Sr. Environment Artist, Erik Jakobsen, then took those concepts and translated them into the 3D in-game environment, although the process wasn’t so simple due to the complex nature of trees chosen. “These amazing trees, stretching towards the light, were definitely one of the first things I remember from Luke. This being the first realm you travel too made it difficult to strike a balance between real and magical. What looks good in a single beautiful concept sometimes needs to be tested out in 3D to get the balance correct. Leaves that are too red or too white may throw off the other level elements.”
Although difficult, the end result was a very cherry blossom-like feel to the trees, but with a darker tinge that wasn’t as pronounced in the original concept artwork. Luke mentions, “It was interesting because the concepts had the notion of a lot of this, but in 3D, slowly, everything kind of evolves. So, you got the more beautiful leaves in the 3D space and so things come into their own on the environment side.”
The Collaborative Design of Elvish Architecture
From the environment, the team moved onto the next complex challenge – the architecture and building structures worthy of the two warring elven factions. Much like the foliage, the team was grappling with how to differentiate the structures of Alfheim against the earlier Midgard environments that the player had experienced. The team would utilize both the ‘time period’ of the game being pre-Viking and its relation to the other realms to start designing the construction. Luke recollected, “We were trying to figure out – what makes Alfheim narratively even unique and different from Midgard. A lot of the architecture in Midgard was very square stone and blocky. And we thought maybe we should use more traditional Viking knotwork, saying that these types of things existed in the other realms, and slowly filtered into Midgard to create what we know as Viking design or the Viking inspiration that we know of today.”
Much like with the trees, this concept was not easy to completely translate into the 3D space and required lots of collaboration between the entire team. The first section of the challenge started with understanding Viking knotwork – known for its intricate curves and lack of straight lines. “The challenge was that everything had a curve. Viking knotwork is not modular like most architecture is,” Erik mentioned. “Luke and the concept team had a lot of really great concepts, but they do not show every angle we see in-game. A curve has to be balanced, land into the next shape and flow into the next curve. I had two great artists work with me on the level - Charleen Au and Sarah Swenson, and eventually, we developed solutions for all those curves!"