Captain’s Log: on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in Sansar

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701 in Sansar

Tuesday, May 22nd saw the launch of a new  enterprise for Sansar, with the public opening of a model of one of the icons of the original Star Trek TV series: the Bridge of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701.

The experience has been developed as a joint venture between Roddenberry Entertainment, run by Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and Linden Lab through Sansar Studios.  It has been designed as a tie-in with the Mission Log Live podcasts / live streams hosted every Tuesday by Ken Ray and or John Champion, which cover all things Star Trek (and often beyond), with news, discussions, Q&A sessions, guests, and  so on.

The core rendering for the experience has been produced by OTOY, the creator of the OctaneRenderer. Some might be familiar with OTOY’s work on the opening title sequence of HBO’s stunning TV series Westworld. Given this pedigree, and having seen some of the publicity shot (as I covered here), I admit  – as a long-term Star Trek fan – to looking forward to seeing the experience first-hand.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise – a Sansar social space where people can watch weekly broadcasts of the Mission Log Live series, hosted by Ken Ray (seen on the viewscreen) and John Champion

Sadly, the official opening of the experience between 03:00 and 06:00 BST on the morning of Wednesday, May 23rd – FAR too late (or early!) for me. So it wasn’t until well after the event had finished that I was able to jump into the experience and have a look around.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise is, first and foremost, visually stunning. It is beautifully rendered, with almost everything a Trek fan would expect to see there and (for the most part) in the correct colours. Visitors arrive close to the turbo elevator doors at the back the the bridge; to the left is the Engineering station, Montgomery Scott’s usual station when on the bridge, and to the right, Uhura’s Communications with Spock’s science station just beyond it.

Of course, the Captain’s chair is there, sitting in the central well behind the helm / navigation console and facing the main viewscreen. A point of note here is that the show isn’t actually recorded  in the experience, but is intended as a place where fans of Star Trek and science fiction can drop into and watch the live stream broadcasts – or catch up with them after the fact – and enjoy the ambience of the Bridge. I understand that for the opening, around 25-30 people gathered in the experience – which must have been cosy, and Ken and John, the hosts of the show, dropped in after the fact.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise – “The engines cannae take it, Cap’n!” – Scotty’s bridge station

All of the detailing ia for the most part exquisite, although it is – aside from the viewscreen – a static rendering (at least in Desktop Mode with Sansar – I cannot speak to VR mode).

For the hardcore Trek fan there are perhaps one or two mission elements: the commissioning plaque is absent from the wall next to the turbo elevator doors; Spock’s station is lacking his “I see all through this box with a glowing slit” dohicky, for example. Also, the helm and navigation console also appears to have been taken from the game Star Trek: Bridge Crew, rather than conforming to the original TV series design and colours. It’s also interesting to see the upper sensor dome that sits above the bridge deck shown as a skylight with stars zipping by – something of a nod of the head towards the original Trek pilot episode The Cage, perhaps?

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise -“Take us out of orbit, Mr. Sulu. Ahead, warp factor one…”

It would be nice to see some interactive elements in the design – being able to touch Sulu’s console and see his weapons target / sensor relay unfold itself, for example, or to be able to “flick” switches on the ring consoles and see the images on the screen above them change – just to give visitors more of a sense of presence (not to mention the hoary old ability to sit on the chairs). However, these little niggles aside, for those who like / love / appreciate the original Star Trek TV series, the experience is a wonderfully nostalgic homage.

It’s a little disappointing that the first Mission Log to be broadcast with the opening of the experience didn’t show more in the way of images of the space to encourage interest among Trek fans watching the show – although it certainly was mentioned several times. However, this was somewhat made up for the broadcast including an interview with one of the incarnations of James T. Kirk himself, Vic Mignogna, the man behind the engaging web series Star Trek Continues, which picks up right where the original series left off at the end of its third season, and includes some unique follow-ups to some of the episodes from that series and well as featuring several special guest stars from the worlds of Star Trek.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise – “The engines cannae take it, Cap’n!” – Scotty’s bridge station

While Sansar and the Enterprise bridge aren’t visually featured in the show, it is interesting to hear some of the comments Ken and John make in passing about Sansar – particularly where their avatars are concerned. While casual in nature, they do perhaps reflect one of the more noticeable “limitations” with the platform that even casual users are noting: the “sameness” evident in Sansar avatars at the moment, born out of a current lack of broad customisation capabilities.

