The Art Behind Season of Abyss
Long before its Spirits are introduced or its name is revealed, a Season begins as a flurry of ideas that are brainstormed, reshaped, and refined until it can be unveiled to players. Now that you’ve had the chance to see how the Season of Abyss began and ended, we’re sharing a small sample of the art created to shape its story and characters.
(Note: Season of Abyss spoilers ahead! If you want to avoid them, come back after finishing the 5th seasonal quest from the Abyss Guide in the Treasure Reef area of Golden Wasteland.)
Some ideas begin months or even years before we have the right opportunity to use them. In fact, this concept was made even before the game’s 2019 launch. As Sky grew and new features and capabilities were added, we were able to take this early idea and make it a reality for Season of Abyss.
These two sketches explored what an underwater level might be if based in ruins and sunken towns.
This concept of a mine was used to experiment with possible ways resources could become one of the story elements.
An early sketch shows an entrance into an underwater area.
An underwater area, of course, means learning how to dive. This took a lot of consideration—how could this element be introduced in a way that made sense within the level’s architecture and story, while also being natural for a player to encounter and use?
Season of Abyss did not unfold only in dark, deep waters. This concept of the shallower areas where a player would first venture beneath the waves became inspiration to bring in the bright and colorful aspects of the underwater experience. Here we can also see some lingering ideas of sunken towns.
In the very earliest stages of planning a Season, the team explores a variety of possible stories. Sometimes these concepts are developed further, but sometimes they’re shelved depending on other decisions made. This tentative concept, for example, had Sky children discovering messages enclosed in strange bottles that washed up on the shore. The story was taken in a different direction, however, once we determined that the story would take place underwater.
Even in some of our first sketches, we were imagining an option for the story that would show the release of a multitude of creatures.
In this sketch of the Spirits, we imagined a potential story in which they crash-landed on a mysterious island, and had to use their unique skills to repair their transport.
Like our explorations prior to Sky’s launch of the various forms Dark Dragons could take, a number of different ideas were sketched out before deciding what the deep sea monster might be. This concept looked at eight approaches (out of many others!) for the creature’s appearance.
Another point to decide: Where would players encounter the monster? How often? How would those encounters take place? These concepts from brainstorming stages reflect some of those possibilities, from ominous foreshadowing to climactic peaks in the story.
Concept art also focuses on the small details too—not just wide landscapes and story arcs. For example, each Season pendant starts out as one of potentially a dozen or more candidates. This concept includes the initial design for the symbol that ultimately became the pendant for Season of Abyss.
Sometimes the characters of the Spirits can undergo great change during the creative process, or come through with familiar facets of the first stages of their design. The Bumbling Boatswain, for example, began in their earliest concept stages as a mechanic. The Spirit in the image below it, however, went through a number of changes before eventually transforming into the Spirit we know as the Anxious Angler.
The Abyss Guide also went through many iterations during development. Some styles or items may be tried on different characters, or changed depending on whether particular story elements are being highlighted.
This concept shows the Abyss Spirits in a largely finalized form, although the Abyss Guide still underwent several iterations after this point before the Season was released.
These are just a short sample of how ideas evolved over months—even years—before coming together as the Season of Abyss. Perhaps the next time you’re diving in Treasure Reef, you’ll notice a scene or a splash of color that still echo back to these early explorations!