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We analize Hellblade – A MUST PLAY for designers! [Podcast & Transcript #30].

Hello readers and listeners! I almost never start with such effusive greetings but today is a special occasion, why, you may ask.

And the answer is that the Podcast transcripts have arrived!

Yes, reading the transcript of a 1-hour program can be a lot. In fact, it IS a lot. I don’t think you’ll find any posts as excessively long as these on this site, but having transcripts adds so much value to our Podcast.

Especially since we can now also reach people with hearing problems (as I write this I am aware of the poor timing of this comment right in a review of nothing more than Hellblade, a game that needs to be played with headphones… we are not perfect).

Well Duilio, we are not perfect but we try to be better day by day.

Before I start with the transcript, I also leave you a link to Instagram so you can see the mega abridged version of the transcript, and by the way some follow and something nice in the form of comments.

Transcript of 4 Horas de Juego. Podcast #30: Hellblade

I leave first the link to the podcast:


We always start with the introduction of both Dave aka “Darkaos” from Fluffy Llama Games, and Dui from DGF Studio.

We are the co-hosts of 4 Horas de Juego, the podcast where two dad game designers analyze games with only their first four hours.

We invite everyone to follow us on our networks (links at the end of the article).

The Program

Dui – Today with Hellblade we are going to make an exception. We played more because we had like 3 weeks to play. Since we had to cancel the previous show for family reasons, we said, “Well, let’s finish it.” It was a game that deserved to be played in its entirety. It was necessary to be able to understand everything. Because the plot is one of the fundamental elements of the game.

We can´t listen to Dave; for a change hahahaha.

The part where Dui shows the ring is because he married Production (Karen), after almost 8 years living together, and almost 10 years of dating.

Finally we resolve the audio and resume the program.

Dave – It is not a “4-hours” program if there is no technical difficulty.

Dui – Never, never. It is already part of the program.

Dave – Yes, it’s already part of it. As Dui said, finally Hellblade. I made a lot of reference to Hellblade in analysis of other games..

Dui – Now I understand why.

Dave – A-ha! Because Hellblade is a very different game from what one is used to. Because it’s not a AAA: it’s a game that was made by Ninja Theory with about 25 people.

Dui – Not much, for such a job.

Dave – Of course. There is also the issue of budget; there are talks where Ninja Theory talks about the production of the game, about all the work it took them, and that’s not something an indie studio of a few people can do either. These are elements that AAA game studios use, but in a smaller scope. And Ninja Theory with what they did, regardless of all the psychological part of Senua, the game is really a marvel.

Dui –Yes, it’s a game that, I’m going to exaggerate in what I’m going to say, is played with all five senses. Obviously not with taste and smell, but you really have to play it with your eyes wide open, because you can’t miss anything. And you can’t play without headphones. Impossible to play without headphones.

Dave – As it is, you have to play this game with the best headphones you have. There is no other option. If you’re not playing with good headphones or sound that’s at least 5.1, it’s a waste.

Dui – If you wish, we can go to Pros & Cons.

Pros & Cons

Where we talk about the best and worst aspects of the design in particular and the game in general.

While we’re in transition, Dui reminds listeners to use Chronocoins, or Twitch channel points, to redeem for fun stuff during live shows.

Dui –Well, Pros & Cons: Let’s continue with the audio theme. I think audio is a huge pro. 

“Let’s put some context for those who haven’t played Hellblade. You play a girl, Senua, who arrives at the gates of Hel by her own free will (it’s all based on Norse mythology), she arrives at the gates of Hellheim because she wants to rescue her beloved: Dillion (he wanted to rescue me… it was a very similar to my name). Dillion was apparently killed and his soul is trapped in hell, and she’s convinced she has to go find him.

“And in the middle of all that, Senua is constantly hearing voices in her head, telling her things. It’s something that, from an aesthetics point of view (remember MDA Model), generates emotions that I think play a lot with anxiety and fear. It’s really fascinating because it’s like a conversation between all the voices inside her head, and they’re saying “what is she doing?”, “why is she going there?”, “don’t go there!”, “don’t do it!”, “yes, yes, do it!”, “you won’t be able to”, “Senua, stop it”, “yes, she can”. All the time there’s like a main voice narrating, and all the others arguing. And it’s constant, I realized that there are very few moments in the game when the voices are silent. At the end of the game, there is an event that happens on purpose in which they are silent. And at that moment the voices tell Senua “don’t leave us! don’t leave us here!”. And she tells them that she has to do it.

