Clear All Moorings: Gameprint’s 12″ Artisan Starship Unboxing

Reprisal-Crest

Mrs Koppenflak came home from work today with a surprise for me. A big fat brown box with lots of Polish post office markings on it. After a long trip half-way around the world, and months after the order was placed, my shiny new model of the USS Reprisal had finally arrived.

Was it worth the wait?

Among the first to pick up a ship from Gameprint was Foxman86, who is an associate editor on this blog. Unfortunately, his ship – the Zuikaku – did not survive the trip from Poland to Australia unscathed.

Zuikaku

Oh dear. This made me extremely nervous, as I’d already placed my order and was faced with very similar geographical challenges. It’s entirely possible that Gameprint has altered their packing since the very unfortunate incident above, and thank Spock for that, because these models are not cheap.

Let’s get the obvious benchmark out of the way. This is how Reprisal appears in Star Trek Online:

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One very traditional Yorktown class cruiser. And I’d have her no other way – the original Odyssey model by Adam Ilhe and Cryptic’s Adam Logan (now a developer at Bungie) was a wonderful evolution of the Enterprise lineage, and the Yorktown – a further development of the design by Thomas Marrone – in my opinion took the few niggling bugbears of the design and turned it into something really special. As far as my ship is concerned – let’s face it, if you’re going to get a model of the Enterprise-F, you don’t want to stray too far from tradition.

Let’s get started…

Packaging…

Ho Mama. Is this thing secure or what? The ship arrived in a big brown shrink-wrapped box, which contained about a kilogram of packing beads, which were protecting a big black, fancy Gameprint case, (which itself was nicely bound in bubble wrapping) which in turn contained high density foam, cotton wool, and a very securely padded starship that was bound by satin ribbon and foam paper to the bottom of the cut-out foam. Some peace of mind, then! I was already feeling good about this.

Ship arrived in one piece, safe and sound. I don’t think I had a lot to worry about on this. I showed Foxman the packaging before writing this, and he seemed quite convinced that Gameprint had dramatically improved just how they were shipping these out. Significant care was taken in getting this ship out to me.

The Ship…

Typical of 3D prints and other made-to-order casts, Reprisal is printed in resin, which is notorious for deformations that are caused as the material sets following printing. This was my second concern. There have been numerous reports in the community of models arriving with splayed or drooping nacelles and pylons. I’ve built model ships and have been in tabletop wargaming for over 20 years, so I’m more than accustomed to this phenomenon. That said, the print is remarkably clean. There is absolutely no trace of ‘scan lines’ that are so typical of many 3D printers, and while there was some minor bowing in the port nacelle (slightly visible in the last photo above) this was very easily corrected after getting out a hair dryer for two minutes and gently warming the pylon.

It’s a common problem with many Star Trek models that getting nacelles that are parallel and in alignment is difficult. So I’m pleased to say Reprisal is very tidy indeed:

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Second thing I checked was the surface detail. Based on the photos I’ve seen from others so far, it’s been difficult to determine just how good the bas relief and surface detail is on these models. It’s impressive just how much relief Gameprint has managed to get into this model, and says a lot about how good the translation process between Star Trek Online and Gameprint’s production line really is. Check this out.

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Every hull plate, every window, every lifepod and phaser array has been rendered crisply without a trace of flashing or visible stepping from the printing process.

This is one very clean model. I’ve uploaded most of these photos at 4k resolution so you can get a feel for the surface finish.

The underside, too – an area of 3D printed models that is sometimes lackluster – is very cleanly resolved and detailed.

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So what about size?

As advertised, the ship is exactly 30cm (12″) long from the end of the nacelles to the very tip of the prow. Here she is between a 1:1700 Bandai USS Enterprise-E and the Eaglemoss USS Enterprise-D.

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The Details…

There is a lot to love. I admit when I hit ‘submit’ on the ship order that I was curious to see whether Gameprint’s artists would actually attempt to replicate Cryptic’s lovely Type 7 ‘Aztec’ pattern when they painted the ship, but realistically, that was always a long-shot.

The paint work on the model is great. Individual hull plates are distinguished in a tasteful two-tone grey, while a dark charcoal picks out her secondary trim. The artists have clearly used a combination of primers and airbrushes to apply most of the base colours as the paint coatings across most of the hull are nice and thin, and under a microscope (or zoom lens) you can just make out the ‘orange peel’ pattern that you typically get from a spray gun.

