DevDiary 4 - Visual Style (North Africa)
A huge challenge for us was tackling the visual design and presentation of the Northern African region in the game, a sizable part of which is barren desert. One of the risks we faced was that the environment could end up appearing boring and repetitive, and without much color variation or other elements to visually please and excite. This could potentially be very counterproductive to our goals of creating a vibrant world that the player would want to explore and become immersed in.
The first stage in this process started with a lengthy period of research, to gain an overview of the North African landscape, it’s flora and fauna, and finding out just how varied and interesting deserts and their surrounding areas can really be. On top of that North Africa was a lot more fertile two thousand years ago, but since there are unfortunately no photos available from that time, we had to rely on written sources and artistic discretion instead.
Once we had gathered enough material that we felt we had a good basic overview, we started translating it into simple concept sketches to explore the visual opportunities that the limitations and properties of the natural environment afforded us. We asked ourselves “how much can we push this visually and how interesting and magical can we make it look, while still depicting a believable real-world environment ?”
After this initial stage, the next step was designing the specific environments and locations in the game. We realized early on that lighting would be a critical factor and that we could use it to infuse the desert environments with some much needed color, vibrancy and ambience.
Levels can be explored at different times of day, and we wanted the lighting to be distinct and to almost transform each level; creating a different visual experience depending on the time of day the player visits it, despite everything else in the level staying the same. This can be directly traced back to the early explorations we did, but revised and refined to find a balance that would work for us.
An example a game location is the Court of Heaven, which is an oasis settlement of the Nasamones - a mysterious tribal people, about whom very little is known. This afforded us a lot of freedom in the visual design of the faction and inspired by present day Bedouin and Berber peoples. We settled on a very colorful style which would not only provide an interesting visual contrast to the Romans, but also allow us to infuse their desert settlements with vibrant colors that provide yet another layer of contrast to the natural desert environment.
Attempting to create the most exciting and cool visuals, while simultaneously keeping it grounded and authentic is a constant challenge, but it’s one we’ve put a significant amount of effort towards. At the end of the day it is up to the players to judge if we did a good job or not, and we hope that they will enjoy exploring the world that we have created.
Love art and want to hear even more? Join us for our fourth DevStream on Wednesday, July 7th at 1:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM GMT on the THQ Nordic Twitch Channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic where Senior Producer will spend the entire stream chatting with Art Director August Hansen about the visuals of the game. We’ll be going into more detail on topics from this Diary, as well as showing off even more art, and possible some sneak preview behind-the-scenes footage captured directly from the art team. And don’t forget, any comments posted here on the DevDiary will always be top of the list for being answered live on stream.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this DevDiary on our visual style. We have a super exciting Diary coming up on Music next, which we think you’re REALLY going to love, so get hyped!
Until then, Valete!