STO Developer Diary: Evolving the Borg + New Trailer

Star Trek Online is getting closer and closer. Today we have a special treat with a developer diary written by STO Lead Character Artist Matt Highison, who discusses how Cryptic went about evolving the Borg for their MMORPG set three decades after the last time we saw them.  We also have a new trailer. 


Star Trek Online Dev Diary – The Borg
by Matt Highison

To say we were excited about Star Trek Online would be an understatement. When Cryptic got the final word we had indeed secured the rights to develop a Trek MMO, there was a roar of applause and cheers of joy. Before we could even clear the out of the meeting room, people were already clamoring to be on the dev team. Stories of seeing Khan for the first time, going to conventions and retellings of favorite episodes became what you heard walking through the halls. People began bringing in real Klingon Bat’leth weapons, statues of the Enterprise and Tribbles galore. Vulcan salutes were used copiously. As our excitement calmed a bit we realized the magnitude of the task ahead of us: to take all the things we loved about Star Trek and make them into a game.

My name is Matt Highison, and I am the Lead Character Artist on STO. It’s my job to head up the character creation and customization system, and the creation of the friendly and enemy NPCs you encounter on your travels.

My first question when coming on board was "in what time period does this game take place?" Something we decided to do with STO was to place it in 2409, about 30 years after anything that has been seen on screen before. This is great for a multitude of reasons, but there are two important ones. The first is that it allows us to use all of the rich history of the franchise that leads up to this point in the story while also respecting what has come before. No jumping into the middle of the established Star Trek timeline and mucking with things. The second advantage of having STO set in 2409 is that it allows us to evolve and expand the franchise beyond what was possible on TV or in the films.

"We wanted to be sure our new Borg had evolved and adapted from their war with the Federation."

The Borg are Back in Star Trek Online

The STO Borg are a good example of this. The Borg of The Next Generation series and the First Contact film were an immensely powerful foe. The cold words "resistance is futile" struck fear into viewers, and their nanoprobes and mechanical implants gave me shivers. This was a collective of cybernetic beings that crossed the galaxy forcefully assimilating alien races in the pursuit of perfection. The costume designers did an awesome job with what they had to work with. And yet due to the constraints of the show at the time, all this control and mechanical enhancement was still just portrayed as a guy in a suit. Picard could be rescued from the Borg with little physical damage; Seven of Nine looked like she just got back from a decade-long spa treatment.

The first thing we did was give the classic styled Borg a more diverse section of aliens that they have assimilated. Cardassian Borg? Check. Jem’Hadar Borg? Heck yes!

Then we wanted to be sure our new Borg had evolved and adapted from their war with the Federation. When you see a new Borg drone in STO it will be obvious there is no coming back from assimilation. Instead of adding a gun attachment to an arm, they have removed the whole limb and replaced it with an enhanced synthetic weapon. Much of the torso has been converted to a more efficient cybernetic construct. Why would a drone need a stomach if it gets all its energy from regeneration cycles in a Borg alcove? Our awesome concept art team and our Art Director, Lee Dotson, helped push the concepts of "no-return" and "machine fully integrated into flesh." Jeremy Mattson, one of our Principle Character Artists, brought this alternate vision of the Borg to life. They really are scary to go up against!

The Borg have evolved in Star Trek Online

Next diary, I’ll take a look at the new Federation uniforms and how you are able to outfit your crew.

New Trailer: Belly of the Best
Here is a new trailer called "Belly of the Beast"

More STO News tomorrow
On Saturday, TrekMovie will have even more STO news with new video and more.

Star Trek Online comes out February 2nd 2010, and  is available for pre-order now.


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Can you imagine the Borg as a playable race? OMG so sweet

Technically you could still come back from a lot of those Borg alterations in 2409, it would just take a lot more work than what we’ve already seen, but we know from other episodes that they can regrow spines, so a stomach shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Cybernetic arm also shouldn’t be too difficult, and with what they’ve learnt from Data’s interaction with the Borg Queen in First Contact, they may have even been able to create false skin and nerve endings to be able to feel sensations in those replacement limbs.

Nerdiest post ever? I mean, I get what he’s saying, but I don’t really think it’s right to say that you can’t come back from these things in the Trek universe.

I’d be nice if the UK got the same (or any for that matter) pre order goodies as the US. We don’t get no Connie, no beta access, no head start, no borg bo, nowt.
I’m not paying £50 for the collectors edition and another £35 to get it sent from the states.(then they want to charge us a monthly fee on top of that?! Hello? Recession?)

Oh and I forgot the Post Office will hold your game at the delivery depot until you go and pay the 17.5% tax plus £5 handling charge on top.
So to buy the collectors edition from the US would cost roughly £100.
Nope. Sorry.

The whole idea of the borg is stupid. If you want efficiency without emotion become a machine, why even have bio parts left over? Unless you’re really a race that takes pride in your unique biological identity but want to be more efficient, then you’d keep the bio parts active. But if you go around assimilating other species rather than perpetuate your own unique one, then the whole argument is out the door and you come back to this is a stupid idea for a race.

