July 14, 2017
The Making of ARKTIKA.1: My Name is Viktoria
By Arvid Bayev
BY CHRISTIE GOLDEN
With several novels and short stories for World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, and Halo (among others) to my credit, I’m certainly no stranger to gaming fiction. But until 4A and Del Rey reached out to me to write the bible and script for their first VR game, Arktika.1, I’d never had a chance to actively participate in the creation of a game. Given the intriguing concept and 4A’s excellent reputation, I was thrilled to be involved. This turned out to be a fantastic experience which I thoroughly enjoyed.
By the time I joined the team, 4A already had a solid idea of what they wanted in their world, and several of the levels’ astonishing visuals and events were already worked out. My task was to take these ideas, activities, and background concepts, and weave around and through them a story with solid science fiction, clever dialogue, tension, stakes the player grows to care about, and memorable characters—no small task!
Fortunately, Jon Bloch, the Executive Producer, and the rest of the 4A team were very excited about the ideas I brought to the table. Some great back-and-forth resulted in what I believe is an intriguing story that serves to enhance the immediate and dynamic VR gameplay. Like 4A’s Metro series, Arktika.1 takes place in a post-apocalyptic world—but with a different and poignant twist. Here, Earth was plunged into endless winter as a result of humanity pulling together to try to do something good—stop global warming.
After the chance to play a demo of the game (which got my heart rate way up and was absolutely mesmerizing) I dove gleefully into my science research and found ways to create the environment…and some…things…that had come into being because of the disaster. With my love of mythology, it was easy to find logical ways to work in references to the evil witch of Russian folklore, Baba Yaga, or the magical Firebird. And when it came to creating Viktoria, the player’s on-site supervisor, I found myself returning to what stood out for me thematically: that even though there is violence and selfishness and cruelty in a frightened, broken world, humans have the will to survive—and retain their humanity. Arktika.1 is a colony, and Viktoria isn’t just a boss. This is her home, and these are her people, and her duty—and yours, as the player–is to protect them. From all kinds of enemies, even the ones we don’t want to think about (and which are intensely realized in gameplay).
In the logic behind the world and the personalization of characters through their dialogue and other written interactions, I hope I’ve created a backdrop that seems as real and immediate as the bullets coming your way, the snow falling into your eyes…
…and oh yes, the thing over there, growling softly in the shadows.