This interview with Ascendat Studios’ Senior Art Director, Dave Bogan, was conducted and transcribed by Marissa Messiano, a contributor at FanSided’s Hidden Remote at San Diego Comic-Con. Immortals of Aveum is available now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.
On magic’s role within the story of the game:
“The character you play, or with basically anyone in the world, there’s a little classism at play. You can be born innately with the use of magic, or not. Or, you can be born with it but not know it and develop it later on in life…. You can innately use magic from birth, but it’s called wild magic. It’s very hard to control. It’s very dangerous. People find out they have magic and all of a sudden it’s like “Boom!”. They get angry and a village explodes. So it’s very like… it’s a hot topic. Which is why when people find out that you have magic, they kind of recruit you into a military to help control it. And apart from that, there’s what we call the Magknight Dynasties. So, the magic that’s passed through bloodlines. It’s known and contained, and like I said, there’s a little bit of classism involved. So if you come from a family that innately has magic, [it’s different].
Developing and designing the user experience for interacting with magic in the game: In our game there’s basically, I mean, when you start a license with magic, you can literally do anything. We can very dangerously make it so widespread… so you have to kind of make rules for yourself. So we decided early on to basically make three schools of magic. There’s red magic, green magic, blue magic. They all have names: Forest Magic, Chaos Magic and Life Magic.
We did this for game play reasons and for visual reasons So from an Art Director’s standpoint… it’s the colors; it helps separate right away. But, how do they move? How do they impact enemies in the game? Everything we do, we try to separate it and make different rules [for each type of magic]. Forest Magic is very physical. It’s very linear and surgical, predictable. If you can picture lightning, but released in perpendicular lines… so that visually kind of separates it. Whereas Chaos Magic, red magic, is very erratic and chaotic. There’s no limit to what it can do. It can move slowly or fast. It moves any direction it wants to. It’s very unpredictable. And then Life Magic is very flowy, liquidy, bubbly, amorphous. And it kind of has a life and death balance to it.
We try to create rules to separate them out from one another, and we didn’t want to fall into the tropes. One of our pillars for the game – the visuals, the writing, the design – was to be able to make it unpredictable. So when you think of magic, what do you think of? Fire? Ice? Everybody does that. So we wanted to go in a different direction. So that was hard. We spent a long time making rules and trying to separate things out, and not try to fall into tropes.”
How Immortals of Aveum stands out from other fantasy games:
“I think it’s one of the things. Another thing is right from the get-go, not just our magic, but our writing and the visuals and music, everything really was “how can we be different?” Researching what’s out there and knowing what’s out there, taking what we love from what we know and kind of putting it aside. You still have to be aware of it so you don’t repeat it. So when we talk about fantasy, the first thing I think about is Dungeons & Dragons with elves, dwarves, giants, fire and ice…. And you don’t do that. You make sure that anything you do is not following suit. We’ve got Lord of the Rings, to Star Wars, and everything in between. So we’re trying to pick what visually stimulates us and come up with a new recipe. The [world-building] is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.”
What Bogan’s hoping the experience is like for players coming to this world:
“We’re trying to be relatable, and a little bit more modern. We’re trying to give them something different. So they don’t just fall into the trance of what they know. The music has loads of hip-hop in it, the writing is very modern – it’s not old English or a wizard speaking on top of a mountain. It’s not like that. In the last decade, all the Marvel films that have come out are very action-based with fast-pacing, and our stuff relates more to that.
In my career, I worked for LucasArts, Telltale Games and Ascendant Studios. The common denominator there is character and story. People latch on and gravitate to characters, whether it’s the imagery, or the values they stand for, or just the stories they tell… I’ve played video games since I was a kid, but the ones I got really attached to were the ones with memorable characters. You get ingrained in a world that you want to be a part of. That’s what I want.
I think one thing that I love about our game as well is the cast, which has real chemistry… Even though we stopped and the pandemic happened and everyone was in a separate audio studio, somehow they just… the chemistry is still there. It was up to our animation to grab all of those performances and stitch them together, and make them feel like they were in the same room. It was amazing. I think that’s a real strength of our game people will experience.
You can’t make a good story without good actors and good performances. And we just lucked out; we have the best cast.”