Hailing from Cardiff in South Wales in the United Kingdom, Wayne Peters is surely making a mark on Star Trek gamers all over the planet with the Star Trek Miniature Maker 2.0 tool. What inspired the man? How can you make the best use of the tool?
[Continuing Mission blogger Tony Pi introduced the Mini Maker in a previous article. I wanted to know more about the man behind the Mini Maker.]
Michael: Before we jump into the Star Trek Mini Maker, let’s get to know Wayne a bit better. Wayne, tell us about your journey into sci-fi.
Wayne: I’ve always loved the escapism of science fiction and fantasy. Some of my earliest memories are of Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Space 1999. In the early ’80s, I discovered roleplaying games. The concept blew my tiny mind and I’ve been a part of the hobby ever since. I love to use my skills and know-how to make game aids like the Mini Maker to help myself and other GMs and players realize their worlds. Aside from that, I’m an avid model, prop maker, and 3D artist who spent two decades working in the video game industry. I now work as a high school workshop technician where I have access to all the best toys.
Sweet. Now, tell us about how you got into Star Trek.
My earliest memory of watching Star Trek was the reruns of the original show on UK TV when I was tiny in the early ’70s. I recall having the Dinky die-cast Enterprise which I treasured. I have a distinct memory of holding it up to a window one cloudless night so it could fly through ‘space’. When the movies came around and The Next Generation, I ate them up with a spoon.
The Star Trek Minimaker is a fantastic tool. What inspired you to create it?
I’ve been a roleplayer since about 1984 and a little bit of a wargamer too. I was always quite keen to use minis in my roleplaying games. But they can be expensive, particularly if you want a mini for any and every occasion. They’re also hard to come by for certain franchises like Star Trek.
Around about 2000, I came across the site of Patrick Cruseau, the ‘Toy Box’, and the fabulous paper miniatures that he was producing. They were intended to be downloaded and printed for wargaming. It occurred to me that in the age of the desktop printer, this was a very cheap alternative to metals and plastics; the tradeoff, of course, being the third dimension. I have always been a fan of the Traveller Sc-Fi roleplaying game and that is a game that was pretty lacking in minis. There were 15mm scale metal ones in the ’80s but not much else. So I started drawing up 28mm printable figures for use in the game and that led to fantasy ones, as well and some others.
At some point in the early 2000’s, I discovered a plugin for web-browsers that allowed you to drag images around the screen. It occurred to me that it could be used like the old paper cut-out fashion dolls where you could change their paper clothes. It could be utilized to make customizable minis. At that time, Star Trek was another franchise sadly lacking in miniatures. I felt that—rather than just drawing a load of crew members—you had a chance of creating something close to how you imagine your character to be if it was possible to take the species you want and put them in the uniform you want, changing out their props. Tis would be a better solution than having to put up with whatever was available in the market.
I set about creating the first Star Trek Miniature Maker. It was a neat gimmick but a very un-user friendly page.
I hosted it in my own personal web space. I still do.
You had to scroll down several screens and then drag-scroll-drag-scroll-drag the item you wanted back to the layout area at the top of the page. Add to this that, in order to minimize that and conserve server space, I made the elements 150DPI (Dots (or pixels) Per Inch)—barely print quality. On top of all that, the artwork was ghastly. It was poorly drawn. I used GIFs so it had horrible aliased jagged edges. Someone once said, ‘It’d be great if it wasn’t so shit!’ which I really couldn’t disagree with.
Ha! That is hilarious! Don’t you love people who criticize free stuff? Well, it wasn’t like it was a paying job. How did the first version eventually evolve?
I eventually got bored of that version and left it to stagnate on the website for years before it finally disappeared. Then one day around the end of 2016, someone emailed me to ask whatever happened to the site. It motivated me to build a prototype for a new mini maker using a thing or two I’d learned in the intervening years.
