At the Beginning of All Things there was Z'Zhuul.  The Ancient.  The Dark Terror.  The Great Nameless. Copyright © 2015 Winter Night Games LLC – Artist: Zachary Quarles

Once the supreme being of cosmic chaos, Z’Zhuul was imprisoned into a limbo-like dimension by Jehovah, Lilith, and the rest of The Excubiae in order to keep reality from shattering around us. Releasing Z’Zhuul back into any one of the greater realms would mean the end of that realm's reality. Not only would the realm be destroyed, but space & time would collapse and reform. Planets would disappear.  Stars would wink out of existence.  Memories would be erased. It would be as if our lives, our world, our universe, and time itself had never existed.

The religion of Z’Zhuul is a long and involved one but there are devout followers that have been collecting artifacts and information regarding the whereabouts of The Gates of The Ancient.  The Gates that open pathways to Z’Zhuul’s limbo dimension.  The Gates that connect all of our realms together.  Some of these Gates have been destroyed. Some have been opened.  Some are being protected. Some have yet to be discovered.


When I first started writing the short story that kicked all of this Winter Night business off, I realized I needed a centralized figure that the world would pivot around.  I was writing a story about loss and redemption.  It was a small tale about a family and of a community...but I needed something that slithered beneath the surface. Something greater.  Something darker and much more terrible than the main characters had ever conceived.  I kept coming back to the idea of this ancient religion and a supreme entity that a group of over-zealous followers worshipped and wanted to release.  I had always been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, so the initial idea of Z'Zhuul (and the above piece of artwork) is my hat-tip to him, to Cthulhu, and to his writings that have been so influential to me throughout my life.

Z'Zhuul is an entity of pure chaos.  It's essentially a floating big-bang theory...It creates and destroys simply by existing.  Its appearance would never be the same twice.  There would certainly be similarities but that might be the only way that the human brain could actually process the terrible beauty that it was seeing.  If someone was unfortunate enough to actually see Z'Zhuul with their naked eyes, they might see a cluster of tentacles the size of Manhattan flying at them at one moment, and then a pile of eyeballs surrounded by undulating teeth of jagged obsidian the next.

Z'Zhuul is a playground for the imagination.

Since Josh and I are literally doing everything for the projects here at Winter Night Games, I thought it would also be fun to run through my process of how I did the above digital painting.  Now, it should be known that I do not classify myself as an artist.  I had aspirations of going to art school when I was younger, but life took me a different direction.  I have always enjoyed sketching, photography, puttering around in Photoshop, getting lost in 3d modeling, futzing with lighting, texture painting, etc...but it was never anything that I took incredibly seriously  When I started working on the Point & Click Adventure, I also started diving into Blender pretty deeply.  As I started going further down that rabbit hole, I started puttering around with allegorithmic's Substance Painter.  After I went down THAT Alice in Wonderland Path of Amazingness, I started experimenting with placing the models that I created in Blender and then textured in Substance Painter into Unity.  At that point, I started building "sets" that I would dress up and light and then compose different scenes.  After I got what I was looking for, I would output a high res render that I could edit further in Photoshop.

That's basically what the entire process was for the above All Will Pay piece.  I built all of the tentacles in Blender.  I unwrapped the UVs (very clumsily...I'm still trying to get better at that), imported it into Substance Painter, painted everything up all fancy like, brought that into Unity, built a set around it, lit it, added some cool effects/lighting, composed the scene, and then rendered out a high res screenshot.  I brought that into Photoshop to do final composite.  I also took a version of the screenshot and brought it into an iPad application called "Brushstroke".  I then took both screenshots, brought them BACK into Photoshop, took elements of each and did a final paint-over of the whole thing and called it a day.  Pretty cool stuff!  I enjoy working in 3d quite a bit and I've always had a decent eye for photography (thanks, Dad), so this seems to blend those two disciplines together really nicely.

Here's a quick breakdown of the major steps involved:

ZQ's weird art process

Whew.  This became a massive update.  ARE YOU STILL AWAKE??  Aw nuts.  You fell asleep.  :(

More to come...Stay tuned!