Spectre Tank

A papercraft toy rendition of one of the enemy tanks from one of my favorite retro Mac game series, Spectre Supreme and Spectre VR.

Posted in Papercraft || Originally created on 2007-04-01 17:57:18 || Posted on 2010-01-12 15:38:59

This is a tank that appeared in two of the games that I played as a kid; Spectre Supreme, and Spectre VR. The gameplay of the games in the Spectre series was quite similar to that of a game some of you may have enjoyed on the Atari; that game was named "BattleZone". The main difference between these games was that in BattleZone, your sole objective was to destroy the other tanks to advance in the game. In the Spectre series, you needed to collect all of the flags placed in a level to advance. If a tank got in your way, THEN you blew it up.

This tank was actually my first Papercraft model. It came into being through a school assignment I was working on in my college photography class. The assignment given to the class had been to photograph one of our passions. I really only had two prominent passions at the time; videogames and graphic design. I figured that my concept probably wouldn't come out right or be interpreted properly if I were to try and portray the concept of graphic design, so I decided to give the videogames idea a try.

I knew that it would be lame as hell to take the obvious approaches and take a picture of a screen with a game on it, or to take pictures people playing games and having a good time. I'd need to take a different approach to things to get a decent grade, and more importantly, allow myself to feel proud of what I had created. I really don't remember the complete list of original brainstorming concepts that I came up with as ideas to accomplish the shoot, but what I do know is that my final solution was simply to take the game out of the computer so I could photograph it in the real world.

It took a lot of soul seeking to come to the conclusion that I did on what game to use in the shot; I didn't want to do something cliché like Mario, especially since I didn't even have an NES until I was about 13 or 14. No, no, there were games that were much, much closer to my heart. This assignment was about passion after all. You see, I had grown up as a Mac gamer, and there were a completely different set of games over on our side of the fence. There really were a lot of games that had I had grown up playing to pick from, but I finally ended up deciding on Spectre because it was the first game that I had ever earned the money for and purchased for myself. It also seemed like a decent choice because it was 3D, and I wouldn't have to come up with any strange real-world representations of any of the objects in sprite-based games.

So I had a game picked out, but how in the world was I going to bring a game of very early, very low-poly 3d graphics into reality? I actually spent a GREAT deal of time trying to think through all of the ways that I could physically create a set of models for Spectre. I tried several different ways of creating wireframe objects(Spectre had a wireframe graphics mode too. Mmmm sexy.), but most of those methods were either too flimsy to expect to not fall over from their own weight, or not malleable enough to work with. I could go on about some of the other things I tried that didn't work(I was very glad that I had started work on the assignment on the night the teacher told us it was due two weeks later), but those pretty much sucked. Enter my discovery of Papercraft!

I had to download, install, configure, and find a custom BIOS in order to start up a System 7 emulator to take some screenshots of the game for reference, but after that, it was pretty easy to a create 3D model of the enemy tank I wanted to use. I had one more tiny issue I would need to overcome though... the only methods I could seem to find on the web to turn a 3D model into a Papercraft model all involved a program called Pepakura, and it ran on Windows only. Well, that wouldn't do. So I needed to find a way to accomplish the same output using a Mac, the Creative Suite, and whatever Open Source software I could use to help with the task. Well, there was about a 2 - 3 night learning-curve on trying to figure out how to do it, but I eventually ended up creating a very solid foundation for a workflow of using Blender to create an UV unwrap a model, and Illustrator to lay everything out on paper and add all the trimmings. I was elated when all of my cut, fold and glue lines on the paper ended up matching up perfectly on my first try. So I had my model. Woot!

I had been experimenting with Black Light and photography a bit earlier that month, and I realized that if I could just make fluorescent models and light my scene with Black Lights, I could actually almost perfectly achieve the same visual style as a player would see in-game in Spectre. For the models that I used in the shot, I actually printed the patterns out on white card stock, then used fluorescent spray-paints to make them the colors that I wanted. That worked out alright, but it took about a million layers of paint to cover up all of the white that was showing through in certain spots on the model. On a cold January night(I think it was January... I remember it being cold enough for ice and snow), running outside to spray a new layer of paint on the model every fifteen minutes was pretty annoying. I hate the cold.

The Black Lights and fluorescent painted models made for a pretty sexy shot. You can probably imagine my reaction when I later found out that most office supply stores also sell fluorescent colored card-stock for about $8.50. I was simultaneously very happy and very... frustrated that I hadn't known about that before. I had at least been so pleased with the results of this first set of shots that Black Lights and fluorescent card stock became my standard practice for creating and photographing my Papercraft from that point.

papercraft, spectre, tank, videogame

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