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How Minecraft built its tribute to Norse mythology, available today in a new PS4 DLC pack

4J Studios details the lengths it went to capture viking lore for the crafting game

The team at 4J Studios has just completed work on the next episode in our Mythology series: Norse Mythology mash up, an epic depiction of Viking lore featuring the 9 Realms with Yggdrasil (the Tree of Life) at its heart. With the pack releasing today on PS4, we’d like to give you some insight into the creative processes we went through to create this pack.

Environment textures

As with previous Mythology packs, we researched every little detail, for example, the trees and flowers are all based on real foliage found in Scandinavia, most of which have a connection to Norse mythology. The jungle leaves are rowan, oak leaves are oak (both trees associated with Thor the thunder god) and acacia are ash (associated with Odin and Yggdrasil). Allium was redrawn as cowslip (associated with Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty and war).

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Patterns are always a huge part of any texture pack for us, so to achieve the detail found in Norse design, we used 32×32 pixel blocks.

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Hopefully, builders will enjoy putting our themed selection of paintings to good use – they feature quite a few Norse artefacts, symbols and runes.

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World map

In early iterations of the world map, we heavily focused on real world geographical locations to shape the map, but as we began to introduce the more fantastical elements in to the design it wasn’t really working.

When it came to researching Yggdrasil (the Tree of Life) as the main feature, we began to shift focus towards the 9 realms. The Story behind Yggdrasil and its links to the realms through its roots was a more inviting and adventurous path to explore.

We settled on the current design with huge waterfalls framing plateaus that embody the 9 realms, each with its own style and unique build work. In early designs, the tree itself was almost half the size of the map! Though it looked awesome, we had to adjust the size to balance with the other realms. Yggdrasil alone is still one of the biggest builds we have done in a mash up.

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Skins

The first iterations for the Norse skins were grounded in real world design to fit alongside the initial world map. As the map style developed, we felt the skins needed to get a little more fantastical to go with it. We created a lot of quick 1/1 pixel concepts of each skin and kept the additional geo more refined and focused to highlight important features like beards!

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Mobs

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The idea to add additional geometry didn’t come until late into development. It all started with experiments adding dragonheads to the boats, and it gave us all a taste for more… Llama as Elks and Reindeer? Oh yes!

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This is the first time we have added extra geometry to the mobs. It gives a fun and unique appearance, as well as the occasional crazy design on some. Ever wonder what a Ghast would look like as a floating Nordic war ship?

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Menu design

When we design an interface based off a Mythos, we mainly look at the architecture, items and patterns that are iconic to that period in history. For Norse Mythology, we considered things such as early metals, carved stones and wood.

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From these we decided a warm, carved wood would fit best. Wood was the material of choice in that era due to its natural abundance and ease of working. It was used to make all sorts of iconic artefacts from beautiful artworks to the longships that defined the era.

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In any Mashup pack, we want the menus to feel as much a part of the game world as the blocks around you. The carved wooden elements appear in things such as the crafting and enchantment tables, so having the menus match them feels less like you’re jumping out of the game and more like you’re interacting directly with the object.

Conclusion

The team at 4J had a great time working on the Norse Mythology mash up, it gave us a great source for creativity, it posed technical challenges for us to overcome, and most of all we got to build Viking longships and grow beards!

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Now on top of this pack, can you please work on implementing full PSVR support to the game?

I would like to see that going full steam ahead for the PS4 Edition as there is already a VR version for the Samsung Gear VR. Sadly though, I think Mojang doesn’t really care about the use of VR on the PS4, just like most games don’t even use the Dualshock 4’s speaker (Only a First Party developer Media Molecule or Sony Japan Studio would use the controller’s functions to it’s full potential).

But then there’s a lousy Steam Greenlight-ish bootleg of Minecraft called Discovery on the PS4 that has VR support. I mean, if some prototype rip-off from a Taiwanese flea market can support a peripheral than I can’t see an acceptable reason as to why a marketable company like Microsoft simply can’t…

It’s good to have Microsoft publish games on the PlayStation

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Well it’s part of an ongoing deal with Mojang. They can’t go back on a contract.

ONE question. I love the detail put forth into this, especially finding the large statue of Jormungand curled around the bottom of Yggdrasil, and teh statue of Hel in the Nether, I must ask if there is a statue to represent the third child of Loki and Angrboda, Fenrir? The large wolf. There is a skin for him, just as there is a skin for the other two, but I am hoping that there is somewhere a statue of Fenrir…because that is where I will place my home lol

To fit the lore of the mythology, he would have to be in one of two places. Either somewhere hidden within Asguard if the “story” is that he has yet to be “chained,” or somewhere in a desolate lonely place probably in a large underground cave or something with a river flowing out of it to represent the “drool” and tears from his cries that formed the river of Expectation.

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