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Surely by now you’ve heard the fantastic news that Michael Dorn has reprised his role as Worf for voice work in Star Trek Online, and we thought this would be a great opportunity to examine the process of getting the character in game from the art side of things.
The character, Worf isn’t actually new to STO; we used the character for the Star Trek: The Next Generation’s 25th anniversary special event last year. Admittedly, the costume at that time had vague, if any, resemblance to Mr. Dorn.
So upon hearing that Michael Dorn would be reprising his role as Worf for Star Trek Online, there was a great deal of excitement from the team at Cryptic, and we knew we had to do the game version justice - for us, the players, and of course, Mr. Dorn.
With this reference, the next step was to identify the key features that make Michael Dorn as Worf look like, well, Michael Dorn as Worf. The image below was made for this article to help illustrate the distinguishing features that stand out to a character artist when looking at the reference images of Worf. So, for all intents and purposes, behold an analysis of Worf’s head:
Next we began the process of approximating the features of The Next Generation version of Worf to the best of our abilities with existing assets.
One of the great things about Star Trek Online, and really all of Cryptic’s games, is the robust character toolset. Many parts and features are interchangeable and we have extensive bone scaling options to adjust everything from forehead size to nostril height. That said, there were key details missing to make a convincing Michael Dorn as Worf. For example, our existing Klingon forehead ridges didn’t quite have the same look as Worf’s ridges. And the textures for the face were missing one of the coolest and most distinguishing facial features - the groove under the eye and in front of the cheek bone that helps make Worf look so damn tough. So we modified textures for both, making new versions that are closer to the show.
Beyond that, achieving a convincing representation of any person is a challenge, and sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint the subtle details that make someone look recognizable. It’s often good to get multiple critiques to see if details aren’t quite right. Below is an example of an earlier version submitted to the Art Lead, Jeremy Mattson, who gave feedback of this very nature:
Next, for the body, Worf is a strong and proud Klingon and our game model reflects that. Uniforms from TNG and Deep Space 9 were easy to match with our existing assets. And with the final touches to the face, it was also relatively easy to create the older version of Worf as seen in DS9.
And even though these iterations of Worf are not strictly in the current time period of STO, they are now available for potential feature episodes. Because as we all know, Star Trek is rife with alternate realities, time travel, and Holodecks. And really, these versions helped make the foundation that our “persistent” current game iteration is based.
…bringing us to Worf as he appears in the main storyline for STO…
Worf has resigned from Starfleet due to the tensions between the Federation and Klingons to become a Lead Ambassador for the Klingons. This is valuable information to a character artist - stories that can, and should, be told through his appearance.
Just like the show established a character infused with the Federation, an organization and culture very different from his own, we see an individual that proudly presents his background in the form of a Klingon sash in tandem with his Federation Standard uniforms.
So what should a post Federation, diplomatic Klingon look like? Well, we wanted to bridge the gap between a DS9 Worf and versions from alternate realities and timelines depicted in the Trek series.
Starting with hair, we were drawn to the almost striped grey hair from the TNG episode “All Good Things”. It is brushed, clean, and ordered, but also long and free which seems fitting for the character for STO.
And obviously, being a diplomat means Worf shouldn’t dress like a warrior, but we still wanted some of that ruggedness that is befitting of Klingons. The Design team assisted with general ideas on what they expected and provided examples of non-military Klingons from various Star Trek episodes and movies. One of the most influential reference pieces was a shot of Emperor Kahless:
Fur is wild, yet soft. Leather is also a good material for our direction. But the combination of these elements must absolutely still look civilized to represent who Worf is. Color is an important factor too, and here, white seemed to work quite well for the impression we wanted for Worf as a diplomat. Finally, without a doubt, Worf’s trademark Klingon sash must be present in some form. All of these elements create the impression we want players to see when they look at Ambassador Worf in Star Trek Online:
And there you have it, from initial reference gathering to extrapolating ideas for the character in STO - the anatomy of a Worf.
Thanks to Michael Dorn for bringing the character to life for so many years and continuing to do so for STO. We’re stoked at Cryptic to bring this to players and look forward to making more Star Trek for a long time.
See you in space, explorers!
Sr. Character Artist
Star Trek Online
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