Hello, Trailblazers of the Unknown,
Today we interview Mirko, lead artist of Sheol.
Q: How was the Sheol’s art born and from what did you draw your inspiration?
Mirko: Sheol’s theme was clear since the very beginning: Light against Darkness, simple yet vast in all its expressive possibilities.
In the early stages of such a complex and ambitious project, it is especially important to understand the intentions of the story and the direction of the game design and selecting the right inspiration to obtain a solid and coherent world. That’s why the first thing I did was a moodboard.
In the first image I focused on the genre I wanted to illustrate. Frame (1) is taken from Alex Garland’s 2018 movie “Annihilation”. It is a strange science-fiction movie where exploration and physical and psychological contact with forces extraneous to humanity are the aesthetical and narrative core of the movie. There is also a horror component as shown by the direct quote to “Alien” in the aforementioned frame. There are other works that were part of the brainstorming phase, such as (in a purely random order): Stalker, Solaris, Pitch Black, Star Wars, Blame, Bioshock, Death Stranding, Oblivion Song, Battle Angel Alita, Blade Runner, Dead Space, Tron, The Thing, Star Craft , Gantz, Final Fantasy 8, Kingdom Death: Monster, Hollow Knight, Sunless Sea, Tales from the Loop, Pray, the Divine Comedy, and Metropolis.
Q: Sheol has a very particular color theme. Can you tell us something about it?
Mirko: Sure! When we speak of color, before color we must speak of light and, in my case, on how to translate it in visual terms. The lantern object (2) was fundamental from this point of view. It immediately became clear to us that the image of the explorer who, even before pointing a firearm, thinks of pointing his own light source to defend himself would have been of great impact.
The second step related to light was to understand the type of technology that generates it. Sheol’s story tells us about Lux, “liquid light”, and it was almost automatic to think of transparent vials that could contain it so as to have a neon effect (3), a great science fiction classic especially in the cyberpunk genre. As for the color, yellow, white and turquoise were under consideration for some time, but the final choice fell on the latter. Turquoise is a very interesting color also because of its complementary color: red. In fact, the two contrast very well both visually and thematically: the former is often associated with calm and reassuring atmospheres while the latter is danger, alarm, something that is about to attack, or in our case become corrupt. This concept was also important to visualize the components of the game, primarily the difference between Scouts and Shadows.
Q. Very interesting! Well, if I understad correctly, the creation of this world was not simple at all. What was the biggest challenge you had to face?
Mirko: The biggest challenge was definitely to develop a creature design in line with the element of darkness and the marine abysses (5), without it being too derivative though. It could have led us into a Lovecraftian stereotype, something that both Gabriele and I absolutely wanted to avoid. For the Shadows we mainly selected two material elements: the first is coral (4) which coats the creatures like a secretion of sorts, leaking from what humans would define as the head, thus creating something similar to a mask; the second is that the Shadow (6) is such an abstract concept that I based myself on a sculptural painting by Jason Martin to imagine it: the oil painting comes to life in a chaos of texture strokes that give the effect of a sentient oil surface. Subsequently, to define the hierarchies of the Shadows, I reasoned on the percentage of coral on their body and their shape. Basic Shadows have very little coral and thus instinctively tend to the shapes of the animals. The Heralds are the next step up, Shadows that develop intelligence: therefore, the coral will be much more extensive and the shapes will be increasingly humanoid and/or with technological inserts stolen from the Scouts. Finally, the Outer Lords are Shadows with a massive presence of coral and with the sole purpose of destroying everything that appears before them.
Q: Tell us about your favorite game character and/or a design of which you’re particularly proud.
Mirko: Well, if we talk about favorite characters, the choice certainly falls on the first scout created that laid the foundations for everyone else: The Pioneer. When we came to better define the characteristics of our heroes and of the world that reminds of the depths of the sea, it was natural to think of the figure of the diver (7). By mixing a diver with neon light, with the rusty (9) and dusty aesthetics of the post-apocalyptic explorer and a pinch of “ghostbuster” effect, we got the most iconic character of Sheol ready to lead us into the unknown.
However, I must say I am especially proud, as a concept, of the Citadel, the strong point of Sheol! Since the first ideas, we envisioned it as a futuristic tower of Babel that could hold all the human civilization left on Earth within its social and cultural stratification. Visually, my great inspiration came from the artistic collages of the architect Nils-Ole Lund (8). The most stimulating thing in the creation of the Citadel is to think that three very distinct souls coexist within it, but that must still integrate with each other: the steampunk and the post-apocalyptic mood of the first level, the cyberpunk style of the second level and the Gothic visuals of the third and last level.
Well, that’s pretty much everything, but I’ll be happy to answer any further questions regarding Sheol’s aesthetics in the comments!
Follow us for the next updates. Preserve the light!