Developer Insight – Designing Ithelia & Gold Road

Learn about the design behind the Gold Road Chapter’s all-new Daedric Prince and zone in this preview.
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Developer Insight – Designing Ithelia & Gold Road

Learn about the design behind the Gold Road Chapter’s all-new Daedric Prince and zone in this preview.

When The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road launches this coming June (June 3 for PC/Mac and June 18 for Xbox and PlayStation consoles), you’ll have an opportunity to explore the abundant-but-chaotic zone of West Weald while investigating the return of a never-before-seen Daedric Prince, Ithelia.

Introducing a new Daedric Prince while returning to a fan-favorite Imperial province (last visited in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) is no small task for ESO’s development team, so we spoke to Art Director CJ Grebb about how his team went about designing this all-new character and familiar-but-different world.


One of the most striking aspects of the new West Weald zone is its warm color palette. When coming up with the zone’s feel, the team wanted to create something colorful and unique.

“The writers had a strong idea in mind for the visuals of West Weald,” explains Grebb. “Over the years of producing new adventures, we have explored wintery themes, springtime themes, and summer themes, but we had yet to really tackle an autumn-themed appearance, and that’s what they pitched. It was a great idea and we jumped in with both feet.”

Experience West Weald’s autumnal tones

In addition to the striking Colovian countryside, the team was aware there might be plenty of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion fans eager to return to the region and rediscover both the city of Skingrad and the Imperials who reside there.

“Skingrad was built from the ground up by directly pulling the city’s map out of Oblivion and going from there,” explains Grebb. “We always get to have a bit of fun turning the clock back 800 years and imagining how an earlier version of the city might have looked, but we also like welcoming players home when they return to areas they know from previous Elder Scrolls games, so we made sure the city feels familiar.”


Colovian concept art

“We got very into the idea that the Colovians are hearty, hard-working folks, but still a bit posh,” says Grebb. “Colovia has been fairly prosperous over most of the Second Era, and their ties to the empire would have fostered industry and agriculture that would appeal to the fancier tastes of the Imperial influences all around them. Thus was born the wine- and cheese-production motifs that populate much of the overland.”


Despite the wealth and power of the Colovians who inhabit West Weald, chaos has come to the region in the form of the Dawnwood and Wildburn, dramatically changing the environment, but also creating an opportunity for visual storytelling for the art team.

“The Wildburn allowed us to really give West Weald a wild aesthetic swing in terms of biome. The golden theme of the zone benefits from having a foil in the form of this vast jungle that subsumed a significant chunk of Colovia overnight,” explains Grebb. “ESO often deals with mysteries that need to be solved, but to have the mystery so dramatically realized in the form of gigantic vines lifting buildings off their foundations and a group of Bosmer conveniently moving into the new lands was fun to help build.”


Discover the dangerous Wildburn

Those who have explored this part of Tamriel in other games might also recall an abundance of Ayleid ruins, and Gold Road is no exception.

“The vast underground Ayleid dungeons in Tamriel have always been interesting in the sheer amount of space they occupy,” says Grebb. “Building an underground home is one thing, but why are they so remarkably large and cavernous? We are earlier in the timeline than other Elder Scrolls games, so we got to play around with the idea of “less spoiled” Ayleid dungeons. What were they doing down there? Why did they need such vast volumes? Can we build some new Ayleid structures and architecture that might hint at answers for those questions?”


Delve Ayleid ruins


In addition to the new zone and storyline, Gold Road also introduces a brand-new Daedric Prince, Ithelia. Of course, creating a never-before-seen Prince is a daunting task, and the team knew they had to make her visually distinct from her fellow gods.

“[Designing Ithelia was] so tricky. We had to make immediate choices about how she would manifest herself on Nirn,” explained Grebb. “Would she take on a monstrous appearance like Mehrunes Dagon or Hermaeus Mora, or would she take on a more human appearance? We decided her conflict with Mora would be more stark the more human she appeared. However, she couldn’t be so normal that she’d be boring, either.”


Ithelia takes many forms

“Much like the zone visuals, the writing team already had a strong direction for Ithelia in terms of her realm having been shattered by Mora’s actions and the manifestation of that betrayal appearing both emotionally and physically in her appearance,” says Grebb. “The idea of shattered shards, cracks in reality, etc. all spun out of that.”

Ithelia’s “look” certainly stands out compared to other Daedric Princes, but that in turn created interesting challenges for the art team when designing and building her.

“Our game engine has some technical limits when it comes to reflections, so the artists got very creative in depicting storytelling elements that centered in many cases around mirrors and crystal shards. As ever, they managed to create something unlike we’ve ever seen in an Elder Scrolls game, worthy of a new Daedric prince.” 


Ithelia & Mirrormoor Daedra concept art

With the creation of a new Daedric Prince, of course, comes the creation of new Daedra in their image. Ithelia’s followers and minions reflect her unique design elements in their own way, creating new opportunities for some truly unique monsters.

“[To me] the Fractured Remnant stands out. All the Mirrormoor creatures turned out great, but this one in particular was a living image of the tragedy of Ithelia’s story. The content team asked for it to be a tripod, and that aspect let the tech art team do a really amazing rig that allows movement and poses that are unlike anything we’ve been able to pull off before.”


Heroes face a Fractured Remnant

“To take advantage of those movement options, we wanted it to be frightening and unsettling,” says Grebb. “Some of the creatures we used the mirrored shards on ended up looking quite beautiful, but the Remnant is intentionally broken and twisted. One that really represented the shattering of Ithelia’s existence. The asymmetry and exaggerated proportions of its limbs were also intentional, giving it a Frankenstein’s Monster aspect.”


In the upcoming Gold Road Chapter, you’ll have a chance to explore the abundant region of West Weald and encounter the mysterious Forgotten Prince and her fractured followers. Are you excited to return to the city of Skingrad for the first time since TES IV: Oblivion? Or are you eager to face down the shattered and mirrored minions of Ithelia? A wholly unique world of color and mystery awaits! Let us know if you’re excited for Gold Road via X (formerly Twitter)Instagram, and Facebook.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road arrives for PC/Mac on June 3, 2024, and for Xbox and PlayStation consoles on June 18, 2024. Pre-purchase Gold Road now to receive unique bonus rewards at launch and immediate access to the Welkyndstone Ruins Wolf mount. Don’t miss out.

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