Pennant lines, trim and other details are picked out nicely by hand-painted brush strokes and they even resolved my simplified fleet logo on the bow astonishingly well for this scale – freehand, no less! Yes, really. Here’s the stylised version:

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And here’s the bow:

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For an insignia that’s barely 4mm wide across the hull, that’s incredibly good!

That photo brings me nicely to the next point: hull markings.

The artists have used printed decals to pick out the ship’s registry in all the appropriate places. There is a little bit of bleeding on the name ‘REPRISAL’ above the registry number, but this is relatively minor complaint that I can live with. You can very faintly make out the edge of the decal markings in many places, but it’s been very well finished using microsol solution to reduce the tell-tale outline of the decal paper and secure it well to the surface of the model. For those non-modellers out there: that means they are not moving any time soon, and won’t slide free from surface contact with the hands.

The blending job on the simulated lighting around areas of detail such as the ship’s flood lights, impulse engines and bussard collectors is similarly very smooth. While I suspect the flood light was achieved through masking and airbrushing, I cannot tell whether hand brushes were used in other areas.

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Engine ports and other ‘glowing’ effects are topped in a high-gloss varnish to pick them out and give them a glass-like finish that works well, though that does mean that the sins of the surface smoothness are laid bare. The contours between impulse engines and their housings, or warp grilles and the nacelles, are not perfectly smooth – likely from where the enamel’s inherent viscosity has dried unevenly between the seams. Again, though, the glassy look is great and suits the style of the model.

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The free-hand line work around some of the Starfleet pennants is very fine, and clearly not achieved with decals. As far as I can tell, the only places where decals have been used are in places where numbers or names are printed onto the hull. While we’re are it – the bridge itself is a lot of fun, and is packed with little attentions to detail. The entire dorsal hull looks wonderful.

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The Verdict…

The big question is: Is it worth the price? I was fortunate enough to order the ship during the introductory price period in April, but factoring in the shipping and the exchange rate (about 75 cents to the US Dollar) this was not a cheap buy, and it’s only gotten more expensive since then.

As models go, this one is definitely on the high-end of cost. The Bandai Enterprise-E shown earlier in this article was a fraction of the cost of this ship, and as a Star Trek model it is hard to say with a straight face that the better part of what is now $500 US is a sum of money that I would part with again.

How much you’re willing to pay to have a permanent keepsake of your favourite Star Trek Online ship is going to be a very personal decision. I have played STO almost continuously since late 2010, and the vast majority of that time has been with the USS Reprisal.

Depending on what you want, the offerings from Eaglemoss for an Odyssey or Vesta may suit you just fine. Or alternatively, Gameprint now offers much more affordable full-colour 3D prints which aren’t going to be quite as detailed or as nicely finished as their artisan pieces.

The bottom line is: I am glad I bought this model, and I think I would have regretted it had I missed the introductory price point.

I will, in all probability, be ordering the less-expensive 3D models from Gameprint in the future. I will provide an update when that happens.

Until then, clear skies, Captains!

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Delta-v: Engine Efficiency

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Soon I’m going to be posting my build for the USS Ramillies, but before that, I want to talk about an aspect of power management that some may not realise.

Efficiency, and how it’s applied.

‘Efficiency’, as a term of game mechanics, refers to a starship’s effective overall subsystem power levels against the amount of base investment that is needed to produce that number.

Subsystem power is one of the least-taught and most important parts of a ship’s performance, as it affects absolutely every last facet of its key characteristics, abilities, and skills that you use. A starship has four major subsystems – weapons, shields, engines, and auxilliary – and the amount of power that is available to each of these subsystems directly determines how effective each area of your ship is.

In general terms:

The weapons subsystem affects the damage output of all directed energy weapons (cannons, beams).

The shields subsystem affects both your shields’ innate ‘hardness’ (how much damage they can reduce through resistance) and regeneration rates.

The engines subsystem affects your speed and maneuverability (and consequently, your ability to evade certain AOE debuffs such as gravity well.)

The auxilliary subsystem affects the performance of your scientific abilities (such as the aforementioned gravity well, or perhaps sensor sweep) in addition to the effectiveness of many resistance heals and immunities – including Aux to Structural, Hazard Emitters, and Polarize Hull.

Each subsystem has a minimum power setting of 15 and a maximum power setting of 100.

