The Loknar class
Just a couple of days ago Laz Rojas (also known as Kirk1701) posted some questions regarding an Enterprise model for Elite Force he found in one of the maps. Laz, the author of the Starfleet Gladiator mod for Elite Force, was going to model in the 23rd century and wanted to alter the given mesh so it would look like ships from the original Technical Manual.
My first idea was “someone should do a Loknar class vessel too” my second thought was “the someone could as well be me...”. I already had experience with the 3d editor Blender and a fast machine, so I thought I could take up the task to create the model on my own. Especially since the conversion from Constitution class to Loknar class needs only the removal of the engineering section and new textures.
Step 1: Finding sources
The first thing that I needed was good sources. So I went over to Starship Schematics where I could find a schematic that can only be named rough draft. I already expected something like that, because the ship is a FASA design, and therefore not considered canon. So I went over to Star Ship Tactical Combat Simulator, page that is devoted to the old FASA designs, but unfortunately I had to learn that the schematic I already have was the only one ever published by FASA. However I found a conversion kit for a plastic model at Starship Modeler and decided to use it as another reference.
Step 2: Starting up
OK, so I had a schematic I had to work from and it was time to learn Milkshape. I understand that this program, which is only available as shareware, is the state of the art tool to do modelling for Elite Force (better: the Quake 3 engine). With a bit try and error plus the help of a tutorial I was comfortable enough to get started. So I prepared the schematics in a way that I could import them as background images. I scaled them until they were fitting the saucer (which is the same diameter as that of a Constitution class vessel: 127m, see info box). I removed the parts that I didn’t need (everything except the saucer and nacelles) and finally relocated the starboard nacelle. When I was doing the same thing for the port nacelle I fortunately had an eye on the coordinates only and not the schematic, because it was quite obvious that something was wrong...
Step 3: Checking the schematics
One hour since downloading Milkshape had passed and the project was halted to have a close examination of the schematics. The first and obvious one seemed to be that the schematics were not symmetric or at least that the symmetry axis was not parallel to the image. It was easy to correct that, but kept looking for errors: one flaw is that the struts to the engine do not work the way they are displayed. It appears from top view that the struts are attached to the top of the end of the engineering hull. The front view however suggests that they are attached to the side only and are very thin (almost too thin). Also the back of the hull is not rectangular shaped as suggested by the Starship Modeler kit, but appears to belong to the strut; again this is not possible with the front view in mind.
A rather minor inaccuracy is the saucer in side view: the top view clearly indicates not all segments of the hull are present, yet they are visible in side view. Next thing to research was how the engineering hull was connected to the primary hull. I had searched the web by then for more images of the Loknar class, because I had come to the conclusion that I would need more references when the kit bash turned out to be inaccurate as well. So I found three other sources: the FASA Gallery at SFB Nexus, some 2d schematics at Titan Fleet Yards and and a work in progress Loknar at Trek Mania.
Some other hours of analysing the data followed, I decided to discard the Trek Mania ship, mostly because the author didn’t respect the front view restrictions and made the struts too thick. The same goes for the one at Titan Fleet Yards, here the schematics are simply redrawn, and all the errors are copied. The ship interpretation on SFB Nexus however was the one I liked most, especially the placement of impulse drive and shuttle bay, which is similar to one arrangement I found on the USS Sam Houston, a TMP-era refit, created by some artist known as Lt. Kevin Riley.
Step 4: Enough research for now
Having spent more hours on research for the model now than actual modelling I decided to go back to Milkshape and get the baby out of drydock. So I decided to start with something that is not under debate and removed the back of the saucer section inlcusive the impulse engines. In order to have a nice screenshot without nacelles hanging in the air I added some struts similar to the ones of the Starship Modeler version.
I also decided to simply go with the rectangular engineering section instead of borrowing the round shaped one found on Trek Mania. Unfortunately Milkshape did favour a round one as you can see in the second image with the smoothed secondary hull. A long day had passed and I decided to stop for the day another day will come when I have the patiance to deal with the small error.
Fortunately Scott (also known as Toonloon) was around later and I could ask the expert what I can do about the error. The answer was short and simple: unweld the object. However I would learn later that this simple answer created the next error...
Step 5: More difficulties
Having had to put project Loknar class to a rest for a few days, because of the Linear Algebra exam, I continued working on the engineering section. However something is not right; when trying to create a new face by selecting vertices the program tells my I had to “select exactly 3 vertices”. Being puzzled, because that’s what I did I examined the mesh and realised that some of the vertices existed two times in the same place. I had no choice but to start the engineering section from scratch, because there were other things in the vertice order that I disliked. Everything worked fine from then on and I did proceed to the lower part of the saucer where the back section still needed work.
After another day without working on the mesh I had come up with a solution that would explain the odd rounded shape in the schematics: I believe they belong to the hangar bay. Since modelling for Elite Force is especially looking on the face count I also came up with a, in my opinion tricky, way to include the hangar; because of the placement I would only need the top, back and bottom of a box, while the back is a bit rounded.
Creating the plane I had in mind didn’t take much of a time, also extruding it was a quick job, like deleting the faces that were too much. However when I tried to add new faces for the bottom part I suddenly had the same error as before “select exactly 3 vertices”. So my first instinct was to delete the new created mesh and start it again. Five minutes later I was back to square one, with just a bit of information more. Prior to extruding the plane I had 740 vertices total, after extruding the count raised to 764, which is against all laws of logic, because there are just 10 vertices so the count should be 750...
And here the story ends... I will have to figure out how to remove double vertices before I will continue the mesh. If someone has an answer, please let me know!
Appendix: Images & Information
My interest in the Loknar class has not ended, though I haven’t touched the mesh since writing this article. Here are some interesting rare images of the class from different FASA source books. The first three are from “Decision at Midnight” which plays aboard the USS Arkadelphia (NCC-2792). Note that the version from the cover and the black and white versions differ, the reason is that the illustrations were done by different artists.
According to “The Four Years War” the Loknar class entered service in October 2190 [≈2248] and contrary to the information given above 218 vessels were built. Also note that the last two images most likely depict the hull configuration between 2194 to 2198 [≈2252-2256]. The scenario “Decision at Midnight” plays in the movie era, the date given in a later supplement book is 2218 [≈2276/77]. The book also features deck plans and descriptions of the ship’s primary hull: