Behind the Art: How Nightstorm Isle Came to Life
It has been two weeks since the release of Ashen's DLC: Nightstorm Isle, for Epic Games Store and Xbox One!
We are eternally grateful for your continued support, excitement and feedback, so we put together an exclusive insight from Pat and Hamish (our Lead Environment Artist and Concept Artist) on how the beauty and grit of Nightstorm Isle came to vision. We've heard that many of you adore our art style/direction, and hope you enjoy this piece ^u^
"Building Nightstorm Isle proved to be an enjoyable and rewarding process, where collaboration between our Concept & Environment teams was pivotal to bringing this new world to life.
The bigger picture for the location was based on a piece of base game lore that was left as a bit of a loose end: characters and events that were mentioned in Ashen were to take center stage in the DLC.
Visually, we had quite a lot of freedom to develop the environment and wanted to make something that felt like it belonged in the Ashen universe, but was visually new to the player.
As we did throughout Ashen, we initially picked an actual New Zealand location that we used as key inspiration. Whakaari/White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano and served as a perfect backdrop. From the rock shapes and sulfur on the surface to the volcanic depths themselves, the island provided us a great starting point.
"Collaboration began between environment and concept department to brainstorm ideas. We wanted several unique spaces: the surface of the island itself, a spiraling cave that descended, an ancient city inhabited by a new variation of a familiar enemy type, and finally, an intense gauntlet underlit by lava flows. Along the way, there would be occasional moments that gave you a glimpse back up out the mouth of the volcano.
A moodboard and colour script was created by concept team which evolved over the course of the project. This acted as a handy blueprint that we could refer back to throughout production, ensuring our vision remained strong and consistent.
Some initial story was written to help drive the environmental storytelling. This was later refined by the narrative team and used to create quests and consolidate character plot lines.
"An initial sketch of the level had been drawn up, detailing the proposed areas from a technical perspective to ensure that we could set up level streaming effectively.
Based on the sketches, moodboards, and concept art, the Design team blocked out the whole map to design the space and start testing gameplay. Lots of iteration took place with the entire design and art teams to ensure that the space had gameplay functionality but was also aesthetically pleasing and well composed. This blockout worked as a useful tool for visual development. Paintovers of the blockouts were created by the concept team to define the visuals of each specific area, with a focus on the maps visual progression. Overall, the lighting became much hotter, and the mood more hostile as you descended into the depths.
"These foundations laid down by both Art & Design departments proved helpful throughout the rest of production, allowing us room to experiment and do some crazy things, whilst being confident the pieces would come together to create a rich, thrilling experience."
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