I've (finally) got to the point where I am happy with the Fleet Cruiser. It has been through months of iterations (hang on the file date says it was created in 2012). So, lots of months of iterations.
The most difficult step was to wind back the detail on the surface map. I'm not very well acquainted with surface mapping, so it does take a lot of effort to work out how to put them together so that they look good. It just takes time and lots of retrying, reapplying, re-rendering, mulling over, sleeping on it etc. The surface of the Cruiser had becomes a detailed tapestry of patterns, shapes, struts and divots.
What was bugging me was that in the book I'm currently writing, one of the characters describes that every inspection panel, every seam, every detail is a weakness. You can therefore tell how expensive a spacecraft is by how smooth the hull is. The best craft have no seams at all. If it was possible to create spacecraft that were smooth rugby balls then that would be an optimum shape!
It's an idea that's largely been reflected in the spacecraft I've done so far but I went overboard in the other direction with the Cruiser. It was only re-reading a chapter from my book when I realised where I had gone wrong.
The difficult bit The difficult bit was walking away from all that work. I had spent a huge amount of time creating the image maps, aligning then, playing with bump levels and restarting. It was galling to just not have any at all.
Once I took them all off and set up a dark luster metallic procedural, it did feel correct and so I'm moving on.
I think all the work on the surface mapping was worth it. This has a textural quality that seems larger and more modern than your earlier work.
I'd ignore the seamless ball ideas. They sound good to a physicist, who's concepts work well in frictionless vacuums but break down in the real world. Primarily this is true for a game because uniformity is visually boring. This is art, not engineering. Realism will get you only to the first concept. Style will get you readers.