The Dark Of Us
Character design process
Prop design process
Environment and Key Frame process
This project was for a University paper on Concept Design. We were asked to create key scenes and concepts for a new ‘Dark Crystal’ TV Show or Game. We were required to combine the already existing Dark Crystal lore with another existing Game or TV Show, to make a completely new Game or TV Show that acted as a combination of the two products. For this assignment I took The Dark Crystal and merged it with ‘The Last of Us.’
Originally I was set on the original Gathim’s design from the Dark Crystal but covered in fungus toying with the idea of Clickers from The Last Of Us. But as I developed these I wasn’t liking the stiffness they had. In my opinion, they didn’t feel dangerous. So I started pushing them to a more agile animal-inspired design. This leads me onto the thought that since the crystal had darkened Thra and its inhabits that the Garthim’s we know from The Dark crystal film were the finished evolution. But they had been made from the creatures of Thra.
I explored the idea that the creature was very much dead looking yet still moving, plants had started to grow from it, the flesh is holding bones together while the Garthim’s shell had started to form and cover the creature. As if the crystal had resurrected it. (possibly even a crystal heart was put in by a Skekis to form their army.) I was inspired by the clickers and the idea that the plants had turned it into something different. I was looking at tigers, alligators, crocodiles, snakes and Komodo dragons. Wanting a sleek body that is lower to the ground that could swim through the swamp but also climb trees. I decided on the bottom left design as my final and sketched it again with more detail as seen below.
For this project I painted in black and white as a way to save time, this meant that I could get the values right and realistic without having to worry about colour. This also allowed for a more streamlined palette across all pieces. I knew I wanted to stick with earthy tones and have dashes of vibrancy.
Riiyson Alahkee or Riiy for short is the playable character of this story so we see the story through her eyes. This story is her path of survival and revenge. When designing Riiy I had to decide what clan she was going to come from, I knew she was going to be a warrior so choosing a clan that was known for this was paramount. I decided on the Spiriton Clan ( A warrior race that were also skilled at artisanal crafts, such as stitching, fabric and textile working, and beading.
As I silhouetted the character I needed her clothes to offer a wide range of movement so fit to fight in. Therefore lots of draping fabric like Kiras costume wasn’t going to work. It had to tailored to her body and accented with beautiful stitching and beading. So I wasn’t so much looking to the Last of Us for this element of design.
Even though the costume had to be beautiful it also had to be weathered and ripped much like in The Last Of Us as if she hasn’t been able to change clothes all that often. For Riiy I wanted her ears bigger and her eyes to show her hearing and sight are good something a Huntress would need to be good. I also decided to not have her wings out mostly because she has a quiver on her back and the wings would get in the way of this.
Colour wise I wanted the clothes to be weathered in dirt and washed out as if they have been worn in the sun meticulously. So I went with the same colour scheme as her bow but really washed out the colours especially near the ends or at seams. The final details were much more simplified than originally planned this came down to time. I was wanting to do embroidery on the cape and cowl but I simply didn’t have the time to pull it off so in the end chose to not do this. If I had more time I would have loved to create a Daenerys inspired mix of beading and smocking on the cape and cowl.
I wanted the prop to be Riiy’s weapon. It made sense in the context of the brief and it is an element that heavily ties to The Last Of Us.In the silhouettes I wanted the weapon to feel almost like a little ecosystem, with some silhouettes having plants growing from it. I was particularly aiming for the idea from the Last of us of combining weapons (scissors on a baseball bat). Such as an axe blade strapped onto the bow. (This could allow the player to upgrade the weapon as they progress and gather supplies ) I was also liking delicate looking blades possibly made from crystal, this fits well with Riiy’s Spiriton ties. So I toyed with the idea of an intricate web-like structured blade.
After the silhouette phase, I realised the prop had to be a bow and arrow and not a staff simply because in my view a Gelfling doesn’t seem designed for brute strength but more agile and strategic fighting technique. As I developed the bow I quickly realised it was looking too symmetrical and too well made. Riiy’s clan are not weapon makers so it wouldn’t make sense for her bow to be perfect. Taking the idea that this new threat and war have made her adjust her bow to be more lethal. So the attachments had to look as if they were thrown on as if she’s done so in a rush. But I still wanted the bow to show accents of her and who she is. Having feathers and beads was the key for this since her clan is heavy in textiles, beading and embroidery.
When It came to the final design I pushed the asymmetry and a worn feeling. Making sure I had rust on the blades, dirt and blood on the fabrics. How I painted this was I started by blocking out the basic shapes so I could use masks to paint. Then I rendered it out in full black and white bringing in photographic textures. Then I had to work out colour via several overlay layers. I wanted the bow to feel natural in colours but also feel used and dangerous. I leant to warm colours of reds, oranges and yellows. With accents of greens and purples. I didn’t want the colours to be overwhelming. So I kept the vibrant use of colour to just be the little details.
‘Thra has been darkened by the crystal, plants and organisms manifest destroying ancient structures and changing the lands that were known. It’s as if years have passed in a matter of months. The Garthim war has just begun. The Skekis desperate for more life force send the newly emerging Garthim to descend upon the Swamps of Sog in hopes of capturing the Gelflings of the Drechen clan. A young Gelfling, Riiy from the Spiriton clan is posted as a soldier to protect the Drechen’s clans Matriarch at all costs. But as the Garthim raid begins Riiy abandons her post she will save those whom no one is looking out for, she charges head first towards the danger as all others hide, she raises her weapons to the Garthim. To fight and protect all the Gelflings.’ – Brief written by Myself
My whole design process started with the Key scene thumbnails. I knew from when we were given this assignment I wanted it to be an action shot. I started with six thumbnails exploring ideas of a character fighting the Garthim while all others ran. She fought in hopes of saving Gelflings. Then after looking more deeply at what my brief was I produced five more. The second lot were a lot more dramatic, intimate frames. It was in the second lot that I gathered a lot about the mood and tone I wanted to convey as well as who my character was and what their purpose was in this moment.
As my thumbnails developed I realised I wanted ruined structures and buildings to be through out but heavily grown over by vines just like in The Last Of Us. I wanted the environment to feel overgrown and a little chaotic.Getting the final composition took a bit of playing around. The original development had too many conflicting lines of the light the camera angle and the rain so I developed it by pushing the light rays down.But I was really liking how the eye was directed through the piece having the vines pointing to the character and the plants and rocks. So I pushed that more in the final composition thumbnail.
As I rendered out the environment I incorporated rubble and buildings into the environment. At this point I was leaving the flames, blurs and flares till after the colour so I could play around with it as it was finished. Rendering out this scene I used photo bashing and painting into the textures, this gave the scene a much more realistic feel in my opinion. Really pleased with how the final render of the environment turned out.
For the colour of my key scene I looked to concept designs that carried the mood and atmosphere I was looking to explore in mine and I broke them down by crystallise filter in photoshop then colour picked from their to create a palette. I particularly was leaning to the first and third liking the contrasting blues and oranges.