Bringing Dungeons & Dragons to life with a metal-inspired art style.
Before working on Dark Alliance – the action RPG set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons – I was a game cinematics director at a few major gaming studios. My time before Tuque taught me to not just care about the look of a world.
The “vibe” and the characterization of a world is what brings it to life. That’s what I’m here to talk about today with Dark Alliance. Plus, I want to share a lot of concept art from our artists Vincent, Stanimir, Victor, Dimitri, Fred, Jorge, and Even.
Finding Dark Alliance’s Art Core
The concept of Dark Alliance is simple. It’s you and your friends versus this alliance between legions of monsters. The monsters really started to take on a life of their own as we developed the game. In a way, they’re the stars of the show. They’re what you are going to remember when you talk about Dark Alliance with your friends.
I was interested in exploring the various cultures of these monsters. To me, the best way to showcase a culture is through its music and dance.
This is what drove the game’s style, music, and tone. But it also needs to feel fresh in the high fantasy genre. So, one day I was asked to sum up the game’s art style in two words.
We’re heavy metal.
Heavy Metal Inspiration
When I say heavy metal think art style, not music. The game’s music is fully orchestral. Think of the look of heavy metal album covers, or Mad Max, or Apocalypto. Or even one of the original masters of metal – Mozart.
We also obviously take a lot of inspiration from Dungeons & Dragon art that has come before us. The cool thing about D&D is there have been so many unique interpretations of its art over the decades. There is no one set style. But it all still looks high fantasy at the end of the day.
Dark Alliance is that too. When you put everything together, we still look like the fantasy of D&D. The team took care to bring D&D to life in a way fans will get excited about. Our journey there started with heavy metal inspirations, though, to create our own unique flavor.
The Companions of the Hall
The next challenge was bringing four of the most iconic characters in D&D lore to life. We wanted to stay true to R.A. Salvatore’s descriptions of Drizzt, Bruenor, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar in his books. Here is their early concept art.
From there, tweaks were made throughout the development process to make each character more readable in game. Here is the final art of the companions in Dark Alliance.
Where we got to have our own fun is with the various gear each companion can collect and equip. Here is Drizzt wearing an outfit in-game that you won’t be seeing anytime soon in the novels.
Creating the Monsters
There are more than 30 different enemy types in Dark Alliance. Each main faction of monsters gets its own mission structure that explores their architecture, culture, and even a bit of their daily practices. By centering each three-act mission around a faction, it helps us build a cohesive visual design that brings our world to life and makes our enemies more memorable.
I want to talk about two of my favorite monster designs today.
The duergar in Dark Alliance best represent our metal theme. Duergar are cousins to dwarves, typically living deeper in the Underdark. In our game they’re dressed in leather, fur, armor, spikes, mohawks, skull, and bones. They look like a gang of magic-wielding bikers.
These giants are probably my favorite character in the game. The verbeeg in D&D are a smaller and more cunning sub-race of giants. The verbeeg in our game are a faction of sadistic hillbillies. They like to wear the skin of their victims on their faces as trophies and have a specific taste for dwarf flesh. But they also like to gather round the campfire and sing about their meals.
We’ll have more to share on Dark Alliance between now and our launch on PlayStation 4 and 5 on June 22.