Welcome to Rockwater Games' ArtStation!

General / 27 July 2023

To celebrate the launch of our latest title, The Queen’s Gambit Chess, we’re kicking off our very own ArtStation. 

Ripstone’s Rockwater Studio recently launched The Queen’s Gambit Chess, a videogame counterpart to Netflix’s award-winning miniseries.

Now that our love letter to the show is out there for all to see, the Rockwater Art Team will be revealing a whole host of incredibly cool art we created along the way! 

But it’s not just about showcasing our art and the incredible artists behind it! We’ll also be using our ArtStation to delve deeper into the thinking behind the art of The Queen’s Gambit Chess.

In the coming months, this is the place you'll find valuable insights into how we collaborated with Netflix and our other partners, and the reasoning behind us making some of the choices we did.

We hope you have as much fun learning about the ins and outs of our games as we did creating them for you! 

So stick around, get comfortable, and bring your A-game!

Let’s Play!

The Queen's Gambit Chess: What Makes Unreal Engine a Perfect Fit for Mobile Game Dev?

Making Of / 12 January 2024

Join Ripstone for a Fireside Chat into Unreal Development for Mobile! 

The Queen's Gambit Chess marked our Rockwater Development team's first foray into mobile game development.

This insightful discussion between Rockwater team members Jake Parrott (Senior Artist) and Paul Hughes (Head of Technology) covers both of their positive experiences of using Unreal Engine to bring The Queen's Gambit Chess to life on Android & iOS and how they used it to maintain the high bar of visual fidelity set by their previous console title, Chess Ultra.

Thinking of using Unreal Engine for mobile dev yourself? The two also delve into some of the art and tech tricks they learned along the way!

#thequeensgambit  #netflixgames  #unrealengine

Not one to be missed! 

The Queen's Gambit Chess: Paris Environment Deep Dive

Making Of / 14 December 2023

We’re back with a special environment deep dive! This week Rockwater Artist, Tom Willcox, talks us through how he and the art team recreated a brand-new environment from the show; the immaculate Hotel de Ville in Paris.

How We Rebuilt Paris for Mobile

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the challenge of adapting a Netflix show into a mobile game is no small feat! The process involves scaling down such detailed, iconic environments to be impactful on a screen that fits in the palm of your hand. The Parisian Hotel de Ville is one of those iconic environments! In this deep dive, we explore the meticulous work of bringing a set like this to life with insights from Rockwater Artist, Tom Willcox.

Getting Started With Scale

Where do you start with something like this? Research! 

"The first step, just like any other project, is to conduct a ton of reference gathering and research. Me and the team studied The Queen's Gambit's Paris scenes frame by frame, taking screenshots and collating it all in a mood board. My initial focus was to capture the scale of the room. Episode Six of The Queen’s Gambit has this great shot from the back of the room which I used as my main reference. I knew that if I could match the lens settings and the angle I could kind of gauge whether I was on the right track." - Tom Willcox

Once we had a rough idea of scale, I went back through and found shots where the room was busy, using people to further cement the scale of things. For example, the benches could fit three people, from that I can roughly tell the width. There’s a behind-the-scenes shot of someone standing by the chess display on the wall, making it possible to estimate the height of the board. We also found the filming location - the Haus Cumberland in Berlin, this helped to get those extra details.” - Tom Willcox

Capturing the Detail

With the scale established, Tom and the team then worked on putting together an all-encompassing asset list, ensuring absolutely no detail was overlooked. The goal was to capture all of the grandeur and elegance of Paris, all the while staying true to the show's unique aesthetic.

“I didn't want to misrepresent any detail. We made sure everything was as close to the reference material as possible - right down to replicating the score sheet books. Those details are what sell an environment for me - it’s what I look out for personally when I play games. It drives immersion." - Tom Willcox

Optimising the Art of The Queen’s Gambit Chess for Mobile

With the majority of their previous projects landing on PC and Console, the Rockwater art team have always set a high bar for the visual fidelity they wanted to achieve. When it came to working on mobile, they set out to do whatever they could to maintain that level. 

“From early on we knew the kind of limitations we were facing, since this had already been established from the previous environments. It was a whole host of compromises and optimisation to get the most out of as little as possible, but to me those challenges are fun and part of the process, they’re just puzzles that need to be solved." - Tom Willcox

To overcome these challenges, Tom and the art team made use of clever technical tricks that helped keep the fidelity up without impacting performance on mobiles with limited hardware capabilities:

“The environment was fully modular, which meant lots of repeating geometry, lots of reused textures, and fewer draw calls. I used trim sheets for the architecture, which helped to maintain the texel density throughout, as well as made for quick, iterative texturing. A lot of props shared texture sheets, I think they were all on two, which meant some strategically unwrapped and packed UVs; the Tetris of the game dev world.” - Tom Willcox 

The Deeper Details: Paris

As with all other The Queen’s Gambit Chess environments the devil is in the details. Tom took a closer look at various props within the environment. Each element was crucial in immersing players in the world of the show from the playing position.

"I think Paris in the show feels elegant, grand, and somewhat intimidating. I hope players get that same feeling from the playing position in our environment. As a fan of any TV show or film, having access to that third dimension in some form is exciting. I hope players enjoy that experience to get closer to the show.” - Tom Willcox 

Ensuring authenticity to the show's art style was a delicate balance. Tom and the art team performed early lighting passes and iterative texturing and ensured that the more vivid colour palette of the game always complemented the show's aesthetic.

“This was definitely a balancing act. It required early lighting passes, which were handled by Jake (Rockwater Senior Artist), in conjunction with iterative texturing. This ensured we correctly represented the show while complimenting the more stylized, vivid colour palette of the game. I also spent time bouncing around the existing levels  making sure our new environment remained grounded within the rest of the game..” - Tom Willcox

Tom's Journey As A Video Game Artist…So Far!

The Queen’s Gambit Chess marks both Tom’s and former Rockwater Artist Jack Shergold’s first experiences working on a published game! With this in mind, we asked Tom to shed some more light on his journey as a video game artist so far, exploring his insights into working within the Rockwater art team as well as his aspirations for the future.

This is your first work to feature in a published game, right? How does it feel knowing that your art is finally out there for the world to see on Netflix Games?!

"It’s honestly been a dream come true, which I am fully aware sounds majorly cheesy, but this has been my dream job for as long as I can recall. It feels incredibly surreal! It’s the understatement of the year to say that I'm honoured to have worked on an adaptation of such a beloved show.I fell in love with the artistic vision for The Queen’s Gambit; the locations, the era, the clothes. This was our team’s love letter to the show, so I wanted to do it proud. It was my first real endeavour for Rockwater, so I made it my personal goal to uphold the high standards Jake and Matt had already set across the other environments.”

Ripstone is your first role as an artist in the games industry, how has it been so far?

"I’ve loved it! It’s great having the freedom to try new things, and to be allowed and encouraged to explore. I’m still new to this industry but it’s such a huge thing that here I’m able to express an opinion or an idea and it’s always considered and valued. There have been occasions where I’ve suggested things - workflows or potential ideas - and the response has always been ‘Go for it, go try it out!’. We follow this mantra that it’s not wasted time if you learn something. Being a small team also allows me and other junior artists to be given creative control over an entire environment sometimes. It’s something I’m massively grateful for.”

What are you looking forward to going into 2024?

“I feel like a kid in a sweet shop every day! I love learning about every aspect of game art, from honing my modelling and texturing skills, lighting, composition and environment building, to technical art; like shader creation, or finding ways to optimise workflows. This is probably the broadest answer ever, but yeah, I’m a huge nerd for this stuff!”

Any tips for upcoming artists heading into their first industry roles? What do you wish you'd known going in?

"Absorb everything, and always be open to feedback. It’s an easy thing to say but not the easiest thing to implement. It can be easy to get attached to the things that we make, and be precious about them, but to grow you have to trust the process and the opinions of the team around you."

More From Ripstone’s ArtStation

Thanks again for joining us on the Ripstone ArtStation! If you've enjoyed this exploration of how our Rockwater Art Team recreated Paris’ Hotel de Ville for The Queen’s Gambit Chess, be sure to delve into our previous articles to discover more behind-the-scenes insights:


Environment Work:
Tom Wilcox, Junior Artist

Jack Shergold, Junior Artist  

Lighting and Engine:
Jake Parrott, Senior Artist 

Additional Support:
Matt Beech, Senior Artist

The Queen's Gambit Chess: Moscow Environment Deep Dive

Making Of / 28 September 2023

This week on the Ripstone ArtStation Blog, we take a closer look at The Queen’s Gambit Chess’ two Moscow environments; Moscow Invitational and The Park.

