Thesis Progress: Police Fighter

For my senior thesis at Ringling College of Art & Design in the Game Art & Design major, I am working with one other student, Matt Oztalay, to create a trailer for a hypothetical video game, currently titled “Starlight Sparrow”. In the game, you would play as the captain and pilot of a smuggling ship called the Starlight Sparrow, similar to Han Solo and Chewbacca, or the crew of Serenity from the popular show Firefly.

The trailer is a 2-minute chase sequence in which the police chase the SS into a debris field and the Sparrow shows off a few of its unique, illegal upgrades to help it evade capture. My chief responsibility is the police vehicles: A squadron of four fast, maneuverable fighters, and a heavy gunship. The purpose of this post is to publicly document the progress of the Police Fighters.


Orca, Final Concept ArtIn the first couple storyboard versions of the trailer, the police only sent in one ship, a larger gunship. That quickly became several smaller fighters, and the gunship would make its way back into the piece significantly later. At the end of the preproduction phase, the Police Fighter, tentatively called an Orca, wound up looking like this.

During the summer, I attempted to mitigate faculty concerns about it not being clear which ships were the bad guys and which were the good guys. Someone had used the phrase “Nazify them”, so I drew inspiration from Tanks and bulkier military vehicles, hoping to make them heavily armored, but with gigantic enough engines to still be fast. After pushing it too far in the tank direction, I brought it back in a more ’50’s direction, ending up with a sleeker version of what I had originally.


In early production critique, it was pointed out that faculty were still having difficulty determining which ship to root for. I took a look back at classic Sci-Fi bad guy ships like those of the Klingons, Romulans, and Cylons. I found curved, hooklike shapes to be popular as well as inspiration from dangerous animals like sharks and birds of prey. After blocking in several variations. The version with the seriously hooked-forward wings was picked. Several minor changes were made to its silhouette, and lights were added. It later got the critique that it was too close to a Cylon Raider from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series. There were also issues with it straying too far from the “1950’s Cars in Space” theme of the universe. However, because the first semester was mostly devoted to environment modeling, the Cylon Raider version remained in use until the start of the spring semester.

Throughout the remainder of the Fall Semester, I sketched out numerous thumbnail versions of the police fighter, trying to maintain the villainousness of the Cylon Raider ship while adding more 50’s-ish details to the ship.

At the start of the Spring Semester, Hero Asset modeling kicked back in. Several variations of the “50’s Pass sketches” were tried. Bouncing ideas, as well as the rough model itself, back and forth between myself and Matt resulted in this stingray-like ship. We were very happy with this design.

I added rough chrome trim to the Orca, picked a design for the fins (based on a ’59 Dodge Coronet), and started adding lights. The missiles were repositioned underneath the wing instead of inside it.

Towards the end of the month, I added a new canopy based on the Russian MiG-15 and tweaked the design on the gumdrop light to be more in line with police cars of the era.

During this time, I also modeled out the interior detail of the engines.

For a while, I was having difficulty figuring out the Greeble and Paneling needs on the ship. After a quick paintover from my partner and looking at a variety of old sports cars, as well as some gorgeous closeup details of the Viper models from Battlestar Galactica, I decided on a variety of vents, air scoops, fuel caps, and tail pipes that are attached to the ship more for the purposes of looking cool and being reminiscent of sports cars and motorcycles than for any real technical functionality. Panel Lines are mostly only in places I can see a functional use for, like repairing the engines or engaging the landing gear.

Lo-Res Orca progress as of 02/01/11. I made this reduced version before adding the tailpipes or the air scoops. Current poly count is 13,212 Tris. My goal is to get below 12,000 after adding the nose air scoop and the tail pipes.

In-game Orca as of 2/20/2011. Orca is down to 11,586 Tris. Textures are at 1st Pass. Still need police insignias, call numbers etc. Need to get a more finalized material on the lights.

1st Pass Decals as of 2/21/2011. Need to tweak Decal pass and smooth out normal maps. Still have some artifacting to address. Still need to work out the material for the lights and play with the values on my chrome and auto-paint Material Instances.

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