Skyrim: Skills Menu

The skills menu work began early on in the process of developing Skyrim and was changed and improved throughout the duration.

The very first step was to take Todd’s notes and put a visual stake in the ground we could build from.

I blocked in a very rough version in 3DS Max and animated the camera so we could begin the discussion about how this menu could work

There was always the idea of skills and perk trees as constellations (based on 3 from Oblivion) but it took on many different forms as we progressed.

At on point I was toying with the idea of the stars being distributed in the depth in space and only forming the constellation in the back out view but navigation felt to uncontrolled in that reality.

Early on I also tried to use Fume FX to create the nebulae using a sim with some decent results but the speed at witch I could create like this was limited due to the simulation time.

My first pass at pass at painting the oblivion constellations as nebula worked out pretty well so I decided to take that route. In some way I like these version better but I have to visually reinforce the colors associated with the different skill groups in the final painting.

Once I dropped my nebula paintings into the scene the final look of the menu started to come together.

At this point I was also iterating on the stars and lines and their animations so we could build the perk availability and unlocking UI mechanisms.

Once we has all of that I took some time to finalize the nebula painting and break them into layers to create parallax. The entire menu was one 3d file that contained the background, animating perk tree art, and nodes to attach the code built perk trees. As long as each piece was scaled from the center of the scene you would always see the layers line up correctly when you moved back to the origin in the menu.

As a nod to the heavenly nature of Sovengarde and the skills menu Noah Berry the environment lead and the artist making the Sovengarde skybox took my paintind and incorporated it subtly into the sky.

Once the game shipped we had to repeat the process on a smaller scale for the DLC monster form perk trees.


Here’s a little lesson in design I learned the hard way. 

I’ve always drawn Garbageboy to have spindly limbs and pretty generic human proportions which is how I continued to for the game. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? We quickly realized that he was pretty hard to read during gameplay and when designing a black and white game readability is key. (note: the BG is a test, obviously its values compared to GB are a huge factor in readability and will need to be toned down)

So I squashed him down, gave him bigger eyes, thickened up his limbs and slapped some big ole circles on there for hands. And whaddya know? He’s cuter than he’s ever been before, actually feels like a garbage BOY instead of some lanky teen and he reads way better from a distance! (note: There are frame rate issues with these GIFs)

So here’s what I learned the hard way: PUSH your designs! You can always pull back. I have a terrible habit of sticking with my first drawing which is usually the worst one! It takes a few drawings to learn about a character before you can really do them justice. I grew way too comfortable with GB and didn’t see a need to change him. Little did I know a better design was already in my head had I just explored a little more!


I don’t know if you guys remember some quality of life stuff the rpgmaker build had, like being able to equip items on the spot when you got them, so now we have that again AND it compares with the item you already have equipped so you can chose on which party member to equip any new weapons/shields. I hope you guys enjoy my overly designed hud for this, I am limitless now, there are no going back from here.

2 posts in a day just because I’m overly excited over this scene and the fact that it’s in pixel art! (Context is spoiler)
I decided to keep the scenes in pixel art so that I could make more of them, and I personally think it looks cuter like this. (*´˘`*)♡

Virgo vs the Zodiac, as the name implies, is about Virgo, the sign personified as a little girl, trying to take down all of the other Zodiacs (who are also little girls). Virgo embarks on her crusade to purify the celestial system, so that The Golden Age, a time of prosperity and perfection, could take place once again. In her journey, she takes with her the Gingerbread Man, or Ginger for short, a perfectly symmetrical cookie who was baked for the sole purpose of being eaten, but who was saved by Virgo from a tasteless death by the mouth of Taurus.

On their journey, they’ll run across many friends and foes, but more foes than friends, since Virgo isn’t the nicest person around. You’ll often feel like you are the villain in this game, and perhaps you really are. But Virgo, and all the other characters, are as multifaceted as the Zodiacs archetypes themselves, so you shouldn’t trust them very much.

Unlike other games that’ll give you the ‘good or bad’ approach to problems, Virgo counts with the “Zodiac Qualities system” in which the NPCs will have characteristics based on their assigned quality. For example, if an NPC has the Mutable quality, they’ll have the colours of this quality, and will often be “insightful, mischievous, chatty and ingenious”. Enemies will battle according to their Qualities as well, using the fitting abilities and requiring specific ways to be defeated.

The battle system is entirely built up around the Qualities System: every ability will be tied to a Quality, which will calculate it’s combat effectiveness based on their respective Stat. As such, Fixed foes will require more of the Patience Stat to withstand their blows, but may be more easily beaten through smart use of Cardinal abilities.

NPCs and enemies may also have more than one quality at a time, adding a great variety of combinations to their personality and combat tactics. In some dialogues, choices will be offered, changing the NPCs responses to them. The choices will also correspond to that set of Qualities, so Virgo, even as a Mutable Sign, is the only one who can be anything in the game, as she’s in her righteous mission to find perfection, and for that, she’ll have to understand all of the qualities.

During exploration, there won’t be any random encounters and no grinding will be required. All battles will be related to the plot, but instead of removing grinding altogether, the players will have entirely optional areas to fight respawning enemies. Avoidable battles are ensured as well. You’ll have the option to spare some enemies.

Interacting with NPCs may also be rewarding: if they’re happy with your response, or even agree with you, some Stats may rise, so the act of exploring the world and its characters is a key point! Your choices will greatly affect how the world around you evolves!

In Virgo you’ll explore different Zodiacs’ worlds, enter their conflicts, and learn more about them, their fears and joys, denizens and culture. Virgo and Ginger will see themselves amidst of conflicts, revolutions, and sometimes, just little parties.


Sorry for the radio silence everyone, it’s been a busy few months.

We’re still in the process of fine tuning GB’s mechanics but so far he feels great. None of us have made a game before so even getting to this stage is a huge accomplishment. Go Team Garbage!!