Space Jellyfish Mating Rituals – building a new environment for God of Blades


Our first big content update for God of Blades is in production, and that means we need a new phantasmagorical landscape for players to battle across. Though I did a blog a long long time ago about how I make these places, I wanted to go through the process now, transparently, to show not just the techniques, but also the line of thinking that produces the art in God of Blades.

Seed Ideas

I get most of my ideas from images/colors. If I can imagine two or three colors interacting in my brain, I can usually start carving out a place from them. In this case, I found the colors in images we had already made for the game. One was a sky-card I had made a while back. It’s a bit gray for GOB, but I knew that the neutral background would let me use some really loud colors as accents later on. So I put this background in the game, make a ground texture to match, and set the Nameless King loose on it.

A little drab…

First thing we need is a good light source. I put a lens flare in the brightest part of the clouds and make it super orange. Orange and blue can get notoriously overused, but they sure do look nice together. I’m keeping it. I tint the scene’s actual light to match my new sun.

…shabam!

Now its starting to look like the things I love. Reminds me instantly of one of my favorite spots in the interior of Iceland, the barren Kjölur Route north of the epic waterfall Gullfoss. Now it needs something alien and bizarre.

I remembered that George had done a concept of some massive flying jellyfish chained to strange towers a long time ago. Since a lot of this environment was the sky, I thought this might be the perfect spot to use them. I didn’t want any interference from humans, though, so I took out the chains and the towers. I wanted this place to feel like what John Muir called a “temple of nature”  and you, the world’s ghost champion, were defending it from the despoiling cult.  But what were those jellyfish doing there?

Never lose old concepts.  George painted this over a year ago and it’s still mega useful!

Telling a Tale

This is the fun part, where you get to start making up stories. My favorite stories are big, geological or cosmic stories, ones that make humans and civilizations seem small and insignificant. So I decided that these Jellyfish come from outer space. They roam the universe, drifting on solar winds and gravitational fields. Why did they stop at this planet? To mate, of course!

Across eons of time, one school of older jellyfish travel from planet to planet, searching for the right place to plant their incubation towers, which are living things themselves and take centuries to develop. Once they are ready, the towers call out across the stars, drawing in another set of far younger jellies (with specialized, bioluminescent organs for sensing the towers) who then deposit their seeds from the air onto the incubation fields, which will eventually produce young. The younger jellies then move on and eventually mature into the tower-planting type. In this way they leap-frog around the universe and their ultimate purpose (if any) remains a mystery.

None of this information is known to the inhabitants of the world of the game, and none of it needs to be apparent to the player, but it is very valuable for building the art in this place. Without stories like this, game environments can become collections of random tropes, mashed together for no reason beyond “it looks pretty”. Having a fluid logic that guides the artistic process is crucial to cutting out unnecessary elements and making something interesting. It also makes the whole process so much more fun.

Incubation towers in Zbrush, just before a quick paint job in Photoshop.

So once I settled on the story, the jelly bodies and the incubators were sculpted in Zbrush. Some of those sculpts were inspired by natural reefs, some came from just playing with the tools. Then I added those bright color highlights (orange and green) to make it all sing together. Seed pods started to fall from the sky, jellies started to undulate and the sun started to shine through their transparent bodies. A bit more polish and this place should be ready for spectral combat!

I wanted to share this process with you so you can see how we generate content here at White Whale. We look at the world around us, we dig into our memories and the things that get us excited, then we break them down and try to tell stories with them. Even if it is invisible, we feel that none of that work is wasted, in fact it’s essential for building a cohesive and powerfully resonant world. We will be announcing our update for GOB soon, and we hope you will like all of the new content we are pouring into it!

The Nameless King charges across an eons-old, cosmic jellyfish breeding ground!

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