Fan Blog: Andrew Ryan, Artist

Hey fellow BioWare fans,

My name is Andrew Ryan, and I’m a freelance artist based in New York City that loves doing fan art for BioWare’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age titles. Here’s how I got into making fan art, why I enjoy it so much, and what my general process is.

I’ve been a huge Mass Effect fan since its 2007 release. I fell in love with its stylistic approach to the universe and with the option for each of us to craft our own individual narrative within the confines of the overarching plot. It reawakened within me the drive to be a more creative person. I’d always loved science-fiction and fantasy art, but I hadn’t really been drawing much since graduating from high school two years prior.

During this particular time in my life I was basically just playing a bunch of video games in my mom’s basement and working menial jobs. Inspirational games like Mass Effect gave me the motivation to start seeking out art schools where I could foster my desire to be creative. After a couple of rejections from other schools, I got into the School of Visual Arts in NYC. It was there, during my sophomore year, that one of my instructors introduced me to Dragon Age: Origins.

Fast forward to 2012 and my senior year of art school. I made the decision that year to go digital rather than traditional. Unfortunately, my classes didn’t offer much in the way of using Photoshop as a painting tool, so I figured the best way to learn was just to paint with it as much as possible in my spare time. I also figured that the best way to keep myself motivated was to paint something I really cared about. In 2012, that was Mass Effect 3.

Okay, so I wasn’t too fond of the original ending and the destruction of the Mass Relays. I wanted to know that my favorite characters weren’t forever stuck on some remote planet, so I started painting epilogue scenarios. I had Garrus and Tali retire to Rannoch, Wrex rejoin EVE back on Tuchunka to lead the krogan to a new age, and Kaidan, my love interest and favorite character, return to the Citadel ruins to search for Shepard. These were my attempts to get the closure I felt was lacking prior to the release of the Extended Cut—which thankfully remedied the business with the relays.


Around this time I also got to thinking how fun it would be to evolve my skillset by depicting some of the hypothetical enemy forces we didn’t get a chance to see during the Reaper War, such as the Reaperized hanar, volus, and drell. Looking back, I’m not too happy with them. I could have pushed them to be a lot more grotesque, but I had a blast making them and enjoyed sharing and discussing my concepts with other fans.


My next fan project, Dragon Effect, was inspired in part by the existing blood dragon armor set that already served as a bridge between the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises. I planned to just do Shepard originally, but then I started drawing parallels between the two worlds by comparing biotics to mages and synthetics to golems. This led to rendering almost every Mass Effect character in a DA-inspired outfit. I’m currently working on bringing the Dragon Age cast into the Mass Effect universe, which has been equally challenging and entertaining.


When determining how a character should look, I consider several things: I gauge the overall aesthetic appearance of its genre and how to transfer it to the other. I find similarities in personality to another existing character. I think about how to make the final lineup more interesting. For example, I’ll try not to make every single mage a standard biotic adept but instead make some of them vanguards when it better suits their DA fighting style.

Miranda, for instance, had certain traits in common with Morrigan: a confident attitude, a desire to keep others at an emotional distance, and parental issues. There’s also the obvious biotic-mage comparison, so I took elements from Miranda’s Mass Effect outfit (Cerberus insignia and honeycomb patterning) and implemented them in Morrigan’s staff and skirt. I also traded color schemes as it’s an easy and obvious way to change someone’s look but retain the overall feel of a character.


As for my process, it’s always changing. I’m still relatively new to digital painting, but generally I start with a solid line drawing followed by layering in separate solid dark colors underneath. I then add various textures on top of that to give the image a bit of “tooth” and so it doesn’t look quite so digital. Once I lay in the textures, I move onto the face. I use a lot of reference to nail down as close of a likeness as I can to the character. I’ll use the lighting direction in the reference photo so that I can render out the rest of the body. At a certain point, when I am happy enough with the direction, I combine all of the layers into one and start doing little tweaks to make certain forms read better. On the final pass, I add custom features like tattoos and buttons.


Although I’m never really happy with any of my art—I tend to only see the flaws—my fan art has been a great way to expand on the intrinsic love and admiration I feel for these games. I look forward to bringing you guys more in the future!

Please visit my site to follow my future projects or to view my past works:


BioWare at the San Diego Comic Con

Hi Everyone,

BioWare is pleased to be visiting San Diego once again to be part of San Diego Comic Con. This year, BioWare will be part of the Dark Horse Comics booth inside the exhibit hall; as part of our booth presence, Community Manager Jessica Merizan will have members of the Dragon Age and Mass Effect teams, along with special guests.

