Who Was There: As a panel intended to discuss the way Dante’s Inferno has been spread across various forms of media, the group onstage had equal representation from all the Dante’s Inferno projects currently underway. For the game, there was executive producer Jonathan Knight and art director Ash Huang. There to talk about their work on the animated feature film were writer Brandon Aumon and animator Vic Cook. Finally, the writer behind the upcoming comic-book adaptation, Christos Gage, was also in attendance.
What They Talked About: The panel began with a general overview of the original poem upon which the game is based. Jonathan Knight talked about the history of Dante’s work and how intriguing it was that he was the first person to map out Hell. In fact, these maps were the original starting point of the game. Before they did anything else, the team members at Visceral Games looked at Dante’s nine circles of Hell and built out from there. That includes the artistic liberties they took in adding a deeper love story with Beatrice and taking the character Dante to give him a deeply troubled past to make him a genuine antihero.
Ash Huang talked a lot about the artwork behind the game and the stages his teams took with the concept art. Every circle of Hell begins with what’s called a catalyst painting, which is a piece of concept art intended to map out the general look and feel of a setting. From there, the art and design teams split up into fleshing out these settings with concept art and doing very basic 3D model character blocking to begin how they want the gameworld to be laid out. The example they showed was a catalyst painting for Anger, the fifth circle of Hell, which is a place filled with ugly, dank marshes. Huang also talked about the character design in the game, such as how Cerberus has gone from a three-headed dog to a dog with a whole mess of gaping mouths sticking out of his neck.
After the game, a quick overview of the comic book was given. Christos Gage decided early on that he didn’t want to focus too much attention on the story of Dante because that’s where the bulk of the existing writing already focuses. Instead, he elected to explore some of the side characters, such as Beatrice and Lucifer. So while the name Dante is featured front and center in the title, you’ll see quite a bit of other faces in the comic.
Finally, the panel ended with a discussion of the animated feature movie. The movie is split into six sections, with a different director for each one. Because of this, you’ll see remarkably different visions of Dante (and Hell itself) in the movie. One example shown was the work of Dong Foo, who designed Dante as a thin, androgynous figure with long hair--almost like a Final Fantasy protagonist. This stood in marked contrast to the game’s Dante, who’s manly as all get-out. But then some of the style guides that were used as suggestions for artists adapting the original game artwork were shown. These included all the important parts, such as the laurel leaf headband and red cross on his chest, which were right there just as you’d imagine.
Memorable Quote: “We’ve got Dante literally shoved up a monster’s butt.” This was spoken by Brandon Aumon in a discussion about some of the edgy content in the animated feature. Apparently, this was something the team at Visceral Games also tried to work into the game but couldn’t “for a variety of reasons.”
Best Audience Question: Sadly, there were none. The panel discussion ended with a good 15 minutes to go. But instead of following the usual format where a group of attendees lines up in front of the microphone to ask questions in front of the audience, the Dante panel just let everyone rush up to the stage and ask the entire group questions individually. It turned into a zoo in a hurry.
The Takeaway: Much like EA did with Dead Space, it looks like this original IP will be turned into much more than a game. However, much like EA also did with the development team of Dead Space, the teams behind the other work will be given a lot of creative freedom. Those behind the other forms of media are taking what Visceral Games has dreamed up for Dante’s Inferno and adapting it into some pretty risky formats. One look at the artwork of Diego Latorre in the comic book shows an art style that looks nothing like what you’d see in any game.