Little did I realize what a day today would be. I figured “Alright it’s the end of my first week back after vacation! A Friday! Let’s take it easy! Let’s sneak a character concept in there!” They take me like an hour, a good fun break from the usual. So I go check out what characters are next on the list and pick out this dude by the curious name of Bird’s Nest Roy.

“Roy, white male, about 50, tall and gaunt, pawnbroker and drug addict (though the latter is not immediately obvious). His arms, legs, and torso all seem too long, and his hands are too large – expressive hands with long fingers, but nevertheless ugly. Speaks in a quiet, husky smoker’s voice. He was part of the cleanup crew after the People’s Pile disaster. Has traveled extensively. Though he grew up on the coast and runs a pawnshop by the water, he doesn’t like boats.”

First draft. Immediately I’m reminded of a few people I know, these hippie types who’ve gotten older and started dressing down from their regular outlandish gear. You can see this guy having a smoke on the little lawn in front of his 16 story public housing apartment home. An old rocker kinda dude. Add a rigid leather fanny pack as a coin purse for his clerking obligations.

Comments come back from the writers. It’s a good start! The slim silhouette, natural almost invisible way of dress is great. Hair is a bit too wild and cool though. It’s not the hair that’s the Bird’s Nest. Maybe let’s try a lazy ponytail instead?

Alright getting closer. Needs some accessorizing to bring him out of that random dude place, to add some character there. Throw some lopsided shades on him. Maybe a ribbon in his hair? Some kind of memorabilia from the cleanup crew days. Maybe his old jacket? I’m not too keen on breaking his silhouette with more clothes though so I’m thinking we try out an arm band. In retrospect a silly idea.

Naw that’s stupid. It’d much more likely be some kind of an old reflector vest he wore as part of the crew. Maybe some dog tags?

You know what? Dog tags are silly. Way too american. Let’s try like a medallion. And man not so sure about that sweater either. Let’s try like a white jacket. He’s in a room with a projector that’s blasting trippy LSD coloured light all over the place. I think a white jacket would work well as a canvas for the lightshow. Let’s kill the glasses too since the character’s partly written already and the writers would have to go back and edit some bits of text about his eyes.

Man but that jacket sure balloons up now, kinda kills the silhouette we had going with his guy. What if it’s properly buttoned up instead?

You know what. Naw, nope, let’s roll back. That jacket really doesn’t do him justice. Alright so thinking again about the vibe the character is supposed to give off I’m leaning back on that old rocker feeling.. Let’s go full out – a denim vest. Like a biker or something. An old rocker fart. Those dudes love their denim vests.

Pfffft nope that doesn’t work at all. We’ve arrived at some trucker dude / metalhead IT specialist now, all he’s missing is a Manowar print on his chest. You know what, fuck it, roll back. You can’t push the rocker look too much or you get into stereotypes.

Upon reflection that old crew vest was pretty nice. A kind of a believable accessory. You could definitely picture a dude hanging out like that, reflector bits shining. And with the light show going on the glasses were a completely legit idea. No biggie, we’ll just edit a bit of the dialogue. Yes, this works. In hindsight it’s completely obvious that of all the Roys the best Roy is this Roy.


Ladies and gentlemen I give you Bird’s Nest Roy:

As an added bonus – soundtrack of the day.





Hello, blog reader! It is summertime, so this post is also summer themed and more personal than the average posts on our developer blog. It’s been a while so I’ll begin by re-introducing myself. I’m Kaspar Tamsalu and I’m an artist here at ZA/UM. I work on concept art and level design. I may also concept the occasional character. For me working on a larger (hence longer) project like No Truce With the Furies is very inspiring and the teamwork can be rewarding as hell. It can also get out of hand and become extremely tiring if I’m not being careful. Seemingly without notice a year flew by with no serious breaks in between when I could have taken my mind off the streets of Revachol or the beaches of Martinaise.



We’re constantly trying out new things, learning new programs or techniques and our art team bites through a lot of new material. The problem is, we haven’t given any of it time to set. Actually I noticed this already way back when I was a student in the art academy. We’d cram our heads with tons of information and practice without break for months at a time, but at some point I always hit a glass ceiling. Then for the longest weeks the progress was excruciatingly slow or ground to a full stop. The clarity and energy returned only after the summer break. So – when faced with deadlines and pressures of the everyday, it’s just so easy to forget that all work and no play makes Jack a dull-ass boy. I had to get out!



So, this May I found the resolve to decide that I need some actual me time away from the stylus and screen and do some traveling and see new things and most importantly: to try and get my mind off of work. I mostly succeeded. It was tough in the beginning, because all the unfinished concepts would haunt me in my jet laggy sleep, but after about a week I was finally free. For the next month I barely even thought about the game. My girlfriend and I packed our socks and sketchbooks and flew to New York to stay with some friends. Brooklyn was home base, but we drove around all over the place on the east coast. We took in the architecture, enjoyed food and visiting (art) museums. NYC with its multiple boroughs, New Jersey, Boston, New Haven, Rochester, Princeton – for three weeks I did nothing but drive around, walk around, look at the people and places and tons and tons of art.



I’d never been Stateside, so there was so much to see and do. I did manage to sketch some, but mostly I took lazy photos: quick snaps with my phone of interesting street corners. I asked my girlfriend to take better quality reference shots with an actual camera. The heat wave taught me why there are AC units in all the windows in all the movies and the midday rains on Manhattan island explained the flash flood warnings blinking on my phone.

Concepting environments for No Truce is a never ending tug-of-war between “this is not realistic enough” and “it’s not weird enough”. Walking the streets and avenues of the different parts of New York City gave me better insight into what makes these places tick. Every district has their own rhythm that comprises building materials and amount of detail or clutter. Interestingly enough smells and sounds can come packaged with colour, too.



Now that I’ve been back for a few weeks, my feet are no longer sore and my spirit is rejuvenated. In addition to all the sensory stimuli (and the whole suitcase full of art books I flew back with) that I can use in my work designing areas for No Truce, I’ve finally digested all the old stuff that has been accumulating in the past year and then some.

We have really crazy times ahead of us here at ZA/UM and now I’m set to rock and roll.



Thank you for reading!



So today we’re showing a screenshot of, well, honestly it’s a secret area. So don’t tell anyone. Also, if you’re not finding this in your playthrough, put some points in the unimaginatively titled Perception skill — or consult the suspicious sensation that pops up when you’re near the door, but not seeing it. Then ask around, what could be there. There are many of these secret areas in the game and we want there to be different skill paths to finding them.

This screenshot is a good example of the level of detail we put into our isometric environments. I think this is our new gold standard for interiors really. Also, the green orb there — that’s our version of the classic “?” question marks that comment on the environment in games like Pillars of Eternity. And the text commenting on the pig’s head is what happens when you click on one.