Skyrim‘s Art Style Embodies “Badass Vikings Vs. Conan”

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Skyrim’s artists have revealed their influences for evolving The Elder Scrolls’ world past what they consider “generic” Oblivion.

In a recent podcast hosted on the Elder Scrolls official community site, Skyrim’s art team have explained how, and why, they designed Skyrim as they did, citing Lord of the Rings, McFarlane’s Conan, and the work of renowned fantasy artist Frank Frazetta as an early foundation. Apparently, the team was left to their own devices in architecting the universe long before the game drew focus.

“It was completely blue sky,” said concept artist Adam Adamowicz. “Todd [Howard, executive director] said, ‘Sit down and draw a bunch of cool, weird shit, and we’ll look at it and decide what’s worthwhile and what’s really stupid.'”

“We want bad-ass Vikings versus Conan, classic Frank Frazetta,” he was told, “and it’s going to be set in Skyrim, and this is a place that’s going to be a lot more brutal and gritty: draw a bunch of stuff.”

So, sit down and draw a bunch of cool, weird shit, Adam did, some of which you can see in the video above that Bethesda released alongside the podcast.

“[At first, I pulled] a lot of Conan references, because there’s a lot of different Conan art that I like,” said Adamowicz, “One of our early influences that I did show them was the McFarlane Conan action figure set. If you look at the Conan series they did, there’s a great vibe in that stuff.”

Most of the team’s effort was devoted to leaving the style of Oblivion, described by the game’s lead artist as being too “generic.” Living by the mantra of “less Renn-fest and more biker bar,” they pulled heavily from McFarlane’s work, dark fantasy art, and Bethesda film favorites, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, without giving in to the temptation of ripping them off entirely. In the end, 90% of the work was thrown in the trash, leaving only the best ideas to provide a visual blueprint for Skyrim.

As with all conceptual art, it was eventually handed to the level designers to create the physical, interactive world. Of course, not everything translates precisely from those first ideas, but without such a vibrant foundation, the programmers would never have been able to hem such a large, consistent world together so seamlessly. “There is so much more than what we drew that’s just so amazing. It’s like Christmas,” said artist Adds Lederer. “It’s so cool to see all of that stuff come together, and what’s really amazing is just how much further they take it, and how much cooler it is.”

You can check out the full podcast here.

Skyrim burns a $60 hole in your pocket on November 11th.


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