The Xantus are a shapeshifting species; this particular ability makes them unique in the Lord of Rigel universe. Shapeshifters make for natural spies and infiltrators, which needed to be reflected in the design of their ships. This meant playing around with more organic shapes, and when I first read their description in the design document I immediately drew parallels to the Founders species in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I recalled a specific episode, where we are shown Odo’s personal quarters – Odo was one of the main characters and a member of this shape shifting species. His quarters were full of these crazy, flowing shapes for him to emulate. I immediately thought that a species of shapeshifters would have a similar approach to ship design, and have less restricted shapes than a normal bipedal humanoid race. I also didn’t want to take it too far, and still wanted to balance it out so the final designs still look like ships; they still have engines in the back and proportions are roughly what one would expect from a starship in a sci fi game; however, the shapes are more flowing and organic.
The whole process was a challenge, because in Deep Space Nine, the shape shifters used other, solid races and their ships for their goals; we never saw what an actual shape-shifter designed ship would look like, and it’s something we’ve tried to answer in Lord of Rigel.
Another aspect I felt was important to integrate in Xantus fleet design was a more stealth look, to reflect the Xantus’s natural spying and infiltration abilities. The idea was to create a design that immediately conveys the feeling of being in trouble and having to do some counter insurgency measures on your planets, should you ever encounter it present in your star system.
The stealth look lead to the designs being thin, sharp and dark; once combined with the organic flowing look we finally got the look of the Xantus fleet. Tha dark hulls were combined with red windows to further accentuate the stealthy, spy kind of image we were going for. With the engine glows, we decided on purple to break up the colors on the ships a bit and give them a little additional uniqueness. One feature of Xantus ships I’d also like to mention are curved decks on the interior; the shapeshifting Xantus do not need to conform to straight, deck above deck interiors most other races do, and instead they use curves in all three dimensions to utilize the interior space of their ships better.
As a result of this organic, freeform look, the Xantus ships proved more time consuming to model than most other races; organic shapes can take quite a bit of effort to model correctly, so that the model is smooth and without errors without it taking up too much of a polygon budget. However, given their dark stealthy nature, the textures proved somewhat quicker to produce, so overall it evened out.
Gameplay wise, I think this race will be quite interesting given Lord of Rigel’s espionage mechanics, and I hope you will consider trying to play as the mysterious Xantus, using their spies and their stealthy, dark armada to shape the galaxy!