Realms of The World Tree: Ratatoskr's Tale
Game Designer and Art Director
A roguelike game where you play as the magical squirrel known as Ratatoskr. You find yourself in a world which has gone crazy. Your job as Ratatoskr is to relay information from the bottom to the top of the world tree. You do this by fighting through 3 random realms out of the 9 existing. After choosing your weapon you fight through different enemies. You fight them by using Boons that are embedded with the power of the nordic gods.
My role was creating this world both in theory and visually. This game was a two-man project where together we designed every aspect from abilities to bosses. I was tasked with creating the visuals and my partner lead the coding. Created in Unity this game is a work in progress but a major project that I am proud of.
As the art director, I had to figure out the style that I wanted to go for. The game is to be made in a 2.5d style, from a top-down view. That would mean characters in the game would have to be made as 3d objects. Using Blender I created Ratatoskr in many different styles to see what felt best. On the right are more accurate squirrel-looking characters which feel a little off. On the left is a Tunic-inspired look that took a more humanoid approach. This was the style I went with and based the game on.
We designed the game to have different types of enemies to force players into different playstyles. These enemies also had to come from the realm that players found themselves in. Midgard is an example of a starter realm where Vikings and their pets were the main enemies. Wolves an example of their pets are fast-moving enemies with lower health points, players would need to be aware of them or they would catch you. Vikings would range from different melee weapons to bow and arrow. Their weapon would reflect their play style.
Impactful bosses are an important aspect of a good game. Their size, power and attacks should put fear into players fighting them. This meant creating a specific environment and model for each boss. Below is Jormungandr a serpent which is said to encircle the entire earth, going too far to bite its own tail. This beast is an example of one of the first few bosses you can face. Setting the tone of the game.
An important part of games is creating satisfying moments. Something that is often overlooked is the environmental objects. We wanted different types of breakable objects that would explode into pieces as a player attacked or even roll into them. In some realms, we wanted objects that players can react with like enemies throwing alcohol that players can put on fire.
Yggdrasil is the central sacred tree that all 9 realms exist in Norse cosmology. The branches of the tree are where each realm resides. Ratatoskr is a squirrel that runs up and down the tree carrying messages between the serpent Nidhogg and a hawk named Vedrfolnir. You take the role of Ratatoskr when all the realms are brainwashed with magic making everyone berserk. Nidhogg tells you that he is trapped and Vedrfolnir has put him there. He is also the one that has put everyone under a spell making them go berserk. Nidhogg tasks you with climbing the tree to release him and everyone wgoing berserk from the . As you climb the tree you find yourself fighting through 3 of the 9 realms. What will you do when you get to the top? Who is really behind the brainwashing? Play to find out.
With the game being a roguelike, there are many different combinations that can occur. As you fight through enemies, the game gets more difficult. The way you overcome this is by finding different abilities. and upgrading them. For each weapon that a player can use there is a different ability for each god. On top of that each weapon has 4 different attacks. The task was making sure the abilities from each god matched both the god and the weapon it is attached to.
God + Playstyles
It's not just the weapons that make it a roguelike, it's the different gods and their individual playstyles. We took the Nordic gods and gave them a certain playstyle. Taking from different lore we could choose styles that we thought felt right. Let's look at Thor as an example. He is the god of lightning and thunder. He is quick and explosive, making sure his presents is known. So his playstyle reflects that. His boons (abilities) are focused on quick lightning attacks that hit multiple enemies at a time. We also wanted passive abelites to exist, ones that don't attach themselves to weapons. These also connected to the god such as Thor's "Chain Lightning". An ability that makes your attacks bounce from enemy to enemy. The real fun is when you start to combine the different gods. Who knows the crazy combination you can create?
The game is based on nordic culture, both the stories and lore behind it. This meant that we would have to do a lot of research surrounding everything. From the background environment to the naming of each ability. It was incredibly important to us to make sure everything was as accurate as possible to the lore. Termanogily was a glaring example of that. We wanted to use nordic terms and we did that by finding their meaning and connecting them with modern words. We didn't want the game to feel like we were making anything up. Making sure it was lore accurate made sure that would never be the case.
Realms of The World Tree was directly inspired by the game you see below. From gameplay, art direction, navigation and many more. The enjoyment t from these games is what I strive to create in every project I am a part of.
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Realms of The World Tree: Ratatoskr's Tale