Star Trek Online is excited for StarTrek.com readers to be the very first see the new U.S.S. Somerville, a starship collaboration with IDW Comics, which will release shortly after the game’s upcoming PC update, Awakening, on September 10.
Star Trek Online is a free-to-play massively-multiplayer online game that gives players the chance to build their own ship and recruit a new crew before setting out on their very own Star Trek adventure. For almost a decade, the game has been weaving characters, events and ships from the growing Star Trek universe into its own rich, ongoing story.
This fall, Star Trek Online will release Awakening, a brand-new PC update featuring Anthony Rapp from Star Trek: Discovery as a sentient hologram of Commander Paul Stamets. In the 25th century, Starfleet encounters a Mycelial mystery that only Stamets can solve, and players will join him on an incredible journey to the heart of the Mycelial Network.
In addition to welcoming Rapp to STO’s constellation of Trek luminaries, Awakening includes five new star systems to patrol and, of course, new starships to explore them with. As Awakening is all about Paul Stamets, one of the new ships players will be able fly is actually inspired by another Stamets story: the Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018, published by IDW Publishing. At the beginning of that story, the starship U.S.S. Somerville recovers a sample of the prototaxites stellaviatori spores for Stamets’ research. Star Trek Online’s development team loved the look of the ship and thought it would make a prefect addition to players’ fleets in STO.
The STO Team reached out to IDW and asked if they would be interested in seeing the Somerville appear in Star Trek Online. IDW gave their blessing, expressing excitement about seeing one of their creations come alive. Now, take an exclusive look at the process of developing the Somerville from a comic book illustration to a highly detailed 3D model players will be able to pilot in Star Trek Online.
The U.S.S. Somerville appears at the beginning of Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018. It is on a mission to locate and retrieve rare spores of prototaxites stellaviatori from an uncharted asteroid field. The mission almost ends in disaster when the asteroids begin moving unpredictably, threatening the Somerville. The ship escapes, but not without the loss of the away team that recovered the spores. This sequence is the only place the Somerville appears, but its striking circular design and large retro nacelles made an impression on Star Trek Online’s ship artists.
Angel Hernandez created the art for Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018 and as part of that process designed the Somerville. It appears just in a few panels, and is only visible from the top in any detail. To bring the ship to life in a 3D game engine, the STO team would have to develop its design from all angles. This task fell to Star Trek Online’s concept artist, Hector Ortiz.
Hector started by drawing a top-down schematic of the Somerville as he interpreted it from its general shape in the comic. During this process, he had compensated for the drawing’s foreshortening and linear proportions to determine the relative scale of various elements of the ship. It was also unclear from the design of the ship and the angle of its presentation which way was actually forward. Given the importance of directionality in a 3D game environment, the team felt it best to use the curved part of the Somerville’s saucer as the ship’s front. This would help players intuit the direction their ship is traveling and felt consistent with the style of other Starfleet ships from Discovery.
After the initial top-down drawing, Hector began to iterate on the design. He consulted with the rest of Star Trek Online’s Ship Art Team to develop its look in a manner consistent with contemporary starships created for Discovery. The team loved the simplicity of the Somerville and wanted to maintain the “hot rod” look of its large engines and circular saucer, so as the design developed, those elements remained as key touchstones back to the original artwork.
Hector has been creating concept art for Star Trek Online for more than five years. In that time, he has built a huge portfolio of starship designs original to the game. He brought his extensive experience to bear to quickly polish the final details of the ship once the general shapes were ironed out. The biggest question mark was the bottom of the ship, which is not visible at all in the comic. For that, Hector found inspiration in the Shepard and Walker class starships seen in Discovery. Both share a similar hull and deflector dish style, and that style integrated well with the circular nature of Somerville’s internal saucer.
Satisfied with the design, the team sent off Hector’s drawings to Tobias Richter, a talented 3D artist partner and Star Trek fan. His work has appeared in Star Trek publications such as the Ships of the Line calendar series, Star Trek: The Next Generation On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise, Star Trek Adventures, and more. Tobias is a phenomenal modeler and has already built several Discovery-era ships for Star Trek Online. He utilized this expertise to take Hector’s drawings and hone the design even more, adding a variety of details, such as phaser arrays, escape pods, windows, flood lights and more.
After Tobias finished modeling the ship, he passed it back to Star Trek Online’s ship team, who gave it one more polish pass and imported it into the game. The final model has a unique flair to it that feels consistent with the existing Discovery-era starships, but also has its own visual identity.
The Star Trek Online team is thrilled for players to take command of the U.S.S. Somerville soon after the launch of Awakening on September 10.
Star Trek Online is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online game that allows players to explore the Star Trek universe from within. Players can forge their own destiny as Captain of a Federation starship, champion the Empire through the far reaches of the galaxy as a Klingon Warrior, rebuild the Romulan legacy as the commander of a Romulan Republic Warbird or carry out daring missions on behalf of the Dominion as a Jem’Hadar soldier. Captains can also explore iconic locations from the Star Trek universe, make contact with new alien species and battle alongside other players in customizable starships. Star Trek Online is currently available on PC, PlayStation4 and Xbox One. Play Star Trek Online for free by visiting StarTrekOnline.com.