Overall, a starship has – base – 200 units of power to distribute across its subsystems in whatever configuration its captain wants. By default, each subsystem will have 50 units of power in each of its four subsystems. Furthermore, the base stats of a piece of equipment will always display its expect performance against that 100 mark. If you have less than 100 power in a subsystem, then your equipment will not perform as well as its tooltip and stats suggests it can, but if you have more than that, then it can and will exceed its listed statistics.

Without using certain bonus modifiers (such as warp cores that may increase a subsystem’s power cap, or bridge officer abilities such as Overload Subsystem Safeties), a subsystem’s power can go no higher than a setting 125. With a maximum power investment of 100 – this is where the importance of efficiency becomes apparent, as it is the only way you will be able to maximise the performance of your systems and equipment.

If you invest in efficiency at all, you will see your starship’s subsystems can read well above the levels at which you’ve set them to. As a rule, all efficiency is subject to diminishing returns: the less energy you put into a subsystem, the greater the bonus power you will receive in that section. This bonus number decreases as you approach a power level of 75, and after that point – you receive no further bonus at all.

In a perfect world, your starship could have 125 power in each of its four subsystems and would perform exceedingly well in every aspect of its operations. Given finite power supply however, you will always be forced to weigh up your mission priorities, and compromises must be made.

It would be almost pointless to put efficiency skills into weapons, if that is a subsystem that is constantly run at over 75 power. Naturally, you’re better off spending that skill point on another system you intend to sacrifice – such as engines. (Sacrificing engine power to squeeze more out of weapons or auxilliary is a very common choice, and more often than not leads to engines running with a minimum of power.)

Power management is a discussion unto itself, and efficiency is a huge part of it, but the mechanics of efficiency have a tendency to guid other build decisions when the same word is used. In particular; with engines.

I have often heard it said that there is no point in running a hyper impulse engine that is ‘efficient at high power levels’ when there is no bonus to efficiency above 75 power. This is simply false.

There are – with a couple of unusual exceptions – three basic engine types in Star Trek Online.

Standard impulse engines are advertised as having no efficiency modifiers whatsoever and perform at a flat rate commensurate to the amount of power they are provided.

Combat impulse engines, the game tells us, are ‘efficient at low power levels’, suggesting that they provide better performance at low power levels than other engines.

Hyper impulse engines are similarly ‘efficient at high power levels’.

Given what we know about efficiency and power management in STO, with diminishing returns and disappearing bonuses at high power levels, how does that affect your choice of engines? The fact that there is no efficiency bonus above 75 power would suggest that there is very limited benefit to running hyper-impulse engines which benefit from ‘high power levels’, right?

If you assume ‘efficiency’ is governed by the same rules across the board, you would be wrong.

The same diminishing returns that affect your subsystem efficiencies have absolutely nothing to do with the performance of your engines, no matter what type you have chosen. And this can be demonstrated through testing.

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The above is a graph charted using my build for the USS Ramillies, using standard Mk XIV (common!) impulse engines of each of the three types.

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I used common (white), non-reputation engines for this test because – free of modifiers – they are a control that won’t be affected by more esoteric statistics, including [spd] modifiers or other rarity bonuses. This is as close to raw engine data as I can get without datamining, with stepped increases in power to assess performance figures. (Displayed across the bottom, with the ‘real’ power figure against the base power figure)

The vertical axis displays the ship’s registered impulse speed at the indicated power level.

I tried this test with Mk X, Mk XI, XII, Mk XIII and Mk XIV engines, expecting that perhaps higher marks could have different efficiency ratings. Surprisingly, the graph ended up identical in profile, and the pattern was repeated in each series.
The blue series is the standard impulse engine. The red series is the combat impulse engine, and the green series is the hyper impulse engine.

The combat impulse engines reach their ‘best’ power-thrust ratio at about 56 power, while hyper combat impulse engines begin accelerating more sharply past about 90.

In every single case: the point of equilibrium in efficiency for impulse engines is a flat number of 60. At this mark, all three engines perform identically in every respect.

Above 60 power, then the clear winner in all conditions is the hyper-impulse engine.

What can be concluded from this?

How much importance you put in your raw power levels is going to dramatically influence what engine you should be favouring. I’m going to go into power a lot more with the Ramillies and Reprisal builds, but the short answer is this:

If your engine power – through efficiency or choice – runs higher than 60 during combat (the time that matters most) then you you will get more benefit from a hyper or standard impulse engine mthan you will from a combat impulse engine, in all conceivable circumstances.

