Vintage Story has an amazing community following and within that community, there are creative stars that we aim to promote and share with everyone.
One of those stars is Balduranne. You may have seen her suggestions and projects in the VS forums, chatted with her in the Discord or followed her work on DeviantArt. Even if you’ve never heard of her before, have no fear! This is a quick chat where I had the unique opportunity to catch up with the creative mind behind the work and get some answers to the questions I had.
Show your support of this talented creator by checking out the links at the end of the interview and check out her topics on the VS forums to keep up to date with current and future projects.
Robin: You have a real passion for 3d modelling and artistic design with an emphasis on Pixel based artwork. Where did your love for that style begin and what draws you to it specifically?
Balduranne: I guess that depends on how far you want to go; I've always loved video games. Back when I was a kid, I used to have a bootleg NES, so I guess that's my first contact with pixel art, although I don't think anyone called it that back then.
I've always had a fondness for the graphics in Tibia, an ancient FTP game akin to Runescape, but in 2D. It's still up, so you can check out their wiki for the lovely pixel art it uses.
Other than that... I've always been an artistic person really – Playing with plasticine, LEGOs, and of course drawing. Inspired by games like Baldur's Gate, or what have you, I'd draw little pictures of swords, armors, monsters etc in all of my notepads. All throughout my school years, I always had a separate one just for drawings.
Before I got to pixel art, I've dabbled in other media.
My earliest mod attempts were changing texture graphics in MS Paint with games that allowed that. Later on I tried 3D modelling and texturing for Mount&Blade mods, but never really got any good at it. I tried to transfer some of that skills into Garry's Mod, with little success. I only have a few things to show from this period, as most of my files are at a computer in Europe. Later on I got a graphics tablet to try digital painting, but again, not much success with it.
I've always seemed to have a knack for minimalism and small forms instead, so pixel art came much easier to me, especially after all my previous artistic endeavours. My pixel art career starts in 2010, when I started playing Minecraft. I could never find a texture pack that suited my taste perfectly, so I ended up customizing it with other elements and, eventually, trying to make my own sprites.
At some point, Terraria came out with its charming artstyle, so after playing countless hour of it, I started making 'fan art' for it. Terraria was my most active stage, and I've made hundreds of sprites, though next to none ended up being used in mods.
Unfortunately, some very unhappy things were going on IRL, so I've moved away from any and all communities. Since then I've only been making commissions, until I got into VS at least.
So to reiterate, minimalism is my jam.
Robin: Moving into Vintage Story, you've been extremely active in the community with suggestions, mods and other creative submissions in the forums and on the Discord. What is it about Vintage Story and its community that appeals to you?
Balduranne: I'm generally quick to dismiss Minecraft clones, so when Tyron originally contacted me to do artwork for it I declined, which I regret now; I promptly forgot about it, and about a year later Tatsu showed the game to me and I wanted to try it out.
It felt fresh. It's trying to do something different than other Minecraft-like games, instead of just trying to copy it. It's very nice to be able to directly suggest additions and changes to a game in progress, and actually talk to the team directly to offer feedback.
It's also much easier to mod than most other games I've played. For basics like just adding new blocks and items with recipes, even I can do that with my non existent coding skills.
Robin: Your tutorial for the 3d Model Creator on the forums is extremely useful. If you could expand your tutorials and help more people with the creation of assets for the game, where would you start?
Balduranne: I should write a basic pixel art tutorial and maybe rewrite the model one (as Saraty wants all the items to be 3D).
Still, it's easier to make a reasonably good-looking model than a good texture for it.
Robin: Your ideas include clothing systems with a loom and herbology for player healing, as well as a bunch of other stuff. You must enjoy immersive systems. What sort of games have you played that have had really immersive systems that inspire you to want more from Vintage Story?
Balduranne: It's funny that you say that, because I generally value convenience over what most people consider immersive! Immersion, for me, lies more in how the world engages you, be it with lore, design or otherwise. It's little things like being able to shape and decorate the world around you, gathering ingredients and materials with the knowledge that you will be able to use them to make something cool or pretty later.
For specific examples, it's a bit hard for me to recall, as immersion is more about atmosphere for me, but let's see...
Crafting in Final Fantasy 14, while a morbidly complex affair, had a really cool element to it – Everything you could create, from potions, through armor, to furniture, used elementally- aspected crystals. You get said crystals from killing monsters, gathering (you can pick a resource or a crystal), and some quests. Crystals are a really big deal in the lore, so it's really cool to see them reflected in crafting.
Gothic 1 didn't really have a crafting system per say, but it had a very basic sword smithing mechanic. It was mostly meant as an animation for NPCs, but you first warmed up the steel in a furnace, then hammered it on an anvil, followed by quenching the blade in water and using a sharpening wheel for finishing. The result was... A very crappy sword that was only good for barter, but the mechanic felt very immersive. Gothic had a lot of little animations like that – NPCs using an alchemy lab and grinding herbs in a mortar, stirring a cauldron, hammering a wall, etc. Little things like that went a long way to make the world feel more alive.
I also really like the more... simplified crafting systems in Starbound and Terraria, where you pick what to craft with the resources you have available. It could be incorporated with a sort of blueprint system, where you pick your end goal, and then add the necessary materials and go through the steps to finish it, rather than just using the crafting grid and trying to figure out recipe variants.
Robin: If you could pick three things to add to Vintage Story, what would they be?
Balduranne: I assume stuff that's not already planned? I would generally like the world to be more original and have more fictional plants and such. I often make comparisons to Morrowind, which is technically a fantasy game, but it's one of the most unique settings ever.
Block animations and multiblocks
Plants that only bloom at night
A Starbound/Terraria crafting system where the same set of materials can create many different things
Robin: And finally, you have an active and interesting Deviantart account with a range of excellent work. Can we share it with the community as well as any social media profiles that could show off your work and energy for creation?
Balduranne: I only use deviantART because I don't like social media, but I'm actively working on a mobile app/game called PickCrafter. It's not the most ambitious project (It's a cookie clicker), but it seems very popular, and I'm proud of the work I've done for it. I think at this point, over half of the artwork has been done by me. And believe me when I say that seeing your own artwork in a popular game evokes a feeling of pure, childlike glee.
I used to be pretty active in an online self-help website called Habitica, but I unfortunately I pulled out of any and all communities when my depression was too crippling at the time. I keep meaning to return to it one day though..
But to end on a more positive note, it's nice to have a community again, where I can contribute and show off.
Balduranne’s DeviantArt Profile: https://www.deviantart.com/balduranne
PickCrafter Mobile Game: https://pickcrafter.com/
From myself and the VS team, thank you for taking the time to talk to me and answer all my annoying questions. We look forward to see more of your work as time goes on!
(Interview written by @99 Blocks and @Balduranne, thank you both of you!)