A Match Made in Valhalla
April 2016 was a good month for me. That was when I told my wife that we absolutely, positively, definitely had to buy a PS4 for…work reasons. ‘Thing is, I can’t just blag this,’ I said, wearing my sincere face, ‘I need to start putting some serious time into gaming. It’s important that I know what I’m talking about. I should probably look into a dedicated gaming PC too. And maybe a really comfortable reclining chair because, well, it’s important to be…comfortable.’
My wife may have rolled her eyes. Just a little roll. But I was confident I could get away with it. Damn, but I would do my best. My kids were counting on me.
You see, I had been approached by Terje Lundberg and the guys from Arctic Hazard game studios in Norway. They had begun working on a Viking game called NORSE and asked if I’d be interested in helping them develop it. I had never worked on a game before, yet I knew even then that the narrative design of a game, the lore, story, quests and character dialogue, are what can really pull the player inside the experience. Every player interacts with these elements in their own unique way, thus becoming the story. And so, the more enticing and engaging the narrative design, the more immersive the player experience will be. Yes, this is a world I want to explore, I thought, as any Viking would.
For those of you who still think of gaming as a niche or even nerdy pastime, it may surprise you to learn the video games' industry has earned more revenue than the movie and music industries combined, every year for the past eight years. Just think about that for a moment. Games are big business, and for those developers who get it right, there’s plunder to be had.
Terje flew into London to meet me and we hit it off immediately. I’m half Norwegian myself (my mum is from Bergen), and I felt as if Terje and I had been raiding together in another lifetime. Terje is the kind of guy you’d want beside you in a shieldwall. Or in a pub. Would I work on the game with him? Does a Viking shit in the skull of his defeated enemy! We shook hands and sacrificed a thrall* and that was that.
Truth be told, I was thrilled that Arctic Hazard wanted me onboard project NORSE. I’m a storyteller at heart. I’ve written eleven historical novels and six of them have been Viking stories. The series which launched my career was the Raven Saga, (Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder, Odin’s Wolves), a tale of a young man’s coming of age amongst a fellowship of Vikings. My next Viking trilogy was the Rise of Sigurd (God of Vengeance, Winter’s Fire, Wings of the Storm), a prequel series, though it doesn’t matter which series you read first. Thanks to Odin the books are bestsellers and have been translated in many languages around the world, including Russian and American (hah!). Luckily for me, Terje had read them and decided that I was the man he wanted to work on the narrative design for NORSE. I would write the story behind the game and create the main characters, their personalities and physical appearance, as well as coming up with the missions and writing the dialogue. I’ll talk more about all that in the next post.
Terje knew I had spent years researching and imagining the Viking world, and that I had brought many readers into that world through my stories. It’s mine and Arctic Hazard’s hope that I can do the same with NORSE, and that together we’ll give gamers a unique and immersive experience that will have them dedicating their victories to the old gods and thirsting for more.
It’s a great challenge for me to be writing on this game. A great honour too, because Terje and the Arctic Hazard team are so good at what they do, and NORSE is already looking amazing, and I want to give them, and the game, my best. We would love it if you who are reading this now jump aboard and join us on this voyage, from development to the first time you sit down in your comfortable chair and immerse yourself in the Viking world of NORSE.
We have far to go, you and I, and the gods are watching.
*we didn’t actually perform a human sacrifice.