The art of GAUNTLET: Slayer Edition

Hey everyone!

It’s me again, Rob, the Art Director for Gauntlet. We recently released our new and improved version of Gauntlet, entitled “Slayer Edition” and I thought I’d take a little bit of time to chat to you about the history of the art for the game; where we came from, where we ended up and why the “Slayer Edition” is the best version yet.

Let’s go back to the start of the project. We started off in a very different direction for art than what you saw in the release of the game. We have maintained some of our core references, however the overall style has shifted significantly.

gauntlet_prototype1
Screenshot showing our painting-style shader

Right back at the beginning we put together a tech demo to demonstrate the art style we wanted the game to follow. It was heavily inspired by the paintings of fantasy masters such as Frank Frazetta. We developed shaders what would enable us to render the world as if it were a painting, blending between thick and loose brush strokes in areas that were of little importance, and high detail in the areas where the players would be focussed. This followed a similar pattern we found with the paintings we studied, as often the characters were painted in very high detail, whereas backgrounds and areas of less importance were looser.

gauntlet_frazetta_inspiration
Inspiration from Frank Frazetta

We spent a long weekend game-jamming as a small team to put together the tech demo and were very pleased with how it ended up. We showed it to Warner Bros and started moving forwards with the game, using the tech we had developed.

gauntlet_prototype2
Early shot showing the old camera angle, and old style

As you can see from the shot above, things indeed looked very different from how they do now. We worked with this art style and over several months put together a vertical slice for the game. Over this time, we came across several problems that we fought against constantly:

The camera was set at an angle similar to that found in other action RPGs such as Diablo and Torchlight. This caused a problem with visibility of the player, as walls could often hide the characters. Due to the engine we were using, and the modular method of building rooms we had adopted, there was a lot of work needed in making the walls fade out when obscuring a player. Making this even worse, our levels were completely randomly generated, which meant there was no reliable way of knowing how the layout will look.

When using the shader from the tech demo, and applying it to the game, we focussed light and detail on the area where the players were. Surrounding areas were left dark and smudgy. This caused big problems when mixed with the fast, frantic, action filled gameplay that we were going for with Gauntlet. Enemies were hard to read, and due to the fast movement, the detail/low detail areas were constantly shifting, which looked terrible, and make the game awkward to play.

gauntlet_reference_tabletop
Tabletop environment model references

After struggling against the above problems we called a meeting and discussed what we would do. We decided to ditch the painterly art style in favour of something cleaner, using more loosely sculpted surfaces to mimic the brush-stroke style that we were after at the beginning, but without jeopardising the readability of the game. We drew more influences from table-top figure based games, and Games Workshop and their chunky construction to form the basis of our art style. We also decided to shift the camera. We looked at the original Gauntlet and experimented with placing the camera in a similar manner. Immediately the game felt more like a true Gauntlet sequel; and became far more readable in the process. The new camera stayed more or less the same from then until what is in the game now.

gauntlet_ii_screen_reference
Gauntlet 2

We had a very small team over the majority of the production of Gauntlet, and a pretty short development time. These two points, combined with a change in art-style meant that we really did struggle with getting the game to a point we were happy with visually for the release last year. Although we had all the levels built, and all the pieces ready, we lacked the manpower and time to really bring the game up to the visual quality we wanted.
Over the last few months, we’ve put a lot of time and energy into all aspects of the game, improving visuals everywhere. A lot of love has been poured into the levels and you can see a couple of before and after shots below that demonstrate where we were, and what we’ve done for Gauntlet: Slayer Edition.

We’re so thankful we decided to take the time to improve upon what we released, and truly feel the version of game we released on August 11th really is the version we wanted to make.

gauntlet_before_after_lava1

gauntlet_before_after_lava2

gauntlet_before_after_crypts1

gauntlet_before_after_crypts2

gauntlet_before_after_caves

  • Maximilian Sterling

    I was looking forward to Gauntlet Slayer edition. What you guys did is truly amazing and stays true to the original game. I am glad you guys changed direction in the visuals. The layout looks much better from the above view and the detail of the environments are really beautiful. I play Helldivers and also Gauntlet! Both different games but you can tell both have the same quality that ‘be made Arrowhead one of the best gaming companies today! I like a lot the simplicity yet deepness of the customization you can do to your character. Gauntlet is one of those games you want to go back and play all the time for shorts periods of time.
    The difficulty level feels just right. I am in the middle of my quest on normal difficulty and is challenging but it does not turn you off as other games do. I think Gauntlet Slayer edition is one of the best games this year. I am looking forward for more DLC that can expand the game. Congratulations guys, all your effort can be seen in the quality of the game! Keep it up!

