The Star Trek Online beta has for some reason allowed us in. So of course this means spending my entire afternoon playing with the character creator. It's made by Cryptic. Can you guess whether it's brilliant or not? It's brilliant.
What they've done is very clever. Currently there's only access to the Federation side, which means the pre-created races available are Human, Andorian, Bajoran, Bolian, Vulcan, and Ferengi. But of course there's also "Unknown", the option to let you mould a new alien race for the Star Trek universe. But that comes later.
If you've played City of Heroes or Champions Online you'll know quite how extraordinary Cryptic's character creators are. Others attempt to offer the same lists of options, but almost none are able to produce the same results. (I'd say the one exception that I've spotted is Saints Row 2.) The same is true here. The nuance available to you with the tiniest of tweaks is fantastic, and unlike so many competitors' creators, changing one value doesn't obliterate your hard work with the others. Each setting is able to interact with the others without distorting it, so if you want to mess around with your head width, it isn't going to muck up the mouth size or nostril depth you so carefully picked out.
What they've done for pre-established races is very smart. Rather than letting you go crazy-go-mad with the settings, each is carefully fixed so you can't step outside the boundaries of realistic (if you'll pardon the term being used when dealing with making alien faces). So for instance, pick a Bolian and it will offer you a generic blue seamed head. Attempt to go crazy and you'll be able to make something odd, but not insane. And most of all, you won't be able to give him hair. For instance. Default Bolian:
And the most messed up Bolian I could make:
He's not a handsome chap, but it could be worse.
The same works for all races. However, you can get silly. A Vulcan has to have pointy ears, but he can also have Klingon dreads that hide them:
The same logic applies throughout. You can give a Ferengi a big head, but you can't change his ears, or give him blue skin. It makes sense - you're dealing with established species. But crucially, the enormous array of facial options means you can create a completely unique Ferengi, Andorian or Human. As well as picking out uniform designs and colours to enhance that. But then there's Unknown.
Start your own race and you can go batshit. Suddenly all the options for all the races are available, along with a bunch of very silly bits and pieces you can attach. It's not quite as detailed as I'd have thought it might be, and I wonder if more options might be added before the game's out, but with a relatively limited set of extras you can make some very odd looking beasts.
I'm not the sort who goes straight in to make the most monstrous thing possible on my first go. I can't help but make something I'd want to play as, so my first creation, one Carina, is an elaborate and detailed creature, but I'd say still relatively sensible.
With a character I want to play as created, then it was time to get silly. Meet Fugly:
What surprises me is that she's not already a race in the Star Trek universe. And now for a bonus, here's Zachary Quinto mucking about in a recording studio: