The Skin-spiration Behind SMITEs Monstercat Battle Pass
Words by Megan Venzin
Who hasn’t pondered the age-old question: “what would it be like to possess godlike powers?” Thanks to the design team over at Hi-Rez Studios, Monstercat artists like Sullivan King, Slushii, Noisestorm and Koven now have some answers.
The aforementioned lineup spawned the inspiration behind four new skins that players can sport within SMITE, a third-person multiplayer online game that pits immortal characters against one another in bombastic battles.
Starting May 18th, fans can snap up the Monstercat Battle Pass to access and unlock these new skins, which integrate official audio from all four artists, uniquely soundtracked abilities, and much more, all designed exclusively for the SMITE universe.
Any serious gamer can attest, the act of honing their character’s look is just as important as the quest itself.
“Our goal is to capture the essence of that person -- not so much to replicate every detail one-to-one,” says Alex Cantatore, Hi-Rez Studios’ Senior Director of Live Games. “What are players going to want to experience that gives them the feel of being Slushii, for example? We thought it was the idea of actually being in front of the DJ deck, throwing their hands in the air while they play arena-rocking anthems. So we went the extra mile to create and animate a DJ deck that Slushii Hades plays in-game while performing his abilities, completely replacing his base animations.”
Fans of Slushii will be stoked to see the Greek King of the Underworld bring his new bass cut “Valhalla” (out now via Monstercat Uncaged) to life for the very first time.
“When you cast your ultimate ability as Slushii Hades, you feel the same sort of ecstatic moment as when the beat drops in “Valhalla”-- it’s the most epic moment of gameplay, so you want the most epic moment of music,” Cantatore continues. “Hades’ basic attacks use elements from the main rhythm of the song, forming a constant backdrop to your gameplay.”
Each Monstercat artist joins the fight with their own musical theme. “I’ve never seen video game developers literally take the stems to a song and integrate different parts [and] instruments into actions,” says Slushii (who also happens to be an avid gamer). “That was insane!”
If Hades sounds too heavy, you’ve got options. Instead, take on enemies as the Egyptian God Khepri, for the chance to start a bonafide “Crab Rave”. Emo warriors will appreciate the resonant howls of Sullivan King’s “Someone Else”, which adds a visceral note to every sword-slash. Or for a smoother touch, play as a blonde goddess who dazzles to the tune of Koven’s “Give You Up”, a liquid dnb heater.
“The SMITE community knew and loved Crab Rave before this partnership. I think we saw more crab emoji on our Twitch chat than ever before when we announced Noisestorm’s hit would appear in-game as Crab Rave Khepri,” Cantatore shares. “But through the partnership, our players have discovered the songs of Koven, Sullivan King, and Slushii, and fallen in love with them too. We see posts every day from players saying ‘I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I can’t stop listening to these songs!’”
Under the Skin
Music is only a part of the big picture. To design a skin is a labor of love -- the interactive, digital product is the end result of moodboards, artist feedback, and hundreds of hours of rigorous development and testing.
According to Cantatore, a SMITE God’s skin can take up to six-months to realize. “By April, we had already started planning for content in our November update.” He provides a basic outline for the intensive process below:
Orthographics (Turnaround illustration of the concept on the existing model)
Colors (Several color options are proposed)
3D Character Modeling (Virtually sculpting a high-detail model, then adapting that model to work in-game)
Materials (Painting a texture which is stretched over the model to add all the color and details)
Rigging (Adding a virtual skeleton)
Animation (Animating the skeleton and secondaries, i.e. the dangly bits of skirts and whatnot)
Visual FX (Creating all the particle effects and meshes that are used to convey abilities and attacks)
Audio (Attaching sound effects to animations and abilities)
Comfy In Your Own Skin
Those who are new to SMITE, or gaming in general, shouldn’t feel intimidated. Selecting a new skin is the first step to finding your groove in an unfamiliar world.
“Personalization is huge for me,” Slushii says of his own experience. “We all put work into these games, so being able to show off your skin is really fun.”
So get comfortable in yours, and embrace the unknown. After all, there are more than 35 million players who clash regularly in the Battleground of the Gods, and SMITE is free to play on PC, Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch. In other words, there are endless opportunities to “werk that lewk.”
Whether you’re a music lover, a gamer or some combination of the two, recognize that these skins are about far more than just aesthetics -- they offer a gateway to novel experiences, and after a year of isolation, deliver a welcome infusion of adventure and comradery.
“This partnership is another great example of the cross-pollination of the music and gaming industries,” says Gavin Johnson, Monstercat’s Head of Gaming. “The artists and their songs are integrated in such a way where they are able to organically soundtrack millions of new gaming moments for veteran SMITE players and Monstercat fans that might be playing for the first time. Both communities get to engage with SMITE, the artists, and Monstercat in an entirely new way.”
Want to hear more from the artists featured in SMITE’s Monstercat Battle Pass? Check out the official music videos below.
Listen to "Valhalla" here!
Listen to "Someone Else" here!
Listen to "Crab Rave" here!
Listen to "Give You Up" here!