Blades of glory
Mind games Ninja Theory’s Hellblade title aims to show a sensitive and accurate portrayal of psychosis
“Understanding mental health isn’t simply about books or lectures, but from deeper engagement on all levels,” says Paul Fletcher, a psychiatrist and professor of health and neuroscience from the University of Cambridge. He’s been working alongside independent games developer Ninja Theory during the development of its latest release, Hellblade.
Telling the tale of Senua, a Celtic warrior who’s left traumatised by a Viking invasion, the game will follow her journey into a vision of hell, conceived by her own mental illness.
The 15-person Cambridge-based team created the game under the Independence AAA development model, which has given them total creative freedom but with the production values of bigger blockbusters.
Principle artist Dan Attwell was the only environment artist on the team, which enabled him to make quick decisions based on the academic advice. “We all have to have more of a sense of autonomy when it comes to creative decision making,” he explains. “We initially played around with photogrammetry, but it was clear that to achieve clean results would require a lot of post processing.”
Professor Fletcher concludes that, “Maybe this type of approach when designing games will contribute powerful new ways of challenging stigma.”
You can find out more about Hellblade over at
A modular, kit-part approach to asset creation and set dressing was taken by Dan Attwell.
Maya, Photoshop, ZBrush, xNormal and Unreal 4 were all used to create the game’s
artworks and assets.