Terraria, being perhaps the most maximalist indie game in existence, is renowned for its inexhaustible list of things to see and loot, and, more importantly, its list of cute horrors to vanquish. The game’s bosses have been recreated in 3D before by multiple artists (including myself and Duke Fishron, back in early 2018) but this concept needs a well-documented and comprehensive re-imagining of the beasts that is not hosted on Reddit.
This is the type of project that can quickly get out of hand, so all the extras will have to be trimmed. The style is to be semi-low poly: simple meshes with bevels and sparing use of curvilinear forms. Texturing is to use PBR or procedural techniques. Boss animations are to be simplified, but to capture some of the more notable behaviours of the boss fights (e.g. Queen Bee launching bee swarms out of her abdomen). The backgrounds are also to be simplified in an exaggerated voxel style that hints at the environments of the boss encounters, but avoids any extra detail outside of texturing.
Minor commentary and lower resolution animations for each boss is presented below. Head over to the Polysthetic YouTube channel for speed modelling and high-resolution animations.
The funny thing about King Slime is how little time is spent modelling the gelatinous blob vs the ninja armour floating inside him. It’s a good thing they gave him a crown somewhere down the game’s update line; I do have a soft spot for the big guy.
Eye of Cthulhu
Ah, Terraria’s iconic disembodied eyeball. Whilst this rendition can’t hold a candle to Cuse’s legendary sculpted version, it was fun figuring out a procedural texture for the capillary-dense sclera, saving a tonne of time and effort in the process. The mouth of the second form and the tendrils are animated with a noise displacement texture. A third eyeball was cell-fractured with the pieces dropped by the physics engine for the transition between the first and second forms.
Eater of Worlds
Unlike its genuinely gruesome Crimson counterpart, the Eater of Worlds is impossible to not make look cute. Its goofy eyeballs are set up to follow a point with a damped track modifier, whilst the rest of the body follows a curve that was set up to loop seamlessly. If it weren’t for the dirt and rock particle systems, the final animation would’ve looped perfectly.
Brain of Cthulhu
The one boss I dreaded modelling, owing to its complex second form, animations, and disappearing act. The displacement modifier was used with a noise texture animated to a rotating empty object to simulate the pulsating brain and arteries. The animation was rendered with two passes, one for the boss and one for the background so the final animation can be composited with the brain teleporting and becoming invisible with ease. Major thanks to 3DTextures.me for their amazing selection of organic PBR textures.
Beside the Duke, this monster’s my favourite. Cute, wins great loot, and has an awesome attack: shooting bees out of her butt. Pretty straightforward to model too, though complex to rig. The composite eyes were also done procedurally with a Voronoi texture.
Not the most complicated character, good old Skeletron. The only unique aspect here is adding subtle texturing to the bone by using a color ramp to isolate a single gray shade on a noise texture to simulate cranial sutures.
Wall of Flesh
The big daddy of the first half (probably closer to first quarter) of the game, I cannot tell whether he is more or less intimidating in 3D. Besides being a landmark character, he was surprisingly easy to model, with many of the techniques used for the Eye and Brain of Cthulhu used here. The unique challenge here was “the Hungry”. They are separate objects animated with simple deformation and a “Copy Location” modifier locking onto an empty object animated with noise to simulate how they would attack the player in the game. The Wall of Flesh has bendy bone-rigged arms that copy the location of the Hungry which give the appearance as if they are connected.
The much awaited Hallowed bosses first see King Slime’s female counterpart with a platinum crown and wings. Alongside is her own army of specialised troops, the crystal, bouncy, and heavenly slimes.
For the mechanical bosses, instead of making their environments relevant to the game (which would be night in a forest), I depicted them inside the “mechanic’s workshop”. This time, I rebuilt the Eye of Cthulhu meshes to be more optimised, and when they broke into their second form, I used a particle system to simulate the breaking sclera, instead of the physics engine. Likewise, Spazmatism’s flames are modelled with a particle system, similar to how they appear in the game. My favourite touch is Retinazer’s pulsating laser cannon.
