Well, hello there, my people of the night. It’s time for yet another update from the crypts at Stunlock Studios, and this night we uncover the toxic sludge-soaked lands of Gloomrot. Having gotten a little taste of what’s to come in our feature-rich website preview, let’s take this time to get to know our new neighbors from the artistic vision of some of the team that was able to bring them to life.
But first, a sneak peek at some juicy Gloomrot gameplay:
Gloomrot: For the Love of Knowledge
Gloomrot is a biome themed around science gone mad, the old and familiar ideas of unchecked ambition and arrogance in the face of the natural order. The group responsible for organizing these erudite efforts is called The Trancendum, a collection of psychopathically obsessive technologists on a mission to create the next stage of human evolution. This pathology dates back to the times of Dracula, when their still-living, seemingly ageless head-scientist Doctor Henry Blackbrew, originally founded this pursuit in an attempt to fight back against Dracula’s armies.
Over hundreds of years, the Trancendum has studied and advanced its studies through electrical and chemical engineering, inventing incredible technology and jealously hoarding their secrets for themselves. Their efforts are single-minded, sacrificing morality, their land, and even their very lives in an attempt to discover the next big breakthrough.
Concept art for the home of a lower-class Gloomrot resident.
As our 2D artist, Viktor Blomqvist, would say, life is cheap in Gloomrot. All that matters is knowledge and who provides those brilliant breakthroughs. So let us then talk about the most important, the most brilliant of them all, Doctor Henry Blackbrew.
The Good, The Bad, The Doctor
Concept artwork for the Doctor in his full regalia.
“Dr. Henry Blackbrew was once heralded as a savior of man.
When the hungry fangs of the great conqueror Dracula hung over the throat of man, poised to sink in, the scientific luminary was celebrated. Beloved. The last hope for humankind.
Then came the Light.
Suddenly, Dr. Blackbrew was a heretic, a madman with… ‘twisted, abominable methods.’ Yet, what is petty morality in the pursuit of human perfection? Of evolution? Of knowledge? Even as they came for him, torch and pitchfork in hand, he stood by his philosophies. Even as he was exiled in disgrace to the dangerous and hellish lands of Gloomrot, he KNEW he was correct.
… hundreds of years of a prolonged, unnatural life led to this moment.
This birth of something perfect.
From the notes of Callista Alchemica, Senior Electrostatician of the Trancendum
The final concept art for The Monster
As explained by our Art Director, Johan Wahlbäck, the region of Gloomrot was our first opportunity to model an entire zone after a central figure, so quite a bit of time went into trying to capture his visual essence. Doctor Henry Blackbrew is a character driven by self-importance and hatred, and his influence can be felt all across the land as others are driven to follow his example. He has shaped this society to his philosophy, for his own whims. V Rising is a story told largely through visuals. It was important that even if in the game you don’t always get the word-for-word story we envision, you can feel it through the character, the world, and the little hints sprinkled throughout the words of the characters.
Some earlier potential ideas.
The final concept art for Henry Blackbrew.
The Gloom: Gloomrot North
Not an elegant design, but a powerful one.
The northern section of the zone is darker and has a richer color than its lower counterpart. A large part of the challenge of evoking the feel of a machine-ridden land in a fantasy world like Vardoran is striking the balance of how you represent the level of technology. It can be very easy to slip into the space of ‘sci-fi’.
These models felt a bit too modern before we went with a more “hand-made” route.
While this makes sense in our world, we ended up moving away from the human element being hidden inside these machines.
The technology of Gloomrot is supposed to be advanced well beyond the rest of Vardoran, but it shouldn’t feel like an entirely different setting. To achieve that feeling, we took what were initially very metal-heavy designs and used a few different techniques to downgrade them in a way that is intuitive. Much of the metal was replaced by wood, and the metal we kept was made to look and feel dangerously ramshackle. The people of Gloomrot hold little regard for their lives, so it makes sense that while they do have advanced weaponry and tools, those tools are barely held together. An advanced weapon may be just as likely to fall apart or eviscerate its users as they are to achieve its goal.
Our artists took inspiration from wooden dolls and manikins for their designs.
Final concept art for the Driller. This concept once had more protection involved and an interior section. This driller cuts into stone without so much as a guard to shield the operator’s body from debris.
A flamethrower held together with bandages. Hand-hammered, uncleanly fit metal bands. Filthy gas tubes with multiple patches.
The northern section is also quite alive and malevolent. The sky pours down rain, the winds are strong, and lightning constantly slams into the ground all around you, leaving scorched obliteration in its wake. The trees and rocks are angular, pointed, and twisting with few if any rounded edges so that it evokes that perilous feeling.
Industrial meets dark fantasy storybook.
The inspiration for Gloomrot North is rooted in a dark fairytale, and with the presence of gothic architecture seemingly infested with pipes and technology, we aim to seamlessly blend the old and the new into a cohesive place that tells its own story through its environment.