Early on I realized that the page in the first Mini-Maker was unwieldy. I had wanted to re-do it but with drop-down menu options that automatically swapped out parts rather than having to drag them. I’d made some half-hearted attempts over the years in various applications like Flash but they never amounted to anything. However, by 2016 I’d been working in the video games industry for two decades. I knew my way around the game development software, Unity, and I knew that it was possible to make a web app with it. So I started to write something up. The results were put online in February 2017 in a rough and basic form. Since then, I’ve added to the app and adjusted it, trying to cover as many bases and take on as many requests as possible.
How do you recommend players use it?
I originally intended the app to be used, like the first version, to create printable paper miniatures for tabletop gaming. Like its predecessor, it is arranged so that the figure shows a front and back image perfectly mirrored (well, close enough) and scaled on-screen so that at 300dpi (print resolution) it can be printed out 32mm tall, folded in half, and cut around to make a paper or card standee that represents a Starfleet character from pretty much any era.
However, in the digital age I think it’s also proven useful for more than just making miniatures to use in Virtual Tabletops. I’ve seen folks use them to create tokens and character portraits too. It’s lovely to see Trek gamers getting all manner of uses out of it.
Whilst my enthusiasm for the project comes and goes, I intend to keep adding to the Mini Maker for the foreseeable future. I still want to add Klingons and Romulans and the Mirror Universe uniforms too. As well as that I have, for a while, been considering branching it out into other franchises like the Orville, Galaxy Quest, Battlestar Galactica, and even one of my personal favorites, Space 1999. That probably won’t be for some time though, if ever.
In the meantime I’ve started work on a prototype for a Mini Maker 3.0 which will be in 3D – much like the Hero-Forge 3D-printing mini-making website.
OMG! I just looked this up and am salivating!!!!
This will allow the user to rotate and pose the figure as well as have different body types and facial expressions. This again, is still in the very early stages of design, though.
Ugh! I can’t wait! What is the process for creating new assets for the Mini Maker?
When creating a new Uniform for the Mini Maker, I have a master PSD file (PSD is Photoshop’s native format). It is an image file that has layers so I can have multiple images overlaid on top of each other without being permanently attached, like layers of acetate. This allows me not only to have all the arms separate but things like the line art and color layers too. This means I can easily change things without making a mess.
In my master files (I have one for male and one for female) I have a base image with the front and back of the base humanoid shape, the arms in their different positions, and the wrist points where the hands join clearly marked in red. This way I can draw the outline of the new uniform on top of the base image knowing that it will fit exactly on the character in the Mini-Maker.
This master file is scaled to a print resolution of 600 DPI, which is twice the final size of the images used in the Miniature Maker. Like many comic book artists, I find it easier and neater to work larger and reduce.
I usually have several screengrabs of the uniform open on screen as well for reference.
Once I’ve drawn the black outline using a 6-pixel marker brush, I then create a new layer and outline the figure with a 10-pixel marker brush. Once that is done, I create a third layer under both the Line and Outline layers and fill the shape with flat color, the base colors of the uniform. I usually derive the color from multiple photos of the screen uniform and find an average, accounting for the coloring effects of lighting in the scene. With most uniforms, they have the traditional red, gold, and blue variants, so each of those three colors is usually on its own layer.
Once the flat colors are applied, I then create another layer between it and the line layers that is for Shadows. This layer is set to ‘Multiply’. This is a variation of the layer that makes light shades invisible and darker shades darker but slightly transparent. I set it to about 40% visibility and choose a nice desaturated violet color and paint in shadows to give the figure some depth and form. This has the effect of slightly darkening the existing colours and tinting them slightly violet. Most shadows are violet as they are caused by yellow light—either the Sun or artificial light. That might not be the case on alien worlds but it’s what makes the most sense to our 21st-century eyes. I have to cheat a little here as the shadows can’t spread across from the arms and so the light doesn’t always make sense. It’s fine at a glance, though.
