As we rapidly approach Gen Con and the debut of our digital Tunnels & Trolls prototype, I thought it would be fun to give everyone a sneak peek at some of the new features players can expect when they get their hands on the game. At the same time, I’d like to give you all a glimpse into the process of preparing the game for digital platforms. In this article, I’ll focus on art.
The Mathematics of Art
Players of classic Tunnels & Trolls adventures will fondly remember the black and white interior illustrations and full color covers, and our intention has always been to capture the authentic feel of those adventures by using the original art in the digital game. Our primary partner on this front has been the mighty Steve Crompton, art director and cartographer of the Fellowship of the Troll, who has been busily and masterfully scanning the illustrations from the pen and paper adventures—which is no small task given much of this work has been long out of print. A good amount of art had been previously digitized for the printing of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls following the successful Kickstarter in 2013, but in the case of Naked Doom and other adventures, this work needed to begin anew.
Additionally, the typical page in a T&T solo adventure would have four or five paragraphs or “rooms,” and maybe one piece of art. Our aspiration has always been to show art alongside each room and major decision in the game, and some quick math suggests we didn’t have all the art we’d need to realize our vision. Naked Doom sports about one hundred rooms or decision points in the adventure, but only 20 or so pieces of art from original artist Robin Carver. Some illustrations were well suited for multiple uses, but we still had a long way to go to cover each room.
On top of that, we also wanted to try something new. While much of the original art still holds up nicely as a testament to classic fantasy in its black and white version, we were keen to see how the art would look with digital coloring.
Today, I’m excited to show you some of our early efforts on these fronts.
Piccolo Not Included
The process of finding the proper illustration for every situation in Naked Doom began with combing through the fabled Flying Buffalo archive. In some cases, an illustration from a different adventure fit the need of a particular room, monster or treasure in Naked Doom.
For example, particularly unlucky heroes in Naked Doom may encounter a Lovecraftian shoggoth as a wandering monster. Players of Arena of Khazan may recall the possibility of having to fight a shoggoth if they advanced to the Monster tier of gladiatorial opponents, and Peter Laird’s illustration of this eldritch terror fit the bill perfectly. Hopefully you’ll never have to face this beast in the adventure, so here’s a look at the toughest, rarest and most incomprehensible wandering monster Naked Doom had to offer.
Now in Full Color! (Partially)
There are also minor rooms where a completely new piece of art might not be warranted, such as when the character must choose which way to go in an intersection of multiple tunnels, but we felt something new would add ambience to the adventure.
Once again, we called upon the many talents of Steve Crompton, who was able to tweak some of Carver’s original art and repurpose it for a new situation, and in the process start our efforts at digital coloring. Players of the original Naked Doom will recognize the hero in this illustration as the one who appeared on the cover of the first edition of the adventure. Steve put the hero in a new background with digital color and lighting, bringing modern sensibility to the work while maintaining the iconic feel of the original.
And Now for Something Completely New
In some cases, the only satisfactory answer was to commission new illustrations. While Naked Doom received multiple printings across several territories and publishers, some of the most seminal rooms were never illustrated. One such room is the Sword Room, which gives our unarmed heroes their first chance to earn a weapon.
For this key moment and several others, we turned to Liz Danforth, another proud member of the Fellowship of the Troll, who served as co-designer of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls in addition to being one of the most gifted and prolific artists in the storied Tunnels & Trolls portfolio. In this brand new illustration, which we show for the first time ever here, Liz depicts this integral moment in Naked Doom where the adventurer must decide to try for the Hero Sword, the Hopeless Sword, or neither.
On a very personal level, I’m having an absolute blast being part of adding to the canon of Tunnels & Trolls, and in particular seeing new art from Liz and Steve makes me feel like a kid opening birthday presents!
This is How We’ll Do It
This vignette of bringing the remastery of Naked Doom to life also gives a good glimpse into how the MetaArcade Adventures Platform will work. At Gen Con, we’ll have our first hands on demo of digital Tunnels & Trolls, which will give players a taste of how the game itself will play.
Then, when it’s time to start creating your own Tunnels & Trolls adventures, you’ll have a library of art to choose from. We’ll be starting with the Flying Buffalo archive from the Tunnels & Trolls rulebooks and adventures, and I’ll have more news soon on additional art we’ll make available to aspiring adventure writers.
We’ll have a similar process for audio as well, where you can listen to a library of music and sound effects to add to your adventure.
And ultimately, if you can’t find what you want in the archive, or want to contribute your own art or music in addition to your narrative, you’ll have the ability to upload new assets for use in your adventure and, if you choose, for other people to use in theirs.
Please keep in mind this is all forward looking, and our initial efforts are very focused on getting the Tunnels & Trolls experience right. I’ll have a lot more to share about our vision for the platform after we get your feedback on the adventure player, and that all starts at Gen Con.
And for those of you who aren’t attending Gen Con—rest assured, we’ll be providing ways for you to try the prototype as well as a chance at getting your own copy of Grimtina’s Guard. Stay tuned for more details, and always feel free to ping me directly on Facebook and Twitter @Pokethulhu with your thoughts!