How Our Rockwater Artists Remade The Show’s Two Moscow Settings

With its dramatic lighting, high ceilings and intimidating shadows, the Moscow Invitational Hall is one of the most iconic locations from The Queen’s Gambit miniseries. This incredible space is also the setting for Beth Harmon’s major triumph over Vasily Borgov in the final of the 1968 Moscow Invitational Tournament. Wanna know how we recreated it? Let me hand you over to the Rockwater Art Team!

“With our recreation of the Moscow Invitational environment, we aimed to capture the same daunting look and feel as the show. We spent a lot of time matching the lighting and those long shadows to reference shots. It was really important for us to give players that eerie feeling of being exposed and observed in such a foreboding hall.

I think we achieved this by pulling out all the stops to ensure we reproduced that grand sense of scale. With this being such a pivotal setting in the show, we wanted players to feel like Beth did. She’s sort of exhibited in this unfamiliar space, with her every move being scrutinised more than ever before.” - Jake Parrott, Rockwater Senior 3D Artist

Being one of the very few exterior chess-playing locations in The Queen’s Gambit series, our second Moscow environment, Moscow Park, was an opportunity for our art team to flex their expertise in different ways. 

Here, the team worked to create a unique and natural ambience. Lighting, again, was key as they utilised the brightness of the winter sun, all while being faithful to the overcast skies and biting cold of the show.

"This environment was one of the most challenging we tackled, as we had to bring an exterior scene with longer lines of sight to mobile devices." - Jake Parrott, Rockwater Senior 3D Artist

Finding a way to create a convincing depiction of Beth's vision was no mean feat. Across the rest of the game, the board is placed on a ceiling. Here, we found a nice way of working it into the clouds. 

The Details: Moscow

The deeper details really make the space sing. Let’s take a closer look at the aspects of the show our art team recreated in the game. 

The Playing Area - Moscow Invitational

Beth bests Borgov from a playing area at the centre of this hall, and our artists recreated almost everything that she would see; from the intricate marble floors to the dramatic chandeliers and uplights that work give the space its unmistakable atmosphere.

“Most of the drama of the show’s final episode takes place at the centre of this hall. We focused on bringing it to life in the game by replicating the lighting, the marble flooring and even the table itself using as much detail as we could.” - Jake Parrott, 3D Artist

The Playing Area - Moscow Park

The playing area of The Park environment is just as detailed in its representation of one of the key settings of the show. An example of this comes in the form of the wooden chessboard, which our art team realistically weathered to make it feel worn in and exposed to the elements.  

The 2D Board - Moscow Invitational

In the Moscow Invitational environment, if choosing to play using the 2D board, players will be treated to this impressive vertical chessboard.  

“This should be instantly familiar to fans of the show. The wall-mounted chessboard’s design is based on the giant boards that tournament officials use to keep the crowd informed of the moves Harmon and Borgov make.” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Senior Artist

The 2D Board - Moscow Park

Up Next on Ripstone’s ArtStation

Thanks for taking a look at our deep dive into The Queen’s Gambit Chess' Moscow environments. Wanna find out more about the making of the game? Check out our previous articles including more behind-the-scenes insights:

Coming up: an interview with Paul Hughes, Rockwater Head of Technology. We'll be exploring the relationship between Art and Programming and why we chose Unreal Engine to develop our game!

The Queen's Gambit Chess: Vegas Environment Deep Dive

Making Of / 14 September 2023

Welcome back to Ripstone's ArtStation Blog! This week we’re zooming in on the extravagant Mariposa Hotel in Vegas, and how Rockwater’s Art Team recreated it for The Queen’s Gambit Chess. 

How Rockwater's Artists Rebuilt the Mariposa Hotel

This Vegas hotel lobby hosts Beth’s first major tournament and is a true standout location from The Queen’s Gambit miniseries. Though Beth triumphs to eventually become the joint winner of the tournament, it is here that she experiences a first character-building defeat to Benny Watts. Here’s our Art team to explain how we did it! 

“The Mariposa Hotel lobby really is spectacular in the show. It’s probably the largest set in the series and really gets across that grandeur of Vegas in the 1960s. Our interpretation of that in the game had to be just as impactful.

