Embarrassment of Riches

I’ve written before about art thumbnails, the initial sketch for a scene that we use to make sure the layout and storytelling work.

three alternate thumbnail sketchesThis set seems particularly hard to choose between. They work in a purely functional sense (i.e. they can be covered with text and still read well). But each has some nice elements. For example, alternative 1 has a closeup, which is nice. But alternative 2 is good for showing the extended family. And I particularly like the children in all three.

Art Styles

One of the ways that Six Ages is following in the footsteps of its predecessor is to use very distinct art styles for different purposes. Here’s a brief look at the directions we’re going.

The Distant Past

HealerAlthough we debated a variety of styles, in the end we decided to stick with a “woodcut” look to represent things that took place a long time ago (i.e. for the clan questionnaire). I found our artist because she had a show at the gallery a few blocks away. Here’s a look at a Gods War event by Damara Kaminecki.

The Present

Troll tradersKeeping the ink and watercolor style for the bulk of the illustrations, which are set in the here-and-now, was not really questioned. We did consider different nuances, and Jan Pospíšil did a few test pieces. There are a number of artists working in this style — this is one of Jan’s early pieces, which helped establish the tone. (Note that the trolls are awake early, since the sun has not fully set.)

The Otherworld

Blue DragonThe world of the gods is key to a game set in Glorantha, and we again wanted a look that was very different from the mundane world. We didn’t have any preconceptions, though once again we were drawn to Magic: The Gathering artists. But we ended up going with a local artist, who has a distinctive style. Here’s Michelle Lockamy’s take on a Gloranthan archetype, the blue dragon.

Sweeps Week

s235-pencils-cropSince essentially all of the game’s scenes have been written and coded, I figured it’s time to start sweeping.

“Sweep” is the term we use when we find an issue, and realize that it could apply to every scene in the game.

For example, the bug report

I noticed a [q > 4] which is probably not possible

is something that could affect any scene. So today I searched every script (i.e. swept the code) for similar patterns (e.g. [q = 4] was also a problem, because in rare cases, the special variable q can indeed be set to 5).

And the task

Tag @cattleWard for Cattle Ward blessing

meant I had to go through every script and see if the blessing (“Protects our cattle herds from predators”) was relevant. If so, the script needed the tag. Going through everything, I realized that the description actually needed to change, to “Protects our cattle herds from raids and predators.”

The sweep that’s had the biggest impact has been

Sweep to be sure ChooseLeader is followed by a leader test

In other words, if you pick a leader, then it’s that leader’s Bargaining or Combat that will be used to overcome opposition. We had tried to catch these cases, but missed a few. And this was by far the most brute force sweep, since ChooseLeader is very common.

It looks like there are about 15 of these in our bug tracker, and about half are done. I expect to finish them this week.


Concept Inspiration

Raven ConceptSomewhere along the line, Jan Pospíšil drew a concept sketch that I liked, but that didn’t seem right for a member of the player’s clan (which was the original thought).

Recently, Robin Laws and I were going over the interactive scenes that are currently in the game, and figuring out what was lacking. He came up with a new scene that seemed like it perfectly fit the sketch.

So the scene is now written and coded, and we’ll be doing a full illustration based on the quick design. Sometimes good concept ideas never make it into the game, but I’m glad this one can.


When we work with illustrators, we’re still using much the same process as we did with King of Dragon Pass. We first get a thumbnail sketch to figure out the basic layout of the illustration, then get a more refined pencil sketch. We’ve also been reviewing an inked version, and then a colored version. Some of these terms are no longer as literal as they were back in the 1990s (more artists are using a digital process, so there may not be actual pencils or ink pens involved), but the same basic idea of refinement is the same.

One thing I’ve found a bit different in this project is what different artists consider as a thumbnail. I had never seen color used in a thumbnail before, but two artists have done so. And some of the thumbnails are very polished.

A few artists will also produce a lot of alternatives (in one case, a thumbnail was so different that it generated a new scene).

Here’s a representative sample, from five of our artists.


I chose these to show the range of detail. Some of these may not actually end up in the game. But they’re all perfectly good thumbnails that start the process of illustrating an interactive scene.