Perhaps the coolest looking boss, it was fun to animate with its side bumpers, mandible saws, and rotating, drilling jaws. The environment is specially built for the destroyer’s tunneling with metal that self-repairs. However, keep flammable items away from the workshop as hot sparks can ignite them.
Skeletron’s mechanised brother was birthed in an AI greeble-factory-pit, like something out of the Matrix. The stock model is armed with a cannon, vice, chainsaw, laser, and retractable head spikes.
The big momma of the second third of the game, she was probably the toughest boss to depict in 3D. Plants are generally tedious to model, and angry, carnivorous, wall-climbing flowers are especially so. Despite this, the end result was very satisfying, the bulk of the animation was done with displacement modifiers, with the climbing vines rigged with an armature, and the tentacles animated in a similar way to the Wall of Flesh’s Hungry. The second phase transformation was done similar to the Twins with a particle system ejecting the petals. Finally, Plantera spores litter the atmosphere of the Underground Jungle.
This jungle-basement dwelling blockhead, so many moving parts, none of them simple. Whether it’s coordinating the fireball with the jaw drop, or the lighting change when the core is ejected and the head starts levitating, it’s like building a watch. Most interesting of all are the fist chains. I hooked an empty object to one of the vertices of a Bezier curve, which was then nested underneath the fist mesh. When the fists fly, the curve follows through. The chain-links are then clones to suit the path and number to fit the curve so it appears that the chains are being ejected from the arm.
Empress of Light
The interesting thing about this whole project is, as you progress through the bosses, the challenge of depicting them increases, as they become more elaborate as the developers of Terraria themselves seem to get more ambitious. With the Empress of Light (as well as the Cultist), there is a deceptively large amount of behavioural variety. I opted for the simple pinwheel attack, some small particle “bullet-hell” emission, and the after-image barrel-rolling she does which I composited in post-production.
Somehow more goofy in three dimensions–but perhaps the intimidation comes from him being arguably the most difficult boss in the game–everybody loves this shark-pig-dragon mutation. So much so, he was the first boss I modelled nearly three years ago. Now I got the chance to revisit him, with a better animation, more optimised mesh, glowing eyes, and most importantly of all: Sharknados!
Much like the Empress, this guy exhibits a lot of behaviours, but he’s so simple to model that not putting in extra effort in the animation so close to the finish line seems like a cop-out. So I modelled the Phantasm Dragon and the Ancient Vision, and animated his lightning orb attack.
I’ve been dreaming about the day I can write this blurb and smash that upload button for four months, and it is finally here: you might say, “the journey’s end”. The beautiful thing about the Moon Lord, is that he takes elements from so many other bosses to model, but nothing overly challenging, so it was a satisfying but non-strenuous endgame. Thank you for reading, if you’ve made it this far.
Jokes about 2020 age like milk, but if they’re delivered in VFX format, then it will always be funny. Immortalised on my channel are the three Frost Moon bosses and their legion (yes, fully intended if you’re a hardcore fan) invading Sydney on Christmas Day. You can read about that project separately here.
Everscream, everyone’s favourite fanged, carnivorous pine tree. I forgot to make the poor guy’s baubles bounce, but he sure had a blast stalking the streets of Sydney.
Irreverently funny, endlessly frustrating, the Santa-NK1 was a joy to model as I can finally break free from organic forms and model something hard-edged and mechanical (the mechanical bosses don’t count, they still feel organic). What I actually loved most about this model is the texturing. In a flash of inspiration, I opted for a corrugated steel PBR texture for the beard and it looked amazing. Easily my favourite part of the video, the nonchalant taxis and woman walking by the death machines never fails to amuse me.
Fast and cold blooded, the Ice Queen is a frightening character. It’s a shame I didn’t get enough footage to depict her in the main video a little more convincingly. Nevertheless, her icy demeanour still came through in three dimensions, doing her justice.