Recently, we took a look through the pages of Tyria’s past when Dark Horse published The Complete Art of Guild Wars. The title, which celebrates 15 years of Tyria and coincides with the 20th birthday of ArenaNet. This title takes enthusiast and fans of Guild Wars through the concepts for the very first Guild Wars through to the living world. Following on from our chat with ArenaNet Art Director Aaron Coberly, we wanted to look beyond the pages of this collection and talked to author Indigo Boock about piecing together this stunning collection.
How did the opportunity to put together The Complete Art of Guild Wars come to happen?
I’ve known folks on the team for a while, so when they needed a writer to work on the book I immediately threw my name in the hat! It was a fantastic experience and I was incredibly eager to dig into the project. It was a great deal of fun, and I’m so happy that we get to share it with everyone now.
Is it difficult even knowing where to start with 20 years of history to pick from?
Oh, of course! I wanted to give the game’s remarkable history as much credit as possible. Rather than just write descriptions of the visual art, I wanted the reader to witness the story of Tyria as they navigated the book. To help achieve that, I focused on continuity and planting small anecdotes that pieced together the story—something that would be approachable for fan and passerby alike. The final product was more so an encyclopedia of the world, a true homage to the games and their growing legacy.
How much access to ArenaNet’s archive of work did you have?
The short answer: quite a bit! I was given a significant portion of the studio’s art gallery long before we started piecing the book together so that I could start thinking about the narrative voice and develop an overarching theme. Contextually, I’m a big fan of the games myself so I was familiar with the material going into the project. Working on the Utopia chapter required a bit of digging, though, and that’s where a lot of the archival research came into play.
The artwork for Utopia isn’t that frequently circulated, was it a surprise to get hold of?
Absolutely! My nerdy heart skipped a beat when I first saw that it was going to be included. It was such a lovely opportunity to get to introduce Utopia to the Guild Wars fan base—and so much fun to write! Since we were dealing with limited space and what was largely a non-public narrative, I tried to keep specific references brief. As this isn’t a story that the players witnessed prior I opted not to talk about it as in “this happened”, but instead frame it as Tyrian folklore. You still get a taste of what may have happened and what you’re looking at, but still feel grounded in the narrative that everyone loves. I also took the opportunity to frame some influences that would later modern Tyria, since many of those concepts and visuals would carry over into Guild Wars 2 (such as the Asuran architecture on page 105, or the first mention of Chronomancers on 96).
From a visual standpoint, I really felt that Heart of Thorns stands out in the book as the most distinctive chapter. Did you have any particular favourite moments or standout sections?
This is really tough! Visually, I’m pretty keen on the Heart of Thorns section as well. Mordremoth and his minions are both horrifying and intoxicating—the Maguuma Jungle is such a beautifully mysterious realm, and it’s reflected so well in the artwork. From a writing standpoint, probably the Utopia chapter since it gave me the most creative freedom, but so many passages were a joy to produce. The chapter introductions were a fun challenge, but my favorite passage might be the description of Drakkar Lake on page 83: “Dark magic thickens the air around Drakkar Lake. Just below the surface of the impenetrable, frozen water, one of the champions of the Elder Dragon Jormag lies dormant. Drakkar, after whom the lake was named, corrupts those who draw too near—even the Norn dare not approach.” The artwork is cold and bleak, with a touch of dark, brooding magic. It’s subtle, but I think that the art and writing complement each other beautifully.
I had a very personal reaction to opening the page on Living World and seeing depiction of Dragon’s Watch and thank you for ensuring that this and Scarlet got an entry over Joko. Are these choices just purely driven by the visual impact of the piece?
I was working heavily with the visual art that was going to be included, first and foremost—but when I set off to really formulate a thesis statement to drive the Living World chapter, focusing on Scarlet was almost inevitable. Tyria was thrown into chaos with her arrival (and departure). Appropriately, this section also ended up being the finale of the book. In a way, the placement really highlighted her overall influence on the story leading up to this point and beyond as we move into the future of the game and story that continues to unfold. Joko was an absolute menace, but Scarlet’s brutality remains unmatched.
Horia Dociu stated the concept art of Guild Wars should “breathe an emotional spirit into something”. Guild Wars concept art has never just been about modeling what goes into the game. Does that make it uniquely suited to this sort of collection, where another fantastic game might not have the same breadth of content?
Gosh, I’ve always been so enamored with ArenaNet’s appreciation of visual art—it’s absolutely stunning and feels incredibly unique. It establishes an articulate atmosphere and mood, and is used to inspire the game designers as they build upon the world rather than serve as a guideline verbatim. The art compliments the game (and vise versa). Because of this the book isn’t just a collection on concept art, it’s a display of their creative direction. Following the path of one franchise, it really highlights the visual progression from the original release to the present. It’s a really lovely thing to experience, and I was honored to be a part of it.
Thanks to Indigo for their time and if you’re interested in the result, The Complete Art Of Guild Wars is out now via Dark Horse. Check it out over at the Dark Horse store now.