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Star Trek Online

Tuvok’s Return!

By LaughingTrendy | Mon 20 Oct 2014 12:00:00 PM PDT

Tuvok is one of several members of the crew of U.S.S. Voyager who remained in Starfleet after Voyager’s return from the Delta Quadrant 32 years ago. While 32 years is not an exceptionally long amount of time for a Vulcan, during that period Tuvok has been an instructor at Starfleet Academy, an intelligence operative, a ship commander, and now, an admiral who concentrates his efforts on dealing with the Federation’s security issues.

Admiral Tuvok is also a returning character in Star Trek Online. We first saw him in “A Step Between Stars,” where, with the player’s help, he stopped a sequence of events that could have destroyed the Solanae Dyson Sphere.  A few months later, in “Surface Tension,” he and the player confronted the Undine leader known as Cooper and helped save Qo’noS.

At the end of “Surface Tension,” the admiral said he was taking Voyager to the Delta Quadrant as his flagship. With the gateways in the Solanae and Jenolan Dyson spheres offering easy access to that region of space, problems in the Delta Quadrant are no longer distant from the Alpha Quadrant. A war in the Delta Quadrant could easily spill over into Federation, Klingon or Romulan Republic space. In addition, the two Dyson spheres in the Delta Quadrant are jointly held territory that must be protected.

Tuvok and Voyager are leading the charge into the Delta Quadrant. There are few people who know the quadrant better, and no one who is better equipped to deal with the problems in that area with wisdom and logic.

Creating Tuvok in STO

The process of digitizing Tim Russ as Tuvok began by collecting many reference images. Google and Netflix (they have all Star Trek series available to stream) makes this easy. Ideal images usually include even lighting and a default expression. Luckily, being a Vulcan means pretty much any expression is default! 

Obviously, a range of angles is also desirable. Finally, as the Tuvok character in the game will be used both as he appeared in the original Voyager series and 30+ years later, it was important to gather images of Tim Russ at different ages. A reference board was then created:

When analyzing the images an artist looks for features that stand out. First and foremost, you can’t have a Vulcan without the ears. Next, among other things that stand out are the color, type and style of hair. Noticeable trademarks include the pointed sideburns and round hairline. Skin-tone can be trickier than it seems depending on the lighting in the reference pictures, how effective the skin material is in the game, and even how the lighting is set up on a level to level basis. And obviously, a person isn’t recognizable without the very specific shapes of their eyes, nose, and mouth. Finally, check out that persistent, furrowed, thoughtful brow…not to mention those distinct Vulcan eyebrows!

From there, we used our existing assets and Cryptic’s robust character tools to get a rough pass, creating a minimal resemblance. Step by step we introduced more custom assets including a face texture, new head geometry, and hair.  And little by little, tweak after tweak, until we had a satisfyingly recognizable Tim Russ as Tuvok.

As a nice epilogue is the work put into creating the Tuvok character helped set an incentive and foundation to expand our available character customization options for players, detailed in an earlier blog:

So not only does Tim Russ as Tuvok bring the fan enjoyment of his character to life in STO, but he indirectly helped greatly expand player options for their own characters.


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