With this space, our team put extra emphasis on capturing the scale of the lobby. In the finished environment, players experience not only the glamour of the Art Deco components but also the feeling of being dwarfed by the sheer size of the space. It’s the feeling we imagine Beth would have felt attending her first major tournament.” - Jake Parrott, Rockwater 3D Artist

The Details: Vegas

It’s all in the detail! Here are some of the things our Rockwater art team put strong emphasis on in the game version of Mariposa Hotel in order to match how it is represented in the TV series. 

The Chess Board

Like many other boards in the game, the ornate Hotel Mariposa chessboard is one that we caringly adapted from the show. 

“The glitz and glamour of Vegas can be found everywhere in the show’s Mariposa Hotel Scenes. Even the chessboard is extravagant. We knew we had to recreate this board in the game, and even made sure to feature the glimmering copper tabletops. Its subtle details like this that - when combined with the sheer size of the environment - should make the player feel like they’re playing in the same space that Beth did.” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Artist

Art Deco Features

The satisfying geometric lines and mix of man-made materials found in the Mariposa Hotel lobby come together to create an impressive Art Deco space. 

“We only had a single shot from the show to work from as a reference for this balcony view, so we took extra influence from famous Art Deco architecture such as the lobby of the Chrysler Building. In-game, the enormously high ceilings paired with those gold dice in the distance give a sense of the scale.” - Jake Parrott, Rockwater 3D Artist

At The Table Details

Iconic Gold Dice

Up Next on Ripstone’s ArtStation

Thanks for joining us on this whistlestop tour of one of The Queen’s Gambit Chess' iconic environments. Enjoyed it? You may also enjoy some of our previous articles including more behind-the-scenes insights:

Coming up: we'll be talking to Paul Hughes, Rockwater Head of Technology, to explore the relationship between Art and Programming and why we chose Unreal Engine to develop our game!

The Queen’s Gambit Chess: How We Created the Game’s Chess Sets

Making Of / 07 September 2023

We’re back! This week we’re zooming in on the many spectacular chess sets of The Queen’s Gambit series and detailing how the Rockwater Art Team adapted them for our game. 

After all, a chess game is only ever as good-looking as its chess sets! Once they had established the game’s period environments, our teams set out to faithfully adapt the show's many timeless chess sets for players to experience for themselves in The Queen’s Gambit Chess. 

How We Adapted Chess Sets for The Queen’s Gambit Chess

At launch, the game features 7 sets, each of which with 4 material variations for players to unlock and customise themselves as they progress through Beth’s Journey. Let’s explore our team’s inspirations and the decisions that went into creating these sets for the game! 

Initial Inspiration: Studying The Queen’s Gambit

As with the environments, our recreation of The Queen’s Gambit’s chess sets began with our Rockwater artists studiously watching the show's chess scenes to capture screenshots to analyse.

In many cases, our teams also had access to Netflix’s behind-the-scenes shots that massively helped us in making our sets as close as possible to those seen in the show.

Additional Research

Once we’d identified the exact chess sets featured in the show, our artists would then conduct additional research, scouring the web for unseen angles and close-ups to help make their in-game adaptations as close to the original as possible. 

In some instances, however, detailed reference material was simply not available. Here, we had to get creative. A good example of this is the ‘Park’ chess set which, within the context of the show, appeared to be a mishmash of many sets used in a public place. Knowing this, our artists ensured that every single piece felt worn - no piece was the same. 

The Process

Upon completing their research, our artists set to work, using images gathered as a jumping-off point to create the optimised 3D meshes that would eventually be used in the game. All of these meshes remain faithful to the show, with our Artists using a plethora of tools including 3ds Max and Maya.

Once these initial meshes were complete, a lot of time and effort were put in to refine them further into high-detail meshes. It is this step that allowed us to include lots of little details and add tonnes of character into the sets, all while being able to hit performance targets for mobile.

Then, our Rockwater artists would bake high-poly detail onto the game meshes and create richly detailed textures and materials all within Adobe Substance Painter. This is where we’d also look into alternate looks for each set, always ensuring that they remained true to the wider art style of the game. Every set had to look relatively at home in every environment.

The final step involved importing the more-or-less finished set into the project and making minor tweaks inside the Unreal Editor to ensure it melded perfectly within the game world.

