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Star Trek Online: An Interview with Character Artist, Ian Castaneda

Christopher Bowman Posted:
Interviews 0

It’s a rare thing when a game makes it 10 years and still manages to keep fresh with continuing new content. Star Trek Online has just hit the big 10 year mark and it is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With all of the new Star Trek content that is about to launch, new things are surely on the horizon as the team for STO continues to go boldly where no Star Trek title has gone before. We had the chance to sit down with Character Artist, Ian Castaneda, and talk to him a little about his position within this universe.  


Ten years of one of my favorite games has come and gone, and boy has it been a crazy ride. How have things changed from the initial beta test of the game to now in terms of character design?

Ian Castaneda: Over the years, the graphics capabilities of video cards and consoles have increased dramatically since we first launched Star Trek Online. As such, we have increased resolution of 3D models and textures with every new release. The character assets we are adding now are 2-3x higher in fidelity than when we launched the game, and we will continue to improve the game with every new release.

As a fan of everything Star Trek, I love how space combat is handled. Ground combat is a bit more simplistic than some other games. How challenging is it to create new character models, especially with the Discovery Era Klingons, and have them work properly with all of the animations that are in this mode of the game?

IC: Our animators work within a strict system. Because of this, most of our character models can easily be translated to every animation, whether it is new or old. In regards to the Discovery Era Klingons, they fall well into the animation system we have in the game. Obviously there are and will be exceptions and whenever needed, we make custom character assets to achieve the look we want.

Would you say that it has been a dream come true to work on Star Trek, even if it is only through the video game?

IC: I grew up watching The Original Series, so being able to work on characters like Sulu, Scotty, Spock and Chekov is definitely a childhood dream! I’m always thankful to be able to work with other talented people to bring Star Trek to life.

Is character design the only thing that you do, or do you sometimes help with other creative items as well?

IC: We not only work in our specific disciplines, but also dabble with work from other departments. Part of my job is to also provide FX assets which can include weapons, devices, explosion debris and other assets.  

What is your favorite character design in the game?

IC: I particularly like the Romulan Republic outfit design. We had a great time designing it from concept to full 3D models. This was new for us – since these outfits were meant to be the first major outfit for our new factions at the time (the Romulan Factions).

What is your favorite setup for the game? Do you run Engineer/Cruiser or Tactical/Escort?

IC: I have several avatars with several builds. My favorite is still my Female Starfleet-aligned Romulan, who has an Engineer/Cruiser build. I try to stay with disruptors with wide arcs, singularities for power and I often try to equip cool things like fighters and other unique cooldowns. My particular character wears the Romulan outfit that I had a hand in making. While many of our costume and character parts are a team effort, I was responsible for most of the Romulan costume parts – which is why I love wearing them on my avatar.

What are you looking forward to the most about the next few years of Star Trek Online?

IC: Honestly, I love the new directions we’re planning based on the new shows like Discovery. I think these new storylines will take the franchise to new heights and places we’ve never seen or even thought of!

We'd like to thank Ian for his time answering our questions.


Christopher Bowman

Graphic Artist and Gamer all the time, graduate from Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors in Game Art and Design. Spends a lot of time in MMORPGs and First-Person Shooters.