I’m a pretty big fan of Rigelians, mainly because I think they look cool, but I’ve noticed some things about them that I think could be added, and I’d like to make a logical case for some suggestions.
Although Rigelians were rarely mentioned during the course of the series Enterprise (only 5 were ever shown, and 3 of them weren’t even shown clearly), one thing that was implied was the fact that they were Vulcanoid rather than Humanoid – they shared diseases with Vulcans and Romulans as well as internal physiology, as Memory Alpha suggests,
They are known to share a similar internal physiology with Vulcans and Romulans. These similarities, notably to Vulcans, include similar blood chemistries. Rigelians also shared a similar neurology to Vulcans and Romulans, as they too are susceptible to the neurological disease known as Tuvan Syndrome. (TOS: "Journey to Babel"; DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges")
Considering this, it's not hard to imagine that Rigelians probably have more similarities to Vulcans and Romulans physically, and it’d be neat if we saw something of that as options in their character design. I present the only two Rigelians we see in the series next to the current default models for Rigelians in the game.
What we immediately notice is that the Rigelians from the series share a kind of “pale green-grey” coloring common amongst the Romulans of the series. It's undoubtedly because of that Vulcan heritage – their copper-based blood is supposedly influencing their skin tone. In Star Trek Online, the Rigelians are sharing a more fleshy, pink tone of Humans.
Now, this is not to say that the pinker tone options are necessarily wrong! Just as Vulcans themselves are fairly tan and not quite as “green” as Romulans are, one can easily make the argument that Rigelians come in the fleshier tones that we see in Star Trek Online already. However, the pale green-gray color we see in the series is simply not an option in Star Trek Online, and to add a bit more diversity to their coloring options while remaining IP, I believe adding these pale green-gray skin tones to their options would be a great step in improving their character customization.
The Case for the Pointed Ear
We’ve already established an implied shared lineage between Vulcans and Romulans, and how neat it would be if more of this was possible in their design. Star Trek Online’s written information about Rigelians is highlighted in this picture:
Now, granted, a “common ancestor” does not necessarily mean that Rigelians evolved directly descendant of Vulcans. It’s possible that Rigelians and the modern Vulcan are directly descendant of some sort of Proto-Vulcan, and are hence cousins of one another, but in fandom at the very least it's been implied that the planet Vulcan was the original birthplace of this particular species. If they spread out or were redistributed throughout the galaxy like Humans were, the case would be made that the “base model” of distributed Vulcanoid species would probably share Vulcan traits and evolve from there. This would include the pointed ear.
As we see in the image above, Star Trek Online’s Rigelians have rounded ears – a trait that, again, looks more similar to Humans. The case could be made that something about Rigel V’s atmosphere made rounded ears a more evolutionarily desirable trait. However, as something that's common in evolution theory, a trait that does not necessarily DETRIMENT a species either is not typically eradicated from the gene pool. In other words, a case could be made for Rigelians to have rounded ears, more Vulcanoid pointed ears, and variants in-between. This is not necessarily unheard of in Star Trek Online already – Denobulan ear options in the alien generator vary wildly. However, this is all arguable, and as there is no depiction of their ears in the series, either/or/all options are technically correct. I for one, however, believe their angular facial features would seem to imply an angled ear.
Young vs. Old
An unfortunate occurrence in Star Trek is the stereo-typing of species. The first Klingons we saw in the show were militaristic and aggressive, so suddenly “all” Klingons became militaristic and aggressive. Shows like Enterprise made great strides in breaking this stereotype – we saw episodes where we met a Klingon lawyer, and found that the further we got from the Klingon military, the more “normal” Klingons seemed to be.
I wonder if a similar occurrence has happened to Rigelians: not as far as their personality is concerned, but their physical look. I return your attention back to this image with the two Rigelians from Enterprise:
Consider these Rigelians in the context of which they appeared. They’re both ambassadors: you would naturally assume older and more experienced than the normal Rigelian. They both have white hair, which would indicate that perhaps white hair for this species is natural… except for the fact that you see streaks of gray in it, indicative that the white hair is due to a loss of pigmentation. This would seem to imply, again, that these two Rigelians are perhaps older than the norm.
So what is the point I’m getting to? These two Rigelians are also wrinkly. And no, I don’t mean the crevices that seem to be normal for their race, but elements like crows-feet that would indicate old age. It’s not only been duplicated for the Star Trek Online models, but I would make the case that it’s been amplified – the Rigelians in Star Trek Online look unarguably older than the Rigelians in Enterprise, and these characters were already meant to be fairly old. Refer to the comparison image I’ve made below:
The Rigelians in Star Trek Online have more “lumps” and sagging skin on their cheeks and cheekbones than the ones in the series even had. It’s a great look, but unfortunately they simply look old. I would imagine the faces of Rigelians in the game already would be “Old 03” or something along these lines. The Rigelians in STO are just not the young, fresh faces just out of Starfleet Academy ready to take their first command in a war with the Klingons.
Hence, I suggest several more face textures be made, including smoother ones for younger versions of Rigelians. I’ve used Photoshop to indicate what I believe a younger Rigelian would look like –
It’s essentially very similar, because the original Rigelian designs are fairly spot on – the skin texture was simply too wrinkled to indicate a younger specimen of the species. These ain’t no Tellarites! Haha!
Face Paint vs. Birth Marks
I love the “Spot” options in Rigelians. It’s a simple but brilliant way to make Rigelian players seem different from one another. However, it’s kind of clear that many of the spots are from the alien generator, and they look more like natural birth marks than they do “face paint patterns”, and this is a problem because it causes confusion as to what, exactly, are those markings on Rigelians?
The information for the species would indicate that it’s body paint, as shown here –
However, body paint does not “raise” and “recess” on top or below the skin. This kind of setting just confuses the issue on what exactly is going on with the markings on their face. More custom markings that look more like face paint / war paint, and leaving them on the surface of the skin versus allowing them to become a part of the actual body of the character would clarify exactly what these things are – facepaint, not birth marks.
It’s clear between the two examples we have of Rigelians that they don’t all have the same crevice pattern. The one seen in Star Trek Online is the “male’s” in the series. The female has a completely different pattern. It’s unclear if this is intended to be sexual dimorphism between the two sexes, or if there are many different patterns of this for Rigelians. What IS clear, is that we don't have the option to customize this at the very least between the two versions seen on screen. It’s entirely possible that these crevices are completely unique to the individual, like finger prints, but that in itself is an impossibility within the character creator. The best option would be to create them as an additional layer and allow the player to chose from a variety of patterns for their own Rigelian.
I’m not particular a bead kind of guy. However, its clear that this is an important aspect of their relationship with one another. I would imagine that like the Bajoran ear ring, Rigelians would be allowed to wear beads to show their familial ties as well. If you allow maybe 3 layers of beads, players could mix-and-match to create their own unique strands for individuality.
It’s somewhat clear that there’s much to be wanted for hair styles for Rigelians, although I won’t exactly harp on this particular topic as I believe we’re all aware that the new hair tech needs to be finished before more and better hair styles should be made.
I appreciate anyone on the art team for their time in reading these suggestions, and if they at least got anyone thinking about possible future updates for the Rigelian species, then I’d certainly be happy. Again, I’d like to thank you for all your hard work on character models and art for Star Trek Online! It’s the part that brings the game to life for us as players and without your hard work, we’d all be very sad pandas.
Hopefully, Star Trek Online continues to be an avenue to expand upon Rigelians and shed light on some of the mystery they still have.