Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us. You can also reach us via email, Facebook, or Twitter.



United States

Meromorph Games is a game company, and the creator of the card game Norsaga.

Meromorph Games Blog

Art and gameplay design diary as well as current news and updates.

Dev Diary: Outside the Box (3 of 3)

Meromorph Games

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

We've already talked about the boxart conception, which required first settling on its central character. But to create a new watcher, we ran into an important question: which god's mask would hers be based on?

Let's back up. During Odds and Endings design, we settled on two different kinds of immortals, and needed a way to differentiate them. Guardians became partially descended from ettins, which makes them taller than regular heroes and gives them glowing hair; they also carry crystallized ettin's blood with them. Watchers, on the other hand, are half-divine, so they carve their blood-crystal into masks that resemble their gods, and can take on semi-supernatural forms.

We'd already created watchers for the four existing Norsaga gods:

  • Herne, the god of death.
  • Dunlevy, the god of the sky.
  • Ragna, the god of mischief.
  • The Norwife, goddess of wisdom.

In turn, we spent quite a while coming up with masks that were inspired by -- but visually distinct from -- the gods' masks. Here's my scratch art as I iterated from Dunlevy's mask to ultimately create the red watcher's:

Watcher mask exploration. Each mask is based on the design of a god's masks.

Watcher mask exploration. Each mask is based on the design of a god's masks.

This was probably the quickest design to stumble across; many of the others were a lot more time consuming. It preserves the same "eyebrow" and "nose" profile from Dunlevy's mask, as well as the sun-like rays that branch off over the "cheeks."Once Matthew polished it up, you can see how it looks on the final card arts:

Art showing the god Dunlevy's mask.

Art showing the god Dunlevy's mask.

Art showing the red watcher in "human form." Her mask is based on Dunlevy's.

Art showing the red watcher in "human form." Her mask is based on Dunlevy's.

Art showing the red watcher in "monster form." Her mask is based on Dunlevy's.

Art showing the red watcher in "monster form." Her mask is based on Dunlevy's.

So, whose mask would Donwen wear? If it belonged to one of the existing four gods, it would seem unfair to the other three. So that meant... we needed a fifth god.

This was a surprisingly difficult decision to make just for the sake of a single promo card. After all, the existing gods permeate much of Norsaga's background detail. You can find them in the box art, in the trinkets carried by Faith heroes, in the saga cards, and even silhouetted behind Legends or peering down upon Guardians.

Clockwise from top left: Vast Hlodver, Beomund Icebrook, Honest Gwen, the Norwife's saga, and the Norsaga base game boxart. The Norwife appears in each.

Clockwise from top left: Vast Hlodver, Beomund Icebrook, Honest Gwen, the Norwife's saga, and the Norsaga base game boxart. The Norwife appears in each.

Adding a fifth god to the lore was not something we took lightly. It raised questions such as "Why have they been absent until now?" and "What realm do they hold dominion over?" Additionally, we had to come up with "god5"'s unique mask before we could then base a Watcher's mask on it.

The original masks all have somewhat unique silhouettes, as seen below:

God mask silhouettes. From left: Herne (circle), Dunlevy (rectangle), Norwife (mix), Ragna (diamond).

God mask silhouettes. From left: Herne (circle), Dunlevy (rectangle), Norwife (mix), Ragna (diamond).

To differentiate god5, I started exploring short, wide silhouettes:

Mask exploration for the 5th god.

Mask exploration for the 5th god.

None of my designs landed in the right spot; some were too abstract, some too face-like, and some too similar to existing gods' masks. At the same time, we were discussing what the god itself would look like, and what realm they would govern. With a bunch of questions bouncing around, we stumbled across a lucky answer.

