Designing A Species Pt. 2: Sporespawn
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Hey everyone! Matt here again. The team hopes you enjoyed learning about the Sporespawn, or as they call themselves, the Qet. They’re a wild time to be around in Dema, and we wanted to reflect that in the species’s conceptualization and visuals.
Just like my last post talking about designing the Archivists, you can read on to find out how we got the fungus among us to look how they do.
Sporespawn are infused with plant and fungal DNA, which opens a ton of possibilities for how they can look.
The Sporespawn are the most alien of all our sentients. The biggest challenge for me was to design them in a way to humanize them, so they weren’t just these hulking fungal horrors (we didn’t want a Last of Us situation going on).
This was a super rough sketch and initial concept I did of them a few years ago. We were thinking of making them bioluminescent then. Heck, maybe there will be a few forms that are down the road! But as you can see from this initial sketch, they wound up being SO alien their features were mostly unidentifiable. There were things I liked about the early stages of them. The lack of real hands, crab-like heads, fungus and mushrooms all over their skin. But alas, I really felt there was nothing very special about them.
After several more passes, I began to refine their look into something more familiar, like an insect, with distinctly root-like appearances to their bodies. I looked at a lot of bugs and fungi while I painted. There were the Collectors from Mass Effect 2 and the Klaxxi from World of Warcraft to inspire me for their more final forms. But even though there’s this hive mind vibe, they aren’t bugs. In their final iteration, all Sporepawn have a grown biological armor that wraps naturally to the contours of their ‘bodies’ (really a system of roots) and exposed tendril-like arms on their chests for grasping and manipulating small things. Even their hands, in place of traditional fingers or claws, are a web of roots (who needs thumbs anyways?)
What we were left with doesn’t look like many other things in fantasy/sci-fi media, which is pretty cool.
As far as the different forms go, their species can theoretically come in hundreds of shapes to fit their jobs. Like, a soldier drone may have weapons that are fused to their mycelium hands. Brain forms grow massive to coordinate large units of warriors at a time. Worker forms are built tougher for the work in the mines and food farms of the Hive Halls.
A culture that grows many of its own tools would have a different way of thinking about themselves than we do. They’re probably one of the most intelligent species as far as metallurgy and engineering, but their aesthetic stands out for everything that’s ‘grown’. I made sure there was lots of plant matter material so that it’s alien looking compared to what the denizens of Dema typically create. Weaving clothing and gear out of fibrous organic materials, supplemented with expertly made fasteners and tools. Even though they can grow nearly anything they could need, we wanted the awakened Sporespawn to be an industrious group who have turned to inventing and creation, to make up for the shortcomings of slower biological processes.
Their architecture would be columnar and carved into the rock. Kind of like an Ewok village, but built around these columns and placed in a more orderly fashion. The trick is to infuse the natural geometry of the caves with intentional designs like hexes and spirals. Think of it like organized chaos. Earth, for sure, as far as Elemental Dualism goes. Everything has an intentional function.
With that said, this look makes it harder to relate to regular designs. They don’t have a shape language that appears on their persons. I think we’ll try to move them towards hexagons as they develop culture. They’re all about Earth order, the good of the hive. Like bees! (“Not the bees!”)
While Sporespawn are fungal in nature, they are still a people who have biological functions to protect. If you look at the final concept art pictures, their mycelium core tends to be exposed, much like a bug, which they cover with artificial armor.
But when they aren’t wearing their clothes…
…How’s that for a gross mass of roots and stuff?
Imagine you were me. How would you make buildings for people who are like freed Borg, but biological instead of machines? The Sporespawn are still figuring things out after The Sundering. It’s easy for their culture to get stuck on practical ideas from their hive mind days. Tohol is going to try and recall that golden age of their civilization when they were all brain-linked. Ikhish is wild and expressive. They’re like the first Sporespawn who’d stop and think, “Painting the walls might look cool.” Unrul is, well, a dystopian nightmare. What does a freed hivemind do when it becomes a dictatorship? What sort of brutalistic designs and industry spring up? What would it do to its citizens who are easily modified?
I can’t wait to work with the environmental artists to show off the three Hive Halls and all the dangers of the Thalkast, which is the name for the miles of tunnels and caverns between them. There’s some dank stuff down there. Ever hear of a Cave Horror before?
That’s it for now. I can’t wait to see the Sporespawn y’all come up with! With them, the possibilities are literally endless. Oh, uh, you may have noticed they don’t have traditional mouths. That’s because only special diplomat drones are adapted to speak Mundane. Better practice your chittering!
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