By Matt Highison
To say we were excited about Star Trek Online would be an understatement. When Cryptic got the final word we had indeed secured the rights to develop a Trek MMO, there was a roar of applause and cheers of joy. Before we could even clear the out of the meeting room, people were already clamoring to be on the dev team. Stories of seeing Khan for the first time, going to conventions and retellings of favorite episodes became what you heard walking through the halls. People began bringing in real Klingon Bat'leth weapons, statues of the Enterprise and Tribbles galore. Vulcan salutes were used copiously. As our excitement calmed a bit we realized the magnitude of the task ahead of us: to take all the things we loved about Star Trek and make them into a game.
My name is Matt Highison, and I am the Lead Character Artist on STO. It's my job to head up the character creation and customization system, and the creation of the friendly and enemy NPCs you encounter on your travels.
My first question when coming on board was "in what time period does this game take place?" Something we decided to do with STO was to place it in 2409, about 30 years after anything that has been seen on screen before. This is great for a multitude of reasons, but there are two important ones. The first is that it allows us to use all of the rich history of the franchise that leads up to this point in the story while also respecting what has come before. No jumping into the middle of the established Star Trek timeline and mucking with things. The second advantage of having STO set in 2409 is that it allows us to evolve and expand the franchise beyond what was possible on TV or in the films.
"We wanted to be sure our new Borg had evolved and adapted from their war with the Federation."
Borg are a good example of this. The Borg of The Next Generation series and the First Contact film were an immensely powerful foe. The cold words "resistance is futile" struck fear into viewers, and their nanoprobes and mechanical implants gave me shivers. This was a collective of cybernetic beings that crossed the galaxy forcefully assimilating alien races in the pursuit of perfection. The costume designers did an awesome job with what they had to work with. And yet due to the constraints of the show at the time, all this control and mechanical enhancement was still just portrayed as a guy in a suit. Picard could be rescued from the Borg with little physical damage; Seven of Nine looked like she just got back from a decade-long spa treatment.
The first thing we did was give the classic styled Borg a more diverse section of aliens that they have assimilated. Cardassian Borg? Check. Jem'Hadar Borg? Heck yes!
Then we wanted to be sure our new Borg had evolved and adapted from their war with the Federation. When you see a new Borg drone in STO
it will be obvious there is no coming back from assimilation. Instead of adding a gun attachment to an arm, they have removed the whole limb and replaced it with an enhanced synthetic weapon. Much of the torso has been converted to a more efficient cybernetic construct. Why would a drone need a stomach if it gets all its energy from regeneration cycles in a Borg alcove? Our awesome concept art team and our Art Director, Lee Dotson, helped push the concepts of "no-return" and "machine fully integrated into flesh." Jeremy Mattson, one of our Principle Character Artists, brought this alternate vision of the Borg to life. They really are scary to go up against!
Next diary, I'll take a look at the new Federation uniforms and how you are able to outfit your crew.