Reminds me of the Strogg from Quake 4…quite creepy seeing the guy in front of you get Strogg-ified during one of the cutscenes.

I’m not a big gamer, but I might go in for this.

I’d love to see an Alternate Reality area that ties in to JJ Abrams’ movie universe, but the gameplay trailer here looks really great.

@ 3 and 4 ,
Have to agree with Ross , I am in Ireland
and would love to buy the collectors edition at a reasonable price ( i would have no problem paying say € 60(10 dollars more) , but yet again a games publisher , only wants to give all the goodies to North America , cant say i am happy at all .

Plus i would not risk trying to importing it , cause it might only work with NA servers or accounts l

sorry for the double post, but seems me and ross are not the only non north american gamers who are not happy

maybe if we make a big deal out of it (normally i dont moan , but good cause and all ), they might do something ?

The Borg got utterly neutered by overexposure in VOY. I disagree with people who felt that the concept of the Borg Queen undermined them (although I see where they are coming from), but really, the fact that a long-range exploration vessel could go against Borg Cubes just annoyed me. I’m all for them making the Borg badass again.

I wonder how the STO Borg fit into the Pocket Books novel timeline? Or is STO a separate universe/timeline?


I believe that STO is ignoring the Destiny books.

Nothing new. There were Cardassian, Klingon and Bolian Borg in FC ;)

Doh, I missed the Federation friendly Gorn who joined in the Dominion Wars to fight with the Federation, and who were an understanding race when the Reliant had a little run in with them.

STO doesn’t have to ignore the Destiny books. Let’s just assume the Borg can come back from anything, even if they technically stopped existing and all the Borg parts on every drone in the galaxy melted away. So if one single Drone survives, etc. etc. etc. 30 years later the Borg are back.

I hope they put out an ‘Art of ” companion book when this game comes out. I’d bet there is a lot of great artwork that went into this game. As for the Borg, they were awesome on TNG, First Contact and the Enterprise episode Regeneration. Aside from Scorpion and Dark Frontier, the Borg on Voyager became weak and humanized. The Borg are at their best when they are relentless, remorseless, and downright dangerous. I wonder if we’ll see the Borg Queen in this game.

I don’t like the idea of making the Borg any more machine than they are. Remember in TNG when Lore tried to make the brain and such completely artificial and failed? I think the idea there is there’s some stuff better left organic and I liked that theme. Something that’s 90% machine with a bit of flesh just isn’t that frightning to me. Dont get me wrong, after Voyager the Borg needed big improvement, but I don’t think this is the right direction. But I’m not making this game so my opinion is irrelevant, but also I doubt this game will be considered at all cannon so I’m not worrying too much about it. Another thing I noticed is all the old ships. Come on, constitution class? They didn’t even use those during TNG. And I even saw a Romulan BOP from Enterprise, that’s just beyond dumb. At this point even the Galaxy class would be somewhat aged and anything beyond that old and even ancient.

This game is going to be great! Trust me… I know :-)

^^^ It better be. $50 out of the box and then $15 every 30 days after the first month. Do they think money grows on trees?

There are story ideas floating out there on how to reverse the damage the Borg suffered at the hands of Voyager’s writing staff, that and how to finally rid the Collective of that over-bearing drama “Queen”. One thing that I always felt contributed to the Borg losing their menace status was how in the hell did the Federation manage to reverse engineer their technology. It should have been too advanced for the Federation to do so; Borg programming code as an example. Let Orci and Kurtzman bring the Borg back in the new alternate reality. No Hansons discovering the Collective, no souped-up Voyager and Seven of Nine, and NO Bitc…er, Queen. Let those guys re-imagine the Borg for a threat against Kirk and Crew: creepy cybernetic zombies, relentless and virtually (…save for a miracle and an escape route) unstoppable.


If I recall, WoW was released in Europe some time after its US release. It might be worth waiting a but and expressing your dissatisfaction to Cryptic until they come out with an official response. Don’t forget that “Trek” is much larger in the US and Canada than it is in Europe where, despite its regional popularity (UK, German-speaking countries), it is just has small cult followings.

I am an American, and lived in Europe for many years, and play WoW on an EU server to this day, even after having moved back to the States. Being 6 hours behind everyone else is a major drag, especially in the evening US time, when the Europeans playing in their wee hours are either drunk, or unpleasantly obsessive/compulsive.

Best to wait for the proper EU launch of the product on localized servers with proper EU support.

@ 22
the game is being launched 3 days later in the EU , February 5 is Cryptic proper EU launch and i would think localized servers and proper support should be in place at that date (if not whats the point in launching ?). and i am fine with that (in fact 3 days is a lot better then the months some mmorpgs make you wait here).

My problem is them taking so long to announce if there will be a collectors edition in Europe.
I am not asking for it to be on every self just for them to confirm it and hopefully offer it on a few online retailers.

I would not risk importing it in , in cause the extra content is region locked to NA servers or something.

