Hello everyone, and welcome back.
We’ll start our Runemaster dev diaries from an artistic point of view. This group of diaries will discuss things like scenery and character design, and and explain our thinking behind the races, worlds, heroes etc. in the game, as well as relevant lore for each of these. Our Lead Artist, Fredrik Toll, and Senior Lore Developer, Sara Wendel-Örtqvist, will be co-writing these dev diaries. Most of these will appear later, but for the moment I want to focus on the general artistic thoughts about the game, and some of the challenges we have faced in conceiving the project.
From an artistic standpoint, Runemaster is a whole new level of challenge for Paradox Development Studio. We need to create much more content than we have for any other game we have ever made. The amount of and level of 3D-modeling and animation is breathtakingly large for us. With Runemaster we have no historical reference to rely on, and, therefore, we have had to create lots of concept art in order to create a world from our own imagination. The game writing is a challenge of its own, as a role-playing game demands a lot more writing and a much different kind of writing than our previous titles.
One of the first and most obvious challenges we set for ourselves is staying true to Norse mythology. Many of our players will, no doubt, be somewhat knowledgeable in this lore, and will not fail to mention when we make mistakes. But sometimes you have to make choices that are consistent with the lore, but still deviate in places, and we will try to explain these where we can.
Despite its familiarity to many people, historic sources for Norse mythology are not numerous. The existing texts, legends and myths have been interpreted and speculated about for a long time but we have nowhere near the number or variety of sources and materials available for, say, document-rich Greek or temple-rich Egyptian myth. The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, written in Iceland during the 13th century (after the Christianization of many Viking leaders and communities), are the main sources of medieval skaldic tradition in Iceland and Norse mythology. So our approach is to always start out on what we can find out about Norse myth from these texts and try to fill the gaps as best we can with what makes sense in the world we imagine, consistent with what we understand about Viking lore. One advantage of few text sources is that at least there are fewer chances for contradictions!
Norse mythology and the Vikings are tightly bound together, and Runemaster is set in a very Nordic environment. Runemaster, however, is not a game about Vikings. It’s an RPG set in Norse mythology, and is equally a game about Humans, Trolls and Giants. With six races and six worlds, we want to give each their due. The Humans in this world are Vikings in many ways, but do not expect them to adhere to the roaming and pillaging way of life. These are mythical humans in mythical setting.
When designing anything there is also the challenge of being original. We want things to look new and unique, because everyone want something fresh. But there’s always a limit when you are dealing with terms and worlds that people already know. If you have Elves of any kind, and refer to them as Elves, you need to make sure people recognize them and not make them too different from what people are familiar with.
This is the challenge when designing anything which people are already acquainted with.; you need to balance familiar settings with original ideas. If it’s too familiar, it’s unoriginal; make your world too unique and it’s just weird.
Obviously for our historical Grand Strategy games, references are not an issue. All you need to do is Google a bit (though that is not always as easy as it sounds). In Runemaster, we have to come up with most things on our own. That gives us lots of freedom, but also presents some interesting challenges. There are tons of fantasy realms, games, books and other media that have been inspired by Norse mythology, so we can take a look at them and see how they did things. At the same time we wish to make something new and not draw too much inspiration from other games, especially. So we set our reference point from what approaches authors of similar settings have taken and then see where we can push - always aided by the historical texts and artifacts we have come to rely on at PDS.
One of the primary artistic inspirations for the Runemaster artstyle is John Bauer, a Swedish artist from the turn of the last century. Over his very short life, he became famous for drawing and painting mystical forests, fairies and trolls in a unique style. We like the feeling John Bauer manages to convey in his paintings, that of a deep, dark forest full of mystery. It also captures the feel of the Nordic landscape.
We are no strangers to game writing, since our other titles containing massive amounts of text. But our other games have demanded less of us than Runemaster will. Instead of events and decisions, Runemaster has quests and a narrative and the quests have to make sense in the context of that larger ongoing story.
Every single playthrough of one of our grand strategy game creates a story, but it is one the players create themselves. In Runemaster, the writing is on a whole different level, with greater authorial direction. Instead of using the historical background and setting to build a stage for your own personal story of conquest, it is up to the game writers to deliver a compelling adventure that we hope you will want to play over and over. Runemaster, as a fantasy RPG, is expected to have a main story, quests, NPCs with personality and a believable world.
The events in most of our grand strategy games are based on historical events and happenings, they are there to provide a little more flavor to the game. Runemaster’s quests and main story, however, are the gameplay in many ways, making the writing a large part of the game experience. One of the great challenges of Runemaster is to provide the player with a game that is replayable, since this is a core value of all of our games. So we have to create an overarching narrative with a feeling of consistency from several races’ point of view and quests that change with every decision the player makes.
In future dev diaries we will go into greater details about each of the playable races, their units and Heroes, their culture and character designs. We will also discuss other topics related to art and lore.
Next week, we’ll talk about the main story of the game.