So I got done modeling my first 3D starship, the USS Athena, last month. Looked good, but lacked textures. No big deal.

A few days before I released the mesh to the public I get an email on my Hotmail account from this guy "Don" who runs a Trek-oriented RPG. He has this ship, you see, that someone else had modeled for him, but the ship is incomplete. Can I finish her, he asked me.

I needed some experience, so I asked him to send me a copy of the MAX file so that I could look at it, to gauge how much work was needed. He sent it to me the next day in email and I looked at it. Oh, boy, what a mess that thing was. "I'm going to have to come up with something entirely new," I told him in my next message. "It's a nightmare to work with. How do you feel about a new design?"

He sounded delighted.

So, through the course of the next three weeks, I set myself to the task of coming up with a completely new and original ship. Bit of the old, bit of the new, hard angles, sleek lines. By the time it was done, Don was practically tripping over himself with excitement. He was in love with the new ship and design, singing my praises at every turn.

As an artist, it's nice to get praise, but I felt a little... well... perhaps I'm just humble, but for criminey's sake, it's just a wireframe mesh! I mean, it's not like I went out with some iron and an arc welder to build the thing in my back yard. It's a bunch of 1's and 0's. That's all. Looks nice, though, but hardly worth all the fuss.

The rest of the RPG crew was just as happy with the new design as their "captain". And they asked if I'd be interested in watching their RPG thread as they assume command of their new ship. "Sure," I said. "Sounds like a bit o' fun." The voyeur in me was more than pleased to watch this curious spectacle.

And fun, it was, to watch them leave their old ship and claim this new one that I had created for them. There are no limits to the imaginations of true, hardened Trek fans. These guys were showing me the guts of a ship that I had made for them, a ship that I'd only seen from the outside and had come to think of as "just a wireframe mesh." But to them it was a new home, a new place to play and live.

My take on the whole thing began to shift, if only just a little. I suppose an architect views a house he builds as just a structure of wood, steel and glass. But what happens, years later, when he meets the family that has been living in that house and turned it into a home? Does his perception of the fruits of his labor change in some undefinable way? I dunno. But mine did.

I was no longer just proud of myself for creating a kickass looking 3D mesh. I was also proud of the people who claimed her. I was proud of her.

Tonight I got another email from Don. He has this friend, you see, who works for a company that makes prototypes for major corporations. All kinds of stuff. Cars, phones, computers, gadgets. Stuff. New stuff.

Don's friend is making two physical models of this creation of mine. One for Don (as is befitting for a ship's captain). One for me.

How many 3D designers actually get to hold one of their creations in their hands?

When I see the USS Audacious, a ship whose dedication plaque reads "To Boldly Go Where Angels Fear To Tread", resting in the palm of my hand, I think I shall be a proud and humbled man indeed.

The USS Audacious Official Website:

A full-sized (1024x768) background wallpaper of the Audacious (created by yours truly):