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Sit by the fire and listen to our story, Tenno. The 54th Warframe, Dagath, rides in search of revenge with the Abyss of Dagath update. While her face may be hollow, the fear she instills is endless — with scores of enemies falling under the spectral hooves of Rakhali's Cavalry.
As the face of the update (so to speak), Dagath’s haunted nature was key to get right for the Digital Extremes art team, starting with an original concept by Keith Thompson. Warframe Principal Character Artist Michael Skyers then added his own spin and style to the character to realize her in her terrifying glory. We talked with Skyers about awakening the faceless rider from her slumber.
The original concept for Dagath was done by Keith Thompson. Where in the process did you get involved in designing the frame?
The concept had been living in our backlog for a few years now. When it was decided that we were going to use this design for the next Warframe, [Creative Director Rebecca Ford] requested for the Warframe to be more female presenting. That's when I jumped onto the task.
I took the 2D concept and began blocking out the design in 3D, incorporating more traditionally female features. This quickly gave us an understanding for how the changes to the original design would feel, and allowed us to address any technical challenges these changes would cause.
What are the primary inspirations behind your take on Dagath?
Knowing that we wanted to lean into a spooky aesthetic, the primary inspirations for my take on Dagath were horror genre characters like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface and Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head, and executioner Halloween costumes. I also took cues from Gothic fashion; I saw a Gothic Lolita-style school uniform that was all laced up in the back and the way the fabric was bunched up directly influenced the look of Dagath's torso. I just made it flesh instead of fabric.
How long did it take you to land on her final in-game design?
After some back and forth with our Art Directors, it took us about two weeks to nail down the design and resolve some design issues based on tech and gameplay needs.
What facets of Dagath’s design were particularly interesting to you?
The main part of Dagath's design that interested me was the fact that the design had no face. It felt super unique and really weird, which are my favorite elements of our game's art direction.
Which parts of Dagath’s design, if any, were challenging?
The most challenging part of Dagath's design was leaning into the horror aesthetic, but not so much that she didn't feel like a Warframe. I definitely wanted her to feel as though she had a bunch of "flesh" stitched and stapled onto her. This "flesh" would act as her clothing, covering up her red flesh that shows through here and there. We generally don't want our Warframes to look overtly evil or like demons.
There was a stage where I leaned away from a sci-fi look and had to reel myself back in to get her feeling like she was at home in the world of Warframe. Her helmet was another element that provided quite a challenge. Often the most important part of connecting with a character is the face. Dagath not having one was a fun challenge. It was important to get the size and shape of the opening correct so that she didn't feel like a giant bubble wand.
Dagath began life as a male Warframe, but eventually became a female one. Did that change your approach to her design at all?
The decision to switch the design from male to female didn't affect my approach that much. I enjoy designing female characters a lot, so if anything the change made the task easier for me. I wanted to make sure she still felt intimidating and strong while incorporating some elegance. I think we nailed it in the end. She is a character that you don't want to stumble across in a dark alley.