G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip 4 – Cryptic Cat
G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip 4 – Cryptic Cat is now available to download. Check it out here. Mike recently visited Cryptic Studios and had the opportunity to sit down with the Star Trek Online team for several interviews. The next interview in our series is with one of Star Trek Online’s Ship Designers and UI Artist, Thomas Marrone. Be sure to check out this interview and the others from Mike’s trip by visiting our G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip Round Up page.
Mike and Adrianne sit down with Thomas the Cryptic Cat. Thomas has been keeping busy and is excited to have released the Tier 6 Veteran Ships and is now working on more ships that he can’t discuss right now. Mike mentions that he’s been working on more ships lately than UI elements. Thomas hasn’t been scheduled to do any UI stuff since November. Thomas has built canon ships for the Xindi and rebuilt the Galaxy. He has also built the Pathfinder, the Andromeda, and all of the Klingon pilot ships. Mike loves the raptors. He says they’re beautiful and handle like a dream.
Mike asks what is the process like for designing a ship. Thomas clarifies that designing a ship can mean three different things. The first method is performed by the Systems Design team (Phil Zalesky, Gorngazolla, and Borticus) and they build out the stats of the ship, which includes how it handles, what its special powers and traits are. The second thing it could mean pertains to what it would look like. This tasks falls into the purview of their concept artists (Hector). Thomas jokes that Hector stares at the blank sheet of paper and has to figure out how to turn it into a Starship. The third thing that it could mean is actually taking the concept art and build the ship in 3D as an art asset for the game. This third task is what Thomas does. For the Pathfinder and the Andromeda, he was lucky enough to be the concept artist for both of those ships. He loved doing the concept art, but his main responsibilities are building the ship in 3D. Generally, the timeline for a ship to be developed follows the order that Thomas had laid out with the systems guys laying out its parameters, the ship artists will conceptualize the ship based on what it is supposed to do, before the ship builders start modeling the ship and implementing it within the game.
Mike asks if he ever experiences difficulty taking a static 2D image and transforming it into a dynamic 3D model. Thomas explains depending on the scenario. For canon ships, he usually scours the Internet for as many references as possible. When he was working on the Galaxy model, there were four different versions of the Galaxy: the six foot model built for TNG, the four foot model also for TNG, a CG model for DS9, and another CG model built for the Enterprise episode: These Are The Voyages. When working off of images with as many possible canon sources (and excluding the numerous fan created versions), you have be careful which image you’re pulling from, what your inspiration is, and what you’re checking it against. When the model was released, he received feedback from fans that had noticed that he had used the deflector from the four foot model rather than the six. The schematics he had used were for the four foot model, but those are the details that some fans pay attention to. Regardless, he’s still proud of his work. It’s the most challenging part of creating a new ship.
For the Xindi ship, he had some reference, but unlike the Galaxy, there wasn’t as much detail available about it. Because there wasn’t as much available, he had to make his best guess and get it as close as he could. Although some people are ok with “fudging” it a little bit, but he always strives to get it as accurate as possible. However, there times, when he just has to move on, because the only way to know for sure would be to get his hands on the original CG model, which isn’t going to happen. Finally, the third method would be to base it off concept art Hector created. It’s the easiest thing to do, because he can walk down the hall and either ask him about it, or make it up himself.
Mike comments that it probably makes his life just that much more stressful knowing that there was that kind of scrutiny going into his work. My asks which ship that he created is his favorite so far. Thomas says the Andromeda. His thoughts on the ship’s design was to make it look as if its always at warp. He uses the Enterprise-D jumping to warp and stretching towards a distant point to help illustrate what he wanted to do. The model that he built that he’s most proud of is the Galaxy because of how much time he spent trying to get it just right. He mentions that he wouldn’t mind going back and bringing all of the old models in game up to that standard.
Mike asked him about the vet ship he designed. Each ship artist took one of the ships and he got the Federation ship: The Manticore. It was based on the Chimera, which was one of his favorite ships in STO. The Chimera was a submission in the design the Enterprise-F contest that STO held in 2011 and submitted by Jason Lee also known as Vektor. Thomas praises Lee’s CG work, before continuing. The ship didn’t win the Enterprise contest, but it was a great design, so they made it the 1000 day vet ship. The Manticore is the Tier 6 version of the Chimera and has interchangeable parts with its predecessor. One of the changes he made to it was adding the mission pod, in addition to adding the Tier 6 skin. He explains that the ship was named prior to its creation, and the weapons pod on top is analogous to the Manticore’s stinger. He mentions that he was pleased that the ship was named the Manticore, since that was the name he had given his Chimera.
Getting to his Star Trek fandom, Mike asks what is his favorite series. Thomas grew up watching TNG, so it wins by default. If he was watching it now on Netflix, he thinks he would go with DS9 because of its stories and the interpersonal conflicts. He says that it doesn’t get any better than Picard, but some days you just feel like Sisko. Other Sci-Fi series that Thomas enjoys includes: the Honor Harrington series, which he has done some art work for. He did all of the art work for the Honor Harrington Companion: House of Steel that came out a few years ago. He describes it as harder military Sci-Fi, with a robust and well established universe with interesting characters. He says that the perspective of battles are more Newtonian than Star Trek’s. In Star Trek, there is no momentum, while in Honor Harrington, they have to flip around in order to slow to a stop. He draws a parallel to STO in that a character from Honor Harrington comes from a planet called Manticore.
