Design a World

The Railroad Worm

So recently I’ve taken to the habit of keeping my notebook beside me if I’m watching ‘Planet Earth II’ because the amount of inspiration for creature designs and behaviours is crazy! But there was one creature in particular that caught my eye; the Railroad Worm.

Now don’t let the name deceive you, because the Railroad Worm actually looks like a caterpillar and yet again in a double twist, it is technically classified as a Beetle Larva. It gets its name from the distinct lights on the side and front of it’s long coach-like body giving it the appearance of a small train. The worm is nocturnal, and uses the brightly coloured lights to warn predators not to eat it. It’s sides feature yellow-green tinted lights where as the head features a red light. On a tangent, when I was researching its bio luminescence I found out it is caused by an enzyme known as ‘lucirferases’ which comes from the name ‘Lucifer’ meaning ‘Light-Bearer’. This has influenced my idea for the character I’m curating in a large way which I will explain momentarily.

So the reason it has these two different coloured lights is because when it is hunting for millipedes, it has both sets on. However when it picks of the trail of a nearby prey it will enter ‘stealth-mode’ by turning off the side lights leaving only the red lights on. The reasoning for this, is that it has evolved to know that millipedes can’t see red light! They are unable to absorb that area of the spectrum and I found that insanely fascinating.

My sketches began in my Granny’s house in Carnlough up the coast where I started with a typical centipede-looking shape with a mean face that was partially inspired by the Ice Wraiths from ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ however I moved toward a bulkier appearance with a signature feature becoming a gelatinous orb atop the beast’s head. The colour scheme I had in mind at the time was blue, similar to that of the caterpillar from Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ films.


After deciding the direction I wanted to take the design, I decided to do a few studies to understand how to paint a creature like this. I began with looking up an image of a railroad worm and painting on to a dark canvas. Then to add a sense of scale and some further lighting I added a knight with a torch stumbling upon his demise. I don’t paint very often but recently I’ve taken a fondness to it and this study certainly sparked something in me.

Railworm Study - 21-12-16.png

As a follow up to this I wanted to try another creature, and so I chose a crab so as to understand the texture of the carapace I wanted my beast to have. This “study” turned out to be my most successful digital painting to date, and I had a lot of fun with it! It was my first time painting all on one layer and it’s inspired me to do a lot more like it.


At this stage I’ve moved on to starting to sketch some of the possible looks for the worm. Now, before when I mentioned about the origin of the enzyme it obviously reminded me of the devil in Christianity who governs hell. Hell lead me to fire, which again in turn made me think of the idea that this gelatinous sac on its head that I thought looked cool could now serve a purpose. So based on this logic, I want this behemoth of a beetle to burrow in to the side of volcanoes and suck molten magma to sustain itself. It would then store it in this sac which gives purpose to my design, which I always consider a good thing to have when creating a creature. Things don’t evolve a certain way for no reason.

The fiery habitat it would now be placed in had me thinking of the ‘Burrowing Rockworm’ from ‘Dark Souls’, and also shares a similar anatomy to my beast.


Burrowing Rockworm from ‘Dark Souls’

Worm_Sketch.png Wormhead.png

Above are some Photoshop sketches I made to get a better idea of the kind of feeling I wanted my creature to have.

I was looking at Michael’s blog and saw that he had taken my suggestion on painting over a 3D model in Maya and his turned out amazingly. I decided to have a go at it myself but didn’t waste too much time on it. This was the result as it currently is:



So now Animatic week has rolled around and I’m on Tiki Island world for the third week, which I have no problem with at all; some of my team mates have also been on this world before so we were used to the idea of the world which allowed us to brainstorm easier. We were set one week to create the animatic. It was to be 30 seconds long, with sound and in colour. In the end, we decided to opt out for the colour in order to save time.


Holly, Darcy and I stayed behind after life drawing class to brainstorm and storyboard our animatic so we could assign tasks.We decided to run with a chase scene with again more of my inspiration for this project being Peter Jackson’s King Kong, in particular the dinosaur stampede scene.


