The Beginnings of a Story
As I write this, I'm on my way to London to meet my friend John, who also happens to be a script writer. Using the patented 'friend' card, I've asked him to take a look at the story for Röki to give us some feedback on the main beats in the plot. So, whilst I'm in story mode, it seems like a good opportunity to share with you the beginnings of Röki, and the series of events that led to it become this game that we're so excited to make.
Looking back at my WhatsApp chain with Alex (nothing but scientific analysis for this post!) I was actually surprised how quickly we latched on to the idea of a modern day fairytale. Initially, we had been bouncing ideas around; some good, some unfeasible and some not so good, before we got fixated with the idea of setting a game in Scandinavia. I'm not entirely sure how this came to be, I think we were just looking for somewhere a bit different. From my perspective, I know I was influenced a lot by Simon Stalenhåg's work (check it out here if you've not seen it), in part because of the clash of man and machine, but also because of the beautiful eeriness of the snowy backgrounds. I love how quietly imposing they look, making even the most mundane of objects seem interesting. (This is something Gregory Crewsdon does fantastically well too) So, as these things are prone to do, the 'snowy' idea took root as a little brainworm, waiting to grow into something when it was fed some other ideas.
Time for mythology to make its entrance.
I'd recently been reading my son a lot of stories about The Gods. Not the boring gods, but the all-fighting, all-action ones like Thor and Odin, Zeus, Aphrodite and the heroes among men like Odysseus and Theseus. Whilst often capricious and petty, there's something undeniably appealing about their quests for glory and righteousness. Or, as is sometimes the case, their quests for love, and the monsters they vanquish en route to that prize. What is also key to all these stories is that they're all quite simple in their structure. I felt that this in particular was something that would translate well to a game. I wondered if there were any less well known folklore that could inspire us. So, I googled it. Suddenly I had found a bunch of creepy and weird stories that I had never heard of before. Here are some highlights:
Grýla, in Icelandic mythology, is a horrifying giantess living in the mountains of Iceland. Most of the stories told about Grýla were to frighten children. She has a keen sense of hearing and – though she can detect misbehaving kids at any time of year – is said to take them and eat them at Christmas Eve, making a stew from their wicked flesh....
The Dullahan means, roughly, “dark man.” He rides a black horse with flaming eyes, while carrying his own head under one arm. Whenever he stops riding, a human dies.
Draugen is the monstrous ghost of a man who died at sea. He is huge, covered in seaweed, and rows in half a boat. He emits a terrible scream when he appears, and legend has it he can be seen during stormy nights at sea, drowning sailors and fishermen, and sinking their boats and ships.
Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic folklore figure described as "half-goat, half-demon", who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved by grabbing them with his long tongue, throwing them in a sack, and then taking them back to his house for dinner.
Go and check Krampus out for yourself. Proper weird:
Anyway...in summary, there are a lot of mythological monsters who do pretty horrible things, most of the time to kids. By taking some of the best bits from different folklores we had the seed of a story that sounded pretty exciting. From this it was a natural step that our protagonist would be a child as well. There's also something far more magical about seeing a world through children's eyes. They get to see that layer of magic that adults cannot. Throw in some big scary woods and you've pretty much got all the pieces that we started out with when working out the story for Röki.
We'd combined woods with snow, an ominous monster and a kickass heroine. We knew we wanted to tell a story about adventure and saving the day. We knew we had something we were really excited and inspired by. Whilst the story as it is today has evolved far beyond that starting point, those key ingredients are all still present, which has kept everything true to our original ideas.
We can't wait to share the final story with you when the game's finished.
Alex & Tom