Welcome to the nightmare 🙂 So, I just posted a nice, cheery Ariel as Balance Guardian, going about her Balance duties right before she gets the knife… Well, the cheer is over.
Welcome to Ghost Ariel, the specter bound to the Balance Pillar and who haunts those who set foot upon that decaying site in the cheery world of Nosgoth 😉
Previously, I retextured her for my PC mods of Legacy of Kain: Defiance and went with a more burnt look for the ruined side of her face. My reasoning for the melted look is going off of the visuals in the Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (Blood Omen 1) cinematic, which shows her last bit of strength reaching up to one of the basins after she’s been stabbed in the back. She topples it over as her hand swipes it, ans she falls dead out of frame. There is some red glowing content in the basins which she just magically lit on fire, so my reasoning was trying to use what literally could have happened at the end of her life to give an additional layer to the symbolic look of half of her face showing her skull after death. Blood Omen 1’s concept art also had her in two images with the basins smoking from the fire lit within them, which I’ll include below. Daniel Cabuco said later — and I am not sure if he meant just the take on her in Defiance, which was radically different in appearance than the previous titles, or if he meant her character concept from Blood Omen 1 onward through the Soul Reaver titles, too — that the half of her face which is ruined was meant to show it was rotting away, the symbolism of her and Nosgoth’s loss of Balance. Defiance had her rotting really on the good side, too, (even her hands are rotted down to missing finger parts and bone showing; and she also has a solid black eye as a ghost in that game, which is a first), just less so on the “good” side, so I am not sure exactly what the team’s intent wound up being for each title. In any event, like the previous games before Defiance, I only have half of her face ruined, not her hands, or skin otherwise, which just looks dead here, and for this new model, I left it a little ambiguous about what happened to her face. It could either have melted away, or you can think of it as rotted down to the skull.
The titles also had her, prior to Defiance, covered in burial wrappings in her ghost form, which is also how she is depicted in the Blood Omen 1 concept art. Blood Omen 1’s look in the cutscenes actually is a bit of a combination of a dress and wrapping, hard to tell fully, but I believe the final intention was that the dress she had on when alive was different than what she was buried in. I like the mummification burial wrapping’s look best. It definitely adds character to her in death. You can extrapolate that the Guardians were people who were revered enough to be ceremonially enshrined this way, perhaps also like how the Sarafan Inquisitors were entombed. It could be an old tradition passed on from when the vampires held sway over the humans. We do see some poor saps mummified for use in the Air Forge’s shrine. So, that is what I gave her. Now, my take on ghosts in the Legacy of Kain universe is that they retain the look their bodies had at death due to it being the last thing they remember. And so they think, therefore they are. Raziel is a prime example of this. The exception comes then for Ariel. My reasoning for why she’s in different attire than what she was killed in, and why she is a little more dead in look than a fresh kill, is this: the Guardians, especially of course Nupraptor, might have held a traditional ceremony for her at the Pillars. There, they’d honor her with her body, either already wrapped, or in the process of being prepared for burial, at the dais before the Pillars. So, being bound as a specter there, she’d see the ceremony take place and would see the updated look for what’s left of her dead body. And so, again, the mind sees it, and so that is what she now thinks she looks like. It probably would be very hard, mentally, to see what your dead self looks like and somehow to choose to appear as something else. Reminds me of Malek (his ghost form is never seen) who notes how sobering it is to see one’s corpse as it slowly rots away. So, anyway, that is why I think she’s clothed differently and why I could make her skin look really like it’s been out for a few days. Things like her cornea is no longer wet, or the eye area, in general, so the reflection there is very dull and diffused. Same with her inner mouth and tongue, which you can’t see here, but trust me that’s the case.
In order to do the wrappings, I thought I had a plan that could be carried out faster than it was, but even though it’s very time consuming, you can’t beat the final look. I wrapped her model with polygon strips, one-by-one, and tweaked them slowly, eventually applied linen fabric patterns to them, and then projected all of those strips onto a solid, clean model to sculpt in the details. After that, on the new model, I went through and added frayed edged to each of the strips and bits of strings hanging. A few of the polygon strips are used to hang from her arms, like in the Blood Omen 1 concept art, and a few hang at the bottom of her where her feet aren’t.
That was probably the hardest part. For her skull, I have her original head with part of it deleted and a different mesh for the skull half that partially lays under her face. I had to judge what to take away from her original head and what to keep. What was great about the head is, unlike the previous models of Kain and Raziel, where I needed a full head and torso to be one model when sculpting details, I didn’t need the full torso for Ariel, since she’s always covered. Having a full head and torso would have meant to get the same level of detail that I have on Ariel, I’d have to take the model into “HD Geometry” divisions in Zbrush, which gets very tedious. You have to go in and out of the model in tiny sections at a time, where it subdivides portions into up to 10’s of millions of polygons, allowing you to get the fine fidelity for stuff like skin pores. But, that is a slow process and then other things like layers in Zbrush don’t work with it (or screw up if ever they are on). I’d rather not use it if I don’t have to. Ariel’s head, hands, and feet were sculpted as their own objects, and so I could subdivide up to reasonable levels to achieve what on Kain needed to be over 130 million polygons just for the head and torso… And this also is much easier when deleting portions of her face. I can do it on the original model (saved a new copy, of course) and just reconstruct the lower divisions. So, there is no juggling of how to get the detail back, or just having portions of the model hidden forever (which adds to memory needed and file size).
Speaking of memory issues, while my system has a good processor and the RAM is at 16 Gbs, the Achilles’ heal of my machine is my graphics card. I only have 1 GB of memory and I really feel it when issues happen in these programs. I think a lot of frustration from crashes, lag, and other bugs, would disappear were I to have an upgrade to that card, but I don’t have the funds right now to do so. I am toying with starting up a GoFundMe, if people are interested. Or a place where people can contribute to my work efforts. Not for LoK models, as legally I won’t be doing that, but setting up something where people can contribute to help me as an artist. I have had this suggested for a long while now, but I wish that I didn’t have to. I’m not able to pursue gainful employment with a games developer, as I am taking care of my dad and everything at home (and costs definitely have gone up). Other than freelance, which is hard to get going if you aren’t known, of course, there’s not much of an option left. I’ll think o this some more and make some sort of proposal after Christmas is over, see if people would be actually interested in funding my artistic passions. That sounds odd, but anyway…
Back to Ariel: I took away portions of her hair, added some strands in both hair planes and a few solid hair tubes for the stragglers. This really helps bring out the horror for her grotesque side. I also added the bits of flesh that remain linking her jaw, and some to her lips for some realism on how her mouth is still moving. I tried to keep that fairly close to anatomy, though there’s not a ton of what it would look like if you stripped most all of the flesh away out there, meaning, past the larger muscle groups. Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight is a good reference, though. I checked out a company that does awesome Halloween props and masks, too, and even what’s left of poor Jack as a ghost in American Werewolf in London. I tried to find the balance of realism which felt right. Modeled in Zbrush, Maya, textured in Zbrush and Photoshop. Maya and 3D-Coat for retopology. Rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 2. And so, without further ado, I give you your new nightmare, Ariel, very dead, but not forgotten: