The art of SunlessSkies.
Failbetter artist Toby Cook tells us how the studio creates a Victorian vision of outer space.
1 Light and dark
Cook uses perspective to enhance depth: “Making foreground objects darker and richer, and background objects progressively lighter and more affected by atmospheric haze. This also helps the player identify what is on their level.”
2 Building material
The game takes place in The High Wilderness – a fantastical spacelike location set in the Victorian era. The architecture thus combines Victorian influences with more contemporary space stations and rockets.
3 Tech balance
Locomotives mix classic, fictional and current tech, eg, some can use lateral thrusters to manoeuvre “like contemporary space vehicles”. Advanced factions seem more sci-fi and others are “ramshackle constructions of iron and wood”.
4 Layering up
“Though the background is composed of less than ten distinct layers, we use irregular overlapping patches of fog and beams of light to make the scene feel naturalistic,” says Cook of Failbetter’s use of layering.
5 Shine a light
“The player’s headlight has multiple functions. It helps the player determine what is collidable (since collidable terrain will block the light), assists in aiming weaponry, and also enhances atmosphere and the feeling of discovery.”
6 Negative space
“We find it’s often more powerful to suggest rather than show explicitly,” says Cook. “We try to fill the background space with gaps and hints of the world beyond and invite the player to fill the blanks with their own imagination.”