My name is Tim Lindsey and I’m the Design Director here at Xaviant. The articles that the Xaviant team and I are posting on this blog each two weeks are intended to give you a glimpse into our studio, our methods, or challenges and every so often….our products. I hope you enjoy.
Successfully getting the ball rolling on any project is often a matter of finding simple and immediate methods for generating some energy and interest between the members of the team. If the methods are simple and immediate they generate energy in the form of conversation and iteration. Short stories and sketches are our simple and immediate methods for energizing this machine. Short stories and sketches are where the most dramatic iterations occur, safely barred off from more time-intensive tasks and features. When the team is interested and engaged by these napkin sketches and quick blurbs the machine becomes self-perpetuating: thus, the perfect machine.
It’s all well and good to say we write stuff and draw stuff. But how does that dynamic actually work at Xaviant? Before the first pen flick across an artist’s Cintiq, we nail down the player’s motivation as he heads into a region of the game. We then also decide what the emotional impact of that region should be in comparison to the others. Is the emotion loss, triumph, mystery, or discovery? These decisions are built into easily read short story content through the efforts of our writer/designers.
“The player is confident from his battles in the Highlands and still heated with the desire to make the Cult suffer. But as he pursues the hag Baba Demetria into the gloom-shrouded woods, he soon learns that being a weapon is not enough. Her witchy Cult coven is not as direct a foe: They send hunters and skirmishers to ambush him, but also attack by commanding the environment itself. Massive roots lash out, earth shifts along the edges of a colossal ravine, mushrooms vent poisonous spores. Baba Demetria throws the land itself into upheaval, raising her ramshackle village atop a colossal cairn of earth and stones — exposing old long-buried ruins in the process.” – Ethan Skemp
This excerpt was taken from a larger player motivation pitch designed and written to inspire a series of quick sketches from our concept artists. Their sketches are drawn and redrawn as they wrestle over the fiction with the writer/designers. This creative cage-match invariably results in a stronger concept and story piece than originally pitched. Both Design and Art walk away winners. Often this brain-meld takes just a couple of hours and then we move onto the next little chunk of the world. The sketches and stories are packaged together and delivered in different formats to suit the developer or team they are intended to support, be it Character Artists, Systems Designers, or AI Programmers. In the concept sketch above you’re getting a glimpse of what this short story inspired. This piece was created as part of a collection drawn to support our Environment Artists.