Dev Blog – Skyforge, Part One, Concepts and Sketches

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Skyforge began in a poll in the community when I asked what region they would like to see next, I figured Crimson Towers or the Cylithid Triangle would succeed… but I wasn’t exactly surprised when Skyforge pulled out to an early lead.

Skyforge was described thusly: A floating magitek fortress home to the enigmatic High Elves, it has recently gone dark, its last known location above the Tempestus Rift.  Some speculate the High Elves magitek creations finally rose up against them.  Bounty: Lord Alias’Thra

So these few sentences put all sorts of ideas whirling in my brain about how everything could look; this is a common practice of mine if I am having trouble visualizing what I want, “write about it.”  When the time came to start development on this pack, I sat down and hammered out some key words that could apply to just about everything in the pack.

  • Manaforge, brass and golden fluted designs
  • Powered by Mana
  • Floating city
  • Elvish designs, whirls, fluttering banners
  • Crystals
  • mana corrupted, sick on mana, overpowering
  • spires, towers, minarets
  • otherworldly creatures, summoned through great runic portals
  • crystal powered mana golems
  • runes, lots of runes
  • reds, golds, desaturated purple stone, white stone

So with these, I had a lot of direction for myself in terms of design and color choices; of course then it was time to drill down into specifics.  I started with the battlers, since their visual design would probably feed back into the environment design and vice versa.  I had the directive for about 5 battlers, and some ideas for what those could be from a colleague; we were thinking 3 “regular” enemies, a mini-boss, and a boss.

After a while of pondering some different things I would like to see, and things I knew didn’t exist in the RPGmaker world at the time, I started bringing them to life.  But first, to name them.

  1. Manaforge Golem –  brass and gold golem, mana engine on back
  2. Mana Glutton Elf – An elf dreg, overdosed on mana, ragged
  3. Nightmare Eater – The portals in Skyforge supply mana, but also other more terrifying things
  4. Miniboss – Manaforge Dragon – a brass and golden dragon, in its chest is a mana engine
  5. Boss – Lord Alias’Thra – It is unknown whether Alias summoned the great nightmare through the portal, or if it came unbidden to him.  Either way, this possessed architect must be destroyed.

So the names and their rough descriptions were done, it was then time to think about the places they inhabited.

Underbelly – A warren of mana tubes and once great architecture, now crumbled and built atop of.  This ancient part of the city was once home to many, now it has fallen to disrepair and is crawling with mana driven monstrosities.

Central Square – The greatness of the elvish lords of Skyforge is on prime display here, towers hung with banners and golden statuary dominate this central location.  In the distance, the Great Spire is visible… with darkness seeping from it into the sky.

Portal atop the Great Spire – Atop the great skyforge’s tallest tower is Lord Alias’Thra’s personal chambers, and his greatest work.  Flanked by the electrifying clouds of the Tempestus Rift, he activated his portal; the most powerful thus far created.  It would bring enough mana to power 10 Skyforges.  But it also brought something else.

And thus, Skyforge was born.  After a quick read by some colleagues, the designs were approved and I moved onto the next step: concepting the art

I copied my list of keywords into my photoshop document first, then just started playing around with shapes and silhouettes.  I would sketch and draw linework on top of these later, but nailing the silhouette was my first priority.  I usually draw my enemies as I’d like to see them, since I am a pretty big fps(hey, I also played skyrim in first person; but some of my earliest memories are of Doom on an 486) guy, having the drawn gun in the bottom kind of helps me extrapolate what I’d want to see in-game if I was playing a shooter/first-person adventure.

skyforge-concepting_golem

First up was the golem, a lumbering gold and brass beast filled with whirling gears and powered by unstable mana.

skyforge-concepting_corruptedelf

The elven lords of Skyforge have been driven mad by their excessive mana consumption; their tattered regal robes are a testament to how far they have fallen.

skyforge-concepting_nightmare

The portals are only supposed to be for mana extraction… however the elves were quite tight lipped about some of the other things that occasionally came through.  Since the city has fallen into such a state of disrepair, these nightmares have spread everywhere.

skyforge-concepting_dragon2

Mana-forged dragons guard the lords of the city, but now bereft of their masters, they exist only to destroy and feed.  At least they have kept the nightmare population down.

skyforge-concepting_dragon1

Another concept for the dragon, ended up going with the previous entry because of it fitting better on the screen.

skyforge-concepting_boss

The corrupted high-lord himself, totally consumed by the nightmares that pour into the city.

There might be another “optional boss” but we will have to wait and see.

Moving on from the battlers, it was time to define the regions that would serve as a backdrop to fighting them.  For the first one, I was having a bit of trouble visualizing exactly what I wanted, so I did a bit of writing to set the stage.

   Shayde arrived in the darkness, shimmying up her grappling hook into the underside of Skyforge.  An ancient sewage pipe, perhaps?  It made little difference as she swiftly made her way through the passage of ancient brittle stonework.  She landed deftly, dropping out of the pipe and into a large antechamber filled with broken mana tubes, crumbled statuary, and a vaulting central structure profuse with adornments and runes, still visible beneath a caked layer of dust and aged cracks.  In fact, there were many large structures, all feeding up into the darkness above.  This must have been an ancient mana power routing station, some of the pylons still flickered with light.

skyforge-concepting_underbelly3

Note: the third person character here is not Shayde, but another character of mine I happen to use to concept out shots like this.  Similar to the fps shot, I like to think of how I’d see an area in a game, and how it would compel me to explore it.  This isn’t necessarily how the battleback itself will look, but you can expect a lot of stylistic cues to come from these shots.

skyforge-concepting_underbelly1

 

skyforge-concepting_underbelly2

A couple more ideas for the underbelly location.

As Shayde entered the central square, her eyes were drawn to the massive gold hewn statue in the center of an elvish lord… perhaps it was her quarry, as vain as she heard he was.  Runes and arches decorated the base of the statue, imbued with mana to pulsate gently.  The great towers that made up the city surrounding the square were hung with intricate banners denoting the houses and sects of the elves living within, some were ripped, torn, and burnt… disturbing.  Elevated above them all was the tower of the city’s lord, sprawling and garrish in its accouterments.  Swirls of runes, gold, silver, and gems ran up the length of the monstrous tower, all framed with banners.  The minaret at the top shone with an unholy light and white lightning.  Surely her quarry was there.

skyforge-concepting_square1

I restarted this one a few times; one thing I’d like to capture in it would be the fact it is a city in the clouds.  Perhaps a bridge with clouds below in the foreground?  I was going for entry into a majestic city filled with towers, but has obviously fallen to ruin to some degree.

   After fighting her way through Alias’s minions, Shayde found herself at the gateway to the summit of the tower.  Giant golden, runic doors opened at a mere brush of her fingers, allowing her egress into a monstrous circular room that seemed much larger than the tower would actually allow.  The space around her was filled at the behest of the giant rippling portal in the center, its rune etched golden surface flaring in time with the lightning outside.  Cords and mana piping ran rampant from the ceiling and floor.  Black webbing emanated from beneath the portal, like some other-worldly blood, spreading and overtaking vast portions of the summit.  The corruption would soon spread over the entire tower, and then the city.  It had to be stopped.

skyforge-concepting_tower

The lords tower and portal.  A large circular room with clouds in the background, obviously that will come through more in subsequent art.

That brings us to the close of the first BattlePack Dev blog.  Hope you enjoyed this early look at some community content coming in the near future!

About the author: Michael is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Illustrator and concept artist. He specializes in monsters, characters, weapons, armor, and epic environments.

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