Originally launching in February 2010, Star Trek Online is now one of the longest running Star Trek series in the history of the franchise and offers and offers one-hundred-and-sixty-one episodes, three major expansions and fourteen full seasons of playable content. For Trek fans, the MMORPG is a huge opportunity to deep-dive into the fandom they love.
We’re thrilled to have our partners at Perfect World join us on the Star Trek Mission Crate, offering exclusive DLC content with each assortment; in anticipation of all that’s to come in 2018, we sat down with Weston Pierce from the STO animation team to discuss how he came to work in online gaming, his influences, and what we can look forward to!:
Hi Weston! Thanks for chatting with us. To start, tell us a bit about your position and what you do at Star Trek Online.
Well, I’m Star Trek Online’s current animator! Besides making things come to life on screen when you press a key, my job also entails enabling certain effects, such as the ones on our new Discovery ship, as well as directing and setting up many of the cut scenes in our game. I also am responsible for making special ships to preform special maneuvers, as well as unique weapons that flip up or transform when you use them. Most game animators are very specific in their jobs, usually only working with characters alone, so it’s pretty awesome to be able to work on such an array of areas within the same game!
You studied animation quite a bit before embarking on your career; how did you pursue an education in this field?
I’ve always wanted to bring my creations to life, so I chose to attend Animation Mentor and took their standard 18-month online animation course. There I learned how to animate everything from a bouncing ball, all the way up to full on body mechanics and character acting for cinematics and movies. Along with that, I also took their Visual Effects course shortly after, where I learned visual composition and how professional green-screen technology is used in film. After my time with Disney Interactive and Avalanche Studios, I also took additional courses to improve my character acting from AnimSquad, where I learned movie-quality character animation from animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Growing up, what were some of your favorite video games that made you want to do this for a living?
One of my favorite games when I was younger was Spider-Man: The Movie (2002). If I had to nail down one specific game that inspired me to pursue animation, it would be that one. I thought the character of Peter Parker looked a little like me back then, and so I always would imagine myself being the one flying through the air and preforming amazing acts of heroism when I played it. It made me want to turn these kinds of dreams into reality. The fact that I also wrote and drew a lot also allowed this passion to be turned into my own animations and games too.
Let’s discuss Star Trek; were you a fan of the series before you came to work on the game?
Absolutely! I’ve seen all of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, as well as some of The Original Series and Next Generation.
Star Trek Online is a particularly popular MMORPG; what are the fundamentals of the world created in the TV shows and films that you think the game captures best?
I think all the departments do amazing work bringing what was on the screen into the game. Our ship artists are amazing in creating screen-accurate models that feel exactly like the ones we see in the shows. Our content team is able to recreate surroundings in extreme detail. For example, the interior of our Next Generation Galaxy ship is so detailed, it feels like you’re walking on the set of the Enterprise itself! I remember seeing the consoles and wall panels in that ship and thinking, “Wow! The computer tops look just like plexiglass, like on the actual sets!” And our character artists capture so much detail in the actors that do voiceovers for the game, I can’t praise them all enough!
In terms of immersive gameplay, what would you say STO offers that might appeal to gamers who aren’t necessarily Trek fans?
One of the fundamentals that I appreciate about Star Trek Online as a gamer and not just a Star Trek fan is the in-depth level of customization one can achieve in all areas of gameplay. You can tinker and work on getting your avatar to look just the way you want with all the costume pieces in game. You can choose from a huge range of ships and weapon types to make awesome combinations to perform a range of different roles. I find I’m always looking at my ship and avatar thinking how I can improve them, and never really running out of options.
The game recently celebrated its eighth anniversary. What’s been your favorite development to the gameplay over the course of its run so far?
I think one of my favorite things that changed how the game is played was the addition of specializations, such as Intel, Command, and Pilot. Specializations add new powers and the ability to expand your class into areas and dynamics that hadn’t really been explored before, and has changed up how mechanics function in general a lot.
The current storyline (Season 14) is entitled Emergence; what’s new and exciting in this new arc for the game?
With the launch of Season 14: Emergence, we expanded our Fleet Holdings by adding the Dranuur Colony, where players can visit a recently regenerated planet and assist in helping the reunited Lukari and Kentari. We also have amazing actors like J. G. Hertzler and LeVar Burton reprising their roles as Martok and Geordi LaForge for our recent episodes as well.
Tell us a little about the emote that you designed specifically for the Star Trek Mission Crate subscribers in the first crate.
It is the Organian Bow, as seen in the original Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “Errand of Mercy” from Season 1. Originally suggested by a friend, I was eager to add a little “bow” to the long-time fans of Star Trek who would recognize the niche reference. It makes me happy to see so many players knew the reference and are enjoying it already!
We don’t want to give away spoilers, but what can you tell us about some of the other surprises planned for future Mission Crate STO drops?
I can’t say too much, that would ruin the surprise after all! But I will say that Star Trek fans and everyone alike will have a lot of fun things to look forward to in future Star Trek Mission Crates. I’m excited to be a part of it!