Will Dube Talks Vikings, Killing, & Jotun
By Nathaniel Liles & Julie Morley
We here at Cliqist love talking directly to developers about their games. We’re able to circumvent the usual PR fluff and get right to the questions we want the answers to. Will Dube, the creator of the upcoming Jotun, a brutal action game rooted deeply in Norse mythology, was kind enough to give us lots of details on his Kickstarter project. However, instead of doing our usual one-on-one, however, we (accidentally) decided to mix things up a little bit and bring in two of our staff to relentlessly pick the brain of a man with a really amazing looking game.
Cliqist : First, could you explain a little bit about Jotun for our readers?
Will Dube : Jotun is an action-exploration game for PC and Mac that takes you on an epic journey through Viking purgatory. It is a love letter to classic and honest games like The Legend of Zelda, Journey and Shadow of the Colossus.
Cliqist : What inspired the concept of Jotun? Especially the Norse mythological part of the story. It’s a very unique premise.
Will : Thanks! Jotun was inspired by my love for mythology and ancient literature. I’ve always been fascinated by centuries-old stories like Beowulf and The Divine Comedy. The more you dive into Norse mythology, the crazier and more epic it gets. It is the perfect back-story for a video game.
Cliqist : What made you decide on the Norse afterlife as the theme for Jotun?
Will : I have always loved mythologies and epic literature. In high school, I was introduced to Greek mythology and very old stories such as Beowulf and The Odyssey. When I first started thinking about the game I wanted to create, I was naturally drawn to Vikings and Norse mythology, having read some of the crazy myths associated to it. The more I delved into the Scandinavian mythology, the more I knew I was on the right track.
Cliqist : You cite Journey and Shadow of the Colossus as inspiration for the gameplay style. How will this be reflected in-game?
Will : Jotun is, at its heart, an action-exploration game. The gameplay focuses on the balance between atmospheric exploration and ferocious combat. Journey and Shadow of the Colossus are reflected in-game through the romantic mood of the environments and the gigantic scale of the boss fights.
Cliqist : What can you tell us about Thora’s death and does it play a part in the purgatory’s design or specific Norse elements she encounters? Say, for example, the cause of her death somehow influences level design in a particular area or sways her interaction with God?
Will : I unfortunately cannot give you too many details about the story for now. However, I can say that at the beginning of the game, Thora is already dead. It is up to her to prove herself to the Gods by defeating the challenges of purgatory. Her back-story is discovered as the player progresses through the game. It is an open world, and the story is free to be uncovered as you go.
Cliqist : What is the importance of the Runes to help Thora escape Viking purgatory?
Will : Runes are extremely important! Each rune represents a jotun you have to defeat. Once you find a rune, you can summon that rune’s jotun and try to defeat it. Finding all the runes and defeating all the jotun represents the core quest of your journey through purgatory.
Will : In Jotun’s lore, each warrior must face the challenges alone so that he or she may be correctly judged by the Gods. However, expect to encounter fallen warriors, heroes from Viking sagas and other mysterious characters on your journey through purgatory. Also, we will have a stretch goal for local cooperative play that may bend the lore a little bit for gameplay’s sake 😛
Cliqist : Given that the levels are randomly generated and since the players have so much area to explore , will the story be linear or non-linear? Are there multiple storylines to pursue?
Will : The story will definitely be experienced however the player chooses to. I liked how they did it the story in Rogue Legacy, where you found journal entries scattered throughout the castle. I’m not saying that’s what we’re doing, but expect a non-linear way of experiencing both Thora’s and the purgatory’s back-story.
Cliqist : What made you decide to randomly generate levels?
Will : One of the biggest risks in game development is over-scoping. Being a small indie team means that we have to be very smart with regards to content and scope. Having randomly generated content allows (us) to extend our content which is ultimately beneficial to the player. Also, it makes the game different every time you play. It recreates that feeling of wondrous discovery that you get when you play a game for the first time.
Will : Jotun is a game for a specific audience: PC indie gamers. The difficulty level of the game can be compared to other titles such as Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac or The Legend of Zelda. Accessibility is a principle that, as a designer, is extremely important to me and will be reflected in every design decision; however, in my opinion, making a game more accessible does not mean making it easier. For me, accessibility means making the game easier to understand and to interact with. NES games were extremely accessible while still remaining challenging. That is what we are aiming for.
Cliqist : Could you explain a little bit about the combat system for me? The combat system seems quite challenging, especially since the Jotuns’ hits take such a big portion of Thora’s health. Is the axe Thora’s only weaponry to choose from? Are there any other options for attacking?
Will : The controls for the game are pretty simple: attack, move and dodge. You have a normal attack and a strong “charge up” attack. The boss fights resemble classic boss fights like in The Legend of Zelda and Diablo. Though your interactions are simple, the strategic depth of the combat comes from split-decisions and quick reactions. The jotun have many different attacks and defenses, melee, projectiles, AOE, etc. Your proficiency in the game is really based on your skills as a player: you ability to correctly dodge, position yourself and time your attacks. One of our stretch goals in the Kickstarter campaign is add extra weapons to the game.
Cliqist : Will there be any kind of player progression in the form of abilities, items, or skills?
Will : The primary progression system in Jotun is the God Shrine system. Scattered throughout purgatory are a series of shrines, each representing a Norse God. Each Shrine bestows upon the player a permanent upgrade to either damage, health or another gameplay mechanics. One of the stretch goals of our Kickstarter campaign will be to add different weapons to the game, but that’s all I’m saying for now 🙂
Will : The art style is first and foremost a result of me being lucky enough to have some amazing artists as friends. We wanted to make something that wasn’t pixel art, yet still 2D, to allow us to properly scope the game and deliver a beautiful experience. We were inspired by old Disney movies, comic books and games like The Banner Saga, Skull Girls and Rayman Origins. I think that ultimately the hand-drawn style creates a direct link between the artist’s brush and the player’s gameplay experience.
Cliqist : What is the current progress of Jotun at the moment? Is there a playable prototype?
Will : Jotun is in pre-production. We have a solid design, amazing art and incredible music. The creative vision for the project is extremely focused and we are ready to jump into production. That is why we are launching our Kickstarter campaign. We are at a point where we need to know if players actually want to play Jotun. This is not a “fund our last month of development before we release the game anyways” campaign. It is an “all or nothing” shot at making something great.
Cliqist : Could we expect to see Jotun expanded to consoles in the future (thanks to some stretch goals)?
Will : Since we are building Jotun in Unity, we want to bring the game to as many players as possible on to as many platforms as possible. I also think that this kind of gameplay will be perfect for both couch consoles and handhelds. We will have platform-specific stretch goals on Kickstarter as well.
Cliqist : Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers?
Will : Just that we truly want to make a game that players will love. We want to create a solid piece of pure entertainment: no in-app purchases, crappy DLC or annoying DRM. We want to make a game that is honest and ethical and that you will truly enjoy. We hope to see you on Kickstarter to help support this vision!
Cliqist : Lastly, I always conclude my interviews with this question: if you could sum up Jotun in five words, what would they be?
Epic. Viking. Mythology. Action. Exploration.
Thanks to Will for taking the time to talk to us! You can learn more about Jotun by heading over to its Kickstarter campaign page. If you like what you see you have until August 20th to donate towards the $50,000 funding goal.
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