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Behind The Scenes with Nathan Dearsley

When I first started the Sabre Raven Owners Club I wanted to reach out to the people at CIG who were most closely affiliated with the ship to see what behind-the-scenes content they may have regarding the Raven and any interesting details they might have about it’s production. Who better to ask first than the actual ship designer, Nathan Dearsley?

Unfortunately my initial requests went unanswered.

Nathan had moved over to the position of Squadron 42 Art Director which I’m sure is a time-consuming position and, as a general policy, CIG staff members are discouraged from responding to requests for content that’s not already out in the public eye. You never know who might be asking, and for what purposes.

The club continued about our business but we eventually found ourselves gaining the attention of those within CIG that could lend credibility to our requests, and I was finally able to get a response from Nathan!

The following is his account of the development and inspiration for the Sabre Raven.

The Raven, the ‘last’ ship I worked on for the PU before sliding into taking Squadron 42 on, was a fun one and very much a ‘pet project’ of my own that grew into another animal after some time. The Raven obviously being based off of the Sabre came about funny enough from what one may term being up sh*t creek without a paddle, long story short we had at that time very little resources to deliver on deadlines that were being planned out, one of those deadlines being getting the Sabre hangar ready in 2 weeks from the concept mesh that put together via Paul [Jones] & Gav [Gavin] Rothery, Having taken a look over the concept mesh I decided that I’d bite the bullet and get that ship done for said deadline, lots of hours and coffee later, said ship delivered in hangar on time , no one at Foundry believed I could do it, I like this, it gives me motivation to prove people wrong…

Throughout the process though I kinda began to not really agree with how the Sabre was put together, as an artist it is always a path of discovery taking on other people’s ideas and concepts, I have my ‘ideal’ aesthetic I strive for, that sorta visual ‘signature’ that ultimately I love and try to put into anything I touch really. One of my big no no’s starts with what I call ‘crashing geometry’, I hate it, its a lazy lazy approach to design imo, unfortunately this crashing geometry comes hand in hand with ‘kitbashing’, kitbashing as I’m sure you are aware is a process where concepts come together quite fast, but how each part of the kit is organised can end up being super loose, you get some really cool visuals with lots of detail ,but does said detail really make any sense?, for example how a wing meets a body, does the body have a recess for said wing, or do the panels of the wing and body have a beautifully crafted ‘sweep’ to marry the two, this is literally how i see the world tbh, it must make sense, this should imo feed into how anything fictional too, so ye, I hate crashy geometry with a passion, there is a place and aesthetic where you can get away with this. but not on anything Aegis at the time. The Sabre concept had lots of this, as a production artist you try your best to remedy this kinda stuff, maintain said detail but also hit your budgets ( game and time ) which is a challenge, but try as we must.

An Email from Nathan Dearsley
The Aegis Sabre Concept Art, Source: RobertsSpaceIndustries.com

Less is more – this is one of my loves, I like simple / clean design, I like the noisy stuff too but my passion lays with the clean stuff, sounds easy right, its really isn’t, simplicity is really fucking hard!, especially on SC where detail is ‘king’. When fleshing out simpler / cleaner and imo ‘bolder’ designs on anything, be it ships or architecture, you have to 100 percent trust in the process, because for the longest time things really don’t look so hot, you have to trust that say that wing with little to nothing on it is gonna come good once you craft some subtle split lines into it, said lines feeding and guiding your eye to another area of the ship / folding into a crease and so on, the Sabre although I see the appeal, has none of this approach, the shapes / forms don’t really do much to complement each other, the thruster intakes are literally circles rammed into an almost square shape from the front, it hurts making this stuff as an artist when it’s not strictly ‘your thing’

I could sit and talk aesthetics all day tbh, but you’ll grow old listening / reading :D, but as I was saying, I had two weeks of basically getting something ‘done’ whilst the entire time going “would’ve done that different , would’ve done this different” , but smiling the whole time of course 😉 .

