Monday, January 28, 2008

Starship Visual Design in a Star Trek MMORPG 3

Originally Posted by Perpetual_Todd:
The PE STO ship designs underwent many, thorough design reviews, and were based on many months (years really, in total) of design research. Okuda, Probert and Eaves were regularly consulted in shaping the PE STO visual exploration. Daron, Glen, Ken and the early design and concept teams (Ryan, in particular) arrived at a suitable visual evolution of the new large class ships and STO era Starfleet ship visual identifiers.
Todd, thanks for the comments.

I think maybe one of the problems we as fans had was that (for good reasons) we saw only a very few of the new starship designs from Perpetual -- basically just the Excalibur, the Sacagawea, the Tahoe and Iowa classes, and the unnamed science class ship. (I'm not including the Edison class runabout in this list, but I haven't forgotten about it.) Without access to your vision of how these designs fit into the overall post-Nemesis design progression, we can only compare them against what we know which is the "older" canonical ship design family.

So it seems to me that the only evolutionary path we can see as fans for major modern-era starships is (roughly):

Galaxy -> Sovereign -> Intrepid/Nova -> Prometheus

In that case, I think it's probably natural for us to expect a continuation of that path toward more wedge-like saucers, more streamlining, and more angular warp nacelles. Maybe the storyline that Perpetual developed for Star Trek Online included events that altered that path... but we out here weren't privy to that story.

Even so, I'm not sure that many fans here truly hated any of the new designs. The Tahoe class and Excalibur were certainly within the parameters of established Starfleet ship looks, even if they did add a few surprises. (And wouldn't there have to be some significant experiments in ship forms if the game's design calls for many new kinds of ships?) The science ship attracted more negative comments than the Tahoe or Excalibur, but even there I'd say the typical reaction was more "why does it look like that?" than "yuk! it's ugly!"

The one concern most of us here seemed to agree on was that several of the new ships sported what were pointed out as "greebles," little protrusions and curlicues and suchlike tacked onto (often kitbashed) ship models. I suspect that choice drew fire because it's a reversal of what appears to be a clear trend toward Starfleet ship designs becoming increasingly streamlined, even aerodynamic.

Again, though, maybe there's a story-based reason for even that, and we just don't know it. (I could bore everyone with a long discursion on how Spengler believed the artistic expressions of a civilization follow a path from vigorous simple forms through rococo and baroque variation to empty ornamentation, and suggest this as an explanation for why even the Federation might eventually decline toward mere ornamentation in its ship designs. But I won't do that. :) )

Here's hoping we'll someday see many of the other designs that Perpetual and its consultants dreamed up for Star Trek Online, whether on their own or as completed by another developer.

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