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Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: Art of TOS Ships

By LaughingTrendy | Wed 15 Jun 2016 10:30:00 AM PDT

In Agents of Yesterday (AoY) we wanted to create ships in the spirit of Star Trek, the original series as much as possible. We decided they should be made to look like we had the same limitations the original team of creators in Star Trek TOS had in creating them. The lines are simple and very geometric. The ships, although elegant should look firstly utilitarian unlike other ST series where design tended to have a higher prerogative. This set of ships was conceptualized almost at the same time as the 26th century ones since they share some geometry attributes. The idea was to create a sense of design evolution from the 23rd to 26th century.

We wanted them to have some design parallels with cold war ships from the 50’s, a tendency really palpable in TOS show. For that purpose we designed them to look like they are made out of submarine parts. Something that you can easily imagine being hold together by rivets.

Hector Ortiz
Concept Artist
Star Trek Online

With the decision to center our third expansion around the classic “original series” of Star Trek, we knew that it was going to be important to replicate that show’s aesthetic faithfully in all aspects of the game’s art. This was especially true of whatever new ships we created for Agents of Yesterday, which would need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the original Constitution class U.S.S. Enterprise and not seem out of place.

Even as we started the design process for these new 23rd century ships, we also took on the task of rebuilding a classic. Nicknamed the “Big E” or “The Gray Lady” by some fans, the “original” Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, or D!) is a beloved character in her own right and one of the most iconic artifacts of television history. We felt it was incredibly important to rebuild her model for Agents if Yesterday to an exacting standard of quality and attention to detail… and a rebuilt Enterprise model could also serve as a solid foundation for all of the new Federation starships we needed to create.


Thankfully, there are few pieces of television of history as broadly documented, discussed, debated and re-created as the Enterprise. We spent many hours poring through a plethora of resources, looking through a huge variety of photographs, drawings and videos. As luck would have it, the original Enterprise miniature from the television show is currently being restored for display at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, so photographs of that process proved very valuable to our own digital restoration effort.

We also looked at two notable recreations of the Enterprise. The digital model, created for the HD Remaster of the original series, was created using laser scans of the original miniature, and renders of this ship proved valuable in discerning certain details and proportions. Another useful recreation was the filming miniature created for the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribbleations,” which was built by Greg Jien and his team. This model provided an interesting interpretation of the original Enterprise as it was built to simultaneously pay homage to the classic show but also feel like it belongs in the same show as the much more highly detailed U.S.S. Defiant miniature.

Building the Material

An important part of capturing the look of the Enterprise was reproducing its “material,” or surface texture. Compared to most of the other starships in Star Trek Online, the original Enterprise lacks a lot of surface detailing. This was done intentionally, to emphasize the large scale of the ship – you can’t see individual panels on a battleship when you are far enough away to see the whole ship – and also doen as a conceit to the hazards of space flight. The man who designed the Enterprise, Matt Jefferies, felt that on a space ship that large, engineers would work hard to put as many vital systems inside the hull of the vessel, reducing the need to maintain or repair the ship with dangerous extra-vehicular activity in the vacuum of space.

We started by taking a look at the various details that did exist on the model and mapping them  to our standard ship material template. Mapping things appropriately was a challenge, but by using our standard ship material template we could ensure that the new 23rd century ships would be compatible with our existing shield overlays and federation ship materials.

After we determined the initial layout, we then set about creating the material itself. It was important to match the high gloss gray look of the model’s paint scheme, while also creating something that felt at home in Star Trek Online’s rendering engine. In the end, we added a very subtle “aztec” patterning to the hull, which foreshadows the surface detailing seen in the “refit” version of the Enterprise without overpowering the clean, smooth lines of the original ship.

Building the Model

With all the reference assembled and the material complete, building the model itself was a fairly straightforward process. Thanks to the uniform curvature of both the saucer and the engineering hull, we were able to “lathe” out those shapes from a pre-described path. This quickly created the distinct curves and edges in a large piece, which was used as a foundation from which to add and subtract details like the bridge dome and the shuttle bay fan tail. But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we’re pleased to present some time-lapse imagery of the model’s construction.

Ultimately, this new model for the classic Constitution-class U.S.S. Enterprise provided a highly accurate template for the rest of our 23rd Century Starfleet ships and was lovingly created in tribute to one of the most influential spaceships ever built.

The Rest of the Fleet

With both the new Enterprise model and their various concept drawings complete, it was time to model the rest of the Federation’s 23rd Century fleet.

The Daedalus

The scrappy Daedalus has grown into a fan-favorite design over the years. It began its life as one of the early concept sketches for the Enterprise, before Matt Jefferies abandoned the spherical hull for the now-iconic saucer. Appearing in a variety of quasi-canon sources, the name Daedalus has never *officially* been matched up to this particular design, which has appeared on screen on Captain Benjamin Sisko’s desk. That said, its place in fandom and “fanon” is so thoroughly entrenched that it felt like leaving it out of Agents of Yesterday would be a huge oversight, so we made it the Temporal Science Vessel. While sparce on details or complex shapes, the Daedalus practical design sets it apart, paying homage to our own current age of primitive space flight.

The Pioneer

One of our first STO original ships to the TOS era, the Pioneer was designed as the “starter” ship for TOS Federation captains. Utilitarian and scrappy in its own right, it was important that the Pioneer feel smaller and slightly more primitive than the Constitution-class Enterprise. When modeling the Pioneer, we made the saucer shallower and reduced its circumference, while keeping the bridge “cake” and windows the same size. This makes the ship feel more compact. We also shortened the impulse engines to make it feel a little underpowered when compared to its sister ships.

The Ranger

Modeling this aggressive take on the TOS aesthetic afforded some interesting opportunities to create new details in the TOS style, such as a weapons pod and roll bar.

The Perseus

This TOS-themed escort called for a compact and stance, and almost feels like a bomber from World War 2. For this ship, we inverted the slope of the saucer’s edge to emphasize its lethality.

The Gemini

The Gemeini’s four-nacelle design hints at the Constellation class to come in later years of Starfleet. This ship is meant to feel even larger than the Constitution class, and we accomplished this by adding more windows around a larger saucer section.

Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before, Again

Working on these classic Star Trek ships for Agents of Yesterday has been an incredible experience. It has been a joy to go back and breathe new life into something so near and dear to so many fans, and a challenge to find new ways of exploring these design motifs while continuing to stay true to the spirit of the classic Enterprise design.

We hope players will enjoy these ships when they launch with the upcoming Agents of Yesterday expansion.

We can’t wait to see you out there, thattaway!

2D/3D Artist
Thomas Marrone
Star Trek Online

The life of a Temporal Agent will take you across time and space to strange frontiers and deadly battlegrounds with the Temporal Agent Pack.

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