At endgame, it is unlikely that you will have less than 60 subsystem power as a Federation captain, and even less likely if you are an escort pilot running Emergency Power to Engines as a speed tanking skill. It is very difficult to recommend combat impulse engines when pursuing a Starfleet build.

During levelling, it becomes very easy indeed to recommend combat impulse engines. With limited power to invest, and very few efficiency skills, every point matters and combat impulse engines are an excellent choice between about levels one and 40.

Romulan captains (faced with Warbirds that have less power potential than equivalent Federation and Klingon ships due to the reduced power output of singularity cores) will likely find more utility from combat impulse engines.

As a final thought – just how dramatic is the difference between a Mk XIV common engine and a Mk XIV reputation engine, such as the Iconian resistance hyper-impulse engine?

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It’s significant, and at a glance,  the purple line (Iconian Engine) shows just how much better reputation gear can be over its basic equivalents.

Next time, I’ll talk about power and how it factors into the Ramillies and Reprisal as a basic requirement of design.

 

Flashback: Deep Space Encounters

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Earth Spacedock, as it appeared from 2010 until April 2014. Image Credit: RachelGarrett | sto.gamepedia

In 2010, Star Trek Online was a far less forgiving game than the one is played today. Today it is possible to travel through each of the galaxy’s four quadrants in single trips as part of a large, open map. But at the time of the game’s launch, it was a very different story.

At the outset of this opinion piece, I will say: I think Star Trek Online has lost a potentially amazing experience that cannot be repeated again in the game as it exists today. And I shall explain why.

This is my story of how an exercise in dipping my toes into the pool became an eight-year journey that continues today.

In 2010, the galaxy was divided into sector blocks – each of which was level-banded and matched to the levels you were expected to hit when you reached those territories in the course of story missions. This was far more in line with the open worlds of other MMOs: journeying through sector space to your next destination was fraught with risk and danger. Sector space was filled with hostile NPCs who would follow your vessel if you flew too close to them, and drew their attention. Of course, these NPCs were the same level band as the sector block they patrolled. Those around Federation space in the Vulcan sector were low level opponents, while those in the end-game regions around Deep Space Nine and Gamma Orionis were much higher; at levels 40 to 50.

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The original sector blocks of Star Trek Online, showing the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and their discreet divisions. Image Credit: Cryptic Studios, 2011.

Needless to say, for tyro captains in their first Miranda-class light cruiser, venturing (or more accurately, straying) into a sector well outside your level bracket was a hazardous and naively foolish thing to do. You could potentially find your Miranda venturing through Borg space at warp five, while a Borg Cube pursued you at speed better than warp nine. If you were not prepared for this, then what happened next was usually regrettable.

If you were intercepted by these hostile NPCs in sector space, you would be automatically dragged kicking and screaming into an open-instance deep space encounter wherein you would need to defend yourself against enemy ships, and then destroy them.

Either that, or they destroyed you.

And so it was in 2010 that the intrepid and daring Lieutenant James Hawkins of the starship USS Hyperion decided, after defeating the Borg at Vega colony, (ah, yes, the foolish delusions of badassey at level 10) and rescuing the badly-damaged USS Khitomer, that the single most important thing he could do in his fledgling Starfleet carrer was to see the universe and visit the most famous space station in the galaxy: Deep Space Nine.

Deep Space Nine, of course, resided right in the middle of a level-40 True-Way-infested rats nest of Cardassian and Terran piracy called the Beta Ursae Sector Block.

With orders from Spacedock to go investigate some silly Vulcan monastery on P’Jem, Hawkins instead ordered the Hyperion to take a right turn after leaving Earth and thus entered Cardassian space. Immediately, he set a course for Deep Space Nine. It didn’t take long for the ridiculously out-of-place Miranda-class starship to be spotted by Terran Empire starships that patrolled sector space, and it was pulled into a Deep Space Encounter at the sort of odds that even the imperious James Kirk might have thought better of.

Alas, there was no way the badly outdated engines of the Miranda class could escape the Terrans, and Hawkins resolved himself to the simple fact that in his brazen impatience to see Deep Space Nine, he was probably going to be atomized and have his debris scattered over the better part of a sector. Not without a fight, of course. (Indeed, this entire excursion probably began with the words ‘never tell me the odds.)

Fate, however, deigned that better things awaited the tyro Lieutenant.