    • Thank you for this beautiful comment! That’s very kind praise and I’ll put it on our wall for all the devs to read.
      So glad to hear you appreciate the direction we took with Slayer Edition and all the hard work.

  • SirSupple

    Good stuff. I loved the art style. It reminded me of the old table top RPGs my older brother used to play. The game had a sort of….Saturday morning D&D feel. Very good decision in taking it.

    • That’s wonderful! Just the kind of feeling we would like to bring in a little bit :)

  • Badass_Dragon

    Thank you for making Slayer edition! It’s so much more fun and better than the original one! You’ve done good!

    • Thanks for playing and for the encouragement!

  • Ben
  • Anthony

    I’ve spoken already about how pleased I am with this version of the game but…I’ll say it again here lol. In relation to the article, I LOVE “Dev Diary” sort of content that gives us the fans/consumer a glimpse into the creative process of the games we love. I wish more developers “pulled back the curtain” a bit and incorporated it into the released game. Sometimes the stories behind MAKING the game can be just as exciting and entertaining as playing the finished product.

    The art style you guys pulled from is fantastic and the voice acting is top-notch. You guys really did a tremendous job with Slayer Edition. Hopefully some expansion DLC drops soon-ish so I can give you guys some more of my money lol.

    • It’s great to know you appreaciate the new version!
      We love to be able to share behind the scenes content too, and talk honestly about things in the business that many other companies might not. Sometimes a contract, marketing plan or wishes from other parties might hinder you for a while, but we try and get as much out there as possible.
      Perhaps you also saw the other blogs about the Enemies of Gauntlet and the Design of Slayer Edition if you liked this one :)

      Thank you for supporting us and the kind words!

  • Zenfluence

    Just downloaded the game and it’s great…bought Lilith and fingers crossed there’ll be a few more characters in the future.

    • Dain Q. Gore

      If they add the Jester I bet that would bring a lot of new people in that dismissed it early on for not being enough like Legends (even though that was not the first Gauntlet game, of which this one is the remake)…!

  • Vinnnie

    People love watching me stream this game in endless mode! keep adding new content please!

  • Mert Erman

    i love this game and all that but its really start to getting repetitive.i hope in future you guys add idk new gear and game mod mybe.

  • Paulo Teixeira

    Yeah. I understand the problems and issue you guys had to face. I guess the result is good and even knowing that there is always a LOT of work tied to the improvements, in the end, we always get glad we did try to improve! ;)

    Great game, this new Gauntlet! Truly feels like the original Gauntlet… the hordes, the action, the music, the heroes, the summon mounds, the food, the keys, etc! Plus, you did add a lot of original things and ideas, like the jumping platforms, the skull coins (lives), the abilities of each character, etc!! GREAT JOB!!

    I bought the game for 4,99€m which was a great price. I’d also pay for a physical version! ;)

  • Ant

    What about mods?

  • Malajeka

    The game-play is nice but the customization system for your characters are extremely limited. I was hoping for a game that will have tons of different items to collect which would affect your powers in different ways and majorly change your hero looks, instead the game has a fixed set of limited item such as weapons and relic which are just simple booster like Extra run speed or invisibility. The armors your heroes wear are low rez and do not have a visual appeal or effects, all character stats are the same and are restricted to 2 life bars then they dead (i’m sure that’s going to make the fun)… No shining weapons in this game, barely any item customization. You practically killed this game by making it unappealing to the masses due to the fact you cannot customize stats such as health/ strength / magic etc , there is no cool loots, health bar is a joke, no armor weapons customization . If this game had tons of items and you had items with different effects such as in popular games like diablo the game would be a hit, instead you produced a game that had a lot of potential but failed to deliver the necessary components to make it addictive and fun. Its no surprise the game is free on ps4 for playstation 4 users. I wish game-developers such as yourself would have contacted my company so we could test the game properly and give you helpful feedback to make it a success once it hit the shelves. Instead as a game developer you fell in love with your own game forgetting that just because like you liked it from you perspective it necessarily did not mean the game would be good .

  • Sylvire

    Just started playing this game because of PlayStation Plus and I’m thrilled they brought it my way. I’m glad you guys went for the straight-on top-down view. This game is a ton of fun to play with friends, I think a lot of that comes to your final layout decision.
    As for the “repetition” argument, I would say Gauntlet was born as a four player hack-and-slash arcade game in the 1980s. You guys captured that once again. Changing those fundamentals would rip the game from its roots…if I want a different experience I can play a different game.

    • Thanks for the kind words, it’s great to hear that you are enjoying our take on Gauntlet! :D