So whilst all this was fresh in my head, in my own time I started to play with the idea of a more refined chassis of the Sabre, how would a lightweight version look and feel, a simpler design built for speed with a super thin side profile but unique top down silhouette, I’m a pretty big motorsport fan, I think I’ve watched every F1 race since 86/87, I love the science of it, the technology, the physics yet still it has this massive ‘human’ element at the heart of it all ( Senna was a hero to me as a kid! ) , cars to me, of all kinds are sculptures, good and bad, this definitely feeds into my work, study the rear quarter and thruster area of the Raven, then study the rear quarter of a ground effect car , you will start to draw connections, the rear diffuser fins, but then trying to continue the lines up and through into the body via splits or diffuse work, outer fins ‘framing’ the inner thrust space, everything talking to each other visually, I wanted the Raven to look unique, sculpted, fast and not rely on any high frequency detail whatsoever.

An Email from Nathan Dearsley

I had two weeks of basically getting something ‘done’ whilst the entire time going “would’ve done that different , would’ve done this different” , but smiling the whole time of course 😉

Nathan Dearsley on making the Aegis Sabre hangar-ready

I continued working in my own time on this stuff, it really was 100 percent not a thing that was ever supposed to grow into anything for SC, it was just me trying to train myself to be a better artist, practice what I preach to myself and so on. I think a week or so into this there were studio walkarounds and my 3ds max viewport was left on a very rough interpretation of at that time my personal  ‘ranking up’ project , I recall Erin seeing it asking what it was, Chris was over in the UK at the time too so he got wind of it also and done the whole ‘let’s all gather around this and see where it could go’……. So,, that’s kinda how the Raven was born, it wasn’t on any spreadsheet, it was never part of a delivery plan, it was never meant to be a thing at all, but Chris and Erin really liked the concept so really then at that point trusted me to do my thing with it, which is what I did 😀 , even though the ship is based on the Sabre , not one panel remains from it, everything on the exterior got changed following the theory I’ve tried to explain above.

At that time , I was also the kinda resident trackview guy in the UK, ship trailers were rough and ready back then, certainly not to the production values that the amazing marketing team we have now push out, but nonetheless we always tried to do something creative with less back then, I love being in this scenario, we didn’t have time to storyboard and flesh out ideas so much back then, we didn’t really hire actors or have voice overs etc ( unless it was something much more planned ahead ) , so again it was very much me being inspired probably a commercial I saw whilst watching some motorsport , this one to be precise –  https://youtu.be/7qsynXQot0Y , take that high level concept but make it work with the lights going out also ( via emp ) , man, Honda ads used to be so great!  Again, the whole trailer was put together very rapidly with very little resources but was super fun!

An Email from Nathan Dearsley
The video that served as the inspiration
And the release trailer that resulted!

Unreleased concept art – As you are probs aware, the Raven came out along with one of Intels super fast hard drive things back then, it became very much an Intel owned thing at this time, there was quite a bit of back and forth with the colours and livery having to be a specific way, was it the way I wanted it to be, no, absolutely not, the livery colours and so on were very different to how I would have really liked them to have been, do I like the blue on black, sure, its ‘ok’ but, given the choice I would have loved to have pitched some more 80’s racing inspired like liveries that would have accentuated the ships shapes a bit more, maybe one day they will become a thing , I’m fairly sure lots ot this stuff is wrapped up in the deal CIG did with Intel at the time, but can’t be sure as I don’t really like to get too involved in this stuff. But what I can say if once I’ve wrapped Squadron, I would very much like to do a Raven MK.2 in my personal time again and who knows where that would go…….. ;).

An Email from Nathan Dearsley

On additional piece of lore that I’ve always wanted to understand better is the reasoning for the “36” on the wing of the Raven. Was it in reference to the mysterious 36th Fighter Squadron? With only limited references in lore, it was a tough guess, however Nathan also provided his own context for the insignia.

The 36 was through my own input, another number of note is the 808 I recall just behind the canopy ( top view ) , which is my kinda digital signature code ;).

An Email from Nathan Dearsley

So it looks like we can put this rumor to bed.

That being said, what a fantastic read!

It’s amazing to see how a personal upskilling project turned into one of the most iconic ships in the verse, and the pure coincidence that let it see the light of day.

You can clearly see the inspiration in the ship design with its iconic silhouette and flowing lines, and the prospect of a Raven Mk 2 has me thoroughly intrigued!

Please note that this content was from an email between RedMonsterSC and Nathan Dearsley, and has been shared with Nathan's permission.