or, You Thought You Could Escape Broodmother Skyfortress?!
This is particularly interesting as we can see how dramatically this changed as well – from a long, horizontal layout to a rounder layout more consistent with the Skyfortress itself! Many of these points, including G (The Pool, page 82) and H (Below the Ruins, page 82) changed position dramatically in the final version.
Jez was not done, though. He also gave me his crystal clear draft copy of the map of the Skyfortress itself, which condenses Jeff’s point-by-point orb, above, into something much closer to the very interesting, somewhat intricate design we got in the book. Below:
This is quite close to the design we ended up with. What we received in the final book adds a layer of lovely architecture to it, as well as more pathways to transit from place to place. It also added welcome complexity compared to this draft version, increasingly the interactivity of the site. This is one of the most interesting lessons to get to extract backwards from these elements, I think. It’s cool to see all of the changes in general, but it’s especially cool to see the big changes – more paths and more complicated paths, and the removal of the “technical drawing” elements in favor of the gorgeous artistry we got.
From that layout, though, the iterative process can be seen very clearly in this drawing from Jez:
The entrance is opened up, the curled staircases and architectural interests can be seen clearly here. This is the final draft art that resulted in the map we got in the book! Jez tells me that the iteration that led to this version (which, in the end, became the final version) was the result of collaboration between him and Jeff to nail down where bits and pieces of the Underbelly tunnels connect to the Skyfortress topside; you can see in the book where those pieces connect in the final artwork that would not be present or would not work as well in the original draft I posted above. Additionally, this is the stage of development, Jeff and Jez collaborated to make elements more interactive still; ruined stairs adding elements of danger and interest.
That’s the kind of stuff that only comes up through iteration, new eyes, teamwork, and openness to collaboration!
But wait! Jez had an “almost was” screenshot, as well:
This WIP image shows the above artwork skewed to match an isometric grid, as there was at some point a discussion between Jeff, Jim, and Jez (say that three times fast?) about going with a full isometric Skyfortress map to match the isometric cloud map. This was not what we got.
Speaking of the cloud map, Jez also had what I consider one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the weird world of RPG development: his traditional media draft art for the half-mile-wide cloud structure on isometric graph paper!
This is cool as hell. Not only can we see the design language present in the final copy already present here, but it’s amazing how intricate and fluffy the clouds were, how much more complex and involved the ruins were, and how he has not yet (at this point) put in the Skyfortress itself. Perhaps it was still being pinned down while he drew this? I don’t know exactly the timeline/circumstances of that bit. You can see where Jez blocked out space for it, though. Much of this map made it into the final, painted map – though the ruins were simplified and the clouds of course were rendered with a much lighter hand in the painted version.
And here are the slightly redacted versions we get in Broodmother Skyfortress, so we don’t give away the whole cow while we show off Jez’s work:
Just tremendous maps from Jez. Not a lot of books have this combination of clarity and artistic value – to say nothing of the super cool layered system of semi-transparent underbelly maps beneath the main Skyfortress map. Terrific stuff.
It’s really dorky, but I genuinely had a giant grin on my face going through these design documents and seeing the collaboration take shape. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it! The maps Jez put together for Broodmother Skyfortress deserve as much praise today as ever. The layered map “Inside the Skyfortress & Underneath It Too” is brilliant. The faded underbelly chambers printed beneath the crisp Skyfortress is brilliant, and the colors of the whole matter, including the sky background, is gorgeous. It is bright, clear as day, and useful – and hard to forget!
Big thanks to Jeff Rients for fearlessly presenting me with “nonmap1.jpg” and his blessings to undertake this whole thing in the first place, and an even bigger thanks to Jez Gordon for his tireless willingness to dig through old hard drives and business communiques for work-in-progress art and details so I could do this. Seriously, what a great sport. Thank you, Jez – this would not have been remotely possible without you.