We decided on a shot list and storyboard, and divided up the scenes amongst each other to do. Everyone set to work drawing up their scenes and I volunteered to compile everything in the end. One challenge we encountered was that half of the group was working digitally where as the other half were working traditionally. This required a lot more effort on my end when creating the final product as I had to do a lot of Photoshop editing to the traditional pieces before they  were ready for use in Premiere. After a painful all-nighter I was able to create an animatic with a hopefully easy to read narrative. Darcy provided help by finding and downloading a lot of the sounds that went in to the final product. Speaking of the final product *BOOP*:


Some of the feedback we were given was that the character’s movements could have been broken down in to more steps to show how the character would behave. Mike had also pointed out that some of the sound effects were unclear, such as confusing the footstep sounds for arrows that were off-screen. However we were complimented on the fact that all of the shots blended nicely, and commended on our exploration of unique camera angles and perspectives. Overall I believe the project was a success and I am happy with the outcome!

**Insert Stills**


Colour Week

Call me a Colour Sith Lord: Dath Vader

So the dreaded colour week is finally upon us and the teams have been shifted. I’m now on Plant World and on a team with Darcy, Beata, Clare and Siobhan. It’s interesting being on this world since I was in the group that came up with the initial idea in the first week. I was in love with some of the designs that the following group came up with when designing the sentient plant-creatures that inhabited this leafy landscape.


The first thing I wanted to tackle with our new team was cementing a solid idea of what we wanted this world to feel like. Did we want life or death? Feast or famine? Warmth or cold? Also, how familiar is this world going to look? Surely we want to ‘Pandora the bajeezus out of it’ like in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’? Well, to a degree yes. This is a fantasy world, we should play around and have fun with it. I’ve always struggled with drawing things that don’t have (flesh-based) organic bodies so I was stepping out of my comfort zone a little here.

Darcy linked a beautiful painting by Maxim Revin of a rocky terrain with a porous surface with light spilling in. I really liked this painting’s monochromatic colour scheme and sense of scale and was inspired to create a more organic version.


Maxim Revin’s concept Art.

I had suggested we had giant wooden tree structures supporting the outer shell of the planet that dotted the landscape. When designing these I was immediately inspired by the development blog of a jolly old treant by the name of Ivern from ‘League of Legends’.  The 3D Celtic Cross design that his right arm and horns adapted looked fascinating to me, and so I adapted them when sketching out our landscape.


‘Ivern’ from ‘League of Legends’


More at the Development Blog for Ivern:

*Note to Self: Remember to check out Ivern’s Walk cycle animations for next year!*

I’m still trying to settle on a process when it comes to this kind of art. Honestly I think the way I chose was too precise and I should have been doing something along the lines of the previous week, which I think I will revisit this project with. Below is the step by step of the first piece I painted for the world:


I even shambled together a physical prototype of the structure out of my gummy rubber whilst fidgeting in class (Which Alistair squashed):


After this I wanted to create a painting with a little bit of narrative. I wanted a low-angle shot to showcase a point of view from the ground and had initially wanted to include the large rhino-type creature designed by the previous group, but instead opted for the simpler little acorn guy. I added a random plant-bird going in for an attack on the unsuspecting little guy to add some element of narrative to the painting.

Attack 2.png


Tonal Composition

So, the groups have shifted and a new week begins. I’m still on the same project as last week which means now I get to create the environments that the creatures we developed would appear in. For this week, I had Holly, Derbhille and Lauren in my group.

Our task was to explore tone, light values and how they affect the composition of a shot; and in return how the shot’s composition affects them. Doing this task was something I had looked forward to, as I love concept art and now had a good excuse to make some with a set of characters that have been created to fit in to an established world.

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In the above slideshow are the six thumbnails I finished. I tried experimenting with a lot of different kinds of lighting with a wide range of values. I felt the chiaroscuro contrast of background and foreground helped create a strong image, and played with this contrast and the rule of thirds to position lighting and silhouettes in a way that would catch the eye of the viewer. A source I had in mind while creating a lot of these scenes was the island from Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong’ (2005), due to the similarities in scale and mysticism about exploring a familiar yet unknown environment.


A screen grab from ‘King Kong’. The extreme geography of the terrain makes the characters feel small and lost.

The abandoned ship idea was brought on by the idea of the island’s geography being a culmination of natural sources as well as relics from Earth that ended up lost in the triangle. I didn’t use any reference images while creating this scene, instead relying on my memory of a ‘Call of Duty: Zombies’ map that takes place in an arctic environment with an abandoned ship. The narrow corridors and flooded environment make for a good setting for a horror themed habitat.


