and open hands for weapon carrying.  The back of the hand has a thick plate which includes an induction port, a place to plug in weapons so they can charge or run off the power pack of the Star Marine's armor.

Here we see the shoulder pad.  Its big and bulky covering the entire shoulder and most of the way down the arm.  Games Workshop claims the general size and shape of their official shoulder pads as their IP but the general size and even its ribbed rim are natural extensions of military systems.  The large size the armored infantry will traditional walk strait forward, these large bulky shoulder pads protect the warrior from glancing rounds fired from all sides.  It also protects from impacts from weapons directed at the weakest spot of the chest carapace, the shoulder joint.  The softer side of the torso is also blocked by the long body of the shoulder armor.  The ribbing helps prevent the layered polymers of the armor separating after impacts that might be jaring enough to break the lamination bonds.  It also helps deflect glancing melee weapons away from armor seams.  Lastly and most importantly for my design, it serves as a potential mounting point for the shoulder weaponry used by hienlein's Mobile Infantry.

The back of the armor is more delicate in design than the front.  With it's bulky plates the front of the armor is extremely durable but the back mounts the machinery necessary to operate the suit.  On top we see the external data leads used to connect the armor's internal systems to vehicle equipment.  Directly on the shoulder blades and upper back are the power distribution systems that allow the suit to power weapon attachments and enhance the wearer's strength.  Below that along the small of the back and down the gluts is the hydraulic actuators that carry the majority of the armor's weight.  Sensors along this hydraulic spine allow the armor's on-board computers to detect the wearer's movements and respond accordingly with varying degrees of dexterity and force.  These systems while durable enough for military deployment are more lightly armored than the front of the suit's carapace.

The armor has internal power cells that store power for basic operation of the on-board computers and even to some degree the hydrolic systems. However for extended operation an external power source is needed.  The heavy armor's power pack is used for just such purposes.  Its basic body houses a basic oxygen generator for space operation, essential survival supplies like radiation stims and field rations, as well as a water purifier.  Most importantly the armored power pack houses twin micro fusion power generators. These tiny micro reactors are activated in combat allowing the suit to amp strength and power external weaponry as needed.  Their power output can charge the internal power cells and even generate enough power to operate small electric vehicles.  Due to the nature of the reactors massive amounts of heat are generated, this is vented through specialized exhaust ports mounted to vent heat up and away behind the soldier's head.  These ports help minimize the heat signature of the armor until absolutely necessary.

The legs of the Star Marine Heavy Armor are as intricate as the torso's sophisticated power systems.  Often over looked by other companies I wanted you to feel a practical aspect to the legs, not just, armored space pants.  Here we can examine the all terrain boots with their bulky armored exterior and chunky metal traction units.  The ankle and front of knees and legs are protected with reinforced plating to prevent debilitating extremity shots.  Along the back of the lower legs you can just make out the hydraulic support structure that helps distribute weight for the armor and keep balance.  Much of the armor's hydraulics of the suit are dedicated to supporting its own weight, without these systems a marine would be crushed by the weight of their own armor.  The hydraulic support distributes the weight down the outside of the legs into the reinforced boots.  No where are the hydraulics more exposed to weapons fire than here where the armor's designs necessitates them on the sides rather than back of the armor.  For this reason the important equipment is protected by over lapping plates running up the leg where it joins the hip belt and back hydraulic distribution network.

Star Marines are suitably impressive warriors and so they need suitably impressive weapons.  Enter the Gravity Hammer.  Star Marines are suitably impressive masters of technology.  Their heavy weapons are often made man portable by a gravity sling and deployment vehicles often employ antigravity technology to fly.  Though generally benignly used to lower gravitational forces similar technology can be used to amplify gravity.  The gravity hammer is one such application of the technology.  This is the first in a line that may eventually encompass my entire "techno" weapon line.  The gravity hammer is designed to be sleek and elegant and at the same time as practical as possible.  It bars a sweeping arc shape to its head like it was designed to be swung through the air.  At the same time its heft is detailed to add grip to security in the owner's hand.  Rounded out by a power unit at its pummel.

The Gravity hammer is an electronic device made by the military.  It uses a standard military power distribution block.  At the end of the power block is a photon charge pack. This specialized power cell is used to power weaponry, and indeed is a shared feature of all my "Advanced" line energy weapons.  On the left face you can see the photon charge port used to charge the weapon for use.  The port can be used to charge the photon charge pack or when connected to a suit's induction port can directly power the weapon from the micro fusion generator of the suit.  In a pinch you can always swap the charge packs as well.  On the face we can see the system read out control. Seen here, upside down the controls have an LCD panel and several control function buttons the operator can use to change settings on the weapon.  Not seen, on the reverse side, is the standard circuit breaker used on all "advanced" line weapons insuring safe operation and preventing over load of the photon charge pack.

The head of the gravity hammer scene in profile. Like the gravity device on my jetbike design, the gravity hammer's head has a hollow center.  The smaller gravity sling I also envision with a hollow center. It's here that gravity device creates an artificial gravity point. A collection entangled dark matter that is used to amplify the weapon's weight.  Biometric computers in the hammer link with on-board armor computers to detect body movement in order to determine when the user is attacking.  During an attack the weapon's computer systems initiate a gravity surge amplifying the mass of the hammer head between 200 and 300 times.  At the point of impact the blow can hit with as much force as 13 tonnes per square centimeter.  After striking the computer cycles back the gravity surge to normal levels allowing the operator to maintain control.

The use of shields in futuristic melee combat is a rarity but the Star Marines employ them to great effect on heavy armor.  Star Marines in Heavy Armor are often the focal point of enemy ranged fire and as such the Mater Shields are vital to the longevity of the troops.  Matter shields involve a complex magnetosphere that generates an ionized plasma field around the shields face. The result is a barrier that absorbs energy and causes matter to ablate on contact.  This same technology is deployed in large scale on Star Marine vehicles.

The Matter Shield is a compact device.  Internally a shielded electro-magnet rotates within a bath of exotic matter exciting molecules along the face of the sheild to firce ionize then plasmize as the excitation accelerates.  At the core is a low grade magnetic resinator collects the plasma flat along the surface.  Blade like heat sinks dissipate thermal energy along the edge of the shield making it both a defensive weapon and, in a pinch, an offensive one.  Matter Shield models are mounted with a Star Marine Hand already locked into the photon charge port of the shield to give it power.

And that about wraps up this look at the initial Star Marine Heavy Armor release.  I've begun working on additional support options for these suits including techno-fist options, shoulder mounted weapons, and some added melee / ranged options.  Additional in the works will be Star Marine Light Armor, with both male and female variants.  If I ever get the chance I'll also post some background for my Star Marine designs.