Painting from Elder Scrolls: Legends

Recently I completed a project for Elder Scrolls: Legends, a digital collectible card video game developed by Direwolf. Instead of working on the cards themselves, like I’ve done for Magic: The Gathering, the studio wanted to develop these elaborate storyboard panels that revealed themselves in between matches to introduce a new chapter in the story.

These were quite possibly some of the most complicated storyboards I’ve ever done, for several reasons. The first is that each panel had to be created in many different layers, so that they could be animated for the game. For example, in the image below, the final version animated both the waves and lightning as the boats moved forward.

Painting of a ship at sea from Elder Scrolls: Legends

The second thing that was unique about this project is that each of the storyboards had to be very photorealistic, yet with a painterly style. With 4-5 artists working on this project, staying photorealistic allowed us to all maintain a consistent look over hundreds of images.

To help maintain that cohesion, the art director – my friend Ian McCaig – created a quick thumbnail storyboard, then did a photoshoot with actors to capture all the different character positions and expressions. Our job was to follow the thumbnail storyboard and use all of the photos to create very elaborate panels.

A side by side comparison of a reference photo and final painting for Elder Scrolls: Legends

Because of the tight schedule of the project, for some scenes we had to get creative, whether adding placeholders or using other references, including, at times, using photos of myself:

Side by side comparison of reference photo and final painting, villain decaying

This project was a good exercise for me in using the full arsenal of Photoshop tools. It was a highly technical process of putting a variety of elements together – the photos, sketches, and 3D models – while keeping in mind light consistency, colors, and perspective to give it all a cohesive look. Having looked at the final result in the gameplay, all that hard work paid off. While the images only show up periodically throughout the game, they look wonderful with the animation.

You can see more of the paintings in the gallery above, and the rest on my website.  Plus, if you want to see them with movement, the animatics studio DarkMatter has posted a reel with many of them.