Once the body is done, the whole process is repeated for each separate arm. There are always fourteen arms. Six for the right (three front and three back) and eight for the left (four for the front and four for the back). These are labeled LADf/LADb (Left Arm Down front/back), RALf/RALb (Right Arm Level front/back), and so on.
Once this is all done, I save each group of layers out as a PNG. In the first mini maker, I used GIF files. These have a limited palette and are aliased, meaning that each pixel is either 100% visible or 100% invisible, resulting in edges that are quite hard and jagged. PNG files allow you to have 256 degrees of transparency, meaning you can have soft, semi-transparent edges allowing you to match things up much more cleanly.
Each element is scaled down to half size so that they are then 300 DPI for printing. I then resize the canvas, meaning the dimensions of the image file change but not the image itself. I resize them to multiples of 2 (32, 64, 128, 256, 512) as graphics memory handles that more efficiently. It’s a hold-over discipline from my video game development days.
All these files are then added to Unity and positioned over the base character.
I then need to write a script that checks which era is currently selected and if the era matches the new uniform. A few more actions are required to make that era’s uniforms visible and check the quality of my work.
If that was the female uniform, then the whole process then starts again for the male uniform.
Is it possible we could see an option to pose the figures or even have exotic species like Edosians?
Sadly, no. As you can see from the process, each uniform piece is designed to fit the base pose. If I wanted to have an option to have the character running or jumping, then I would need to do a complete uniform for each separate pose. That’s almost an entirely new Mini Maker for each separate pose and it’s way too much work. This is, however, something that using 3D will allow me to do much more efficiently.
Equally, species like Edosians are too inhuman and would also require their own complete set of uniform images for just them and it’s too unwieldy. I recently added the Caitians but had to give them human legs, unfortunately, for this reason.
Is there anything about the Mini Maker that dissatisfies you?
Most definitely. Aside from the mediocre, inconsistent artwork and dodgy anatomy, I think the inability to create more of a variety of poses means the characters are very staid and lifeless compared, for example, to the fabulous characterization that David Okum puts into his minis.
I’m growing more concerned about the increasingly slow loading time too. I need to look into the possibility of only downloading the elements that are required, maybe.
I would also like to add a print and save/load function to the mini maker but sadly my programming is limited to simple scripting I learned from Youtube videos. Maybe one day.
On to a wider subject now. What is your favorite part of the Star Trek Canon. Why?
It’s a close call between the Original Series and The Next Generation. I love them both. I like the simplicity and freshness of them because the canon was largely unwritten. I like the concept that Earth and the Federation have got their act together and are exploring the galaxy in peace, in the name of knowledge. It’s the aliens who are the arseholes. It’s an optimistic future that says that we as a species make it. I find that comforting.
Have you played Star Trek Adventures? If so, can we see your crew in Mini Maker format?
I have owned and played all the various official Star Trek RPGs over the decades including some fan mods of other systems too. But there are just too many cool RPGs and too little time to dedicate myself just to Trek.
I did, however, play in a short STA campaign which was set in an alternate reality in which the Alpha Quadrant fell to the Dominion. That was interesting. I ran the Klingon scenario, “The Oracle of Bar’Koth Reach”, at a local online con recently and I’ve run the scenarios, “Biological Clock” and “The Crash/Rescue On Xerxes IV” too.
I used the mini-maker for the Federation scenarios but drew my own custom minis for the Klingons.
Wayne, this has been beyond fascinating. Anything else you want fans of STA to know about you?
With regards to STA, beyond the Mini Maker I recently made a series of animated transparent overlays in the form of Starship main viewers and monitors for use in virtual table tops to convey info to players in a more flavorful manner.
The TOS version can be found here:
The TNG versions here:
I’ve also made handouts and isometric maps and a host of other things both Trek related and not that can be seen on my Deviant Art page: https://www.deviantart.com/scarecrovv/gallery
This is all some great stuff! I really appreciate the hundreds and hundreds of hours you have put into helping us visualize our games and characters with the Mini Maker project. This level of dedication is what keeps RPG alive and strong!