Apologies for the radio silence – I’ve been hard at work on Below adding lots new content and systems. We stand upon the cusp – the very cusp! – of beta. Once it’s live I’ll be posting information on topics like death, legacy, questing and maths (try to contain your excitement, at the back) over the next week. But to break the silence, here’s a very special guest-post written by Yasmeen Khan, who is providing the vast majority of Below’s bespoke art.
Yas has gone above and beyond. Because of her, the entire Below deck now has eerie, dedicated monochrome art and we have the most beautiful banners for the dungeons and Gallowmoor. Oo. And she’s working on some very funky tweaks to the StoryNexus UI that make tracking things like Spirit, Depth, skill cards and quest cards super-easy.
After the break, read Yasmeen’s take on making art for Below, and see the thing she drew that freaked me right the **** out.
From the minute I heard Chris’s initial ideas for Below I’ve been crazily enthusiastic about it – I knew instantly that I was going to love this game and I really wanted to get involved. Then he started describing his plans for byzantine gameplay structures governed by complicated maths… and I panicked a little. So when Chris asked me if I’d like to contribute artwork, I pretty much bit his hand off. All the fun and none of the maths… (although I spoke a tiny bit too soon on that too, as it turned out.)
With Below we weren’t starting from scratch, but adding to a small body of existing work – Paul at FBG had already done a few lovely concept pieces for the Kickstarter campaign, plus StoryNexus has a library of very stylised icons intended for general use by any game on the platform.
However, I decided very early on that I was going to do what I wanted for Below and make use of existing artwork in a way that fit with my stuff, rather than try to work the other way. I think it’s working so far. Chris has described the process of creating the artwork a bit already, but we both thought it would be nice if I put my side of the story and shared a few more details about our collaborative methods.
I wanted to take inspiration from fiction, art and architecture I knew and loved, to reflect what Chris is doing in the writing. (Here’s a Pinterest board where we’ve collected a few images that conjure up the sort of atmosphere we think Below should have.)
But my visions of spending weeks creating vast imaginary landscapes and monster subterranean cathedrals had to take a back seat to the practicalities of ability (and my lack of it), time (and our lack of that) and the 100x130px standard icon size in StoryNexus.
So what we do now is this: Chris gives me an idea of what he’s looking for and I try to approximate it as best I can; or I draw something I particularly want to and tell him he’s having it whether he wants it or not. It’s a solid and democratic system.
And it’s a lot of fun. Nothing’s better than sending over a picture and getting an immediate and vehement ‘URGHHHHH’ back from Chris. That’s what happened when I showed him this, for example:
Here’s the brief: ‘A white hand, simply drawn, fingers downward as if hanging casually at someone’s side. The fingers are red with blood which is pouring off them – enough to be a thin stream, not just drops. This image could mostly be fingers. So the only colours would be black lines, the white skin and the red blood.’
That’s about as detailed as it gets in terms of requests, though. More usually, it’s something like ‘a carved serpent prow’ . I looked at Viking ships – not a hardship, I love everything Viking – and especially the Oseberg ship burial, which led me to make this guy:
And then there’s the stuff I drew because I wanted to; this statue was inspired by the Lewis Chessmen and was much more about me drawing something I wanted to than responding to a need of the game.
I’m hoping that new icons will lead to new stories, just as stories lead to icons.