He mentions the Odyssey Uniform transition that all Starfleet NPCs experienced. He set the uniform standard and changed all of the NPC’s uniforms so they adhere to the new standard. For the Captains, he gave all of them white shoulders which was inspired by Honor Harrington in which all Captains have white barrettes. Adrianne jokes that she thought it was to hide dandruff problems. It was interesting to learn what inspired certain design elements. Returning to Mike’s original question about favorite Sci-Fi series, Thomas adds Babylon 5 to the list. He’s rewatching it now.
Adrianne asks about the Ferengi ship that is this years big prize in the Summer Event on Risa. Thomas thinks it looks, though he didn’t have anything to do with it. It was built by Cackles, who has since moved on from STO to another project at Cryptic. He did a good job. The reason for the switch to Ferengi from the Risian ship designs, was because no one really knew what Risian ships looked like and therefore, their ships could potentially have come from any Sci-Fi Universe. The Ferengi seemed to jive the closest to Risa and established a recognizable design guide that they could use.
What Trek species would he be? Thomas decides that he would be best suited to be Q. He wants to be Omnipotent. Mike believes this would have been their first Q. This is a question they ask everyone that they interview. Thomas wonders if it means that he has a god complex then. They poke fun at some of the more mundane responses, such as choosing to be Vulcan or Betazoid.
Moving along, Mike asks if he’s read any of the Star Trek novels. Thomas has read some but not lately. He mentions a few of the Titan books, and the first Vanguard novel. They have a tighter continuity now than they used to. Before, if you didn’t like a book, you could ignore it, but now you have to take them all. Adrianne likes continuity, but she likes having choices. She mentions Dragon Lance. It had so many books and some of them were stand-alone. Mike mentions that they have been doing more and more stand-alones, mostly through novellas. Thomas mentions that he did enjoy Tales From the Dominion War and Articles of the Federation. Mike has not read Articles yet, but it is on his short list. Thomas describes it as West Wing Star Trek. He thought it had gone too far into West Wing in that they took all of the positions in the White House and assigned them to their Trek counterparts. He was more interested in learning how the Federation Council worked and what model it followed, whether it had a representative Congressional form or a more direct representation. If the Federation is supposed to be an Utopian society, he wants to know how do they get that society to function. Federation News sources were fine, but he wants to know what does the average Federation citizen worry about politically if most of your basic needs and most of your non-basic needs are met through replicators. What are some of the most important issues of the day? They talk about a few possibilities. Mike mentions that in some of the books that follow Articles of the Federation, President Bacco shows up or a News segment will be included. He finds it interesting that that is where some of it originated from. He’s looking forward to checking it out.
Mike asks if he has a favorite author. Thomas mentions Peter David for writing Q Squared. He has not read the Excalibur series with Calhoun, who can be found in STO on K7. Thomas mentioned updating Calhoun’s costume. Thomas mentions Keith DeCandido as well, who had written Articles of the Federation. Thomas has high praise for John Byrnes and some of work in comics and graphic novels. He enjoyed a series that focused on Number One from the Cage and how she came to be on the Enterprise. He does a lot TOS era comics and has even put together several photonovels that manipulate screenshots to tell new and interesting stories. Mike asked if he reads more graphic novels than books. He’s all over the place, he doesn’t read as much as he’d like but dips his toe into whatever is interesting at the moment.
Next, Mike asked what is the name of his starship. Thomas explained that he flew the Manticore for a while. When he selects a name, he follows a method that the Navy kind of follows, in which all ships within a specific class are given names from a specific category. So, his Chimera class was named Manticore. It depends on the type of ship that it is, as to what name he will give it. Mike thought it was a unique answer, since most people have a set name in mind and stick on whatever ship they happen to be on. Mike appreciates that his approach is more militaristic.
When asked, if he could kill a Star Trek character, who would he kill. After some consideration, Thomas couldn’t come to an easy decision, although he did mention that Dukat was a big jerk. In the end, he declines to answer, and instead shares a story about something that made the rounds on reddit on April Fool’s Day. What would have happened if Patrick Stewart had stayed with TNG passed Season 3. Essentially, a what if thread running on the presumption that Picard had died at Wolf 359 and Riker took over as Captain. Mike has seen it. This alternate Universe where Stewart went back to the stage after season three was canon and they were speculating on what could have been if Picard had lived. The alternate Universe became the prime. Some of the highlights from the thread were that the show wouldn’t have lasted 14 seasons. One thing that Mike liked from it was the idea that they rotated characters more often. He thought it was more realistic that Picard was Captain of the Enterprise for 12 years plus.
Winding down the interview, Mike gives Thomas a chance to share any hints about what is coming. He doesn’t want to get fired. He’s making ships. Leave him alone. He will say that it’s a lot of cool stuff and that a lot of people are going to enjoy. He says that he’s looking forward to the Summer and Fall release schedule for ships, and that’s going to continue looking for ways to continue improving existing ships. The Galaxy he had done mostly on his own time, and will continue to do so as the opportunity arises.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.