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  1. Hello there! As I sat the last episode out, I still have to update my story progress to catch up with the events for the new episode, so I'll make way for that now with the release of this new freebuild and the latest part in my ongoing story about Cody Startale. If you like my comic-style narrative, feel free to plow through my previously released chapters for a sense of continuity: Episode 0 – The Introduction Episode XII – Den Of The Dragon XII-I – Sowing The Seed Episode XIII – Quantum Of Sunrise XIII-I - Quite A Mercenary Episode XIV - Day Of The Spectacle Part XIV-I – Welcome To The Rebellion Episode XV – Top Of The Class The last time we saw our protagonists, they were entangled in the ferocious sky battle over Coruscant and Prince Xizor's demise seemed mere minutes away... Please judge, and C&C is always very welcome. You will probably see that with this episode, even more focus than usual was on photography and storytelling, so let me know how that worked out.
  2. Before my life as an AFOL started, I’d never come into contact with the Expanded Universe. But thanks to exposure to all of those strange new MOCs I’m a bit more knowledgeable now of all of the amazing stories you can’t see in the movies. There’s one storyline in particular I’m more knowledgeable – and appreciative – of now. It’s Shadows of the Empire. If you don’t know it, it’s kind of Episode 5 ½ in the Star Wars saga and tells a.o. the story of how the Rebel Alliance came to acquire the plans for the second Death Star. Along the way, it explores many familiar characters and introduces a couple of unforgettable ones. The story was told through various media when it came out in the lead-up to Episode I. There’s a book, a legendary game, comics, action figures, a soundtrack I’ve played tens of times… If you want to delve into the story, the Wookieepedia page is very comprehensive. However, I found it more fun to watch this very well put together series on Youtube. I got introduced to it thanks to our little role playing game here in the forum, with the 100% original name Shadows of Nar Eurbrikka. I had been participating as a player until I joined the team of organizers when I joined the forum staff. Ever since, I’ve been looking into the existing stories to give the game a more authentic feeling. The most recent result is the twelfth episode coming to a close. The episode revolved around figuring out who is after an attempt on Luke Skywalker’s life. This figuring out happened in two ways. Firstly, the players had to tell a story and build a scene about their character investigating. And secondly, they had to guess about a secret model that indicates who’s the one responsible. A partial part list was available for this model. The parts that were missing were only known to one of the two competing factions. They had to incorporate those parts into their builds, and the opponent had to guess what the secret seed part was. If you want to learn more about how the episode worked, how it ended and how well everyone incorporated the parts, be sure to check out the topic. I had a lot of fun coming up with the concept and tweaking it together with the always awesome organizing team. However, apart from the concept, we also had to come up with an actual secret model. Quite a challenging task if you take all of the constraints into account: it had to be something logical to the story the factions could guess if they knew the EU a bit or were good at Wookieepedia-ing. It had to be rather small in order not to make the parts list too big and the challenge impossible. It could only include parts that were readily available and available in LDD in order to make replication easy. It couldn’t use illegal techniques that would make LDD useless. And it had to include a sufficient number of parts that were interesting enough to serve as seed part. Despite it being a small model, it was quite the design challenge! The result? [MOC] Prince Xizor's Virago by Bert Van Raemdonck, on Flickr It’s a rendition of Prince Xizor’s personal ship, the Virago. It could be found by going to the Luke Skywalker page, going to the legends tab, searching for “attempt”, concluding that Prince Xizor was after the story the episode described, and reading it with the mind of finding something suitable for a build to come across the Virago. Complicated, but not impossible. I absolutely love the design of the ship. It looks very menacing and alien, but at the same time feels right at home in the Star Wars universe. The key element were the wings that I tried to replicate with a variety of more exotic parts. I like the way they have a curved look to them, exactly like on the actual model. Well, speaking of “actual” model. It was not hard finding reference images online, but the problem was there were a number of different versions. I picked the elements that were most feasible and good looking from the models. The main inspiration were model kits, but they have a cockpit with an incredibly sharp angle which I couldn’t replicate, so I got the cockpit design from another image. The horizontal stripe is achieved by a rubber band, which for obvious reasons wasn’t included in the parts list for the episode. I did experiment with real life rubber bands though in order to make sure it could be implemented. [MOC] Prince Xizor's Virago - running away mode by Bert Van Raemdonck, on Flickr Especially the body was hard to view on reference images, so I hope what I went for looks reasonable. I’m not too happy about the engines at the back of each wing. They look a bit simple, but they manage to conceal the “unwanted” features of the panels pretty well. I’m very pleased with the intakes of those engines though, with the chair pieces nicely fitting around the panels. [MOC] Prince Xizor's Virago - landing mode by Bert Van Raemdonck, on Flickr The original model also has the ability to fold back the wings in a landing mode. Since I strived to make my model as complete as possible, not just fit as a secret model for the episode, but also something you can display and play with, something to be proud of, this feature is included. I imagine the friction of the pins might not be enough to keep the wings unfolded during swooshing, but I’m confident it will look good on display, and the landing mode is a nice bonus. Finally, you can see the model from all angles by checking out this video. The underside is pretty similar to the top. This is the first time I rendered a LEGO animation, and I must say I was surprised it was finished in a reasonable amount of time. Overall, I’m very satisfied with how all of the renders turned out. I can definitely recommend using Blender for your LEGO renders and animations. ImportLDraw tool is the perfect way to get your models from LDraw to Blender (and everything’s free!). I hope the results have fooled you, even if just for a moment. If you want to explore the model, you can find the LDD file here. It can also be found on Rebrickable to make replicating it easier.. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions or remark, feel free to leave them here. Thanks for bearing with me! I’m now off listening to the SotE soundtrack again…