Designing monsters for Hytale

It wouldn’t be an adventure without monsters to encounter. Today, we’re going to go into a little bit more detail about some of the dangerous foes you’ll face as you explore Orbis in adventure mode. Once again, arachnophobes beware! There’s a spider at the end of this post - stop scrolling when you see the Trork!

A skeleton archer in zone 1.

Skeletons are a staple of fantasy adventure games. In adventure mode, you'll encounter them as you delve into dungeons and pick through ruins above ground. They're common foes, but - like Trorks - they appear in several variants, including archers, mages, and warriors.

"We knew that we wanted enemies that offer different types of gameplay, using different tools, weapons, ranges, and so on" says artist Thomas ‘Xael’ Frick. "Skeletons are the perfect type of enemy for that - they can wear any type of gear. They're a basic 'brick' that can become anything we want because they're based on the human rig - it's very easy to make it modular."

This concept piece shows off a number of skeleton variants.

Skeletons are a standard enemy type, but their appearance - and threat level - changes as you progress through adventure mode. Undead encountered in later zones are tougher, wielding weapons and armour that reflect both their environment and the increased danger that they pose.

A skeleton warrior in zone 2.

"I started investigating how we could do different types of skeleton, using Hytale Model Maker to speed up the process" Thomas says. "It's very easy to change skins and armour." For more information about how Hytale Model Maker's modular character building system works, click here.

Crawlers lurk in the darkness, waiting to leap out at unsuspecting adventurers.

The creatures of the void make up the armies of Varyn, Hytale’s chief antagonist - you can see a little more of him in the key art showcase we posted earlier this year. These demonic monsters come in many forms, but all pose a lethal threat. Their designs tell a story, offering clues to their origin and indicating that they each represent part of a greater threat.

"The challenge was to give them similarities in terms of shapes and colors" Thomas says, "to hint to the player that it's the same family of creatures, the same faction.”

Void Eyes summon allies to their aid when threatened.

Void creatures have a number of common features: pale flesh with purple accents, glowing green eyes, and curving horns. "These curving horns are used in various places to symbolize Varyn" Thomas says. "The creatures are also related in terms of shape, even if they're different." Look out for diamond shapes - they're another key indicator of the presence of Varyn and his minions.

A Void Spawn strides out into a sandstorm.

The most dangerous monsters have an appropriately threatening appearance, particularly the Void Spawn - they’re some of Varyn’s most dangerous soldiers.

Even so, it’s important that all of Hytale’s creatures cohere as part of the game’s overall art style. Whether you’re facing down a Void Spawn or befriending a Kweebec, it should be clear that they are both part of the same universe. This is achieved by ensuring that all creature designs are based on common elements - if you're planning to design your own Hytale creatures one day, then it may be worth keeping these in mind.

"Texturing plays a big role, as does the color palette you use, how you draw shadows, where you place lights and what hues you're using" Thomas explains.

"HMM helps a lot because it's all based on cubes and planes - this helps make things more consistent, but it's not enough by itself. You also have to consider the scale of the characters - all of the heads of our normal-sized characters are about the same. The same is true of hands and arms, the thickness of a finger or claw, and the way they scale."

It's important to use blocks of similar thickness where it makes sense to do so, and a consistent pixel density across all textures. This way, everything blends together and seem to belong to the same universe.

A Trork warrior guards his campfire.

Trorks are an example of the tonal ‘middle ground’ - there’s a sense of fun in their design that wouldn’t be appropriate for an undead or void creature, but they’re still physically imposing and pose a threat.

"Fantasy is often quite similar, and one way to make this ours is to have fun with it." Thomas says. The name 'Trork' actually started life as a joke. "I was experimenting with a basic archetype, the brute creature - a very muscular monster. I didn't want to do an orc or a troll, so I created a hybrid. Everybody ended up calling it a 'Trork', and we ended up integrating that."

All that having been said, some players aren’t going to get their biggest scare when they wander into a Trork camp, or even when they have a run-in with Varyn’s forces. Instead, they’re going to regret taking a wrong turn underground and ending up in exactly the wrong kind of cave...

Sorry about all the spiders. They get everywhere!

To download a zip containing the screenshots and short video clips featured in this blog post, click here!