Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Concepting Fate Reforged

I was not involved in the concept push that created the initial world of Tarkir, so I had no real idea of what I was getting into when I showed up to help design "Fate Reforged." In fact, all I'd really heard was that various Asian cultures had a pretty big influence and that there might be dragons involved. Beyond that I knew only that the schedule called for an abbreviated push of two weeks (normally there are three), and that there would only be two other artists on the job, Sam Burley and Mark Winters.

Rather than write out some prolonged explanation of how events unfolded, I'm going to just give the gist of things and then throw some art at you. Suffice it to say that in August of 2013, the three of us were sequestered in a room at Wizards of the Coast to help build the styleguide for "Fate Reforged." We were tasked to take the world that was designed for the "Khans of Tarkir" set and roll it back 1000 years. This meant redesigning armor, weapons, architecture, and even landscapes for five different cultures. These redesigns were not only to convey the passage of time but also to adapt each culture to deal with an enemy that simply does not exist in Tarkir's "present" timeline: dragons. On top of this, we were to design the various dragons themselves.

The amount of ground we had to cover was pretty vast and our timeline was compressed so I hit the ground running as best I could. The first couple of days only yielded a lot of half-finished thoughts on the Temur clan's overhaul. This included some poorly photo-bashed landscapes and a bunch of clothing and armor designs. Eventually, however, most of these eventually bore fruit and were my first (and arguably greatest) successes in bringing things together.

Part pencil, part digital, drawings like this helped hammer down the motifs that would be end up throughout Temur clothing.
This was my first go around on a color version of these guys. I kept the color palette in sync with their more "modern" counterparts.
An alternate color study with tweaked proportions.
An additional armor variation.
Temur crevasse dwelling.

Once I had a handle on where Temur was headed, I took a shot at cracking the Abzan clan. I was attempting to build on Mark Winters' successes and also add variety into the mix.

Quick and dirty pencil drawing with some digital darks laid in.

Lastly, I dabbled a bit in trying to push Mardu into the past.

Nice, thick plates of metal brought them one step closet to being human tanks.
My shot at a ready made tent that can be dragged behind horses or pack animals in a pinch.
A city of such tents that is definitely the ugliest thing I did during my two weeks.

Looking at this smattering of drawings, you'd be right in saying that there's not a lot here. Admittedly, there are a few things I failed to copy for my own records (which is irritating), and there's also a fair bit that just ended up not being viable concepts. Since I've been asked politely to show only the stuff that got used, a lot of things are going to have to remain under wraps.

But I'm not finished. I still have to show you the dragons — the last bits I was able to contribute, which were among the most important and easily the most fun.

Atarka. This was a criminal amount of fun.
Here's a close-up of the head without the indicators of the molten bits.
Silumgar. Or the dragon that would eventually become him.

Silumgar would not be completed for another month, when we convened again to design the world of Dragons of Tarkir. But that's another post.

Overall we came a bit short of delivering everything we needed to accomplish in the time allotted us. We managed to get most of it done, but there were still some things that needed to be hashed out and finalized (as evidenced by the half-baked Silumgar above). Fortunately, when we piled back into the room a few short weeks later, we had three weeks and an additional man to help us hammer it all home.