Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Hive Life

PROJECTING DISORDER AT PILES OF DISCORDANCY
 
 
 
 
 
FIRST HIVE
 
The first Hive I built was more infrastructural than decorative / painted. It was inspired by as much as Necromunda, built of carefully arranged trash recycled from wherever I could get it; food packaging, bits from skips, cardboard and plastic tubes: people would donate their trash to me in disposable carrier bags. This was before the standard blue plastic bags for recycling was implemented in the UK. It was several feet tall of which only the horizontal surfaces were functional as tabletop roleplaying terrain. I was an art student and that was not its primary purpose. It was before mobile phones were available, the internet was relatively new and only rich people, libraries and educational facilities had computers at all. I got a couple of badly out of focus photo's on an old fashioned stills camera, the sort you had to send film off to be developed. It took up so much floor space in my bedsit people who came over to gawk at it had to sit on the floor in the hall to talk with me. That its primary purpose was antisocial to try and dissuade people from visiting me when I was busy trying to do an art course was irrelevant to my friends and the project ended up dismantled and in a skip. It was a learning curve. I recognized the necessity for balancing between what is realistically stylish and what is practical for roleplaying. I started drawing architecture with intention of making as close to 100% of the next construct as practical as possible, to maximise gaming space. Obviously the Spire shape of an Hive city for Necromunda indicates vertical shelf-like layers to minimize floor coverage. Storage is of the optimum. 



SECOND HIVE

The second Hive city I built actually got spray-painted. It took over a whole room of my flat and when I moved out I left it in the attic surrounding the attic hatch-way to give a surprise to whoever moved in next. It was modular. Again, uninvited visitors would bring me carrier bags of recycled trash to convert. By this time blue bin bags for recycling by the council had a normal part of life for most humane people in this country. The city was made of bottles with vacuum-formed plastic and cardboard stuck to them with glue. It had been constructed as the backdrop for a sci-fi movie I was shooting onto video using puppets instead of actors because they're more affordable and easier to control. I still have the puppets. To maximize the number of locations in the story, the sprawl had to look to cover a much bigger area than the number of model towers I had time to make and space to store, so the cyberpunk city had to be modular. This way I could re-arrange them to suit the purpose. It was a giant jig-saw puzzle in three dimensions. Again, a few photos exist; unfortunately my second-generation mobile phone with a 1 megapixel lens was stolen. Phones did not have internet access in those days. Modular city components are useful for portability and arranging different zones from the same components. 
 

 
LESSON ONE & TWO: RECAPITULATION

Lessons from my first two Hives: 
 
Build upward, not outward. 
Buildings are layers of shelves, empty of obstruction.
 
Modular components. 
Buildings are themed, are obstructions.

Combining Shelves with Modular has only one resolution: 
put the modules on the shelves. 
 
Seems obvious.


THIRD HIVE

My third Hive was entirely digital. After intuitively assimilating photoshop I enjoyed a few years of self-learning to use digital 3D software for purpose of architectural design. I was using outmoded computers which people gave to me when they upgraded their own professional machines to keep up with the industry. When my grandfather died I inherited enough money to buy a decent enough computer to access SecondLife, the worlds premier Virtual Reality platform. 
 
In SL I built several urban zones (eg; Sidhe Street, Wabi Sabi District, others), experimenting with atmosphere from colour pallet and spacious arrangement. It's not only the architecture which is important, its the open spatial vibe of places which give them life, especially so in multi-rise dystopia's only a couple of over-arching bridges away from Kowloon. I won a bursary when another artist was impressed by my drawings and paintings of urban textures and entered me for a competition. I'd already worked with her on a similar project (neocyberpolis)  I was given a whole sim in which to construct an entire city. Specification: Ghost City. Visitors had to solve a puzzle game to figure out where everyone had gone.



LESSON THREE: INTERACTIVITY

Although the buildings of Hives are crowded, for tabletop roleplaying purposes they also have to function for gaming. Hands need to be able to access every point with enough space to pick up and move around 28mm / 32mm model characters. Lines Of Sight must be respected despite the theme of lots of cramped little looks and crannies and places to hide behind necessary for daily survival in a culture where Life is so cheap bullets are used as currency. 
 
Boxes are boxy; objects rather than the more functional and over-priced stuff manufactured by GW for official Necromunda environments, which look nothing at all like the descriptions or architectural infrastructural necessities of a Hive. They've sacrificed realism for playability. As an artist that doesn't wholly satisfy me. 



FOURTH HIVE

My house has a shed full of junk, a spare room full of junk, neither of which can be accessed without removing the junk. Beneath my stairs is full of junk. This junk includes cardboard, XPS (expanded polystyrene foam, the white messy bubble stuff), EPS (Extruded polystyrene foam, the smooth stuff), plastic bottles, vacuum-formed plastic, shaped plastic things of varying sizes collected from all over. My living room contains shelves and chests of drawers full of paints, glues, cutting mats, blades, scissors, plaster of paris, brushes and other related craftwork items. A gap between the side of my house and next door is full of hardier, larger plastic trash for construction of various sections of mega-Hive if/as/when I ever get organized to do it. Not only the time but the focus.

Most of my craftwork living here has been modular dungeons for fantasy. I had needed a break from cyberpunk during which I have amassed more bits for the Hive than I ever had before. There are some modular buildings on shelves in the living room, base-coated with black, grey and rusty brown. They're basically built around cardboard boxes which gives them personality but takes up space; despite being flat roofed with layers of balconies, the buildings are objects, not open-space. They are not tall enough to count as multi-rise buildings, so I call them 'low-level ground buildings' despite some of them being five stories tall. At 28mm / 32mm scale that's 10"-15" which should be satisfying but somehow isn't.

It all takes up space. Modular buildings can be neatly hidden in wardrobes for storage. For actually gaming with them? Height is required. Sticking cardboard boxes on top of each other erratically and reinforcing it with dowel and plastic trash does provide some Spire-like infrastructure, especially with bridges placed between them.

Arguably a balcony counts as a shelf, for miniatures but that's not what I meant by Shelves which Modular buildings can be put onto. Low-level buildings containing balconies for miniatures needs to go onto shelves. I need to start building with wood to give enough support structure to the project to make it worthwhile. I need to level up my game, literally. 
 
Luckily, some useful broken furniture parts rescued from skips have found their way into my garden...


FIFTH HIVE

A childs school desk, upturned. 
On top of this is a plastic set of stackable modular drawers without the drawers, glued with hot-glue.
On top of this is a frail wooden two-tier shelf from the old days, crudely repaired.
It's six feet tall and measures 2'x2' at the base. 
Most of the interior is hollow and therefore cardboard tubes fit nicely inside it vertically, along with some of the modular bits I built previously by hot-gluing random boxes together to create tall buildings with ledges and sticking vacu-formed plastic wrappers to their sides. So far it's looking alright despite needing a paint job to tie it all together. 


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