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Take An Immersive Tour Through TNG’s Enterprise-D In Stunning VR

Take An Immersive Tour TNG's Enterprise-D In Virtual Reality

It’s happened to just about every Star Trek fan young and old: the inescapable fantasy to step onto the bridge of our favorite starships, to walk through the corridors, and stare out at a brilliant starfield as the ship whisks you – and your imagination – into the… Final Frontier.

Stage 9 developer Rob Bryan steps into this fantasy every day. And now, so can you.

A Virtual Enterprise-D Recreation

This is all thanks to virtual reality, both in the conceptual sense of a 3D image on a 2D display, like most video games, and in the sense of the still nascent but inherently Star Trek-esque VR technology like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Indeed, our first glimpses of this kind of technology were seen first on The Next Generation, so what better place to replicate in virtual reality than the legendary Enterprise-D herself?

Bryan, along with a dedicated and enthusiastic team of developers at Stage 9, is recreating the entirety of the Enterprise using Unreal Engine 4, a game engine known for its level of detail and relative ease of use. And while their work-in-progress is steadily advancing toward Trekkie perfection, the results so far are still, in a word, amazing.

The Enterprise-D bridge, as recreated in Stage 9

Building the Enterprise, One Room At A Time

Star Trek has been important to me as long as I can remember, and throughout every episode of TNG specifically, I thought about how great it would be to actually walk around that ship myself,” Bryan told TrekNews.net. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to do that.”

Players have the freedom to roam the Enterprise, traversing decks, entering rooms, and interacting with objects in the world. Stage 9 is designed using sets seen on the show, and lesser-known sources like production plans that designer Rick Sternbach released in the 1990s. And for those parts of the ship that have no reference material at all, Bryan and his team sometimes indulge in their own inspiration to faithfully recreate these never-before-seen parts of the ship. The result is a massive, explorable environment that isn’t so much a game, as a simulation.

The technology to accomplish this goal has only recently become available, but attempts have been made before. Consider, for example, the secret room in the 1991 game Duke Nukam. A neat little easter egg, but far from a fully realized recreation. Or consider the excellent Star Trek: Elite Force and its “virtual Voyager” mode, where the player could walk the corridors and rooms of Voyager. Pretty neat and surprisingly immersive,  but the technical limitations of 2001 still held the mode back from the realistic feel many were yearning for. Now, the power of modern video game technology allows Bryan and his team to faithfully recreate intricate details on the Enterprise. And with the release of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-Rays, more detail than ever is available for reference.

Which chair will you sit in?

The Method Behind the Madness

So why the Enterprise-D? Well, that comes down to creator preference. Bryan says he grew a stronger connection to TNG than the other Star Trek shows, thanks to that show’s “sense of wonderment” which accompanied the adventures of Captain Picard and his crew. But more than that, Bryan found a “comforting” aesthetic to the Enterprise set he felt was missing from other shows. But as Bryan notes, recreating that set isn’t as easy as mimicking design. This is where the project’s greatest challenge presents itself.

“The fact that making this an actual 3D space that made sense was great fun for everyone involved, but definitely challenging,” explains Bryan. “How do we make this area ‘feel’ like something you’d see on the show? How would we approach the decor? What purpose would this particular room serve?”

The rarely seen Shuttlebay 1, expanded by the Stage 9 team.

It’s questions like these the developers ask themselves when recreating parts of the ship, especially parts viewers have only caught glimpses of. Take for example Shuttlebay 1, the biggest shuttle bay on the ship, but one we’ve only seen a part of in the episode “Cause and Effect.” There’s not a lot of reference material, even with Sternbach’s designs, so the Stage 9 team had to take great care in maintaining the aesthetic of the show, while making this mostly-new space interesting for the player to walk around in.

It may surprise people that this labor of love is completely free to use, especially since Bryan and others work hours upon hours every day to push out frequent updates and improvements to the stimulation.

Star Trek is something that means a lot to many people, including all of us involved in Stage 9. This is something Patrick Stewart himself said when  announcing his return to Picard, and it resonated significantly with the Stage 9 team: ‘The Next Generation brought people comfort, saw them through difficult periods in their lives or how the example of Jean-Luc inspired so many to follow in his footsteps, pursuing science, exploration, and leadership.’ Stage 9 itself is our way of paying respect to something we all love.”

Beam Me Up

Those who wish to step onto the Enterprise with or without a VR headset can do so simply by going to the Stage 9 website. Just check to make sure your computer meets the required specifications. You can also join the team’s Discord to contribute your feedback and help make the stimulation better.

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The future is bright for the Stage 9 team. While they still have plenty of work on the Enterprise-D ahead of them – including (at some point in the future) implementing the most requested feature: multiplayer – recreations of other ships are viable down the line. For now, players can be treated to an increasingly immersive recreation of the ship seen most in Star Trek. While players will have to deal with some bugs and performance issues, the trade-off is an opportunity to indulge in our imaginations. Indeed, what better way is there to describe Star Trek?

Check out the gallery below to view more images from Stage 9’s impressive recreation.


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Written By

Kyle Hadyniak has been a lifelong Star Trek fan, and isn't ashamed to admit that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Nemesis are his favorite Star Trek movies. You can follow Kyle on Twitter @khady93.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. holotape

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Seems the VR version is not available for download on their site. A temporary bummer!

  2. David Read

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Paramount/CBS killed a similar project a few years back. I would download a copy of this sooner rather than later if you are eager to play with this at some point.

  3. Kenji

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Still looks like a flying dentist’s office, but dated aesthetic or no, I am hot to try this.

  4. Joey

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    THAT’S THE GREATEST THING!! A thing I dreamed of almost all of my life!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. Nerilldp

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    I just got an Occ Rift and can’t think of better use than reliving all those hours spent watching THG. I can see a possible future where you could be in the middle of an episode either as a virtual Q, just watching the story unfold, or taking the place of a minor crewman that can watch and interact without affecting the actual story.

  6. nezimar

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Great coverage of Stage9! Glad more people are seeing this develop. Correction: ‘ the secret room in the 1991 game Duke Nukam’ should be: ‘1996 game Duke Nukem 3D’

  7. Namnoot

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Although they say they’re just doing the Ent-D, one of the gallery images above clearly shows the TOS bridge, presumably from the “Relics” holodeck recreation, so there’s still that. This isn’t the first time something like this has been done: way back in the 1990s there was a similar walkthrough produced, though I don’t think it was as immersive (it was more a case of jumping between rooms). The idea of a fully immersive 3-D walkthrough of an Enterprise has been a dream of a lot of people for decades. Way back around 1980 the “Bill Budge 3-D Graphics Tool” came out for the Apple II Plus and I know some people were trying to create a walkthrough of the Enterprise. So this is a dream come true if it all comes together.

  8. Jeff Mullins

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Enterprise D looks so much better than that ugly Discovery ship.

  9. Greenspan

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    This is amazing! The D is the only Enterprise for me!

  10. AnEmptyStreet

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    The stage 9 website, facebook, and youtube have all been scrubbed of content. The Discord is also closed and in read only. Did CBS do its CBS-thing and force these guys shut this down?

  11. George T

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    CBS shut this down with a cease and desist letter.

  12. Mr.Ig

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    CBS Killed it… F*ck CBS.

  13. Red99

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Are you going to cover CBS shutting down this project after you covered it, or are you just going to ignore it like the Discovery plagiarism lawsuit? https://www.pcgamer.com/cbs-lawyers-phase-out-fan-recreation-of-star-trek-tngs-enterprise/

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