Design Notes

September 01, 2023

Voice in the Sea Lore

Voice in the Sea Saga's Boss Round Up and Concept Art

Hi again, this is Cylisse coming back with another round of behind the scenes peeks (albeit a week late, whoops)! The Voice in the Sea arc of Age of Ruin has officially ended with the Epilogue and God of the Depths Challenge fight that went live last Friday. To think we started back in April, and it came and went like the tide. The next arc, The Rumbling of Cold Thunder, will begin next year after our seasonal and holiday months but here's one last hurrah for the sea!

Here's a round-up of the Boss monsters of Voice in the Sea and their development. Warning, spoilers abound!

1. Seafoam Elemental and Marine Snow

The Seafoam Elemental you faced in Ashray and its evolved form in Sunlight Zone as Marine Snow was discussed in these design notes. Check that out for overall bonus lore if you haven't already.

2. Leviathan

In the Twilight Zone, you fought off an attack from the Leviathan (which was called the Leviathan Mindflayer in our notes originally).

This is Levianthanius, the Titan of Water that made its first appearance in the Talk Like a Pirate Day 2021 event. It was influenced by the true antagonist of Voice in the Sea, Neso, to feed on Kathool as it slept. Doing this allowed the sea to further absorb Kathool's powers but twisted the Titan's form.

Leviathanius got a Kathool-ish makeover for this appearance, so it was straightforward for Darkon to touch up the tentacles, eyes, and fins. 

One detail we wanted to include were the new scars on Levianthanius' body. Some astute players noticed the glowing blue scars too, indicative of a recent calamity that had to do with mana.

3. Sparagmos A.I.

Sparagmos is a marriage of ancient Ashray Water Elf magic and Astravian tech, modified with a taunting mechanism that draws all of Kathool's subconscious psychic attacks towards its host.

When you first saw the heart of Seabase Undine, a simulacrum of Brittany was its current host.

This A.I. was created from the memories Queen Victoria had of her beloved sister, and Darkon made a couple of concepts to portray this.

The earliest idea was to have hundreds of monitors lining the wall. Combined together, they'd create a full image of Brittany as the wires attacked the player.

Even though this was a cool idea, we didn't have the time or resources to pull it off properly. 

Instead, we went with a single large screen, a metal skull connected to a spherical fuel source, and a hologram projected onto the skull. Eventually, Darkon gave it a torso so it would be able to hug Victoria and Tara.

Again, some astute players recognized that it resembles tech from Lore's extremely distant past, before the beginning of AQW's timeline.

4. The Ashray

The Ashray Water Elves were all slain right before ownership of Seabase Undine, also now known as the Temple of Water, was given to Queen Victoria. 

How much Queen Victoria knew about this is a mystery, but you and all of Seabase Undine's personnel understand that none of those elves are alive. 

The creation made from water necromancy called The Ashray puts any notion of potential survivors to rest.

The description I gave to Darkon was kind of gruesome. Kathool found the remains of fifty different Ashray Water Elves after they were disposed of, and pieced them together. Though grotesque, it should have a deific vibe that invokes Aquella's appearance the most.

"The principles of water necromancy are of preservation and nourishment, meaning that no bones are involved, and other living things are growing/eating off of its body. Kathool used mortal-means to show that humans have had enough time to advance enough to outmatch its horrors, and relishes that the Hero’s real foes could be people they used to call friends." - some additional context provided.

This was Darkon's concept based on that description, drawing inspiration from Birth of Venus by Sandro Boticelli as well as the sculpture Venus de Milo by Alexandreos of Antioch. The Roman Goddess Venus was born from seafoam which is very fitting!

5. Lady Noelle

Lady Adreanna Noelle was the head researcher of Seabase Undine, formerly one of the court magi that facilitated the birth of the Champion of Chaos for the dead King Dethrix I. Studying forbidden magic cursed her with immortality and slowly took away her mobility and five senses. Consuming parts of Kathool mutated Noelle further, and she fused permanently to a wall in the Trench Observation Deck.

Out of all of the characters and monsters, Noelle's concept was created first. All the way last year in July 2022 when her existence was alluded to in the father's day release (/dreadhaven).


Darkon made some sketches of Noelle. She first presents a pleasant face, before revealing that she's twisted deep down, and it has spread to the rest of her body. The one soft spot left in her heart is for Song, someone she believes was also forced to do evil by circumstances they couldn't control.

These images would evolve into the front facing view of Noelle you see in cutscenes and her eventual full reveal.

The initial plan for her big reveal was that she was completely stationary, staring right at you in a front-facing position but a side-facing view ended up flowing better.

6. Voice in the Sea

The real main antagonist of this arc is Neso, the Avatar of Water. She stole and absorbed the powers of Kathool by dissolving its body in her ocean. Neso has taken on a new appearance, an arrogant and ceaselessly hungry sea monster with a peaceful face that splits open to reveal a mass of teeth.

Jellyfish hold a special significance to Neso. She turns her favored mortals into Spectral Jellyfish rather than let their spirits fall into the hands of Death.

In real life, too many jellyfish in the ocean is a sign that the environment is in trouble. A jellyfish bloom occurs as ocean temperatures rise too high. So Neso's new form as a massive jelly monster foretells great disaster upon Lore if left alone.

And despite her posturing, or framing her mistakes as the actions of a poor victim forced to take matters into her own hands, you can see right through this veil at the monster she's become.

Darkon's initial layout sketch eventually evolved into Neso's final form with those themes in mind. The Eyes were also his design addition and I loved what they were meant to symbolize, which will continue to remain unspoken for now.

7. God of the Depths

"Kathool, a former Chaos Beast and a Sleeping Terror that has plagued Lore since before the dawn of AQW's timeline, has attained godhood. It has become formless, embodying the depths of physical places unseen and unknown, along with the depths and subconscious secrets of the mind and soul.

Every so often, Kathool will manifest as organic structures or possess living creatures to spread its influence. These manifestations attract monsters to swarm to feed off of them, causing drastic changes to their biology. This is a new natural disaster that some mortals will come to worship, but in a way where they hunt and take from this god just like how it preys on them. It's not so much the worship of Kathool itself, but the aim of triumphing over the crucible of natural selection. Some will find this to be glorious, while others are disgusted."

This is the description I gave to Darkon, along with some other reference material and instructions from Joe on how there'd be a main body and two tentacles the layer would fight.

Darkon took that, hit the ground running, and made an incredible challenge boss design!

The original description involved there being creatures on the tentacles, feeding off of the organic matter, but Darkon went with a more otherworldly design which I appreciate much more! 

It's completely shrouded in darkness, implying that this entity is the entirety of the Depths themselves. The colors also invoke a nostalgic but unnerving vibe from old serialized pulpy fiction comics that used to tell Lovecraftian tales, and the glitchy effect tears at Lore's reality. It's so cool!

If you've read this far, thank you for joining us for Voice in the Sea. As you can tell, we had a lot of fun making this story arc together and bringing it to life for you! 

Speaking as the writer, it'll be hard to top this ocean voyage but we'll be hard at work planning for your next adventure under Cold Thunder! We've got armors planned, big monsters, intrigue and mysteries, the works! It might feel like a long wait until then, but we have a plethora of seasonal releases coming at you, starting September with Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Take care, all! 

Bonus: Scrapped Coffee-Bot Concept

These little guys would have scuttled around Seabase Undine delivering a bottomless amount of coffee to keep the researchers working. Real sad we cut them, they're adorable :"C

Tags: Alina,
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