When you first walk into Amazon Game Studios Orange County, there’s this giant painting of Thorgrim at the entrance. It almost reaches from floor to ceiling, it’s huge. He was the first warrior I saw when I walked into the studio, and after chatting with Art Director Simon Loche, it sounds like there’s a little bit of history between the team and the Viking warrior. Today, Simon’s going to walk us through what it was like to design Thorgrim from an art perspective. Take it away, Nocnoz!
Last week, we talked about Anne Bonny and her transformation. Thorgrim’s journey is similar. We wanted to craft this archetype of a tank in Breakaway, but focus the read of the warrior more on health rather than armor. So we wanted a warrior that looked strong and solid because they were physically gifted, not because of layers of plate armor. Thorgrim is this robust, physically imposing character, and our immediate thought was: Vikings. A Viking could work here. We wanted to show a little bit of armor and show a lot of flesh, a naked torso, full of tattoos. And then our game designers ran with the idea and started to play around with motifs of ramming and hooking and throwing the opponents out of the map. So we ended up with keywords like horns, flesh, tattoos…Thorgrim was destined to be a Viking in Breakaway.
Internally, and now externally, we call him Throwgrim from time to time. He has these huge horns that was a major decision from an art perspective. The horns were a bit ridiculous in the concepts because they were oversized, but I think that anyone who plays the game can see the value in this larger-than-life horns. It’s something players respect. You know that you can’t stay near the edge of the map when facing off against him.
Personally, I like Vikings a lot. I’ve been into Viking motifs since forever, and there was absolutely no friction between the game design team and the art team. Everyone agreed: yes, let’s do this! I think we were really focusing on aspirational characters, and with Thorgrim it was pretty unanimous.
Some of the keywords we used to craft Thorgrim were semi-armored, horns and smashing! Ha, I know that Vikings historically don’t have horns, but it’s a part of the myth that we’re trying to build. And smashing, well, that translates well with his giant hammer and all of his different abilities.
The hammer was with Thorgrim since the beginning of the design process. We saw the first batch of thumbnails and said, yes, this will be the weapon for sure! Whatever it takes, even if it’s just as oversized as in the concept, this is exactly what we want in the game.
Sometimes it happens where, things just click and they are just right from the beginning. As a warrior, Thorgrim met everyone’s expectations and aspirations. For me, I usually dislike when something is so easily accepted. I think there’s a lot of value in iterating and retaking, even if you think the first design is a good design, you should at least explore to challenge the vision. I’m not saying we didn’t do that, but the basic shapes, the basic reads we wanted to have with Thorgrim were there from the first iteration. Then we played a lot with the details, you’ll see some horns are more rounded, others are large and long like cattle, and we just fine tuned minutia of the art. What are his trousers made of, are they leather, what’s the metal? Things like this we obsessed over with Thorgrim. Finalizing Thorgrim just came naturally to the team.
Buildables are such an important part of Breakaway. Thorgrim is a huge, massive warrior in the game, probably one of the biggest characters, so the Buildables we designed for him had to read as huge and massive. We want Buildables to be an extension of the warriors, they need to be a signature. When you see them in the arena you say, okay, it’s obvious that Thorgrim deployed this Wall. It’s obvious that Spartacus dropped that Fire Catapult, and so forth. It’s about consistency regarding the wrapper of the warrior.
In earlier iterations of the game, we toyed around with the idea of Buildables being granted by superior beings, Gods I suppose, to have consistency between the Buildables on screen. We had a conversation about this with our Creative Director. The Art team had really strong feelings about the Buildables translating the motif and theme of the warriors directly, rather than from some unseen entity. Doing this gave us an opportunity to make Thorgrim’s Wall look like it was ripped right from the hull of a Viking warship.
And then there’s his Demolition Hammer. Before the hammer, when Buildables weren’t as character-centric, it was a wrecking ball. To me, it was obvious that we should turn it into a hammer, you know, so it’s an extension of his own personal weapon. So on the Demolition Hammer there’s a lot of metal, carved wood with Scandinavian symbols and so forth.
When we pitched the warrior, we asked the question we do for every character in the game: “Why are they the best?” Thorgrim is an experienced warrior, he knows he can defeat anyone. And even if he is defeated, Valhalla is waiting for him. And this is what Viking warriors were striving for: dying a glorious death on the battlefield. So in regards to his personality, that’s why you see Thorgrim with a smile on his face, with joy. For him, it’s a good moment. Nothing bad can happen, everything is well and good, and he feels at home fighting for control of the Relic.