Overall, Bridge of the USS Enterprise is an interesting experiment on the idea of offering social environments in virtual spaces that are specific to audiences who might not otherwise have an interest in such environments. With the planned tie-in with the Overwatch League now apparently on hold (assuming it still goes ahead), Bridge of the USS Enterprise is Sansar’s sole “partnership” social space of this kind right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how it continues to be used.

The next Mission Long Live event will be on Tuesday, June 5th, as John and Ken will be taking a break on Tuesday, May 29th.

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5 thoughts on “Captain’s Log: on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in Sansar

  1. We really are not making any progress I think… this is basically a static set of 3D models and a single broadcast screen. Nothings appeared to have any sort of interactivity.. and I tried pointing at or selecting consoles, seats, screens, etc. Seats don’t work… again. People in the experience were desperately trying to position their avatar and use chat /sit to sort of sit on or near it.. with no success. I could not even walk my avatar up onto the captains chair raised platform. We had the usual mised UI issue of some seeing text chat and some not, with no clear indication of who could and who could not. Some had headsets, some did nit so vouce also was not a universal medium for communication. People’s interaction consisted mostly of saying “I cannot hear you” or “how do you sit on things”, or “where is the chat too”.The door to the outside does not work and there were no indications of how to get out of the tiny cramped bridge or to seewhat was beyond it.

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    1. I’m not sure that progress isn’t being made – it is; it’s just that the rate of progress isn’t holding up to the expectations of “growing” the Sansar audience. To me, this really is a case of people trying to run with Sansar before it is even ready to go for a walk, and efforts like this are going to prove far too premature. In this respect, the Bridge experience does demonstrate this.

      I’ll actually have more to say on all of this in an upcoming article looking at Sansar’s path and the apparent disconnect between expectations and capabilities, but wanted to keep this particular piece focused on providing an overview of the look and feel of the setting itself.

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  2. While that’s not bad, I’m sorry to see Eugene Roddenberry throw his support behind the effort. There are plenty of details missing or wrong, and, just from these snapshots, I get the impression it was a rushed effort with way too much ‘glowiness’. For a contrast, I invite people to visit the work of Donny Versiga. He has been working on detailed recreations of the sets of both the original and movie versions of the Enterprise and rendering them in the Unreal 4 engine.

    He has a detailed thread spanning over 170 pages at TrekBBS:

    https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/donnys-tos-twok-enterprise-interiors.212119/page-120

    These are not in virtual worlds in the sense of Second Life or Sansar, but the environments are immersive as stand-alone “playable” entities for a single-user. I hate being snobbish about it, but when you compare his work to that seen over at Sansar, the latter comes up woefully lacking.

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  3. Building in a well used platform such as Unreal or Unity and then publishing that in an MMO equipped environment is a route that would make more sense rather than one that has too many elements that lock into one delivery platform. Oneroute i find promising is to target Unity for the core creation… allowing assets from many sources… including OpenSimulator regions via a OAR Converter…to be incorporated. And then oublish via the Sinespace MMO which allows multiple simultaneous users in a social VW and VR and some level of run rime adaptation.

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    1. “Building in a well used platform such as Unreal or Unity and then publishing that in an MMO equipped environment is a route that would make more sense rather than one that has too many elements.”

      To a point… But on the other hand, placing your dependencies on multiple sources – Unity for this, publishing via that, asset conversion via something else is that you risk becoming dependent on multiple different platforms to achieve a goal – with those platforms having no defined need to necessarily remain consistent with one another. So, who’s to say that isn’t potentially more of a risk that the “one stop shop” LL are trying to provide through Sansar?

      The problem I really see at present – allowing for the fact that the Lab have defined elements were they would rather integrate than innovate – is the lack of a really definable roadmap for actually building the platform in a logical manner and which provides “settled” capabilities. Some of what we’ve seen over the last 6 months feels like a knee-jerk response: the rush to get fashion out of the door after saying it would be further down the road, for example.

      Then there’s been what feels like a sudden switching of tracks: moving away from what might be regarded as building the “core” functionality already present and providing capabilities creators and users would find beneficial to trying to pull-in and audience for Sansar and grow the user-base. As noted, this latter point really feels premature. Which perhaps brings us full circle – it could well encourage people coming into Sansar fresh (rather than those already using it and prepared to wait) towards your suggested approach out of frustration with what might be seen as Sansar’s lack of functionality / capability.

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