In a conversation with our Creative Director, Annie Grudeva, we delve into how the art team took one of our key characters from concept to realisation.
Welcome to our first Inside the Art, a series of conversations with our Creative Director Annie, where we heap praise on our wonderful art team and even get insights from the artists themselves. We will explore the process of designing everything from the characters that players will encounter to the architecture and environments they will explore.
Where better to start than with our Matriarchal powerhouse, and mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias.
Q. Let’s go back to the very beginning, what were the main goals you wanted to achieve with the design of Olympias?
A. Olympias is a very particular character historically, so we wanted to preserve that in the game as well. We did a lot of research on her, both what she looked like but also her attitude because like everyone else we wanted to create an original character rather than try to achieve realistic likeness physically.
Fuelled by a desire to remain the most powerful, and indisputably relevant figure in Ancient Greece, Olympias went to great lengths to orchestrate and maintain her status. At her best, she was incredibly self-aware, realizing that alongside leaders like Philip II and the Great, her presence demanded intimidation and intelligence to stay on top. Quite tactfully and steadily, Olympias used people’s fear response to control them.
So with all this information, the art team was briefed to create a woman that was as cruel as she was beautiful. She was actually the source of one of the key concepts in the costume art direction of the game — the idea of fashion armour. Keen players will be able to spot parts of military armour stylized and integrated in the aristocratic fashion.
Q. It’s refreshing to see in the concepts that thought was put into details such as her body shape, what was the thinking behind this?
A. That one was quite easy actually — if you take a stroll through Ufizzi in Florence, British Museum in London or even just google Greek and Roman female sculptures you can see the adoration for a voluptuous and softer female shape. So it made sense to approach Oly in the same way.
Q. We can see from some of the early artwork, a lot of time was spent on Olympias’ costume and hair. How central is Olympias’ ‘look’ to her character?
A. The character we created is what is known as a vulnerable narcissist. The costume reflects how she comes across as overly grandiose, effusing a sense of entitlement and superiority over others. Along with these features is the presence of egocentrism, which is the inability to untangle one’s perspective from objective reality, creating a skewed perception of importance (hence her paranoia and obsession with armour). She judges her personal value only in relation to others; thus, she needs to devalue them through opulence. Setting herself apart from those less than her both in status, vice and appearance helps her to uphold her sense of self as perfect and pure.
Q. She is seen to be adorned in a sort of armoured cage, can you tell us more about the thoughts behind that?
A. Even historically, she was very paranoid. She employs this outer veneer of superiority in order to disguise her inner sense of chronic vulnerability. Regulating the discomfort within herself is a driving force, and she did that in her own way, by both armouring and caging herself. She carries a deep mistrust of people, even further of Mytha and you can really see that. Just like her armour, Olympias is resolute and inflexible when it comes to the fate of her enemies.
Along with this victimization mentality, and hypersensitivity to others’ criticism, narcissists like her are prone to feelings of depression and loneliness. Often, the reality of their life doesn’t meet the fantasy life they feel entitled to have, creating a constant disappointment in the self. In fact, we’ll see Olympias experiencing a fair amount of emotional instability.
Q. How did it feel to finally see the final 3D render of Olympias?
A. It was absolutely fantastic, especially the character designer capturing her very distinct facial expression! However, the most amazing moment was seeing her dance!
So there we have it, a little insight into the design ideas and processes of creating our version of Olympias.
Until next time!