From the very inception of the world that would come to be known as Luna Abyss, there has always been a clear vision. Bonsai Collective’s Art Director Harry Corr, and Creative Director Benni Hill, set out with a grab bag of influences and a set of aesthetic and narrative waypoints which underpinned the worldbuilding in its early stages. That vision remains integral to the game we have created.
Caption: Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! was a major influence on our art style and level design
Building the world of Luna Abyss has been a process of extrapolation – building outwards from carefully defined core concepts, expressed in early level blockouts and key narrative beats, a core cast of characters to bring those beats to life. All good construction needs a solid foundation; ours was a sprawling brutalist megastructure, a sky within a moon, sufficiently strange as to pique the imagination. How did we get here? Where is here? These are the questions our protagonist asks, and who better to answer than an omnipresent disembodied head…?
Caption: Beyond the decaying halls of Sorrow’s Canyon lies a vast alien landscape for Fawkes to navigate.
So how do you take something as vast as an alien moon and scale it down enough to understand where your characters fit, and how best to tell their story?
“We started with the cell,” says Lenny Ilett, a character designer at Bonsai Collective. “The game revolves around the axis of the cell, so it was pretty important to define those characters in the cell so we have something to work from.” For our primary characters – protagonist Fawkes, and their prison warden Aylin – the cell is the site of their most important interactions. It’s also a space of transition, literally and narratively – Fawkes returns here between missions to rest and process the events of the day. It was a useful waypoint in building the relationship between these two characters – how were they going to react to one another in this place of forced proximity versus out in the world, where their roles are more clearly defined?
Caption: Ellie: Lift guardian, train conductor, poet.
For the most part, building our characters was a back-and-forth process between the art team and the narrative team. Fawkes and Aylin were defined early on in the process, as the key characters in the story, but over time, and as the world grew in scale, it became necessary to expand our cast in order to tell the story we wanted. Here, art and story worked hand in hand. An example of this is Urien Caldecott, dubbed “axe cat” by the internet, who existed in concept for quite some time before receiving the character design treatment. Lenny describes the process of visualizing a character as chipping away at a block of marble, revealing the character in increments based on their dialogue, or their backstory. “You’re bringing words on a page to life,” Lenny says, of Urien, “but what does that look like? That’s something you have to navigate.”