If you haven't already, do yourself a favour and take the time to look at some screenshots and trailers for the upcoming Wii U release of Jotun: Valhalla Edition. It's a beautifully crafted adventure game that pulls its story right from the pages of Norse Mythology.
Not long ago we posted a short interview with Will Dubé, Creative Director of Thunder Lotus Games, in which we scratched the surface of the mythos and art of his upcoming game. We had another chance to catch up with Will at PAX West, so we took the opportunity to pose even more questions, learn a bit about the development process, and delve further into the lore of Jotun.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hey! My name is Will Dubé, I'm the Creative Director at Thunder Lotus Games.
Where did the name Thunder Lotus come from?
It's kinda lame, but I really wanted Lotus Games, but there's a Lotus Entertainment already. We wanted to make it sound super epic because we want to make beautifully powerful game experiences, so Thunder Lotus sounded epic.
What exactly is a "Jotun"?
Jotun means giant in Old Norse. It's really the premise of the game. You fight these giants, so Jotun made a lot of sense for the game's theme.
Was there much academic research when working on the lore in Jotun, or did you focus on broader and more commonly understood mythology?
We definitely went into the source of the poetic Eddas, the prose Eddas, the creation myths, all of that. We really wanted to bring Norse mythology to life in a game that's different from what Marvel is doing with Thor and stuff like that.
Thor is a big dude with a hammer, but they don't say that Thor also dressed up as a bridesmaid in certain myths! There are cows with poisonous rivers coming out of their udders and humans coming out of giants' sweat glands in their armpits. There are a lot of crazy, really cool stories.
There are cows with poisonous rivers coming out of their udders and humans coming out of giants' sweat glands in their armpits. There are a lot of crazy, really cool stories.
What is your background? Did you study mythology?
Not in school, but we did a lot of reading up on the creation myths. I've always loved old stories like Beowulf and The Divine Comedy, and in my research for this game I stumbled upon Norse mythology and knew after reading all of those awesome stories that we wanted to build a game in that universe.
Do you think games have an important role to play in sharing and recreating mythology and aspects of history? Perhaps partly carrying the burden taken by literature and visual art in the past?
Video games are obviously a huge medium, as you can see here at PAX, there are a lot of fans and a lot of gamers. I think that using games as a way to bring cultural and historical things to life is really cool.
How important do you think the storytelling aspect is in a video game?
It's super important. It depends on the game, right? If you're doing more of a simulation game or something like that then it won't be as important, but for Jotun the story is super important.
Can you talk a little about the art style and how your team created the impressive look of Jotun?
Everything is hand-drawn in the game. The animations, the backgrounds, everything is hand-drawn. It's really cool because it means that every stroke you see on screen is something that was put there by the artist and it allows for a really cool direct communication between the artist and the player.
We were inspired by Disney, Studio Ghibli, all of their classic movies. We love those movies and we love the art style and we're really happy to bring that to the game as well.
The boss encounters, in particular, are clear highlights in this game. How much work went into perfecting these stages, in terms of design?
The game is nine exploration levels and five boss fights, and in terms of gameplay time it's probably about half and half. Bosses are obviously a huge part of development and of the play experience. One of the core reasons why you would want to play Jotun is if you like fighting epic boss battles.
Bosses are obviously a huge part of development and of the play experience. One of the core reasons why you would want to play Jotun is if you like fighting epic boss battles.
Is the Valhalla Mode – the boss rush mode – a challenge you expect to test even the most skillful of players?
The difficulty is really hard! You want it to be challenging yet not unfair. We didn't go with different difficulty levels in the game for several different reasons, but it's really hard to balance that for all players. With the regular game we went with something that is hard, but some super hardcore players thought it was way too easy. In Valhalla Mode we wanted to do a New Game+, we promised that to our Kickstarter backers way back when, and the boss rush mode is a great way to do that. The bosses are really hard and you only unlock Valhalla Mode after you've beaten the game, so you can't just jump in there and get it because you're going to get destroyed if you're a new player, and obviously that won't be much fun! It's definitely meant to be very, very challenging.
Can you beat Valhalla Mode?
I can, but it's not easy!
Can you talk about some Wii U exclusive features in Jotun: Valhalla Edition?
On the Wii U, the exclusive features are that we have the map always on the GamePad, and touchscreen controls to activate your God Powers as well.
At what stage did you make the decision to bring this game to Wii U?
When we decided we wanted to come to consoles we wanted to come to all of them. We're really excited to come out on the Wii U and the whole team loves Nintendo platforms. We all have memories of playing on our Game Boys and playing Super Smash Bros., so we're really excited to come to Wii U.
Nintendo of America, in particular, has directed a lot of attention to Jotun. When did you realize that Nintendo was going to focus on your title's release in that way, and how important has that support been?
Nintendo's support has been amazing! We were at the EMP for [email protected] and today we're in our own special section at PAX. They've been absolutely fantastic. The Nindies Summer Jam is going to be really exciting too. Their support has been absolutely fantastic.
What's next for Thunder Lotus?
This update is obviously a big thing, we're coming out on all major consoles, so a lot of work went into that and we're really excited to see how it pans out. And we're working on some unannounced projects at the same time.
Is there anything else that you'd like the Nintendo Life readers to know?
Well, Jotun: Valhalla Edition is coming out on September 8th on Wii U, so check it out. Impress the Gods!
Thanks again to Will for taking the time out of his busy PAX schedule to speak with us! Stay tuned for our review of Jotun: Valhalla Edition this week.