The young and inexperienced captain couldn’t do much as the first wave of Terran ships that awaited him in this encounter opened fire. Level 40 phasers against a Mark-II uncommon standard shield array need to only fire one or two shots before your ship has sufficient air holes in its engine room (we swear it makes it go faster) to personally wave your head out of the hole and wave a white flag from the safety of a space suit.

Actually, that last part isn’t true. This was a dark age of Star Trek Online that predated the Nukara Strike Force, and thus I am entitled to say that back in my day, we didn’t have these fancy space suits (No, really. EV suits didn’t exist at this point). We had a plastic bag (which is now banned) and a fire extinguisher from ‘Researcher Rescue’. And we had to share the extinguisher.

The point is that my ship was unquestionably exploding, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

As shields failed and the hull was breached, a voice could be heard in the back of Hawkins’ mind. “Sir… there’s another ship coming in…”

I will take a moment in the retelling of this story to make something very clear: This actually happened.

Sweeping in front of the mauled USS Hyperion, a huge level-45 Sovereign-class assault cruiser let fly with more firepower than I thought was ever reasonable for a spaceship to have in a Star Trek game. Beams and torpedoes lanced through the attacking Terrans as the Assault Cruiser put itself between them and the appallingly out-matched Miranda. Before long, the Terrans were destroyed, and the Sovereign pulled alongside the ruined Miranda and began sending over as many engineering teams and hazard emitters buffs as it could find. I received a message from the captain of the Sovereign that was rather blunt. “You shouldn’t be here.”

I wasn’t exactly in a position to disagree.  I’d made a terrible mistake and promptly accepted the Sovereign player’s very kind offer to escort me back to a safer region of space. Dutifully, the kind player did indeed invite me to a team, bumped my level up to 45 to avoid the aggro of the other NPC mobs in Beta Ursae, and took me all the way back to the Sirius Sector Block, and the relative safety of Federation space.

Let it also be said that some of my fondest memories come from the occasions where I got to be the hero, and made some anonymous Star Trek fan’s day just a little bit brighter in deep space.

A couple of years later, Cryptic would finally remove these roving deep space encounters and replace them with the queued system for encounters that we have now. Too many players had decided that random pursuits through sector space were ‘ruining their fun’, and more’s the pity. The encounter of a vastly powerful Sovereign class starship swooping into save a hapless low-level Miranda is the kind of thing Star Trek is made of, and I hold that it’s a terrible shame that players will no longer be able to experience that sort of moment.

I took away one enduring determination from the encounter with that Sovereign. Oh yes… I would have that ship, and then it would be me doing the rescuing. Let it be said that some of my fondest memories in this game from the occasions where I got to be the hero, and made some anonymous Star Trek fan’s day just a little bit brighter in deep space.

That Assault Cruiser – whose name has been unfortunately lost to time – left an indelible impression on the kind of ship I’d want to fly.

That was when a brief look at a game that piqued my curiosity garnered my complete and undivided attention.

Welcome to the Yards

Hello, and welcome to Shipyard 25 – a project by shipwrights of the Equator Alliance armada to share builds, strategies theories, and opinions in Star Trek Online.

We hail from a number of different of different fleets, including the Southern Cross High Guard, (25th Fleet ‘Southern Cross’ in STO), Dark Allies, and 101st Fleet, and we are passionate about shipcrafting, with experience going back as far as the game’s launch in 2010.

It’s a different take on the usual discussions of the DPS meta. How and why? Because we’re first and foremost Star Trek fans, and the way we build ships reflects the things we love about the franchise. We often build to ‘canon’ specifications, we build to niches, and we build to have fun – all while being as effective as possible in a given brief.

We wager that if you want to build an excellent representation of the Enterprise, the Defiant, or any other starship that may have graced the television and movie screens, you will enjoy the ones we bring you in this ongoing project.

We’ll also explain our builds and their design decisions in detail, and may occasionally try to entertain with background, war stories, and history.

Also, we will look at the state of the game in periodic updates as new content, abilities, traits and ships head our way in game, and we’ll happily point you in the direction of community discussions, news and announcements.

Shipyard 25 is a blog, newsletter, guide and waystation on everything Star Trek Online – and in time, maybe a few other galaxies, too.

This project is in its early stages, and it’ll take us a while to work out a formula that works. Help us out! Let us know what works, what doesn’t, and what you want to see more of.

Second star to the right, and straight on til’ morning.

-Koppenflak