And to be fair Trek is very big in some places in Europe (e.g. FEDCON) , plus i don’t think this games is being aimed at purely star trek fans, lots of gamers i know who have only a decent or small interest in star trek are looking forward to this.

A quick look at the official Star trek online forums proves that there is quite a number of people who feel the same as i do .

actually #2 that isnt the only way to reverse all the damage assimilation might inflict on a person: the Borg’s own nanoprobes could be reprogrammed to turn the mechanical elements into organic tissue and organs…kinda a reverse assimilation

That’s probably possible, but could you imagine how painful that’d be for the patient? eek.

The Borg are not stupid, to me, they seem like a representation of how society is assimilating young people to fit a certain image. In the Borg’s case, they are a superior force that assimilates all who do not conform to their orders. They say resistance is futile because even if others resist at first, the Borg know that they will give in or be defeated eventually.

The “mythology’ of the Borg resonates so well me and a lot of others because of their obsession with technology and instant knowledge.
People today are so tech savvy that a few years down the road, we may see “cranial devices” that replace the need for laptop computers. This could allow for a form of “telepathic” communication like the Borg use.
People today are obsessed with near instantaneos information and internet access. The internet has made the world a smaller space and news travels much quicker than it did a decade ago. And portable devices such as cellphones and gaming devices are constantly becoming smaller and more powerful. And scientist are continuing to work on nano technology for medical and scientific purposes. In fact, this is possibly how the Borg Collective began…..

I share everyones reservations about Borg nerfing, particularly during VOY, but I think the problem with the Borg from day 1 has been that they are just too powerful for the Federation to realistically contend with. This is the point that’s driven home in” Q Who?” and “The Best of Both Worlds”. Only creative deus ex machina allow our characters to even survive. But you can only tell that story so many times.

The Borg are so powerful and have so many ships (not to mention transwarp corridors and whatnot) that it really makes no sense for them not to just destroy the Federation outright if they’re inclined to do so at all. Guinans world was swarmed, as are most if not all others depicted as having been. Granted, they are closer, but this undermines a key characteristic of what made the Borg really terrifying, their utter implacability and their brutal efficiency. “When they come after you they’re gonna come in force, they don’t do anything piecemeal.”

The coolest parts of the Borg have to be compromised even for a story to occur, but really, the Borg are ridiculously over powered. Not only are they bigger and stronger, they’re smarter, there’s lots of them, they systematically assimilate individuals, societies and their technology to learn and to grow their numbers (which one would think would mean acquiring a truly staggering wealth of knowledge which would be made obvious by the Borg’s rapid incorporation of new technology and even behaviours, yet this is never well explored), they can regenerate themselves and even adapt to to whatever feeble means of defence against them might exist. On top of that, they won’t stop chasing you until they get you, they’re faster than you, and they shoot green things that turn off your special effects.

Bottom line, the Borg can’t really be the bad guys they should be, the one that was promised in the beginning, because by their own rules, they’d annihilate the entire star trek universe.

Ok, enough with the combat trailers Cryptic! I’m already sold on the starship combat, it looks gorgeous. I wanna see more of the “episodes”….how do they play out beyond combat? So far I’m just seeing a Quake 3 style, nothing but shoot em up game with no story at all.

Change the pace and show us more than just more ships and people shooting at each other.

I’m not interested in the game because it all seems to revolve around combat – that’s a Star Wars approach, not Star Trek, which was supposed to be mostly about EXPLORING, not shooting. And I like the approach the Destiny trilogy of novels took – that the Borg finally gave up on constantly fighting with one hand behind its back, and launched an inevitable all-out assault that the Federation couldn’t stop, because it always seemed silly that a race with thousands upon thousands of cubes, willing to use thousands against races like Species 8472, would only launch one cube at a time at the Federation.

But mostly, I don’t like the idea that as time passes the galaxy is degrading back to what it was like at the time of the Romulan War, with everyone shooting at each other? Where’s the positive message in that?

I’ve got a few reservations when it comes to the Borg. First, I certainly don’t think we need *another* spinoff/splinter universe for Trek (I don’t even like the Abrams one!), though to be fair, with the game and the “Destiny” trilogy being developed in parallel for over a year, coordinating it might not have ben easy. OTOH, I was also very happy with the idea that, in the wake of “Destiny”, the Borg would be no more, ’cause if I don’t see them for the next ten years, it’ll be too soon. OTOH, if for some reason, the Caeliar-driven transformation missed a few, it would be possible to have them come back.

I also largely agree with GraniteTrek, though my understanding is that the game allows for exploration as part of its overall storyline. I also wonder, though, if the game arc is intended at all to provide a path for leading the major powers back out of the period of hostilities and into a period of “friendly competition” for resources, knowledge, and influence in the galaxy, which might be more Trek-like.

I miss Simon & Schuster’s Apple II game “The Kobayashi Alternative.”

as a Brit,
If I cannot get a connie pack, I wont be playing.

simple as