Hoping to provide a coherent template for further ventures into the reflective realm of the Star Trek mirror universe, a new partnership between Star Trek Online (STO) and IDW Publishing was recently announced to enable future synergies and narrative material .
Developed by Cryptic Studios and Perpetual Entertainment, STO is the largest free-to-play online role-playing game Star Trek ever, and currently boasts a player base of over 2.5 million across its growing galaxy of story-telling games. chapters and missions.
For STO’s 12th anniversary last February, they released their 25th installment entitled Shadow’s Advance, starring Kate Mulgrew in her Voyager role as Captain Kathryn Janeway as the voice of Marshal Janeway, the Mirror counterpart of the Terran Empire, repeatedly.
Related: Star Trek movies in chronological order
Since acquiring the license rights in 2006, IDW has been at the forefront of Star Trek comics. Since then, writers Scott and David Tipton have helmed an impressive array of Star Trek titles, including this year’s ongoing event, Star Trek: The Mirror War, starring Captain Picard and The Next Generation crew as the sinister heroes dimension are exposed.
This new association brings better continuity for more immersive storytelling dives for Star Trek Online, interweaving storylines with character developments that unfolded in the earlier timeline of the Tiptons’ “Star Trek” comic book projects at IDW, also set in Final’s Mirror Universe Frontier are located.
Space.com spoke to STO Associate Art Director Thomas Marrone, STO Writer Paul Reed and the Tipton Brothers to learn more about this creative marriage and how it will impact Seasons within the online game for smoother integration of the stories from the mirror universe.
Space.com: How did this ambitious new creative partnership come about?
Thomas Marrone: Back in 2018 at Star Trek Las Vegas, we started talking to IDW about how we had developed a lot of environments and ships, and it would be cool to see that in the comics. IDW did a lot of great visual development, especially for their Mirror arc, through artist JK Woodward and CBS to define how the Mirror universe would look in the “TNG” era. We never saw the “TNG” characters on the show as their mirror universe counterparts. This was fertile ground for IDW and for us as we explored it in-game.
We also spoke to author Mike Johnson about his character J’Ula, which he created for IDW’s Star Trek: Discovery comics. We actually brought J’Ula into Star Trek Online for our “Discovery” arc. So over the years there have been a lot of these little back-and-forth partnerships. It’s exciting to work with people who love Star Trek as much as we do. We are all pushing the edges and boundaries of the universe to fill in the gaps. STO does it really well and the comics do it really well. It’s great to play to each other’s strengths when we do that.
Scott Tipton: It’s great for our series. JK Woodward designed the Mirror Enterprise-D and it’s so cool to see that out in the world in the Star Trek Online game.
Space.com: How will fans see the transition from Mirror elements from IDW’s comics to STO?
Scott Tipton: We both try to see what everyone else in the mirror universe sees. It’s more about bringing these things out into the universe and inspiring each other. Once they see what we’re doing with some of our characters and how they’re going to develop, especially with a story as big as Mirror War, that gives them all these new bits to play with and incorporate into their storylines . There’s a lot of material to dig up there.
David Tipton: One of the things that has come out of the past Mirror stories that Scott and I and others have worked on at IDW, and some of that work with JK Woodward, is what has brought forth the next-gen Mirror characters. We’ve seen these characters and ships in Star Trek Online. In the same way, both the IDW and Star Trek Online comics have picked up and carried on the new interest in Mirror stuff that has emerged from “Discovery” using the Mirror Universe. What Star Trek Online did with its Mirror content and what we did was consistent. The way they use mirror stories and how characters function in this universe is now in consistent canon.
Scott Tipton: And CBS deserves a lot of credit. You are a great licensor to work for. They came up with the idea of creating a style guide for Mirror Next Gen that never existed and recruited JK Woodward to design the characters. Then we were given that to find out who these characters were. This style guide needs to go out to everyone, which is why everything feels like it’s coming in lockstep because we’re all working from the same playbook.
Space.com: As STO celebrates its 12th anniversary, how are you staying inspired and keeping the game exciting for players old and new?