A Closer Look at the Chess Sets from TQGC




“I’m really pleased with how the Liberty set turned out. It really evokes that 50's Americana vibe. It’s a great fit for Alma’s house.” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Artist


“We couldn’t find enough reference material to create an exact match here, so we used a mixture of show screenshots and inspiration from 1950s Russian sets - it works really well within the scene. Each of the material variants, even the hard-wearing plastic pieces, have been worn in through years of use.” - Matt Beech Rockwater Artist


“No chess game is complete without a classic Staunton-inspired set. I love the variety of the material options that players can unlock.” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Artist



“With the Williams set, we wanted to create something to reflect that funky 60's vibe that Beth brings to the decor of her new home - it’s a little out there compared to the others, but it works!” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Artist

Up Next on Ripstone’s ArtStation

As always, we’d like to thank you for joining us on the Ripstone ArtStation! If you've enjoyed this look at the methods we used to create the chess sets of The Queen’s Gambit Chess, you may also enjoy some of our previous articles including more deep dives and behind-the-scenes insights:

Mark your calendars - next week we’re heading to Vegas to explore one of the most extravagant environments in the game!

The Queen's Gambit Chess: Alma's House Environment Deep Dive

Making Of / 31 August 2023

We’re back with our latest production process blog! This week, the Rockwater Art Team detail how they recreated Alma’s House for The Queen’s Gambit Chess!

Rebuilding Alma’s Home for Mobile

Alma’s living room is a pivotal interior in the show. It plays a huge role in shaping Beth on her journey to the very top of international chess. With its unmistakably mid-century decor, we consider it one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable sets in the series. For our Rockwater Art Team, it was absolutely paramount that we recreated it faithfully for mobile.

We decided to recreate this space home for the game as it was when we first meet Alma in the show; a pristine space that screams the early 1960s American Dream. 

“Production designer Uli Hanisch’s work made redesigning Alma’s Home for the game a real treat for our art team. In the series, this interior set is incredibly detailed and uses a tonne of mid-century pieces to perfectly capture that moment in time.

Our team studied it frame-by-frame in order to recreate it as faithfully as we possibly could. It was important to us that players experienced being immersed in this space - one that becomes pivotal to Beth’s upbringing.” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Artist

The Details: Bringing Alma’s Home to Life

Our Rockwater artists wanted to build in as much detail as they could to ensure that the space felt truly lived in. Here’s a closer look at some of the aspects of the art direction that make the game version of Alma’s Lounge feel just like its TV counterpart. 

The Chessboard

The chessboard found here is a replica of the very one Beth uses early on in the show. It’s balanced delicately on the sofa, supported and levelled by some of her many books on chess theory.

This is the player’s perspective of the environment. As mentioned in a previous blog, ensuring a high level of visual fidelity here, while keeping other areas lean was key in hitting performance targets and fighting against the limitations of low-end mobile hardware. 

“Wherever we can, we have used reference shots and set photos to recreate props using as much detail as possible. In this environment, the placement of the chessboard was key. It’s the exact board she uses, propped up on the chess books she studies. Once she settles in, Alma’s living room is this rare place where Beth feels most comfortable and at home. We wanted to reflect that comfort with the playing position.” - Matt Beech, Rockwater Artist

Mid-century Design Features

From the grand emerald green couch to the art deco mantlepiece, Alma’s living room is full to the brim with extravagant mid-century furnishings.

The outside world seen through the window here is another clever trick we used to keep performance impact low. The view beyond the window is faked using pixel depth offset. 

“Our aim was to try and achieve what the show did and ensure that players were immersed in The Queen’s Gambit world at every turn. Everything in this room, from the TV trolley to that incredible piano, was carefully modelled to create that immersive experience.” - Jake Parrott, Rockwater 3D Artist

We carefully placed little nods to the wider narrative of the show wherever we could, so long as they supported that immersion. Here, a copy of Chess Focus features Benny Watts; his star is rising. 

Up Next on Ripstone's ArtStation

Thanks again for joining us on the Ripstone ArtStation! Itchin' for more insight into how we translated The Queen's Gambit Chess to Android & iOS? Take a look at some of our previous articles to discover more:

Next week we’ll be zooming in on what makes each and every one of the game's many chessboards unique! 

The Queen’s Gambit Chess: Crafting Beth Harmon - A Character Production Deep Dive

General / 24 August 2023

In this week’s production process blog, we’re exploring what went into our meticulous recreation of Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit Chess, and how the Rockwater Art Team's dedication to bringing her to life for the mobile platform was founded on authenticity and innovation.

