Saturday, December 17, 2016

More Historical Artifacts from Tyria

About a month or so ago, I posted some old artwork I'd found in my stash of files from my time as an artist at Arenanet back in the early days of the development of Guild Wars, and it was one of my most popular tweets ever. I had more than a few requests to do this again, and since I'm a bit of a pack-rat when it comes to my digital files, I figured I would dig up some more images to share with you all, but since Twitter's character limit doesn't really give me a chance to get into the background of the images I'm about to share here, I thought a blog post would better suit my needs. So without further ado, here's some more artwork from the early days of Guild Wars!

Arenanet Color Tests

This first image is just a color test, which shows the original Arenanet logo I designed in various color schemes. We didn't just go to red/black/white, for a while the red/yellow was popular as were the slate blue pairings one row up from the bottom right. Ultimately, the current logo color scheme was chosen for its readability on both black and white backgrounds. The "planet" swoosh in the background survived up to about our first E3 I believe (some of our original dev swag, like the E3 polos have this version of the logo), but was trimmed out for simplicity before we launched Prophecies.

Guild Wars Banner Logo

Guild Wars Banner and Spears Logo and Box treatment
The above images show a couple of the logo treatments we experimented with for Guild Wars. Amazingly, we all fell in love with the font treatment pretty quickly, and it really didn't deviate much from concept to production, but we went back and forth a lot on adding other elements to the text to make it stand out. The concepts above were rough layouts to get a feel for how other elements might complement the text, but ultimately we fell back again on simplicity and had the plain text embossed and "sexed up" with shine and high end rendering, and left to stand on its own.

Tyria Roadmap
The graphic here is a texture that was applied to road signs in Ascalon in the original Prophecies. In addition to being one of the few in-game assets to actually show a partial map of Tyria, what makes this texture unique is that it was the first use of one of the in-game alphabets that I "authored": Ascalonian. I wanted to have text on the map so that eagle-eyed players would be able to "read" the map. In practice it was probably not very readable given the size of the assets and the texture compression of the original game, but even so I didn't want to just write the names of the places on the map in English, so I spent a weekend researching old scripts and "stole" the Phoenician letters for use as our Ascalonian alphabet. In hindsight I wish I'd used this as a base to craft our own unique alphabet, but as I had no aspirations to do more that this single map at the time, I didn't put much time into this effort.

Unused Alphabet
Speaking of alphabets, the image above was a test I began doing around the time we started working on Factions, for an alphabet that we would have used for the Kurzicks and/or Luxons. However, we dropped this alphabet in favor of building out the Canthan ideograms instead, since that was a much more complicated but ultimately we though more rewarding language challenge. I've returned to this image now and then in case it made sense to do another alphabet, but it never found a home, so here it is, shared from the cutting room floor.

Sacred Geometry
So you can probably tell I'm a bit of a nerd in terms of how I approach creative challenges, and the above image I'm sharing because it demonstrates how I get sucked into the details of environmental storytelling quite a bit. The above texture is from structures inside the mesa at Augury Rock, known in Prophecies as the "Hall of Ascension". Within this space, your player would face the ultimate challenge: yourself, in doppelganger form, in which defeating your shadow self enabled you to "ascend", and become closer to the gods. As an atheist, I wanted to represent divinity through the majesty of science and so I loaded the Hall with representations of "sacred geometry" which is the result of math and art coming together in beautiful ways. If you look closely, you can see the "golden rectangle" repeated throughout, and other shapes that employ the golden ratio, a mathematical term for when the ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. It's all very nerdy, but I was always very interested in the confluence between science and art, and how geometry is used (or misused) to construe divinity from order and natural law.

Mantle Housing
This next image is a texture that was used in an unusual way - In most cases, textures are applied to objects at small scale, and repeated so that it can be used at varying distances and sizes. This one was applied to large structures outside the play space around the Krytan region, to represent cities off in the distance, out of our player's reach. In a way it acted more like a matte painting, though it couldn't have depth cuing because of the different ways in which it was used. I can't say I think this technique was highly successful, but I include it here more as an interesting look at how we used to have to do things in the earlier days of game dev - nowadays you would just model all these things and build them into the skybox!

Screen to Texture
Here's another process oriented image. In the days before we had 3D sculpting software like Zbrush and Mudbox, to get detailed 3D elements onto textures it was all hand-authored in 2D and we used a variety of techniques to accomplish this. One thing I did was use the game as a rendering engine...I would set up scenes in the game and screen-capture them. Then I would isolate the elements I wanted, such as the figures from the background, and run them through some old school Photoshop filters (to make them look embossed). I would them take that, composite them together and spend a couple hours touching up the result (since when scaled down onto a 256 x 256, or 512 x 512 texture sheet, a LOT of details just get lost). Nowadays, texture sheets are 2048 x 2048 and up, and creating them usually involves starting with a sculpt in Zbrush.

Wine Bottles
Durmand Priory Books
I'll end this post with some of my favorite kinds of textures and these are from Guild Wars 2. It was probably pretty obvious by this point in my career that I was more interested in the lore and storytelling side of game development than in just straight up being an artist, because whenever I was assigned to do detailed work like wine bottle labels and books, I spent WAY more time on them than was necessary. For the wine bottle labels, I took concept art that was created by our amazingly talented concept artists, and graphic designed them with my alphabet for New Krytan. And when I got assigned to make book objects for populating the Durmand Priory library (or wherever books were needed), I went to town, designing book covers, drawing charts, writing paragraphs (or copying them from the lore pages of our wiki) and just generally indulging my inner lore nerd. Even though I knew most of the text would get compressed and scaled down to unreadability, it didn't stop me from putting all those details in when I authored the books.

So there you have it. Some more art background geekiness for your viewing/reading pleasure. Hope you all enjoyed it. :-D


  1. Thank you for sharing this Matthew, really :)
    For those of us who are really into Guild Wars since the very begining this is just gold :_D

  2. Hey Matthew! This is a fantastic post that really opens some eyes into this medium. I love looking at designer work, especially for one of my favorite game series. You have a real keen interest in this stuff. It's really cool!

    I'm trying to learn this (and other things) myself, getting into game design type things. Do you have any recommendations for how to get into texture design? You seem to employ a lot of different skillsets in these images.