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Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: Bringing Leeta to STO

By LaughingTrendy
Fri 06 May 2016 09:00:00 AM PDT

Chase Masterson returns to the game as the sinister Admiral Leeta of the Terran Empire. This time, she finds herself in the prized center chair of the I.S.S. Enterprise. She’s here to play a pivotal role in a deadly conflict - but whose side is she on?

When we last saw Admiral Leeta in Star Trek Online, she was leading Imperial Terran forces against the Alliance in a full-scale invasion of our universe. Though she’s lost the power of the Bajoran Orb of Possibilities, the admiral is still a force to be reckoned with!

Creating Leeta in STO:

The updated version of Chase Masterson as Leeta began with reference gathering using a special tool known as “Google” J.  Starting with images of her Deep Space Nine outfits, we pared down the most useful images into a basic digital reference board.

The goal for game development often isn’t to match 100% to concept or reference. In many cases, that would be nearly impossible due to technical limitations, incompatibility w/ other assets, and so on. The key is to pinpoint the most recognizable features and exploit those, while making it work with Star Trek Online’s versatile costume system… and do so on an (always) limited schedule.

So, what stands out? A fitted low cut body suit, velvety green primary fabric, sheer decorative sleeves, draped panels, and ribbing. The rest involved following the lines of the costuming to achieve an outfit that people can recognize from memory.

Lastly, we made it work with our costume parts, color tints, both genders, and all the player species, so the end result becomes something many players can enjoy on their own characters.

Captain and Admiral Leeta uniforms had a slightly different path of execution as we designed Mirror Universe uniforms exclusive to the Star Trek Online timeline.  Taking cues from the shows - like the cropped top and sleeves, high boots, straps and bands, and extra gear - we mixed and matched parts (with slight modification) in the Cryptic costume editor to make rough concepts.

For the final uniform set, we chose elements we felt would work best and infused our own spin to give a distinct look for the game. Captain and Admiral Leeta are wearing slight variants on the final Mirror Universe sets.

Now for the hard part: capturing Chase Masterson’s likeness. A challenge, but we also needed to represent her in two different eras – one from her Deep Space Nine appearances and one showing some age and experience for the Captain and Admiral versions. Again, the first step was scouring Google and amassing a collection of images to rival that of an obsessed fan! This was again followed by compiling the best reference and angles.

Just like the uniform, we look for key recognizable features. In a way, we are making appealing caricatures of the actor – we’re looking at shapes, structures, tones, etc. that are unique and stand out. For Leeta specifically, the task is successful if players say “That’s Chase Masterson!” and “That’s a pretty character!”

What might be surprising is that making a specific, recognizable pretty face - like Ms. Masterson’s – is quite difficult for a game (arguably more difficult than making the most detailed grotesque creature you could imagine).

To elaborate, STO – as with many other games – uses a low poly in-game face and the lighting is low fidelity compared to real life. What that means is shadows can be harsh and/or non-existent on the character faces.

…And what that means is faces that are meant to be what we’d typically call pretty, often end up generic and/or blighted with unattractive lighting and shadows.

To address this, many of the more subtle details were painted or “baked” into the textures. Without getting bogged down in technical detail, there are a handful of components that create the final look of what you’d refer to as skin on a character. As an example we use a “diffuse” texture for the DS9 Leeta, and it literally wraps around the geometry of her character’s head, sort of like shrink wrap.

As a funny aside, when Chase Masterson came to the studio to do voice work for her character, she was excited to see her game character and some of the behind-the-scenes efforts in making it. So she witnessed first-hand the hoard of collected reference pictures featuring her, as well as the stretched and flattened textures of “her” face.

Again, this is only one component of the final product. Ultimately, with a little sculpting in Zbrush, a lot of painting in Photoshop, painstakingly tweaking geometry in 3DS Max, and a metric ton of bone scaling facial features in our character editor, Leeta’s face was iterated to look like Chase Masterson as the final versions you see in Star Trek Online today.

Captain Joe Jing logging off!

The life of a Temporal Agent will take you across time and space to strange frontiers and deadly battlegrounds with the Temporal Agent Pack.

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