It’s the week before Gamescom and the perfect time to talk about the new Sylvari! Sylvari week will be going on through Friday but today we have what I consider to be the most pivotal day: the day we get to see the new vision of this race. Today Kristen Perry wrote about both the original design, what they didn’t like, and all of the influences in creating their new version. I have to say, I for one am quite pleased with the results.
So there it is, at least in part. This is the new version of Caithe, one of the Sylvari firstborn and a member of Destiny’s Edge. Over at guildwars2guru, someone put together a composite image of how Caithe has changed over the design period:
I have to say that while I feel the new versions look very different from the original concept, I think the original first shot we had of her (second picture) just looked off. In fact, this feeling of “being off” was how I felt about all of the Sylvari after we first saw their in-game models:
So why did they change?
Plant people. What does that mean? What do they look like? Elves? Monsters? Something else entirely? These are the questions that are at the core of the Sylvari aesthetic. What I think ANet was looking for as the answer to those questions was: “Yes”. I think the design goal was to create a new species that didn’t fall directly into any of those categories. I don’t think the original in-game models really lived up to that though. When I first saw that image above, I was kind of disappointed with how they had turned out. To me, those Sylvari looked more to me like elves or humans that had different skin tints, leaf-hair and potentially some plant-clothes. That didn’t really feel like enough mystery or alien qualities. After they had developed such an interesting feline race in the Charr, I was a bit disappointed that Sylvari turned out as green Humans (elves).
Apparently, Kristen Perry and the other artists at ANet felt similarly. As she outlines in the blog post, it’s really hard to come up with something new without looking too much like elves, ents, dryads, etc. We know from the lore that the Sylvari look Human-ish because of the Pale Tree and the influence of Ronan and Ventari. Instead of making Humans that look plant-ey, Kristen instead decided to look at it from another angle- how would plants grow in such a way that they would resemble Humans? Instead of a human form with leaves acting as clothes and hair, what about instead having bark, leaves and other plant-bits that grow into the shape of a humanoid form? The distinction sounds very small, but the effect is quite large. In fact, I feel she described it best in this paragraph, so I will shamelessly copy and paste it:
“The solution was to create an illusion of anatomy. The figure was not formed from a human with leaves on top of it, but rather a human shape made from grown plant parts. This originates from specific growth sockets. The primary growth socket starts at the small of the back, where a tail might grow. Like many fruits and vegetables, there are two ends: the main stem and the opposing divot (which makes a really good belly button). Graceful leaves sprout from the growth socket, curving around and through the body to simulate the desired musculature. I used stems and broad leaves to articulate the carpal tendons and the flesh of the lower arms. Hosta leaves spiral out at the shoulders in a teardrop shape to form the deltoid “muscles,” while branches spring from the clavicles. Scientific anatomy turned out to be creepy, but garden-variety fantasy anatomy was just what was needed.”
Accompanying that description were the following pictures:
Incorporating the idea of “growth points” is central to making this concept work. Instead of just having body parts and clothes that just have leaves on top of them, the Sylvari look more like they were grown that way naturally. So how do these ideas form a varied race that has lots of diversity but still retains a unified look? Here are a few more examples:
I think it goes without saying that people can identify that these are all Sylvari. That first picture and the last one really sell the idea for me that the “clothing” should look like it is naturally growing rather than simply being draped on. There are so many different styles, and they all look fairly “right” if there is such a thing. As for the middle two pictures, these are showing off the winter skin that you can create with your Sylvari. At present there are only the two styles, but Kristen assured us that you can change the colors and accessories to attain more spring and fall-like looks. I think most of all, this blog post has gotten me even more excited to see what kinds of options you will have for character customization. The variation we see in just these few images is fairly amazing and they don’t appear to even scratch the surface of all the different tweaks you can make. For example, it was mentioned that bio-luminescent markings would be possible as alternatives to scars and tattoos. Different skin colors like yellow, brown, red and orange could dramatically alter the feeling of this race. Some of the Sylvari in these pictures have more dull eyes, some have vibrant blues and grays, some even seem to be extremely red, potentially even glowing.
While I definitely think the armor presented in that last picture was really cool, I had to wonder if other races were able to wear it and what the Sylvari would look like in “normal” armors. I’m not sure that we ever had 100% confirmation until today, but now we know that there are indeed some armors that are unique to each race but most others are shared between all races. This image shows us some of the Sylvari-exclusive armors and I for one am glad that these styles are Sylvari-only. As much as I love customization, I really feel like it would have been very strange to have plant-armored Charr. How a Sylvari will look decked out in full-plate remains to be seen; I really hope that some people come up with some cool combinations of part metal part plant armor sets that work together well.
As for the history and culture of the Sylvari, I will leave that until later this week when the extended site entry has been made. We know some things about this race, but since it is so new to the world, much of it will likely be in the blog post this week instead of from things we already knew in GW1. I know I am happy with how their design, how about any readers?