Behind the Scenes: Dark Fantasy Kit – Part I

The Idea & motivation behind

In the end of 2017, I already had 3 model packs in the Asset Store, the School Gym, the Swimming Pools, and the Climbing Hall packs. Not to mention my earliest try, Alchemy Pack, which was my first attempt to post my work online. 

I looked upon my packs and thought, I definitely can do better, I just need more time… and inspiration. 

What to do for the community and the Store? If you search for Fantasy packs, you can have quite a lot, in various visual styles (lowpoly, cartoon, realistic, etc.) and quality. All have a nice, generic fantasy / medieval feeling to them. 

You can build villages, castles, entire cities… that will look just like all kind of peaceful creatures and law-abidding citizens dwell in it. 

Maybe a few dungeons and sewers for the lower-class villains?

Real Estate for Real Villains

So, what about the baddies? Sure, you can shove the evil guys to an underground, damp dungeon, or a cemetery (who lives in a cemetery, anyway?), or to a crumbling castle.  

But as I was surfing the Asset Store, I found that there are no environments for villains with style. Evil overlords who gain their riches off the poor peasant’s sweat and blood, who display their authority and oppression in forms of not just military power or deadly magic, but with their environment. 

With this pack, I will try to add unique atmospheric elements to a generic fantasy world, where the viewer can instantly feel when he enters the villain’s lair – where the neutral land ends, and the villain’s true domain begins.

Collecting Reference

Reference image from Elder Scrolls Online

First I looked on some references. What makes an environment feel „evil”? After studying lots of images from various fantasy worlds with stylish villains, I found that a few elements are almost, always there: spikey stuff, and black, heavy, wrought iron. 

Gothic architecture is very often portrayed with vampires’ castles. I also found that giving the style an exotic touch, such as Moroccan architecture, can be very interesting and feel elegant, like the way I imagine Dark Elves.

So I took those gothic arches, added a little exotic feel from Moroccan architecture, and topped them with menacing, dark, wrought iron spikes and grates.

I also had to choose a heraldic animal. I’m still a bit ambivalent about the chosen animal, the scorpion. I could choose wolves, ravens, spiders, or snakes as they are all connected to dark and „evil” metaphors. 

Maybe later I’ll add these as ornament and decoration variance to the pack.

Moroccan Window

My main inspirations on style were Lord of the Rings ringwraiths, Elder Scrolls’ Daedric and Ebonheart architecture, and dark elves environment from Styx – Master of Shadows. 

I found that ESO Furniture catalogs made by fans are a nearly endless source of inspiration; it helped me to achieve a certain level of complexity with the furniture models.

Planning the workflow

I also had to plan what exactly I want to build – building and furnishing an entirely unique environment is no small task, and I have limited resources and time until I have to look for a regular job again; I want to use this timeframe as efficiently as possible while maintaining a healthy daily schedule.

 3D work can be very visually intense and one should avoid burnout or health-damaging habits while working on large projects, because both can lead to a decline in motivation, work quality, and in the end, the whole project can go south if you don’t manage yourself correctly.

For this, I looked upon other publisher’s packs and made a nice big spreadsheet about all the pieces I will need. Floors, walls, doorways, columns, windows etc…. and then, filling those empty stone halls with containers, decoration, textiles, furniture, and other clutter.

At this point, I started to realize how big this project will be. I had to divide the work into smaller batches to be manageable: 

  • First, I will create the modular, architectural bases such as the walls and floors.
  • Then come the detail elements, like doors, windows, columns, stairs, and fences.
  • After this part come the individual prop pieces, such as containers, furniture, ornamental items (sculptures, reliefs, etc.) and textiles (rugs, flags, curtains..)

In some cases, I made two or more variants for the same item, especially those which are reused very often. There are still lots of models which have no variants but might be combined with clutter later on. I hope that in the future after I released the pack, I will receive feedback on what needs to be added or altered.

Before the planning phase, I registered on a project management app (Hack’N’Plan) to track my progress and share the project details with Adam. He and I are co-founders of Runemark Studio, our little entrepreneur business. 

He helped me a lot creating the milestones and tackling the massive amount of ToDo’s I had in my spreadsheet. When everything was set and ready, I started to create the prototype models for the pack.

The Dark Fantasy Kit is now available in the Unity Asset Store.
Get it now!

In the next blog post, I would like to share my personal experience and my creative workflow. I will write about my modeling and texturing practices and techniques. See you soon!

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