As I mentioned in another Steamrunner art thread, I would whole-heartedly endorse some cosmetic options/changes to satisfy those of us who prefer designs based on 'intentions' that did not make it onto the big screen/small screen due to budgetary constraints and the limits of CGI at the time (combined with the fact the Steamrunner was a background ship).
I mentioned the Excelsior (and Excelsior Retrofit aka the Enterprise-B and Lakota) as being a starting point. This is ultimately where I would like to see many canon ships go, including the Steamrunner. I feel it offers the customization options that is a hallmark and defining trait of Cryptic games, while remaining faithful to the Star Trek IP.
Small variations of the original design worked well for the Excelsior in STO, a handful of nacelle options, the ability to remove or add the auxiliary impulse engines on the saucer, and what have you. You could effectively kitbash the Excelsior while making it look like the Excelsior by making very slight cosmetic changes.
By offering cosmetic options to the Steamrunner such as where to place the impulse engines (whether on the saucer or on the pylons as it currently stands), what to place on the front of the saucer (a majority of people seem to agree they want the intended design of a shuttle bay - judging from forum feedback), and any other multitude of slight changes -- you allow players to kitbash the steamrunner to make it 'theirs' while being faithful to the Steamrunner design and thus faithful to the Star Trek IP.
When it comes to signifigant redesigns, I take the very general position of 'more ship diversity in STO'. That said, I have noticed several 2409 Cryptic designs have attempted to show a progression in designs from the canon IP. The Star Cruisers for example clearly show cruiser design, but take cues from other ships of the era -- primarily the 'neckless' designs of the Sovereign and Intrepid (along with the triangular saucers seen in the Prometheus and Nova). The Patrol Escort on the other hand, I feel embodies the 'utiliarian' design and hints at trying to combine elements of the Steamrunner, Akira, and Defiant to produce a new and advanced escort for the early 25th century.
The Zephyr and Oslo were also referred to as Steamrunner and Norway 'refits', and although I have no real love for the designs and felt it was a cop-out to explain why there were no canon Steamrunner or Norway designs in STO while allowing them to be kitbashed with the Akira -- I can't deny that improved designs, modular construction, and advanced technology is a staple of STO starships and the STO time period.
I feel if small cosmetic changes were allowed to the Steamrunner, everyone could get what they wanted from an aesthetic perspective. Optional NCC registry floodlight -- put it on or take it off -- optional impulse engine placement -- even people who want the Deflector Dish boom to be moved could get what they wanted. By giving us options like that, it bypasses the need for an entire new ship design while giving us a faithful Steamrunner look.
The thing about dating the Steamrunner is that it has Sovereign-style lifeboats. No ship that we know of that pre-dates the Sovereign has Sovereign-style lifeboats. Ships prior to the Sovereign have the Galaxy-style "box" lifeboats. Even Voyager has the older style "box" lifeboats, and Voyager was a new ship, and a new class (She was in the initial Intrepid run) in 2371.. The Sovereign's "triangle" lifeboats appear to be relatively new, and both Steamrunner and Akira have them.
So just off the lifeboats alone, I'd estimate Steamrunner and Akira to be around Soveriegn-era. They definitely don't pre-date the Galaxy. Definitely the late-2360s-early 2370s.
Aside from the Lifeboats, Akira, Norway, Steamrunner, Defiant, and Saber were all designs created to counter the Borg threat. This alone forces these ships to be late 2360s to early 2370s.
dude, u turned the ship upside down. thats no alternate appearance, its just upside down
*Me*Why don't you just step away from the weapons console. You and I both know that you couldn't hit that cube, even if it was right in front of us.
*Junior Tactical Officer* But sir the cube IS right in front of us.
*Me* EXACTLY! Its right in front of us and you still missed it! Just step away from the console.