Screenshot of the abandoned ship in ‘Call of the Dead’; a ‘Call of Duty: Zombies’ map.

I feel like our team could have communicated a little better this week. I mean, it’s not anyone in particular’s fault for that; we just hadn’t been talking to each other as much and sharing ideas like we should have been and I feel like that has helped me identify a flaw with my own working style. I am like a cog in a machine with a motor turning me. I can work away with other cogs if they attach themselves to me, and the machine runs efficiently but if the cogs do not attach themselves to me then I’m content to keep turning independently which makes for a less efficient machine. I adapt to the enthusiasm of others in my team and will mimic the teamwork of enthusiastic people, but when no one is doing that then I work independently. The final result of my work is then therefore not a team combination, but mostly just my ideas which can lead to a disconnected final product. I’ll use this to try and engage with future teams to incorporate everyone’s ideas!

When creating these tonal thumbnails I can’t pin down any one direct source of inspiration. I mainly gathered what knowledge I have on composition by watching speedpaints and following concept artist’s work and picking out key phrases I heard that stuck with me such as when talking about ‘Values’, the ‘Golden Ratio’ and all the other standard malarkey.

I spend a lot of time following Marc Brunet and Atey Ghailan and I think I have learned a little from observing their art over the years. Both of them share an illustrative perspective when painting. I recently talked to Atey in a small livestream session he was hosting where he told me that even though he is a concept artist and focuses on creating ‘concepts’, he has been trying a more illustrative technique with his paintings where he tries to tell a story within a single frame. I believe this capture of narrative falls under the umbrella of ‘Capturing Motion with Art’ or whatever it is that Conann and Mike are always mentioning.

Some of Atey Ghailan’s “Sketches”. I find his work is a lot more confidently defined than most concept art; it’s more polished than necessary but achieves a high standard of illustration.

After studying Moving Image Arts for four years at school I’ve picked up a few tidbits of basic knowledge behind framing shots and certain angles to use; as well when and where to use them. I tried to portray this in my thumbnails to make for a more dynamic viewpoint. Who was looking through the lens? Why would they be at the angle they are? What am I trying to show? These were questions I subconsciously keep in the back of my head when sketching out the composition in my work. Overall I’m fairly happy with the turnout of my sketches, they’re more or less my first attempt at tonal composition. I’ll end with a few shots of my proper first attempt at tonal back when I was making my portfolio for this course. Thanks for reading!


Creature Design

So week two rolled around and our groups got switched up. Matthew and I stayed together and were moved in to a group with Rose and Darcy. Darcy was the only one in our group that was familiar with the new world we had been thrown in to, and even at that she was a little confused herself. This led the first stage of our new group to be figuring out just exactly what kind of world we wanted to have. The following is an excerpt from Glenn’s blog, who worked on the world before I joined the project.

This island can’t be located on the map; the only way to get here is being lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Once shipwrecked and on the island, the humans will discover a giant Tiki God. This Tiki God is a strong powerful being that rules over the island and anyone who doesn’t obey him will be killed. The Tiki God makes the people collect food and other resources for him. He also doesn’t let anyone leave the island. On the island once humans die from either starvation, natural causes or else are murdered by the Tiki God, they are reincarnated as magpies. The magpies still work for the Tiki God as he is such a powerful being, they do this by flying away and collecting shiny and expensive things for him. Also the Tiki God is actually just a giant puppet constructed by a highly intelligent yet evil Octopus, who controls the puppet from underground.

As a group, we discussed these points and added our own. Initially, everyone was heading in  different directions and had their own ideas so we had to rope a few of those stray thoughts back to refine the project in to something we can grasp. We talked about the idea of the octopus being an alien creature that was manipulating the inhabitants of the island to sustain it, and this started to overgrow in to the octopus creature being a teacher to the younglings of its species. Rose had even suggested at one point that the whole thing is a game show. We were beginning to feel that the idea was floating away, so we stripped a few of the balloons tied to it to get a more grounded foundation for us to work off. We debated at the idea of how many gods there would be, what realm our island exists in, what kind of laws of physics would it follow etc.


Scribbles on the walls as we finalised our world.