Come out and meet Jessica, along with Mass Effect producer Mike Gamble, Dragon Age editor Ben Gelinas, and Dragon Age artist Nick Thornborrow. Ben and Nick are the creators of the Dragon Age: The World of Thedas lore book, and will be on hand at the BioWare section of the Dark Horse Comics booth to sign autographs with fans; they look forward to talking with fans in attendance. We are also working to have some special guests visit us; we’ll update everyone when they are confirmed.

Visiting the Dark Horse booth is your only chance to get your hands on the San Diego Comic Con exclusive, the Bronze SR-1 Normandy. There are only 300 of these available and are limited to two per person, so make sure you come to get yours before they run out.

SDCC Exclusive

We hope to see you at the Dark Horse Comics booth at San Diego Comic Con!

World of Thedas – Volume 1: An Erratum


World of Thedas – Volume 1: An Erratum by Brother Genitivi

I once gave a lecture at the University of Orlais on the conflict between fact and belief.

“Gathering accurate information is challenging in a place as vast and fragmented as Thedas,” I told the students. “Sources may conflict wildly.”

This portion of my lecture was excerpted in a recent encyclopedia entitled The World of Thedas. The author of this text is unnamed, and prefers it that way. But I know him. I have studied with him. And I can speak to his obsession with detail and objectivity, the latter being something with which I sometimes struggle.

You could say that his approach with regards to accuracy is “ruthless.”

But, as I said in Val Royeaux, ours is a large, complicated world. It is perhaps inevitable that a few errors survive numerous readings and are then committed to print.

With this in mind, here are a few points in The World of Thedas that, based on my studies and travels, warrant correction:

Page 12: The main text states that the First Blight lasted one hundred years. Most authorities agree that it was fought for 192 years. The timeline in the tome is correct.

Page 12: The timeline states that the Old Gods whispered to humanity from the Black City in -2800 Ancient. At this time, the legendary city would still be known as “The Golden City,” as it was not yet sullied by the presence of men.

Page 42: The term “ralshokra,” said to be a Qunari military challenge where the higher ranks are fought for and defended to the death, is not a Qunari term at all. Its use can be traced back to the Storm Age, first appearing in a popular Orlesian children’s story meant to demonize the invading race. There’s no evidence that any Qunari actually participate in something so barbaric.

Page 126: The timeline also states that in 8:45 Blessed, the Fereldan nobility continued a “guerrilla war against the occupying Orlesians, led by Brandel’s daughter Moira.” While the Rebel Queen Moira did eventually lead the war, she was born after 8:45 Blessed.

Page 136: The timeline puts Celene’s birth at 9:6 and her ascension at 9:20, making her, according to the timeline, fourteen when she became empress. However, the main text says she was sixteen when she took the throne. By all accounts, the main text is correct. Celene was born in 9:4 Dragon.

Page 141: There are rumors in some circles of an intelligent darkspawn known as the Architect, who attempted to unearth and kill the remaining Old Gods and taint the entire surface world. Though the timeline says 9:14 Dragon, most reliable sources state these events actually occurred in 9:10 Dragon.

Page 146: The timeline states that Bhelen Aeducan was the middle child of King Endrin Aeducan. He was actually King Endrin’s youngest child.

Page 157: The main text says that the darkspawn sacked Minrathous in 1:31 Divine. While it is true that Minrathous nearly fell during the Second Blight, the infamous heart of the Imperium has never actually been taken. This is stated elsewhere in the book.

Page 176: In the glossary, the definition of Archon as Tevinter’s “monarch” is technically incorrect. It would be more accurate to call the Archon a “ruler.”

Page 177: The “First Warden” is the leader of the Grey Wardens at Weisshaupt. The glossary incorrectly states that he is the “Commander of the Grey.” I’m not sure what my peer was drinking when he wrote this one.

With these corrections, perhaps the record has now been set straight. I hope you have found the tome as enlightening as I have.

Yours in scholarly devotion,

Brother Ferdinand Genitivi

Dragon Age Art Selected for 2013 Into the Pixel

We are pleased to announce that art from Dragon Age has been selected as a winner for the 2013 Into the Pixel contest! Into the Pixel is an annual celebration of the artwork in interactive entertainment.

Please join us in congratulating BioWare artists Nick Thornborrow and Matt Rhodes for their outstanding work on this piece, titled The Chant.

