San Diego Comic Con 2012 – The Art of Death and Darksiders 2

A few years ago a small company called Vigil put out an interesting game called “Darksiders”. It focused on one of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, “War” and how he was falsely accused of starting the Apocalypse. Forced to bear the Watcher as an aide he was sent down to Earth and left in the ruins to figure out just what had happened to Earth and who could have tricked him. Vigil had not expected the game to do as well as it did but it took off well and now we get to see another of the 4 Horsemen in action.

Present at the panel was Joe Matureria, Han Randhawa from Vigil itself and from Darkhorse comics was Roger Robinson. Joe started off saying that they were happy to chance the chance to do the panel and they were looking forward to the release of the game itself.

He took a moment to talk a little about the founding of Vigil. Most of their roster is made up of people whop have worked for bigger video game companies. All of them knew they wanted to be more involved in the creation process of video games just they were not quite sure how to get there. But they banded together and started Vigil on their own. From that, the idea of Darksiders was born. Darksiders presents a different take on the Horsemen than one would expect. Instead of our harbingers of doom they appear more as defenders. He also took a moment to explain why they started with War. He was the most recognizable as he would stand more on the side honor and justice, closer to the Hero Archtype. From there he started talking about Darksiders 2 proper. The story itself is concurrent with the events of the first game. It tells Death's story while War slept those hundred years.

Next, the panel talked about getting the look of Death. Apparently they were all drawn together at a point just to get an idea of what even one of them would look like. From there,  Joe attempted to draw some different versions of Death from that old sketch. None of them were as satisfying as the original so they took that one and built it up into a more functional model. They also realized quickly that this part of the story was not going to take place on Earth but within the divine realms that the Horsemen could move through to meet both Angels and Demons. This meant the world could be many times larger and the opportunities for side quests and NPC development was much greater.

The following topic was gameplay. One of the goals of Darksiders 2 was to get a fresh start from the first game. To that end they redesigned it to handle much closer to an RPG. They wanted Death to be more customizable than War had been. The Parry was dropped and a dodge was added instead as it hit the character better and the Parry was just annoying to program in. The next big change was adding in Death's aide, the Crow: Dust. Unlike the Watcher who was a more direct source of information, usually stating the obvious or having nothing to say for a more complex puzzle, will simply come to rest on a clue and caw occasionally. He is much less obstructive than the Watcher was. There are a few pre-order bonuses that will make Dust easier to track but he is to be more of a hint than anything else. They also talked of one major challenge that they thought was on their plate: Death's lack of a full face. Since they chose to show Death with only eyes, it appeared it would be harder for him to convey emotion. Still, as they progressed forward in development with the skull face it was made apparent that they could still get all the emotion needed in. Also, within the gameplay they thought to add in hints of something greater inside Death: his Reaper form. As you fight and work through your combos you will find that Death sometimes shifts briefly during them. It shows just a hint or a shadow of what his Reaper form is. It was meant to show the true power of Death and everything he could potentially do.

Next he talked a little about the idea behind designing Death the way they did. Joe made it clear that they wanted Death to play more like a villain. He would lie, cheat and kill to get whatever he was after. He was meant to be the opposite of War who was for justice and very honorable.

Han was next to start talking and he had a much stronger focus on the art and designs of Darksiders 2. He talked about building the various style guides that were needed for the art and design team to take everything that Joe had drawn and begin the construction of it into the world of Darksiders. He joked that sometimes he knew more about Joe's own drawing style than Joe did.

To generate one of these Style Guides he needed to look into the individual pieces of the subject. With characters it was looking into their building and style. With areas it was noting the color palette and theme that it had. It was important to get the chiseled, super proportioned look into everything that was inside the world. While this sounds like it calls for a lot of specifics, Han told us that he wanted to break things into simple ideas. From there those ideas would be given the “Darksiders” treatment. He was also insistent at times of having sculptures to work from as it helped them just get a better of the look that somethings simply had in the world. The various models that were shown on the projector at this time were representative of months of work.

He wrapped up talking some about the Makers, the Dwarves in the world of Darksiders. He said they were a good example of working from a simple idea. These fellows are responsible for some of the most powerful weapons in the world of Darksiders. They show a lot of Celtic influence in their lives and villages. They are also one of the big things that they hope people are looking forward to seeing in the world.

Next up was Roger. He had been handling the extended universe, showing us the events between and before the games. He wanted to build up the universe involved in Darksiders. He wanted to be sure that all the hole and missing references in the games would be address, in some fashion, inside the comics. He would get receive the scene and the script and start into his process of creating the world at large. From there it was Block it out, scan it in, Blue line it and then color it in. He showed us one of the early pages inside the Darksiders Comic that he had been working on to illustrate the point. It showed Death noticing in the massive influx of souls into the River Styx. He approached it and put a hand toward the surface only to be attacked by a surprising amount of souls.

A bit later he talked about the Horse Master, one more of more Comic Exclusive characters. This man was build some on the “Stranger with No Name” Western style. He apparently has something to do with the origin of Despair and the other Horses that belong to the harbingers of the apocalypse. He started off with a more Science Fiction look but it did not fit. It was only through experimenting that they found the present look and were happy with it.

The panel was opened up to questions at this point. The first question was another to get the comics aside from pre-ordering them. Robert responded that the comics would be collected in December and released.

The next question was more interesting. The world of Darksiders is built slightly on the “Book of Revelations” and they wanted to know just how much of that lore and mythology had managed to stay in the game. Joe responded that they knew they were starting from the “Book of Revelations” and they wanted it known that was the starting point. However he made it clear that they had long since strayed as they could not get enough to fit from the source into the game. They simply drew the names and a little more but left it there. It would be too hard to fit it into the growing universe and they left it to start building their own fiction.

The question after that was a bit interesting. The person wanted to know if the power of the consoles (PC, 360, PS3, WiiU) helped with anything. First it was made clear that the different consoles had different strengths and weaknesses. They did not need to change much between the console though they are looking forward to seeing what the next generator of consoles can do.

The panel wrapped up with a few more basic questions about the game (did it have parrying and if we learn in-game where the horses come from). They thanked us for coming and told us about a scavanger hunt they had set up. There are 4 booths, each giving out a card relating to Darksiders 2. If you collected the first 3 and returned to the Darksiders 2 booth you could collect the “secret” fourth card of the set.