Paul Reed: One of the things we’ve done over the years is revisit moments or events or the aftermath of events that happen in the canon shows and movies. It’s a pretty big universe. We’ve done content in previous eras, but we’ll think about what happened to the people who appeared in an episode of Voyager, or what some of the cast are up to on the show. We did a big “Deep Space Nine” Dominion arc and were able to catch up with Kira and Odo and the people on the other side of the wormhole and delve into the things that happened in that quadrant. I think that’s how we keep things fresh and give people answers to questions and new ideas and break new ground.
Thomas Marrone: We’ve been really lucky to have all of the new Star Trek that’s been airing for the past few years. When “Discovery” started in 2018, it brought a lot of wind into our sails again. We’ve trawled through the last 40 years of Star Trek between TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise, but now we have brand new stuff to work on. We built a Discovery-themed launch experience fairly immediately so that people new to Star Trek: Discovery would have something relevant for them when they arrived at Star Trek Online. This helped breathe a lot of life into the game.
Then we recently had this opportunity with Picard where they actually reached out to us and that’s how we were able to deliver Picard’s ship design to Star Trek Online and that canonized an aspect of the game, which is an incredible opportunity. Running alongside and even influencing the new Star Trek TV has been an amazing development for us as a game over 12 years old. And between 2009 and 2018 we were one of the few opportunities to experience “Star Trek” multimedia. We’ve taken that responsibility seriously, and now passing that torch onto the new shows is a great way to move forward and take us to the next step in the game’s lifespan.
Space.com: What is the most fun or rewarding thing about playing in the Star Trek sandbox?
Thomas Marrone: I’m a huge Starship guy and I think Star Trek has the most iconic, graceful and beautiful starships in all of sci-fi and I love working with them. I was recently promoted to Associate Art Director of STO, but the job I had before that was Lead Ship Artist, so I spent a lot of time building “Star Trek” ships for Star Trek Online. I’m really proud that our models and designs have been adopted by the “Picard” team to appear on the shows. We worked with their effects crew and they did some work on it due to the TV detail requirements. STO has a certain expertise that we’ve built over the past 12 years that nobody else has, and CBS recognized that and wanted to work with us on that.
Scott Tipton: For me it’s the characters, especially on The Next Generation. I was on that show downstairs, so I got to know them over time as they were being written. I feel invested in these characters, and when I sit down to write Picard or Riker, I can hear that voice in my head in a way that I can’t with the classic series, because I feel like I can hear them to know so well Star Trek is unique in sci-fi in that it’s an anthology of sorts. They can have humorous episodes or epic episodes. The flexibility you have in storytelling combined with these characters that everyone knows so well and I feel like I have an inherent ability to do that, that’s the real joy for me.
David Tipton: For me, that is also this character aspect. Comics are a kind of conversational medium, and if you get a Star Trek comic right and if the words coming out of those word bubbles sound like the character, then people will resonate with it. But if Jordy doesn’t sound like Jordy, you’re going to have readers who aren’t happy with the comic. Getting these voices right for the comics is so important to us and something we constantly strive for. We want it to sound like it’s a real episode, and in a way that’s the real trick.
Paul Reed: I started watching Star Trek when I was a little kid. “Day of the Dove” was the first episode I ever saw. My mom came right in the middle and said she watched Star Trek when she was in high school. So she sat down with me and explained that this was Captain Kirk and that was Spock and why he had pointy ears. I have all the foundation. I grew up watching Star Trek and was there when the first film came out. To be given the opportunity to tell Star Trek stories and feature characters from the shows I watched as a kid is amazing.
Another big part of my job is working with our audio team when actors come in to do the voiceovers. If they have questions about what’s going on in a scene, I’m there to help direct them so they can do their job. Hearing the actors take the stuff we’ve been working on and add that extra dose of Star Trek reality is a huge part of what makes my job so fun.
The Shadow’s Advance expansion story launched in January on PC and March 16th for consoles. Star Trek Online is free to play and downloadable on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
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https://www.space.com/star-trek-online-idw-mirror-universe ‘Star Trek Online’ Partners With IDW For More Dark Adventures In The Mirror Universe (Exclusive)