Alex here again (Lead Designer, Co-Writer, + misc.) with something we would like your feedback on. Huge spoilers for anyone who scrolls down on this one, so you’ve been warned.
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We’re talking final bosses in this one.
Preliminary work is currently being undertaken to land on the visual style and look for our biggest-big-bad of Alice: Asylum.
For those who have read the narrative outline, you’ll know that Alice confronts the last remnants of her Family’s torment in the nightmarish manifestations of Wilton J. Radcliffe.
Alice’s murdered family’s corrupt, rotten lawyer from Madness: Returns, and the other half of the child trafficking syndicate alongside Bumby.
In a first for the game series, during the end-game sequences, Alice resolves her inner conflict inside her own mind, and finds herself in the “Otherland” of someone else.
This area is inside Radcliffe’s mind, and this is where the “final battle” takes place in Asylum and the conflict in the story is settled.
The current design tasks are to;
1. Create the World aesthetic inside Radcliffe’s Mind. Create his “Otherland”. How does it look?
2. Create the appearance for Radcliffe himself and how he appears here. How does Radcliffe appear in his “Otherland”? Is this to Alice… or himself?
Early sketches and design process ideation is below, so in the spirit of open discussion, I’ll walk you through the design decisions and where we’ve landed with some back and forth within the team.
The first sketch above is one I created to get the ball rolling for preliminary art and creative direction.
A huge filthy lawyer with gold teeth. He’s grotesque and surrounded by wealth, gold, and filthy coins. Giant ledgers and books pile around, and the children are in their cages, ready to be sold as livestock above him.
If you want to get more into the initial direction, here is the image above with supplementary design notes. (You can download a high-resolution version of this one in the .zip folder at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in deep diving into this).
Also, books go squish.
It was at this stage, that Omri, Adam, American and I had a back and forth.
I think we were in agreeance that the level design was on the right track, but Radcliffe needed some work.
After talking to American this morning on our weekly touchpoints, I opened the door to find his thoughts and input.
Here are some snapshots of American’s feedback and creative direction.
• American’s Feedback #1:
American really liked the idea of Calligraphy pens as spikes, and asked me to see if I could work these designs into hands. He loved the “hands” design of the Dollmaker in Madness Returns, and thought including Radcliffe’s hands in a similar manner would enhance the boss design.
• American’s Feedback #2:
American requested that the area for this boss fight area would be like a coliseum.
With Radcliffe placed in the center, and with everything he desired accessible within a 360-degree area, all within arms reach of his greedy mitts.
From that; the second pass resulted in the below level design concept;
(Might be worth downloading the high res version and zooming into the details on this one).
Now, I really liked the design for the level and “coliseum” area of the first concept.
I drew the second variant of Radcliffe emerging from his “rabbit hole of gold” up to this point as a quick WIP (Work in progress).
Then, I wanted to get working on his calligraphy pen spiked hands.
And as I drew the hands… something else came out of my pen.
A golden masked monstrosity. Calligraphy pens for fingers, dripping gold.
A crown of gold, ink and endless ledgers. This is how Radcliffe sees himself here.
Powerful, wealthy, a golden god of cunning and words. His ink is mightier than any sword.
But to Alice, we can see his corruption and darkness seeping through the cracks in his veneer.
American had also mentioned that Radcliffe himself would be weak in direct combat and would be classed as a “string-puller” and linked by “webs” to spring traps and do his bidding, in keeping with his character.
The symbology in his crown is representative of the symbol for “sun” and “gold” in alchemy, as well as an allusion to the 8-pointed star of chaos.
I dig the aesthetic of a golden mask, hiding complete darkness behind it.
Note the doll’s arms and limbs hanging on his shoulders and from the spikes of pens in his crown and shoulders.
American would like the game experience here to be navigating the level to get to Radcliffe in the center of the world, then lobbing a Vorpal Blade into his “center of being” thereby shattering his own effigy of himself, ending the encounter.
I would love to throw a vorpal blade into that big dumb face, and shatter that mask.
Looking at the concept above, I see Radcliffe writing words out with his “fingers” on the book in front of him, where Alice is standing. Having what he writes attack Alice, either by ink taking shape, as lines of spikes, or entrapping her.
Regardless, I think this can be a frantic and high note to finish on if we balance the concepts right and land in the right place.
I think we’re on the right track… or at the least an interesting one here… but what do you think?
You know the drill.
Sound off in the comments, and we’ll see where this one lands together.
I’ll be sharing the WIP sketches with the team, and we may see some more refined passes from other team members as we refine Radcliffe’s Otherland and the final big-bad in Alice: Asylum.
Big props if you get to the bottom of these long posts, we’ll catch you next time!