The_ChantFrom Matt Rhodes:

“Fleshing out the cultures and religions of the Dragon Age world has been a rare treat. We’ve been allowed to free our inner art history nerds. Nick’s attention to detail and craft are fantastic but it was his respect for the story-telling and history that make The Chant really shine. We’re thrilled and honored that enough people feel the same way that it was chosen for Into the Pixel.”

From Nick Thornborrow:

The Chant is the prevailing mythology in many cultures found in the world of Dragon Age. Its characters and imagery become touchstones when we’re defining a cultures visual style. The same iconography appears in a variety of styles and mediums such as tapestries, frescoes, paintings and sculpture, depending on the culture. In this case, each piece of stained glass was designed separately and then composited together by Matt to depict what an Orlesian chantry might look like.”

The Chant will be featured on display during the upcoming 2013 E3 expo in Los Angeles. For more information, please visit the official website of Into the Pixel.


BLOG: Owen Borstad, Qunari Crafts Specialist

During our recent Dragon Age Week celebration, we shared an awesome looking Qunari symbol wall hanging that was created by a member of the Dragon Age team. Since then, we have received many requests from the community asking how to make one of their own.

We went straight to the source and asked Owen Borstad if he could provide detailed instructions on how he did it. Here is what he had to say:

Qunari Wall Hanging

Hi all!

I’m Owen Borstad, and I made the large paper Qunari symbol shown off by the community team as part of Dragon Age Week.  I’m a programmer at BioWare and have been here for almost 12 years now, and I’ve been doing paper-crafty-type stuff since long before working here. Apparently some folks are interested in how I made the Qunari artwork that now decorates one of the walls at BioWare, so here’s a rundown of what I did and how I made it, and some files to help you make your own if you wish.

For a while now I had been wanting to make a giant paper sculpture to decorate the walls/trophy cases/etc. of BioWare, similar to the works of Kota Hiratsuka, Matthew Shlian and Joel Cooper (I have no affiliation with these artists, just a love of their work) but hadn’t really found the time/right thing to make/source material for the project.  One day I stumbled upon the source Illustrator files for the various symbols in our game, found the Qunari symbol, and thought, “Hey, this would make an awesome wall hanging just like the Lion’s head!”, so I started thinking about how to make this happen.

I took our symbol (figure 1), and found the edges (figure 2):


Next I found the centerline (or just extracted it, figure 3), then subdivided it (by eye, no math, really; I should have done some math, figure 4):


I then put in the “facets” (figure 5), and thought “Ok, now how to make it 3D?”


I wasn’t familiar enough with the 3D programs we have here, but have played around with Google Sketchup before, so I loaded that up.  Unfortunately, there’s no easy way (short of paying the upgraded price) to import Illustrator files, so I went looking.  I stumbled upon exporting to svg, and importing via a plugin (which took some fiddling to work).  Eventually I got it into Sketchup, and then made it 3D by pulling the middle line up.  After doing a whole bunch of clean up on it to make endpoints meet, removing duplicate facets, etc., I had a model I could then play with.

Once I was happy with it in Sketchup, I exported to DFX and loaded up Pepakura Designer, which allows people to make templates for paper craft models from 3D data files.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing with sizes, trying to figure out how big I wanted it, at what size to print it out, etc.  I made a smaller version as a prototype, which looked decent even if I didn’t finish it (I don’t have a picture of this; it was destroyed in one of my trips to and from work).  After making the prototype, I discovered I had it backwards (inside out), as I didn’t want my numbers to show when I finished making it, so I fixed that up, then re-exported and re-imported.

I finally decided how big to make it so as to fit on the wall, and saved out a PDF of the exploded structure (see PDF).  I printed it on 11×17 Cardstock Ledger paper, and started cutting it out.  I had to score the thing backwards to what the PDF said to do to keep the lines and numbers on the “inside” of the structure.

After gluing the back all together with thinly spread white glue and cutting/scoring every piece, I finally started assembling it.  It turned out that gluing the “boxes” and then gluing to the back was the easiest way to put it together, and so I eventually finished gluing to the back, then worked on “zipping” the model together.

After a total of about 30 hours, I finally finished it, and cut a circular hole in the back by which to hang it, re-enforced the hole, and stuck it on the wall with a pushpin. And that’s how I came to be the prince of… oh, wrong story, anyway, that’s how I made the giant logo!  I might do another one if I feel like it, or go do something completely different for my next project.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tale; if you have questions, send them to and I can try to answer them, but no questions about what glue to use!