Friday Update: Making Keaira

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' Keaira is a close ally of King Conan, and an invaluable source of secret information to the mighty ruler of Aquilonia. '

When he saved her from a camp of raiding Vanir invaders in years past, she formed an unbreakable bond of loyalty to the powerful barbarian. Or so it seems. Through the years this bond has grown to become a professional relationship, and she now leads an underground network of spies, thieves and murderers. Don’t be fooled by her voluptuous appearance though, she is as deadly as she is wild in the bedroom. Suffice to say she will go to any length to secure the info she craves and needs, involving both pleasure and unspeakable pain for the poor victims.

Those of you who read Playboy are in for a treat as our own Keaira is one of the featured girls in their December 2007 issue. You’ve also seen her in the CG trailer we released, lurking around the displays, slipping through the shadows to adorn the occasional article on the website, and sidling her way onto posters and other artwork. This Friday, we’ll walk through the process of making Keaira, showing you how a single character goes from concept to reality, and some of the changes she’s undergone along the way.

From the very first creative brief:

She is a really amazing blonde woman and shaped like a Greek goddess of love, but she is also a cunning thief, sneaking around the rooftops of Tarantia with her deadly bow at night. She should have a cape, and the bow attached to her back when she doesn’t use it for whatever deadly purposes. She should be the key female character driving the marketing art of the game, and she should be stunningly beautiful…She should invoke two of the keywords in our positioning: “sinful” and “lush.”

For our initial conception, we actually didn’t travel that far from home. The very first picture we looked at, in terms of feeling, was the face of The White Dragon from our own Dreamfall: Tall, elegant, and classically beautiful.

As we went through the creative process, however, it became apparent that we had to make some changes. For one thing, while The White Dragon is beautiful, she’s cool and distant, and we wanted a woman that was beautiful, but was also the sort of woman that you’d kill to get your hands on: Curvy, sinful, and lush. Of course, the very first thing we had to do was model her, and while the very first renders might not be particularly exciting, you could see the direction we decided to go in. With some skinning and artwork applied, you can Keaira beginning to take shape, though she’s still the slightly more approachable sister of The White Dragon.

After lots of internal back and forth, and lots more creative briefs, we decided that she was beautiful, but not quite what we had in mind. It was becoming clear that neither blond hair nor white hair suited her. As we went through the process, we settled on darker hair (which our art director had wanted all along), as it lent her a certain air of mystery and made for a more striking look. The key thing here is we weren’t just making a girl that was fun to look at—though, naturally, that had to play a part in it—we wanted to make an interesting character, hot to look at, yes, but with a certain aura of mystery about her. Seduction is about more than looks, after all, it’s in the way she moves, the way she carries herself, and that certain spark that makes her more than just eye candy.

You can see the results of that process in this bit of artwork from partway through the process. She’s a bit wilder, a bit less refined, the sort of girl who could show you a good time or rip your throat out with equal ease. Adding the Cimmerian tribal face painting just contributed to that particular look, though it did change her from Aquilonian to Cimmerian, but that was something we just had to endure.

From there, it was a matter of softening sharp lines and adding curves, and though the difference is subtle, you can see it in the artwork as we started to approach completion, especially as we worked with Blur on the CG trailer.

With the overall look of the character in place, we set about making smaller changes, like softening her look, making her lips more kissable and making her eyes more enticing, which you can see in some of the examples of the final artwork, for both posters and other uses.

And while we can’t show you the uncensored final result (you’ll have to buy the magazine for that, though we know you just want to read the Norman Mailer article), we can provide you this covered-up glimpse of the sinful, sexy result of a process that actually started several years ago in Dreamfall. She might be the last thing you’ll ever see, but the question then becomes, would you ever want to see anything else?

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