Initial Inspiration: Dan Eder's Artistry

Dan Eder played a pivotal role in turning the vision of Beth Harmon into a reality. As mentioned in our previous Character Overview post, it was Dan’s gorgeous initial fan art that resonated so strongly with the art team that we got in touch to collaborate. 

Once he joined the project as Lead Character Artist, Dan’s expertise in character creation ensured that every nuance of Beth's persona was captured in fine detail. For an in-depth look at his creative process, be sure to check out his speed modelling tutorial of that initial Beth Harmon design:

Dan's Speed Modelling Tutorial

Visualizing Beth Harmon

That initial design fitted perfectly with the art style we were developing for The Queen’s Gambit Chess. From here, it was a case of iterating and refining until we reached something unanimously adored.

The renders throughout this article provide a glimpse of the intricate work that goes into the creation of a character in the Queens Gambit Chess. We will also go a few steps beyond the character as an isolated element and talk about how that model was set up in Unreal and the overall pipeline created. 

Our Unreal Character Render Pipeline

We always knew that characters would be incredibly important given their role in the game, but high quality characters on mobile platforms come at a high cost. So our main question became "How do we get AAA quality, stylised characters onto mobile?".

With this in mind an entirely separate Unreal project was set up to be used solely for rendering characters at high quality. Highly advanced Video compression would then be used to bake down the individual frames into movies which were then brought back into the game project and triggered through our state machine.

This approach freed us completely from constraints in texture sizes, bone counts and other large data assets. It also opened the door for techniques that are traditionally not performant on mobile; It allowed us to use advance skin shaders, subsurface scattering, grooms and ray-traced shadows to name a few. 

Technically it would have been possible to create this system within the main game project, however it would cause unnecessary bloat to the data. Separation meant that Artists could work entirely independently and throw absolutely everything at the engine without introducing risk to other parts of development. It was also very handy to have a render oriented project for Marketing assets and other areas of the game where high quality renders are required, such as the front end, unlocks etc. 

Techniques to Master the Aesthetics

Now that we had a method that freed us from the traditional mobile constraints, we could focus on how to get the best our of each pixel. As mentioned above we took advantage of sophisticated Subsurface Scattering (SSS) shaders, we rigged the hair so it reacted correctly to head movements, we even made grooms for the fuzzy items in game such as Beth's white coat and Mr. Shaibel's thick jumper. Every strand of hair, every glimmer in her eyes, and every contour of her expression was meticulously designed to resonate with players and maintain the visual integrity of the character.

Crafting Animated Frames

The animation of the characters in the Queens Gambit Chess was a really fun part of production which involved a unique batch render queue setup. 
After the mocap had been cleaned, every animation for each character was set up within a hierarchy of sequences which in turn could be triggered using a variety of render queues. In short this meant any animation for any character (or batch of characters/animations) could be re-rendered quickly with minimal effort, this could also have been triggered remotely or offloaded to a render farm if the needs of the project were more demanding. 

Implementing this process did require meticulous attention to detail; ensuring that every frame was consistent and of exceptional quality but the time saving and results we feel are well worth it. 

Insights from the Programming Team

Realising a character artistically, while a challenge, is only a part of it. Paul Hughes, Rockwater's Head of Programming, was essential in establishing the animation pipeline and helped to optimise Beth's animation frames while maintaining their visual fidelity. We'll go into this in more detail in a future article where we discuss how Unreal can be leveraged efficiently for use on mobile devices.

Up Next on Ripstone’s ArtStation

Thanks again for joining us on the Ripstone ArtStation! If you've enjoyed this exploration of how we recreated Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit Chess, be sure to delve into our previous articles to discover more behind-the-scenes insights:

Join us next week for an exclusive article on another pivotal environment from the game; Alma's House! 

The Queen’s Gambit Chess: Methuen Home Environment Deep Dive

General / 17 August 2023

Previously, we gave you a high-level environment overview of iconic show locations we recreated for The Queen’s Gambit Chess. This week, we’re taking a deeper look at how our art team built one of the most important places in Beth Harmon’s journey to chess mastery; the Methuen Home Basement. 

