Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Starship Visual Design in a Star Trek MMORPG 1

What is the "Starfleet" look? How far can a starship's design be removed from the Starfleet look before it's no longer recognizable as a Federation ship?

This discussion leads us into the realm of our various subjective notions of "beauty" and the relationship of individual shapes to an idealized form. It's a bit like arguing over "who's the fairest of them all," which is not a debate that can ever end in any kind of consensus. Still, it might be fun to go over some of the things we like and dislike about the various starship designs seen on-screen so far.

Originally Posted by Captain Crowl: one on here likes the Defiant Class? Or say...the Akira, or Saber, or Norway or Steamrunner or the Constellation or the Centaur or the Miranda or the Oberth or the Prometheus (it didn't have the "traditional" warp nacelle & pylon set-up) or the Intrepid or the Nebula? Because all of those ships do not have the traditional primary + secondary + pylons + warp nacelles thing going for them. I for one love each of those ship designs...Akira and Defiant most of all.
Speaking for myself, no, I don't like most of those designs because I think they throw away too much of the classic Starfleet shape, in particular the "saucer-plus-nacelles-on-pylons-plus-maybe-a-cigar-shaped-secondary-hull" design.

In fact, to reiterate something on which I've been consistent, I do not like the Akira, Norway, or Steamrunner designs at all. In fact to be bluntly honest the words that come to my mind when I see the Steamrunner is "hideous" and "bletcherous," but the Akira and Norway are also nasty IMO because of the unbelievable silliness of their pylons. With all due respect to the people who designed these ships for TV, I think they went too far in these designs; I find them ugly in the extreme. (For what it's worth, the Excelsior is ugly to my eyes as well because of its excessively long warp nacelles bolted onto a secondary hull that looks like a drunken seagull cast in duranium.)

As for the Centaur and Constellation classes, while they're nominally Starfleet-like, they stretch and shrink the nacelle lengths and positions in silly ways compared to more balanced designs. So while I'd grudgingly agree that these two ships look basically like Starfleet designs, they are not at all attractive.

As for the look of the Oberth class... the less said, the better.

But note that the standard I'm comparing all these ships against is my perception of the idealized Starfleet starship, which is a relatively saucer-shaped primary hull, an optional more-or-less cigar-shaped secondary hull, and some number of long warp nacelles separated from the primary or secondary hull by pylons in a reasonably streamlined way. By that standard the Intrepid, Nova, and Prometheus classes are within the acceptable range of Starfleet designs, although they do break creative ground in unifying the primary and secondary hulls (points for streamlining). Even the Saber is not too far off the mark as an evolution of the Miranda class. (I actually think the Saber is better-looking than the Miranda.)

As for the Defiant class, I can just tolerate it because it's treated (in how it moves on-screen) more like a fighter than an actual 120-meter starship. If it acted more like a real starship, I'd like its appearance less because it doesn't say "Starfleet" to me.

If I had to sign off on one design as most attractive within the idealized Starfleet model, I suppose I would have to pick the Intrepid as the finest example of the naval architect's craft. Perfect? No. I think the nacelles are too stubby to be in good proportion with the rest of the ship, especially the gorgeous saucer section. But of all the ships I've seen (and I'm looking at this very minute at multiple collections of many, many pictures of different Starfleet ships), the Intrepid comes the closest to taking all the elements of the ideal Starfleet design and putting them together in a graceful and elegant way.

Designs like the Steamrunner (and the abominable Curry-type) can't help but look wrong by comparison.

In my opinion, of course.

Originally Posted by Captain Crowl:
You (meaning people in general) cannot have it both ways...'give me new ships, but you have to do it my way.' No...let them be creative and let's see what we get.
I'm not opposed to creativity. As I've said (and others have disagreed), I sort of like the Yeager-type ship, even if it is a kitbash. It's a different take on a Starfleet ship, which I fully support, but it gets there without completely abandoning the fundamental design concepts that distinguish Starfleet's ships from everybody else's.

Pushing the envelope, good. Phasering it into unrecognizability... not so good.

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