Concept101: Preceding Darkness and Death

When KingsIsle first started, people weren't exactly lining up the at doors to join in, but there are plenty of aspiring artists looking to do what they love for a living. And KingsIsle, or what existed of it, was smart. They went to several of the popular concept art forums and posted about contract art jobs available to the people there.

Each artist was given a specific task: create a concept from specific guidelines to help decide on and define the style of a new MMO from KingsIsle Entertainment. The original idea was to have a tree with a face, whose roots held everything on a floating island in the sky together. Surrounded by tiers of land and buildings, this great tree had an orb of sorts that was the source of its power.

Jeff Toney recently posted on KingsIsle's Blog about this process. However, many people are confusing the concepts shown for a progression of Bartleby's development, when, in fact, those are simply various artists' takes on the grandfather tree.

Spark to Start the Fire

Everything begins with an idea... but the spoken word does not mean the same exactly the same to one person as it does another. Therefore, you might say that the true origin of any in-game piece is the art. The artists interpret what they hear and create a concept out of it to give the 3D artists an idea of what direction to go.

In the above example, you see how a rough sketch becomes a piece of art for something we know. Jeremy Love, the sketch artist, was later hired at KingsIsle. Strangely enough, his was also the first art to use the orb as an eye. Whether that influenced the story or was influenced by the story will always be a mystery.

Times of Old

Even upon beginning Pirate101, KingsIsle didn't have enough artists to cover both games. They moved some from Wizard, and borrowed others here and there, and even went the route that they had when Wizard101 started, and did some concept outsourcing, in which another company mass produces art for your desired purpose.

One of the artists KingsIsle approached was Xavier Garcia. He created the concept below for Valencia, one of the planned worlds (at least in part) for the release content.

Now wait a minute - that's not Valencia! My first thought was: Oh, he hasn't read the story, has he? But upon further investigation, I found that he's written this:

The test was two parts: design the floating city of Valencia and a prop to go with it. They offered reference and a good deal of information about the makings of the city, so I had a pretty good ground to fall on. There was no time limit, but I gave myself 4 days.

Wait a minute - a good deal of information... good ground to fall on? It makes me wonder if Valencia wasn't always planned to be the place of darkness that it is today. Is this Valencia before the clockworks? Does KingsIsle plan on showing us the brighter side of Valencia? Or did they just completely leave out the fact that this was the place of the story's antagonist and darkest part of the Spiral? Yeah, must have missed that part.

Two Parts, Swordroll. Two Parts.

Of course. I didn't forget. Garcia also had to design several props for Valencia. One of his pieces is pictured to the left.

As you can see (or perhaps must enlarge to see), he's made several notes about how the poverty lessens as you near the center of the city, and even specifies how the water falls and groups together before plunging into the Spiral's unknown.

Beyond that, he also did a gondola study. I found it particularly interesting that he chose these to focus on as is props. Or perhaps is was more based on the direction he was given. He sketched five designs and finalized one.

Have you ever noticed that, when in Sivella, you may choose either a red or white gondola to ride to the city in? While I could only dream that you choice somehow later impacts the game, it's a nice touch that most don't notice.

Concept Credits

All of these concepts are created by the KingsIsle art team. Dave Greco is the Lead Concept Artist there, and shares many of his works on his blog, My Electronic Days. You can view it HERE. See more from KingsIsle Entertainment at

Though Xavier Garcia was never hired to work at KingsIsle Entertainment, his art gives us an idea of what KingsIsle might have planned for Valencia, or what they originally intended it to be. Though this is his only KingsIsle art, he does great work that you can view on his blog HERE. Warning: Not all images may be suitable for children.


Stick around, as I'll be talking more about textures and 3D art tomorrow! Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

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