You see, Matthew was already juggling art for other aspects of Odds and Endings, including the realm cards. One of them, Greyhame, is mentioned frequently in the previous Into the Myths expansion. It's a lower realm that drifts upon the surface of Nil, the sunken realm of the dead. Greyhame is a desolate, empty place, with mist and water stretching between hidden horizons. The ethereal fae -- mortals who strayed into the mists long ago -- originate from this place.

The art for Greyhame, like the realm itself, started out pretty empty:

Original Greyhame realm art.

Original Greyhame realm art.

As is common, we discussed ways to improve this. Matthew tried adding a mysterious background creature; maybe it was a titanic fae, or a hellish creature escaped from Herne's clutches in Nil below. Either way, it was ominous and effective:

Updated Greyhame realm art, featuring "mist whale."

Updated Greyhame realm art, featuring "mist whale."

And this was our "eureka" moment. Why should Greyhame's art highlight a cool -- but arbitrary -- giant silhouette, when it could instead be a too-rare glimpse at this unseen fifth god? Perhaps it -- she -- lurks in the mists because they are her realm, much as Nil belongs to Herne or Veldspar houses the Norwife's throne.

We had stumbled across Skade, the Goddess of the Mists.

Napkin concept art for Skade, the fifth god.

Napkin concept art for Skade, the fifth god.

It didn't take long to settle on a character design for Skade. The other gods dictated much, such as giving her an ultimately humanoid silhouette and bearing. To mesh with the faintly aquatic flavor of Greyhame and the fae, her mantle was inspired by a turtle shell and lit with deep-sea angler lights.

Formal concept art for Skade character and mask designs.

Formal concept art for Skade character and mask designs.

Matthew's placeholder mask design also lead us in the right direction. The "constellation" look of gaps connected by lines was the element that separated her mask design from the other gods'. The initial render was a bit too much face and too little mask, so Matthew kept iterating.

Finally, in recognition of her kinship with fae and ettins, we gave her hints of the ettins' 8-limbed structure by splitting her limbs at the base.

Final concept art for Skade, showing mask exploration and final mask design.

Final concept art for Skade, showing mask exploration and final mask design.

With Skade's existence nailed down, and her cameo in Greyhame's art, we were finally comfortable with using her as the unseen benefactor of our fifth Watcher, Donwen.

Final Greyhame realm art, featuring Skade cameo.

Final Greyhame realm art, featuring Skade cameo.

The final missing piece was to derive a Watcher's mask from Skade's. Again, Matthew pulled this off both quickly and elegantly, continuing the style of "constellation" eyes connected by thin lines. While simple, the result was incredibly striking.

Behold (yet again) Fimble, the fifth Watcher mask:

Watcher featuring mask based on Skade's mask design.

Watcher featuring mask based on Skade's mask design.

The story ends there, right? Almost. You see, in creating Skade and Fimble, we were left with an interesting dilemma. We wanted to show off these new elements of the Norsaga lore, but the card count for Odds and Endings was basically final. So naturally, we turned to promos, which had allowed us to further explore the characters of Skurl and Egretta from the previous boxarts.

We also tried to use Fimble as our poster child for the new Heirloom cards, featuring it prominently on our boxart designs:

Mask heirloom highlighted on box art.

Mask heirloom highlighted on box art.

Unfortunately, as we've previously mentioned, this ultimately didn't work out. Nonetheless, we had enough material to feel confident in sketching out a promotional card for Fimble, which not only demonstrates the mask, but also continues Donwen's story as her divine heritage awakens and she becomes the chosen Watcher of the mist goddess, Skade.

Lineart for promo heirloom card.

Lineart for promo heirloom card.

And... that's it! In excruciating detail, we've covered what went into the conception of not only the boxart for Odds and Endings, but also its first two promo cards in Donwen and Fimble. There's nothing left to tell. No more surprises.

Definitely no more promo cards to talk about...

Final front-side art for heirloom promo card.

Final front-side art for heirloom promo card.

...right?

Card art for Skade, the Goddess of the Mists.

Card art for Skade, the Goddess of the Mists.