Art direction and concept design of virtual reality horror game based on Norse mythology.
Asset Bible, mood boards and style guides
Environment, object and character design
Concept art and turnarounds
Storyboards and level design
Lighting in Unity
In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the end of the world. The game centers on an unknown protagonist sent to recover the stolen necklace, Brísingamen, for the goddess Freya. For this atmospheric horror title, which was one of the first virtual reality (VR) games from Denmark, Zakarian drew inspiration from the original Norse myths, which are full of dark prophecies and a strong emphasis on the forces of nature.
Zakarian developed a "staged realism": using tightly composed, dramatic environments, detailed textures and iconic characters to support the narrative, explore the full impact of VR, guide player attention and encourage immersion.
Alpha demos of 2 levels were exhibited at international game conferences such as Game Developer Conference, Gamescom, REZZED, Poznán Game Arena etc.
Target devices: Oculus Rift DK1, DK2, GearVR, HTC Vive.
This was an indie production by a small team of 8-12 people. The game was cancelled and the team disbanded due to ethical differences before production was completed in 2015.
The following scenes and assets are based on Zakarian's concept art and art direction. The 3D artists on the team at various points during 2014-2015 were:
Michael Jarberg, Johan Lund, Daniel Lindblom, Katharina Goslowsky.
All of the 3D assets belong to the individual artists who created them.
Roles: CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT • ART DIRECTION • LEVEL DESIGN • CONCEPT ART • 2D ASSETS • RECRUITING TEAM • MANAGEMENT OF TEAM AND PROJECT PIPELINE
The land of the snow giants
The beginning of the Jotunheim level was designed to introduce the player to VR. A narrow, dark and claustrophobic canyon extends before the player. The sound of rock grinding against rock and pebbles falling down prompt the player to notice how one can tilt the head to look up in VR, to discover giant, humanoid statues carved into the cliffs. The statues move slightly when you don't look and ice bridges between the cliffs carry icicles which will break off and fall down on the player's path.
Desert of Thorns
Coming from the dark canyon, a vast, bright, foggy desert covered by snow and ice extends before the player. Giant thorns pierce the snow and rise ominously out of the ground as the player advances through the level. The sound of wind is only interrupted by the roar of thorns breaking the ground and the occasional cawing of ravens.
This is where the player first encounters Odin's two ravens: Huginn and Muninn, flying and perching on top of the thorns, leading us through the level.
A dark forest where the little sunlight left behind the clouds disappears behind heavy, creaking trees covered in snow. The player must find their way out of the forest and get to Wolf Mountain, while avoiding the Jotun - the ferocious snow giant. On the way they will encounter snow-covered deer carcasses with clues about advancing.
ENVIRONMENT DESIGN: After the player makes their way past the Jotun and out of the forest, the landscape will open up once more to intimidating, icy mountains. One of these mountains looks like the silhouette of a wolf head, and the player will be instructed to find it and travel towards it.
At the foot of Wolf Mountain the player must find the entrance to the cave where the gods keep the monstrous wolf Fenrir.
Jötnar (snow giants) are prehistoric, humanoid creatures living in Jotunheim. They are the forces of destruction, entropy and decay, and will be among the enemies of the gods at Ragnarok.
The Jotun in the game will try to hunt and eat the player in the forest. From a distance he could be mistaken for a human, until he opens his giant, hungry mouth. He has no eyes, so he is guided by his sense of smell like sharks. The Jotun will sniff the air and growl and roar when noticing a foreign presence in his woods. He will search the undergrowth for the player. Zakarian was inspired by Great White sharks and Francisco Goya's "Saturn devouring his son" when designing the character.
Wolf Mountain and Fenrir's Cave
ENVIRONMENT DESIGN: Fenrir's Cave is a dark system of labyrinthine tunnels that open up to a large central cavern. The tunnels are quiet, very dark and lit only by torch light. The player must find the central cavern, but on their way they will hear the sounds of a large wolf in nearby tunnels, howling and chasing after them in the dark. Only the wolf's dramatic shadow will be visible on the walls of the cave, warning the player to select a different path.
A strong color contrast is present between cool, dark areas and warm, bright areas, guiding the player through the tunnel maze together with the ancient cave paintings found on the walls.
Central Cavern and Fenrir's Lair
The large central cavern of Fenrir's Cave has stalactites, stalagmites, water puddles, spiderwebs and creepy bugs crawling on the walls, as well as bats flying past the player when torches are lit. The echo of footsteps and dripping water bounces around in the space.
Fenrir's leftovers are found various places in the cavern: Skulls, bones and rotting corpse parts of animals, humans and giants.
In the middle of the central cavern the player will find Fenrir's Lair:
A giant carcass of a Jotun.
This is where the trickster god Loki has hidden Freya's stolen necklace Brísingamen. Behind its ribs of the dead carcass, the eyes of Fenrir will be twinking from the light of the torches. The player will be attacked by the wolf and will have to flee, unable to get to the necklace.
Meanwhile, the ravens Huginn and Muninn will swoop down and grab the gold necklace, carrying it out through an oculus in the ceiling of the cavern.
The player will finally escape through an ice passage, exiting the cave and Wolf Mountain.
Freya's precious necklace stolen by the trickster god Loki and hidden in the central cavern inside Wolf Mountain, guarded by the wolf Fenrir. The player's first objective in the game is to find the necklace and return it to Freya.
In some of the Norse myths, Freya has the ability to turn into a peregrine falcon and gold is her metal, so the necklace was designed to look like a string of falcon skulls dipped in gold, holding emeralds and and strings of golden feathers. The light and highly flexible strings were designed to move and shimmer in the sunlight when the necklace is stolen and carried away by the ravens Huginn and Muninn.
Materials used: gold, emeralds and brown leather string.
Huginn & Muninn
Huginn(thought) and Muninn(mind) are Odin's ravens.
The former seeks hanged men, the latter seeks corpses.
In the game one of them is white, the other black for easy recognition.
They guide the player from the desert, through the canyon and forest,
to the cave where they will take the goddess Freya's stolen necklace Brísingamen and fly away.
Fenrir is the son of the trickster god Loki and a Jotun woman.
He is a large, black wolf the size of a bear, prophesied to play a part in Ragnarok.
Because of this prophecy, the gods were scared of him,
and banished him to the cave inside Wolf Mountain, in the wasteland of Jotunheim,
where the frozen landscape would slowly starve him to death, leaving no god with blood on his hands.
The centuries of isolation, brutality and bitterness over the betrayal of the gods has turned Fenrir insane.
Fenrir is first introduced as a shadow and the threatening sounds of a rabid wolf through cave walls.
He is finally revealed in the central cavern, hiding in the ribcage of a Jotun's rotten corpse.
A number of concept pieces of locations, items and characters from Norse Mythology
were designed and sketchedt by Zakarian, but never implemented.
This is a small selection.
Among them is content for further levels and characters,
as well as a storyboard for an unfinished 2D trailer for the game.