Old historic architecture is plagued by ugly, functional pipework.
Concept artwork for what an upper-class Gloomrot manor might look like. The fencing is bent inwards from mutants attempting to crawl inside.
The Rot: Gloomrot South
The process of constructing this key art piece of a Vampire discovering the sickly depths of the new area.
All of Gloomrot is washed out in its color, lending it closer to the black-and-white monster movie vibe we look to invoke with the general atmosphere. While we bring in the modern feel with bright pops of color, nowhere is that drained and pained palette more clear than in the southern portion of the biome.
This is where byproduct pollution from the experiments of the north wash down into the valleys, polluting its waterways with vibrant, toxic yellows and greens. This is a place soaked in poison and drained of all nutrients.
Inspirations for this place were drawn from all manner of visceral, disturbing imagery to evoke an unsettling feeling. Heavily polluted lakes that were so unnaturally discolored their waters were unrecognizable, cancerous growths, and real-life post-war images of land ripped apart by bombing runs were all referenced when trying to evoke the feeling of a place ravaged by mankind.
A concept paint-over with potential ideas for yellow pools in Gloomrot South. Exterminators fend off hungry, mutated experiments and wildlife.
The land is sick and fractured, its plant life littered with cancerous growths.
This is where the more common citizenry resides, locked away in their hovels and pouring their days into their experiments. They live in the hope that a discovery of their own will catapult them to a higher status within the Trancendum and earn them a place of more comfort and status.
Homes here are meant to look functional but are poorly constructed and dangerous. Electrical lines run directly against exposed dry wood. These people are not concerned for their own safety, and their only concern is having the proper equipment they need to continue to pursue evolution and technological progress.
The housing functions, if only barely. That’s enough for them.
Mutations and Notations
The mutants that wander the area are rarely anything like friendly, but it was important for us to design them with intent. These creatures may be horrors, but they did not come about because they were engineered to be weapons. They are as much a victim of this environment as the soil and the trees.
It was tempting to make mutants that were designed to just be ‘cool’ looking. Engineered bone weapons or simply masses of terrifying deadly flesh are fun to make and imagine but lacked the depth and storytelling we were looking to convey.
While we enjoyed this concept, it was too alien to fit the deeper theme of the area.
There are a lot of fun ideas here that didn’t fit in our vision for Gloomrot, which we may reuse in the future.
An older concept piece for the Mutated Spitter. This version of the design had a bone weapon, which we felt was too manufactured to fit the idea of the mutations.
It was important that the creatures, even the experiments, retained a bit of their shape and were recognizable as what they once were. The pollution, a lot like V Blood, enhances the qualities that already exist and evolves them, duplicating what is already there. These beings were not meant to be weapons, and in that way, you can still relate them to something you’re familiar with.
Final concept art for the Flesh Golem. Recognizing human forms within this monstrosity allows us to relate to the creature even if it is so different from us.
The animation team also worked to evoke the familiar wrongness of these creatures with some nice details. For instance, in one of the new units, the flesh golem, they added separate little toggles for each of the heads on the rig, as discussed by one of our animators, Olov Skiöld.
Our technical animator Albin Thunström also talked about their efforts, focusing on the wrongness of the creature’s movement in its collective, swimming tail movements.
It takes extra work to add these little limbs for animation, but our animators felt like it was worth the trouble.
There was also an effort to evoke the ‘hive mind’ feeling of the creature. As it swings its large arm in an attack, the smaller arms swing simultaneously, as if each part of the collective being is working in tandem with one other.
Aw, they’re helping!
Songs from the Poisoned Valley
The area of Gloomrot is split in two, with two very different and complimentary, and yet very distinct moods. The composer of the Original Soundtrack, Aleksandria Migova, spoke of how she tackled the four different tracks that span from South to North, and night and day.
“For Gloomrot South’s daytime theme, the most important elements that I’ve captured are struggle, sadness, and hope. When the sun goes down and as we enter the twilight zone, you hear the night sing and mourn for all the victims of the past through emotive, atonal instruments.”
She went on to talk about Gloomrot North, and how she made an effort to capture the darker, more evil vibe of mad science and the pained anguish of the failed experiments born of their ambitions.
Clips of all four tracks.
Invoking these unique feelings through music gives another avenue for our players to connect to the world, a way to feel the story emotionally. Aleksandria tapped into various techniques, for instance, employing pitching techniques to make the player feel the twisted nature of the fantastical biome.
Before We Go Back to Our Workshop
Mark the calendar with a claw tip as we grow ever closer to the release of our first big update on May 17th! We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into the mood of our new zone and a little bit of the feeling we’re looking to evoke from it. All of us have been working hard to realize our vision, and we truly do hope you enjoy its dire themes.
If you enjoyed that and want to keep an eye out for more V Rising news, there will be more to share between now and our patch release! We’ll be sharing more on all things V Rising now and into the foreseeable future down on all of our socials below, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on us!
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Lots of love and a pint of blood,
/The Marketing Team