How Rockwater’s Artists Rebuilt The Methuen Home Basement

The basement of the Methuen Home might strike you as an unexpected setting for grandiose chess showdowns. However, those who watched the show will know that this very space holds the essence of Beth Harmon's journey, where the intricate game becomes her passion. In early episodes, it is here that her determined spirit clashes against the hesitant mentorship of Mr. Shaibel, the janitor-turned-chess sage.

Our Rockwater team decided that this hallowed ground would be the perfect place for players to be initiated into the art of chess. 

"Our team recreated Mr Shaibel’s Basement with great attention to detail. We knew wanted to capture that lived-in feel, so almost all aspects of the space have been textured with minute details. Things such as the cracked tiles, the weathered chessboard, and the grubby janitorial sinks are intended to work together to create the impression that this is a real space.

Those who have played the game will know that the location is used as the setting for the game’s beginner lessons - as a homage to Beth’s discovery of chess here. We felt that it was the perfect place to introduce players to the game; by taking the same formative steps as Beth.” - Jake Parrott, 3D Artist

The Details: The Methuen Home Basement

The instant impact of the environment is bolstered by near obsessive attention to detail of our Rockwater Art Team. Let's zoom in on some of the deeper details that they included to ensure our recreation would feel as authentic to the show as possible on mobile. 

At The Table

As mentioned in our previous blog, one of the key aspects of the art direction of The Queen’s Gambit Chess was ensuring that we kept close control of detail and materials based on player sight lines and radially out from the playable locations. The result, we hope, is truly showstopping gameplay areas that shine on high and low-end hardware.

In order to make these gameplay areas truly special for eagle-eyed fans, Netflix provided our team with access to a tonne of exciting behind-the-scenes reference material. The chess board here, for instance, is a replica from the show and if you look closely, you’ll even see subtle fingerprints and smudges amid the layers of chalk and dust that have built up from years of use in the Methuen Home basement. 

"We’ve tried to do this throughout the game. Wherever we could, we used reference shots from the show to recreate its chess boards using as much detail as possible. When playing the game we want players to experience chess through the same lens as Beth - so what better way is there to do that than having players use the exact same boards?” - Matt Beech, Artist

The Wider Environment

When choosing to play from the 2D perspective, Mr Shaibel’s chalkboard becomes the animated, playable chess board! Our teams took care to ensure the 2D board of each environment was bespoke to keep players entwined with the location - no matter how they want to play the game.

“When creating art for the game we wanted to ensure that players were immersed in the game’s world at all times. The chalkboard in the Methuen Home basement is a great example of this. Even players who want to play a stripped-back, 2D game of chess can have that immersive experience.” - Philipos Yiannakopoulos, 2D & UI Artist

Up Next on Ripstone ArtStation!

A huge thank you for your support here on Ripstone’s ArtStation! We hope you’ve enjoyed your closer look at the Methuen Home in The Queen’s Gambit Chess! Which environment would you like to see us explore next?

Next week, we’ll be exploring the character design of Beth Harmon in greater detail, including a timelapse of Character Artist Dan Eder’s initial fan art!

The Queen's Gambit Chess: Dan Eder Q&A

Q & A / 10 August 2023

This week we sat down for an in-depth Q&A with Dan Eder, Lead Character Artist on The Queen’s Gambit Chess.

Dan Eder is an accomplished freelance character artist who has worked as the Lead Character Artist on a number of stunning games, including The Queen’s Gambit Chess.

As we mentioned in an earlier blog, Dan’s fan art of Beth Harmon quickly became a favourite of the Rockwater team as they embarked on their quest to adapt Beth Harmon, a character from Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, for a new mobile game. Naturally, we got in touch to see if we could collaborate! 

Dan covers his career and his approach to character design, as well as his advice for junior artists wanting to kickstart their careers in video game art. We also delve deeper into how Rockwater and Netflix Games’ collaboration with Dan worked and what initially inspired his stunningly stylised recreation of Beth!

Catch the full interview below! 

Up Next on Ripstone ArtStation!

Once again, we’d like to thank you for your support here on Ripstone’s ArtStation! We hope you’re enjoying our BTS content on the art of The Queen’s Gambit Chess. 

Next week, we’ll be guiding you through the creation of one of the game’s key environments; The Methuen Home. Join us to find out how our artists tackled bringing an iconic set to mobile platforms!

What do you want to learn about next? We welcome all feedback and suggestions - so comment below if there’s a particular aspect of the game you’d like insight on in the coming weeks!