Why is it they were rendered as big spheres within the zone maps instead of ginormungous matte paintings (or even something equally ginormungous but animated to rotate) beyond the zone map that we cannot approach? (Cap'n! We'll be torn apart if we get any closar!)
Sure we couldn't orbit them but there's only 1 or 2 (or 5?)out of the (how many, hundreds?) of missions and randomly generated missions that have us completely circumnavigating a planet. Heck, some maps have the planet in the corner or partially off map so you couldn't orbit if you tried.
Even then, in maps that required circumnavigation, couldn't we just have a zone that moved around us instead of vice versa? By that I mean we are a fixed position and things are generated to move toward us to simulate an actual circumnavigation. ie Satellite 1 is generated at point A beyond our visual range and then if we keep orbiting, it is derezzed (yay! I finally get to use that word! xD ) at point B, also out of our visual range.
Oh wait that wouldn't work with teaming... Maybe have a zone within the zone that represents something like a starfleet protective overlap guideline for mission groups. (ie all starfleet ships in a mission group must stay within X kilometres of each other. X being the maximum size of the zone within a zone.) Or perhaps Point A where things appear is a set distance from the player at the farthest right side of the map and Point B is a set distance away from the player farthest to the left. Or something... I'm sure if I took some time to mash it all out, I could come up with something sensible. xD
I know it definitely would have made everything more immersive in planetary sectors, especially Earth. Instead of the station appearing larger than the planet at some distances, the planet would completely dominate the zone (which it honestly should; it's our home planet, after all. :3 ) and we'd feel like we were really visiting a space station in orbit around a planet, not one that shares the moon's orbit. (Which is so far away, the earth looks like a basketball in the sky.)
So back to the question in the first paragraph:
Why is it they were rendered as big spheres within the zone maps instead of ginormungous matte paintings (or even something equally ginormungous but animated to rotate) beyond the zone map that we cannot approach? (or perhaps get the rumble and bloom if we get to close.)
Perhaps an experiment could be done with the Sol system, first.
Remove the Earth Sphere and add an enormous matte painting that dominates the zone. Perhaps instead of a rotating map, have the entire star field and sun object rotate around the point beyond the map that represents the earth's centre, as if the station is in geosynchronous orbit above San Francisco.
Beyond the zone boundaries, have another sphere (the size normally used for the largest planets) travelling slowly around the earth centre point with the moon skin on it.
Eh. . .what's wrong with a 100km planet diameter? so what that I've driven further than that just to get to work. STO is set in a micro universe!
I agree. When you add in the 10km weapons range, the distances seem reasonable. The only thing out of proportion is the size of the ship. That can easily be ignored. The painting idea is interesting, and might work, but only if it is used sparingly.