It nearly killed Scott, and now it can kill you. In a game, that is.
Star Trek: Online has opened a new world that should be familiar to you -- if you are big on theoretical science, or just happened to catch a recent rerun of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Relics."
The game now features a Dyson sphere, a shell surrounding a star that people live inside -- using nothing but the energy of the star to survive. It was first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in 1960, and has since become a huge part of science-fiction pop culture.
It only popped up once in Star Trek, however, in the 1992 episode "Relics" that featured the return of James Doohan as Scotty. His ship had crashed on the exterior of the sphere, and he has to help save the Enterprise-D when it gets caught in the gravitational pull of the entire system.
The only funny thing about the sphere is that Dyson himself never took the concept seriously. When he watched "Relics," he felt it was fun storytelling, but overall, the existence of such an object was "nonsense."
Yet that hasn't stopped Cryptic Online from including such a structure in Star Trek: Online. But the designers quickly found out how difficult it would be to create such an environment, even with it being nothing more than living in a virtual space.
"The theorized Dyson sphere has a radius of 1 AU, which is the distance from the Sun to the Earth," said lead environmental artist Samuel Wall. "The surface area of the sphere would be 550 million times that of the Earth -- the scale is almost incomprehensible."
Game designers focused most of their time on what the inside of the sphere would be like -- who would design such a thing?
"Playing with the idea that the builders would construct everything with mathematical harmony, our concept artist played around with several ideas of how they would have constructed the sphere out of sectional pieces in squares, rectangles or polyangular shapes," Wall said. "Unfortunately, a lot of those shapes didn't read well in the game. They became repetitive on the sphere."
Instead, STO will include a Dyson sphere complete with large, continuous lines that would "sell the scale and the false perspective."
The expansion pack that includes the Dyson sphere world is expected to be released before the end of the year.