Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio

Bramble: The Mountain King is an upcoming horror game inspired by Nordic folklore

80 Level |
17 de agosto de 2022
Founded in 2017 by aspiring game developers from Sweden, Fredrik Selldén, Mikael Lindhe, and Ellinor Morén, Dimfrost Studio marked the team’s first steps in the game industry. The team’s first game project was A Writer and His Daughter, a game they’ve been developing while also doing consultant work. The first project taught the team the important basics of game development and helped them realize that Dimfrost Studio is something they want to focus on and grow.

With the addition of Fredrik Präntare and David Wallsten to the team, Dimfrost Studio started to grow and now consists of 13 team members and four consultants. The team draws its inspiration from story-driven games with dark themes, e.g. Alice: Madness Returns, Alan Wake, Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Resident Evil, and The Evil Within.
In June 2021, Dimfrost Studio announced Bramble: The Mountain King, a story-driven horror adventure inspired by Nordic folklore. The game, which also got an Epic MegaGrant, is being developed using Unreal Engine and is set to be released next year on PC and consoles. To learn more about the upcoming title, we spoke with the development team about how UE helps them to create an immersive game experience.
 

How did you get started with Bramble: The Mountain King?

Fredrik Selldén, the CEO at Dimfrost Studio:
It started out with me, Ellinor, and Mikael playing around with different styles and settings. We knew early on that we wanted to explore Nordic folklore and work with Nordic environments. Unravel came out around that time and we looked at the graphics and style and wanted to do something realistic but with a dark and grim twist. The idea grew from that and we have made a lot of different demos, exploring different ideas and gameplay before we landed in what became Bramble: The Mountain King.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
Josua Mannebäck, Producer at Dimfrost Studio: Typically people associate Nordic games with Vikings, something we wanted to stay away from. Nordic folklore is unexplored and rich with stories, and naturally became a perfect fit for a story-driven game. We felt that it was a good time to try to introduce the folklore and creatures of Sweden and other Nordic countries to the world.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
Why did you choose Unreal Engine for your game?

Mikael Lindhe, Lead Technical Artist at Dimfrost Studio:
We learned to use Unreal Engine while we were working on the first prototype of A Writer and His Daughter. We chose the engine due to our visual ambitions with the game and the studio. It just has so much potential to make pretty things!
 
Coming from Blender, I felt immediately at home using Nodes in both Materials and Blueprints. And even though using C++ was always an option, the fast iteration times and surprising breadth of Blueprints made it so that we finished our first game never needing to type a traditional line of code.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
What gameplay mechanics did you design for the game?
 
Fredrik Selldén:
It was really important for us to come up with mechanics that could work well with our story and character progression, and it has taken a lot of work to make it feel right. We wanted to do mechanics that would give our main character a progression from a shy and afraid boy to someone brave and strong. I had a great discussion with Josef Fares at Nordic Game Conference 2019 about story and gameplay when he tested our demo back then and that inspired us a lot.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
The Spark of Courage is an example of that. It is a stone our main character Olle finds early in the game, and during the journey, the stone will gain more power. The stone reflects the boy’s nature and pure intentions. It can transform into things Olle needs in critical situations, but it can also work against him if it feels that Olle is about to lose himself to anger or darkness. 

We also designed our bosses to fit the progression of Olle. In the beginning, he can only try to survive all the horrors he meets. He can only run and hide. Later on, he will be able to fight back in order to survive.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
How did you approach the game’s bosses and monsters?

Josua Mannebäck:
First and foremost, the creatures are heavily inspired by Nordic folklore and stories we were told as kids. The trolls were inspired by John Bauer’s art and are also prominent in Swedish culture. The main challenge was to find the right balance between gameplay and story, doing justice to these iconic creatures.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
If we look at the creature Näcken as an example – the story of Näcken is different depending on where in the Nordic countries you live. It can even be different depending on where in Sweden you live. We looked into all the different versions and then made our own twist on that. It is really important for us that we design these creatures in a way that Nordic people who grew up with these stories can recognize, but also in a way where we can introduce them to players that haven't heard of them before.

Basically, the old folklore was meant to scare children from going too far in the forest or near lakes, so that is what we built the game around. Universal stories and warnings one might say.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
How did lighting help you get the desired mood?

Mikael Lindhe:
Light plays a very important part in Bramble and it’s almost a character of its own. We use light to give each level its own identity and to reinforce the part of the story being told. After much experimentation with fancy tools and add-ons, we’ve come to utilize a pretty bare-bones lighting setup, most of the time only relying on Sky Light, Directional Light, and Exponential Height Fog, with some non-shadow-casting Point Lights for extra highlights.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
How did receiving an Epic MegaGrant influence your path and the development process?
 
Fredrik Selldén:
It meant a lot to us. We applied when we were in a situation where we worked without a salary and the money we gained from MegaGrant helped us survive and continue working with what we love. It also helped us to get in contact with Epic and we were invited to join Unreal Present at Nordic Game Conference and Gamescom in 2019. That was a great opportunity for us. At the Nordic Game Conference, a company called Zordix played our demo, and not long after that, we got acquired by Zordix.
Image courtesy of Dimfrost Studio
What are your next steps? Where can people follow your projects?
 
Josua Mannebäck:
First and foremost, we focus on getting Bramble: The Mountain King to a state we can be truly proud of. The team, myself included, loves gritty themes and dark periods of history. We love to tell stories, and that is what we will continue doing. It’s in our blood and it doesn’t look like it’ll ever go away – not any time soon, that’s for sure!
  
Feel free to follow Bramble’s development on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and our official website, where we tease our project every so often.

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