Blades of glory

Mind games Ninja The­ory’s Hell­blade ti­tle aims to show a sen­si­tive and ac­cu­rate por­trayal of psy­chosis

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“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 www.hell­blade.com.

Maya, Pho­to­shop, ZBrush, xNor­mal and Un­real 4 were all used to cre­ate the game’s

art­works and as­sets.

A mod­u­lar, kit-part ap­proach to as­set cre­ation and set dress­ing was taken by Dan At­twell.

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