Jan 132014

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This one’s going to require some backstory. 😀 But please do read it, as it will answer what are sure to be inevitable questions.

In 1991, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual came out, as a codified version of the show’s technical bible intended for public consumption. At the very end of the book, the authors (Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda) included a set of four drawings for the potential future direction starships might take, ranging from familiar to bizarre. One of those designs has a pretty clear lineage in becoming the Sovereign class.1 Another of those designs, though, had an interesting arrangement of modular segments comprising its saucer, along with wide warp nacelle pylons meant to allow the warp nacelle position to change mid-flight.2

An artist you might have heard of, Mark Kingsnorth, made a rough model of this ship in the late 1990s that gained some notoriety. It came to the attention of a fellow that goes by the handle “Jester”, who asked for Mark’s permission to use images of the model on a Star Trek IRC-based role-playing game website. The name of that game was U.S.S. Coronado…and I was one of the players.

Mark’s interpretation didn’t quite fit with what Jester wanted out of the ship. Jester called it the Katana-class, a frigate-sized ship centered around two major technologies: the launching of small, one-man fighter craft and the use of quantum slipstream drive.3 A neophyte CG artist myself at the time (1999), I offered to take a crack at providing Jester with an “in-house” version of the model that we could use to make any sort of shots he wanted. I knocked together a—by current standards—crude model in trueSpace, and away we went!

Later, in 2003, another player (and close friend of mine) on Coronado would build a new set of 2D orthographic blueprints, riffing on Sternbach’s original design and incorporating the various design elements that Jester had always intended for the game, namely the “slipstream” deflector as seen on Dauntless in “Hope and Fear” and catapult-style hangar bays for the ship’s Spectre class fighters. Having improved in skill significantly since the first trueSpace model, and now working in LightWave, I used these blueprints to make a new model of the ship.

The game ended in 2004, after 7 full years. Jester chose to end it then, since it mirrored the seven seasons enjoyed by TNG, DS9, and VOY. As a gift to both Jester and a wedding gift for the blueprint maker, I had a 36×24″ poster of the ship’s ortho renders and a few action shots, accompanied by specifications and signatures from many of the players, printed out for each of them, as well as myself. My copy currently hangs in my living room.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Coro’s last game, which took place at the end of August. For the finale’s decennial, I wanted to create a new model that goes back to the sources that first inspired Jester — Sternbach’s original design and Dauntless from “Hope and Fear” — and more intelligently incorporate design elements that would speak to the Katana class’s lineage — namely, those seen on the Sovereign class.

(Side note: Mark Kingsnorth went on to revisit his original take on Sternbach’s design, which has gained quite a bit of notoriety as the Insignia class.)

Coronado model timeline

So far, I have been focusing on locking down a completely new approach to the aft saucer, taking a lot of cues from the Sovereign lines on the dorsal surface and trying to more closely match the Dauntless lines on the ventral surface. I’ve been doing a lot of quick, rough renders and mock-ups, then painting over them with my Wacom tablet in Photoshop to explore different lines and arrangements. I’m using the player-made blueprints as a starting point for scaling, but not treating them as sacrosanct the way I did for the 2003 model. The following images show the evolution of the model from Jan 9 through to today.

Saucer design exploration, focusing on the flight deck and impulse area

Stardrive design exploration, emphasizing the Dauntless-esque shape.

My goal is to have the model render-complete by the end of August, 2014, which coincides with the 10th Anniversary of Coro’s last sim.

  1. Albeit with a widened saucer, rather than the elongated one that Sovereign ended up with []
  2. An idea that would eventually manifest with Voyager’s variable warp nacelles []
  3. Originally featured in the Voyager episode “Hope and Fear” []

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