by Erik Temple
Since version 8, Kerkerkruip has included a kind of trophy gallery that you can check out if you hang around on the title screen for a few seconds instead of immediately firing up a new game. The gallery starts out empty, of course, but each time you kill a new enemy–at least, one that has a soul that you can steal–a card depicting that enemy is added to the gallery. The card also includes a couple of statistics about your long-term relationship with this enemy, namely how many games have gone by in which you’ve killed it, and how many times it has killed you.
The cards are illustrated using what I call typographic collage (other examples here, here, and here). Version 8 shipped with art for seven of the game’s enemies: the ravenous armadillo, the chain golem, the swarm of daggers, the mindslug, the adventurer Miranda, the reaper, and the giant tentacle. Version 9 will add three more. I’ve discussed two of them elsewhere, so this post will focus on the most recently completed, the Fanatics of Aite.
Fanatics of Aite
These fanatics serve Aite, Kerkerkruip’s goddess of cruelty, bloodlust, war, and ruin. As their appellation implies, they are a trio of zealous cultists. They also embody sacred personages: the Defender is a heavily armored blunt instrument of his god, the Tormentor deals excruciating pain from a sacral staff, and the Healer supports them both with curative abilities.
I struggled for a while with how to depict three characters on one card (there isn’t much space!), but as I thought about the way that the cultists subsume themselves into preexisting religious roles, I decided that the best way to convey the nature of these characters was to depict a tableau of sacred objects. The Defender, after all, is just a man until he takes up Aite’s shield, the Tormentor only a woman until she lashes out with the staff of pain. The card lays out these emblems, along with the Holy Sword of the Healer, beneath Aite’s war mask.
Note: I cheated a bit here. In Kerkerkruip, the Defender doesn’t actually carry a shield. He is instead armed with a special sword whose main property is that it is essentially stainless steel. I thought the shield was better visually and also as an expression of the Defender’s role, so I just went with that. Purists are asked to sputter silently in a corner.
A few notes on the depiction of the objects for the interested: Overall, the imagery is borrowed from ancient Greece, since Aite herself is borrowed from its mythology. The shield uses Greek frets sketchily rendered with inverted 7’s, while the holy sword is basically a Greek xiphos in shape. The mask is a combination of a Greek helmet with a theatrical mask, e.g., the hair from this one. I didn’t have any real-world examples in mind for the staff of pain, but I’m sure that I didn’t invent it completely. (Citations for my subconscious are welcome!)
The background texture is by deviantArt user cloaks, and is I think very evocative of the interior of a dark and sacred grotto. The font used is Gafata, and while it has some nice shapes the lack of character of some of its glyphs gave me some tough moments. In the end, though, I think it turned out to provide good character for the images.
Before moving on, there was one discarded idea I want to share. The scorpion’s reputation for cruelty and dealing pain make it a natural fit for Aite, and I toyed with using it as the design on the shield:
Read about the minotaur card on the Glimmr blog.
Wisps of Pain
Read about the wisps of pain card on the Glimmr blog.