USS Pioneer: These are the voyages of a LightWave starship model I released…

In 2007 I made my own Star Trek starship in LightWave 3D. I’d made a few others before, but this one became a labour of love. The USS Pioneer had a lot of little details, some subtle textures and a fairly elaborate lighting rig designed to make renders look good. The ship was intended to be an earlier-era version of the Constellation class starship.

When it was finished I released it1 for others to use. Then I forgot about it! This is my own rendering of the ship from that time:

USS Pioneer

I also made a video rendering2 showing off the animated textures and shuttlebay doors (the model includes a shuttlebay interior).

Seven years later…

Last night I was Googling my username, as you do, and I saw an image I hadn’t seen before:

A Light in the Darkness by Rob Caswell (April 2012)

A Light in the Darkness by RobCaswell

Someone liked my ship enough to make a nice rendering of it! The comments are amusing too. Not all are complementary as the 4-nacelle configuration divides opinion amongst Treknologists, and as someone put it: “My, what big nacelles she has!”. Later still Rob quips “When you turn the speed dial all the way, it goes to ‘Warp 11’.”

The big engines were quite deliberate. I imagined this ship as a fast response vessel of some kind, but looking at it again I would probably make them a bit smaller. But for every person who didn’t like the concept for its imagined technical rule breaking, there is someone who likes the design. In fact, there seems to be a few big fans of it.

Then I carried on looking to see if there were any more images of my ship out there. Turns out that Rob Caswell had made quite a few…

The Footprint by Rob Caswell (Sept 2011)

The Footprint by Rob Caswell

“Woo-wee purty color combo. Finally get to see the hangar bay of this bad boy…”, “It really has some great detail on the aft side. I keep being impressed by the design. It’s easy to overlook in the crowd, but there’s so much to like about it in the fine details.”

“I like this classic look of the ship over Picards first command the USS Stargazer I just wasn’t crazy about how it looked”, “I’m with you. I though the Stargazer was a pretty ugly kitbash. This one feels more… ‘reasoned’.”

“I find it interesting you put the shuttle bay in the secondary hull twixed the impulse engines, instead on the primary?! It’s nice having an impulse drive crystal for the transfer for the upper pylons & the torpedo launchers. I like the extra bracing you had put on the pylons.”, “Thanks… though it’s not my design. But I too like his attention to the details. It just feels ‘right’.”

Torp Volley by Rob Caswell (Sept 2011)

Torp Volley by Rob Caswell

This picture does reveal one, um, little oversight in my design, as one commenter pointed out: “Just mind the bridge when you’re shooting those things Lieutenant.”, “It’s must be an ‘exciting’ ship to serve on, with those things flying about the bridge, hm?”, “Photon proof hard hats to be worn at all times. :D”

Pioneering Spirit by Rob Caswell (Sept 2011)

Pioneering Spirit by Rob Caswell

An Awareness of Scale by Rob Caswell (Sept 2011)

An Awareness of Scale by Rob Caswell

I think this has to be one of my favourites. I like shots where starships just seem to be hanging in space, and the lighting gives this a nice physical model feel that suits the original series stylings of the Pioneer.

Swirl of Thoughts by Rob Caswell (July 2012)

Swirl of Thoughts by Rob Caswell

“I think this angle is one of the most flattering for the Pioneer”, “Thanks! The ship actually has a number of good angles. It surprised me!” That was nice to read, as I spent a lot of time looking at this design from different angles and tweaking shapes and proportions.

If you like these, have a look at Rob Caswell’s other work. He has a great style and does more than just Star Trek (though there is a lot of Star Trek!).

Derelict in the Maelstrom by Drell-7 (April 2012)

Derelict in the Maelstrom by Drell-7

But Rob isn’t the only deviantART user to have taken a liking to my starship. Drell-7 used my LightWave original, which has some big advantages over the Poser conversion.

“OUTstanding! I really love the lighting throughout this image, as well as the POV – really dramatic shot.”, “Thank you, sir! The LW version of the Pioneer comes with a really complex light rig scene for all the self-illumination. I added the key light and the light sources from the nebulosity.”

“Keep up the Pioneer pics!”, “Thanks! The design is certainly funky, and I love that about the Pioneer. More on the way!”, “It’s a GORGEOUS design.”

If you want to get a look at some of the details of my model, enlarge this shot. I think the nacelles look particularly good.

Pioneer by Drell-7 (Sept 2011)

Pioneer by Drell-7

“Foomandoonian’s superb pre-TOS Federation starship design. I’ve learned a lot of modeling tricks from this superb little model.” :D

“Ah cool, never seen this ship before…great render. Did it come fully textured or did you do some post in Photoshop?”, “She’s fully textured. The lightwave version includes a setup scenes with the spotlights and nav lights rigged!”, “Cool, now I see the hub-bub about this one.”

Maximum Warp!! by Dibujantte (Oct 2012)

Maximum Warp!! by Dibujantte

Outnumbered by gazzatrek (April 2011)

Outnumbered by gazzatrek

Another favourite. I love how it pops out of the frame, plus you can really see some of my texture detail work.

USS Athena by Sailmaster Seion (Oct 2012)

USS Athena by Sailmaster Seion

This one is a ‘kitbash’ of my model and another to make a different starship. It looks like the lower section has been replaced with a Constitution class engineering hull, but you can’t see it very well. I’m totally cool with it BTW; this model was released so people could have fun with it, however they liked! There’s a whole backstory to this version of the ship too:

“The flag ship of the Counter Piracy flotilla, the USS Athena is one of only 3 ships of it’s class (the others being the Artemis and the Atalanta) and is the name ship of the class. Having four warp nacelles, she can sustain high warp speeds for longer periods of time. She was intended to function in numerous roles – as a carrier, a cruiser, explorer, transporter and dignitary ship – with a high level in capability in each. If not for her cost, her class would’ve replaced many classes of ship. The class was dumped in favor of the upcoming Excelsior class, but the three ships have become the favored vessels of a couple admirals and serve as their mobile headquarters.”

USS Pioneer by rduda (Nov 2012)

USS Pioneer by rduda

And another dramatic shot.

Those are the only images I’ve been able to find so far, but I’ll update this post if I come across any more.

I’m really happy to have discovered these though. It has inspired me to get back into LightWave and make some more models and renders of my own. It’s a hobby I really loved, though it does take up a lot of time. I’ve actually been thinking over an idea for an original animated movie, which might be a more productive use of that time.

This little discovery also came at a good time for me emotionally. I’ve been a bit depressed for a few months, and it’s nice to be reminded that I can make good stuff that gets appreciated by others. So big thanks to all the artists above! :D


  1. I think I originally released it on a site called LWG3D, which later evolved into Foundation 3D. I’m a bit fuzzy on the timeline, but I can’t find my original work in progress thread at Foundation 3D.
  2. I seem to remember this video being better quality. I’ve an unfounded hunch that Vimeo may have crunched a lot of older, less viewed videos to save space or something.