Herding Art

Dungeons of Dredmor has not been an easy baby to deliver in terms of art direction; The core game art was a patchwork of assets produced by a handful of artists over several years before I ever showed up.

Now it’s never a simple thing to corral multiple artists on one project. I went to art school so I know how difficult my people can be, to say nothing of the generally unreliable world of small-time freelance video game artists.  Original art direction was done by the fearless beating heart of Gaslamp, the Mr. Nicholas Vining, whose past travail I probably don’t envy. But he is merely a programmer of humble means; I inherited the job of creating a unified artistic direction for a largely unfinished game made of a diverse set of assets drawn by artists I’d never even talked to. With that, I have had to set a stylistic tone for the game that I could stand to look at, work on, and which could be completed in as timely a matter as possible.

It’s comforting to imagine an ideal situation in which I can art-direct the look & feel of a game from the ground up, everything perfect and in place, well planned and timed, with simpering sub-artists to do the boring parts (the next game, I tell myself, the next game). But by necessity Dredmor became a matter of what I could save of the original artwork and what I would redraw all by my lonesome. It’s been a practice of artistic triage: some sprites shall live, some must be left to die. Game features had to be expanded or added or attenuated or even cut outright based on what my artwork could do with the old artwork in a reasonable time-frame.

Much of what had to be decided came down to what I could draw most easily. My strength lies with drawing GUI assets, items, tilesets, and background splash paintings. Animated sprites, on the other hand, I’ve avoided like the plague due to a bit of a case of burnout on the previous Gaslamp project over a matter of a few hundreds of frames of character animation that we won’t speak of again.  Still, some new or revised animated sprite work may yet be necessary and time heals all wounds.

So far we’ve retained the original animated characters drawn by Bryan Rathman and Tim Wexford — and one by Jon Wofford, if my information is correct. Daniel Harris drew the original UI art and background paintings, Anthony Joas drew some of the original items, and Tim Wexford also drew the original tilesets … all of which I’ve almost entirely displaced with my own redrawn UI, items, and tiles, though in many cases the design direction of the original artists is strongly evident.

And let me not forget to thank the multi-talented Nicholas for his programmer art. Every dungeon, after all, needs a foundation.

In all, I hope that my efforts will present the best artistic product possible from a drawn-out, confused, and altogether educational experience.

old and new menu backgrounds

old and new dungeon tileset

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