The main points we established are as follows:

  • The world exists within the Bermuda Triangle, yet is invisible to all those outside it.
  • The God exists as a ruler of this domain, yet he has no one to rule.
  • The God lures in sea life as well as ships, boats and whatever cargo they hold (which is sometimes land based-animals.
  • Every creature on the island has underwent a vastly accelerated evolution to adapt to their new ocean based climate.
  • Most humans that make it to the island perish at the wrath of the predators and harsh environment.

Designing the Creatures


This week’s task was creature design which I have been looking forward to. We had to come up with ideas for the inhabitants of our world and then  Our design process was that everyone discussed ideas and scribbled any sketches that came to mind in our sketchbooks and then the ideas we liked were further discussed and developed.


The group had asked me to draw up most of the final designs digitally in order to keep a similar style throughout the characters and I was very familiar in working digitally. I used a reference image that Becca Blair from Second Year had posted showing a lineup from ‘Zootopia’ to create a background to stick the characters to as I finished them.


Conánn seemed to like ‘Trump for Scale’. The fish with the mask on the left side was drawn by Matthew and the small cat creature was drawn by Darcy. 

Full images of each creature available on Art Station:

Due to the high amount of water surrounding the world, a lot of our creatures are aquatic or amphibious. We had many more ideas for more creatures, including birds and insects, but they did not make it in to the lineup due to time constraints; though I feel like this project is more for exploring the various areas of building a world than ending with a completely finished world with no holes in the plot.

One of my favourite designs in this lineup was the small hermit crab creature, and that’s probably because of the various sources of inspiration I drew from to mold it. It started with a quick sketch that Matthew had sent in to the group chat of a hermit crab with dangling hair/seaweed strands and I immediately wanted to draw it!


Sketch (Left) by Matthew Duddy; Lineart (Right) by Me.

I looked at reference images of hermit crabs and saw that they had large, hook shaped claws. When I was adding the head I was inspired by Samara from ‘The Ring’ directed by Gore Verbinski as well as the Pokemon ‘Tangela’.

Screengrab from ‘The Ring’ -2002 (Left) and ‘Tangela’ from the Pokémon series (Right)

I was imagining the narrative as a young girl, the survivor of a plane wreck in the Bermuda Triangle, went through the same rate of hyper evolution as the rest of the creatures on the island. She was timid and did not stray far from the beach and therefore adapted to defend against predators and catch food from the tide pools. She no longer has her previous human nature, and instead is merely another animal living out the daily routine of survival. Due to her horror-based origins, I felt like her large glowing eyes would be an ominous thing to witness on a misty beach. The environment I had in mind was inspired by the rocky areas of the 2005 film ‘King Kong’ directed by Peter Jackson.

hermitgirl hermit-girl-concept









I was very happy with the efforts from my team on this week. I feel like everyone wanted to contribute and help out in any way they could and as a result we ended up with a diverse lineup of characters that had influence from everyone in the group. Next week is environmental tonal design, and I can’t wait to see what I’m working on next!

Idea Generation

Got my beats and my beverage.

The first week is now behind me and I feel like at this point I have enough to create a blog post about it. We were assigned our first task which was, as Conánn put it, “infinitely huge” and only contained within three small words; ‘Build. A. World.’ At first glance this appears to be a simple instruction however as it turns out, playing a God is no simple feat! (I can almost hear Conánn quietly chuckling at the concept of God as a creator as I write this.)  We were told that by the start of the next week we would most like be abandoning our ideas and being plopped in to another group to pick up a different world to populate, but that will come later.

We were given a rough pipeline of idea creation to follow and it was up to us to decide how closely we would follow it. In my group was Lauren, Jessica and Matthew. Initially in class we were given fifteen minutes to generate around forty ideas for a type of world. These first of the batch weren’t meant to be anything precious to cling to, but they were the first generation of creatures going through the process of natural selection through which only the best and strongest would survive. After coming up with a spectrum of ideas, ranging from basic (Like ‘Water World’) to the ones that bordered on curious (Such as ‘Giant Toe in Space’ world),  we decided on our favourite ten. From these ten we had to generate a further one hundred and so naturally this rounds out at around ten ideas per initial theme. We each discussed what kind of worlds we were most interested in and which ones we thought we could develop the best or would like to work on. As a result of this, I was tasked with the themes ‘Clock World’, ‘Eclipse World’ and the aforementioned ‘Giant Toe’ world which I then simplified to meaning ‘Organic World’ so as to broaden the scope of ideas.



