The Art of Season of Flight (and a Challenge for Sky Photographers!)
There are many moving parts that go into creating a new season. One of these is the concept art that helps give shape and set tone to not only the final appearance of the characters and landscapes people see, but also the shape of the story and the way it unfolds. As we approach the end of Season of Flight, we wanted to share a glimpse of how it began through a sample of our art team’s work from the process of creating the season.
These two images were some of the first concepts for the season, experimenting with potential moods, themes, and locations. For example, as you might guess from this art, some initial brainstorming explored a story that gave Eye of Eden a larger presence.
This early piece imagined ways to introduce challenges that players could use to test and improve flying skills.
This is a quick piece from an early stage imagining the Season taking place inside a storm cloud. It’s another example of the way concepts change and evolve throughout the development process—while the final form of the Wind Paths are a lot sunnier, there's still an aspect of darkness looming at the edges.
From the very beginning, birds figured prominently into how Season of Flight was imagined. Though the Season was moved towards a different direction, it still aims to evoke a similar feeling to the one this concept illustrates.
Concepts in the initial planning stages considered the ways Light Creatures might be present in the Season’s new area. Despite a different version of the story being moved forward, the elements of Light and Light Creatures still play a strong role in Season of Flight.
Concept art is also used to consider which stories to include. These are often changed up to and throughout the development process, but sometimes smaller pieces of these ideas still remain in the final iteration of the Season that players see. Perhaps you can spot echoes of this image in the Season of Flight story as well.
An early concept above shows potential ideas for each spirit’s individual island. Although the team ultimately pivoted to a more natural environment, the lighter colored stone and arches took a form that still remains in the Season players see. These islands also featured a platform reminiscent of a diving board to leap off into a boat or perhaps onto a Light Creature willing to carry a passenger!
This image represented a significant moment in the concept process for the seasonal area, where the main island of the Wind Paths began evolving into what players recognize in the game. The team took inspiration from wind-carved stone and worked natural arches into the terrain of the island. Here, too, the story remained present: though the stone of the island is lighter colored, you can still see the ancient, darker stone that the ancestors of the Flight spirits brought when they migrated to the Wind Paths.
During planning for the seasonal quests, this concept showed the stone arches at various stages of restoration. Eventually each Spirit’s arch was linked to a particular seasonal quest, and by completing their Season Quest, the player helps restore a missing element to a Spirit’s wind chime arch and brings it back to its restored state. For example, after completing the first seasonal quest, players help the Tinkering Chimesmith restore the candles needed for the arch on their island, which in turn summons birds to help begin restoring paths through the clouds.
The art team also creates storyboards to plan the sequence of the memories players relive for each spirit. This one (as observant players might have guessed!) outlines the memories for the Light Whisperer, each point a moment in this Spirit’s life as they helped injured Light Creatures.
This was a concept in the very early stages of developing the Light Whisperer. Although a lot about this character changed during development, the color palette remained very similar—since they work directly with Light Creatures, the team wanted a lot of sky colors for them in particular.
The Lively Navigator and Flight Guide were the last two spirits to be finalized. The Flight Guide outfit was envisioned as ornate in reflection of their status leading their group, originally carrying a staff to help guide their flock of creatures through the Wind Paths. Meanwhile, the Navigator’s cape in particular took several different forms before landing on a final version. The idea for their cape is linked to their role—for the people, creatures, and boats traveling at a distance, their cape is much more visible as a giant flag and grabs more attention from farther away.
A Season needs its group shots, and creating these is also an important step in the development process for our art team! This particular concept was one of many, and created midway through development. At this stage, the Spirits had been connected with the role they each perform, but the character designs were still being refined. There were more iterations after this concept, but you can probably still see many similarities with the current appearance of the Seasonal Spirits.
The Season of Flight continues for a few more weeks and ends at 23:59 Sunday December 19. We hope you’ll have the chance to complete all five quests—and perhaps spot the threads of the story and design that remain from the earliest stages of our concept art!
Season of Flight Screenshot Challenge
To celebrate the completion of our 11th season in the game, we’re hosting a screenshot challenge for players! From 00:00am December 3rd through 6th at 23:59 (all times PST, UTC-8), post a screenshot taken in the new seasonal area, or using any of the season’s cosmetic items, on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #SkyFlight, or in special threads on Discord and Facebook that we’ll open once the challenge begins. Entries can include friends, but they must feature your own Sky character to be counted. Please note that only one entry will be counted per person. Entries will close on December 6th at 11:59pm.
Each winner will receive 30 Seasonal Candles and 3 Rainbow Trail spells. Four winners will be randomly selected, and one winner will be selected by the thatgamecompany team based on creativity (30%), storytelling (30%), and quality of execution (40%). Winners can expect to be contacted and announced by the end of December 13th. Best of luck to those taking part in the challenge!
Whether through exploring the Wind Paths or the art where the season began, we hope that the Season of Flight has brought moments of inspiration and delight to our players. We’ll see you in the skies!