I decided to go against the norm and have my dessert first by diving in to the topic I was most excited to develop. Eclipse World started as the idea that there were various ways and reasons that the sun was being blocked by the moon (or moons) of the planet, but then I asked myself, “Why does it have to be a moon?”. This was because I was thinking about the most iconic feature of an eclipse as being the total darkness it plunges the world in to; no where in that description does it include the word ‘moon’. When it comes to these sort of ideas I think macro. I am fascinated by the huge scale of the universe and how irrelevant we are as a species. As a link to this, I thoroughly enjoy the genre known as ‘Lovecraftian Horror’ or ‘Cosmicism’. Named after the American Author H.P. Lovecraft, it is used to describe his genre of eerie horror/science fiction known as the Cthulhu Mythos. Pete Rawlik describes the three main keystones of this breed of Cosmic Horror as:

  1. The majority of humanity does not recognize its own insignificance, the indifference of the universe, or its true nature.
  2. Individuals, often detached from society, can gain perspectives that allow them to glimpse reality, but this often leads to insanity.
  3. Regardless of the knowledge or abilities gained, the protagonist has little hope of affecting the course of events, or of revealing all that has been hidden. Any impact the protagonist does have is usually only temporary in nature, or has unforeseen and catastrophic impacts.

This idea heavily inspired one of my favourite videogames of all time, Bloodborne, which focuses on the inner workings of an unknown world that takes place inside a nightmare and how only those with the insight of this world may conquer it; or more likely, perish with their minds destroyed. Due to the fantastic concepts of creatures, environments and themes explored in this work of playable art I have been heavily influenced by its style and often find myself thinking on a similar scale to the design. I feel like I needed to explain this sub-genre of fantasy/sci-fi/horror to allow you to understand my main influence and the direction I think in when I am tasked with ‘creating a world’.

The World in Darkness

Due to my ‘BB’ in GCSE Double Award science and my ‘E’ in A-Level Physics, I had an extremely solid-ish idea of what would happen on a planet with no direct contact with the sun through the various ways in which it would happen. I try to imagine my world being grounded by the basic laws of physics as they exist to us. This helps me keep a solid, believable foundation when thinking IF a world could exist in these circumstances, and if so what would happen to it. I do try to allow myself to stretch and bend these laws for creativy’s sake.  I’m going to try and bullet point the basic effects of what would happen on an Eclipse World here:

  • No Light = No Natural Photosynthesis; this would mean there would be a lack of oxygen on the planet, or the planet would need to get it from a different source. Would the inhabitants even breathe oxygen?
  • If the World is no longer spinning, it has no magnetic field to protect it from the sun’s radiation.
  • No direct sunlight means that the world would become very cold, so how would the wildlife adapt?
  • If the moon was in a fixed position in the sky, the tides would cease to ebb and flow. (The combined pool of gravity and cold temperatures allowed me to fantasize about a huge ice mountain being formed from the ocean.)

These circumstances would create the above problems. These problems would need solving, and how we solve them would determine the outcome of our world; as is the essence of design.

I created a mind-map to jot down my basic thought process for this world and then a paragraph of research and some doodles to back them up:



I took a look at VSauce Michael’s video on the effects of the Sun disappearing to try and spark a few ideas:

Below are the first ten ideas I jotted in my notebook, accompanied by simple doodles to illustrate my points:


World in a Clock

This was my least inspired world out of the three I developed. Also, due to personal complications, the research was not as in-depth as I would have liked it to be. I took the concept liberally, looking at ideas that weren’t necessarily related to a clock but instead shared aspects of one. For example, I discussed with Matthew (Who seemed to like this idea) about the possibility of a world under a radar. By this I meant one of those little green radars that sweep clockwise and bleep whenever they find something. Matthew and I discussed the idea of the denizens and structures of the world lighting up and changing structure as the radar passed over them.

From Studying A-Level Physics, I also struggled at explaining the idea of a  world inside a Cyclotron; a model of particle accelerator. The device uses alternating current applied to the charge on the particle to speed it through two “dees” in a spiralling clockwise motion. I proposed this being used as a transport system within the world, and that the two “Dees” could be rival communities/species.

Image found on HyperPhysics website.

Some resulting sketches I made for different world ideas:

Citations: Continue reading