“So, it’s a great Pro, because besides being a narrative element, it’s a great design element: because you have to pay attention to the voices. In the fights the voices tell you “Watch out behind you!”, and if you dodge or block in time, the animation is excellent… because the fights really are a luxury.

Dave – And it’s absurdly simple combat in Hellblade.

Dui –Yes, of course, it is narrative. It’s not meant to be a challenge. Besides, if you pay attention to the voices, everything goes well. If you don’t pay attention to them, they can kill you. And they give you advice like “don’t let them surround you”, “watch out behind you”, “here they come”. All the time they are telling you what is going to happen, and that helps you a lot to build the story of the game.

Dave – Yes, it’s a narrative. It’s narratively Senua’s story of descending into hell trying to rescue Dillion, and within that narrative, the way Senua’s psychological problem is represented, it’s wonderful. One thing they said a lot in the Ninja Theory talks is that they did a lot of consultation with psychiatrists and psychologists on how to best represent this kind of problem… I’m not sure if it’s schizophrenia or some condition.

Dui – Yes, it’s a type of schizophrenia, but wait, wait! Let’s put a pin to talk about the schizophrenia part in the Nerd Moment, shall we?

Dave – Ah well, ok. I think so.

Dui – Because this is a point that requires a lot of explanation.

Dave – Yes, yes. It’s a marvel. Going back to the sound, besides the voices, there is also the ambient part. The time that you are with the headphones, and you hear the fire that is around you, there are many parts that are like that. You really feel as if the fire is there above you, and the desperation. The way they play with the elements is really marvelous, it’s something very well done.

“But in my experience, if I can say a Con, it was the camera: to me this kind of camera makes me dizzy. So, the first time I started playing this game, I played for two hours, and skipping. I had to pause because there came a point where my head could not cope with that kind of camera.

Dui – I, on the other hand, didn’t mind the camera. I really liked that it was over Senua’s shoulder. Because it’s like you’re accompanying her. Yes, at the beginning it makes you a little dizzy, as it is, and even more so with the mechanics of focusing with your eyes. It changes the PoV and FoV a lot, and it’s a bit uncomfortable at first.

“Another thing the game has following what we had said the other day about HUD types: it’s totally immersive and diegetic. It doesn’t have a single element in the interface; it’s all inside the game. Like the rune stones that tell you about the Norse mythology. That interface element, which on top of that is only seen by her, is fascinating.

Dave – The way the puzzles are presented, as you say, the focus that it makes you do and the part of observing the different levels and unlocking the runes… the first time I saw it I said “who could think of something like that?

Dui – Yes, I loved it.

Dave – Sure! I thought, “How much did you have to be thinking that, because of the way you are seeing and focusing on things, objects form figures and runes? How on earth did you come up with something like that!

Dui – Again, context: the game is a Puzzle game. Nothing more. The combat, as you said, is simple, it’s secondary. It’s a narrative element, which, following Flow Theory a bit, is something that helps put you in moments of tension. Contrary to the games we have been playing, where you are most of the time in tension and then you have moments of rest or relief. Here the combat puts you in action, in the middle of all the moments of caution. It lifts your spirits, it makes you feel super cool, because the truth is that Senua is a great warrior.

“They tell you that, too. In the game it all makes sense. Senua is a great and exceptional warrior. And the theme of the puzzles is like Dave says: you are presented with a rune, and then you have to, in the environment, looking around you for something that forms the rune. For example, if you have to form a rune that is an X, you have to look for a leaning tree that has another leaning tree nearby, and when you rotate the camera, the X is formed. I thought that was excellent.

“And it’s not a random matter of game design: at one point they explain to you that Senua all the time saw signs and runes and markings, which made her a better warrior than the others. Her condition not only made her hear voices, but they helped her fight.

“That has a name too. I don’t get it. I don’t know if you’ve seen Prison Break.

Dave – No, I didn’t see it.

Dui – Well… the protagonist of that series has this characteristic. It is neither a virtue nor a condition, something like eidetic memory. They are people who, if they see a lamp, we ordinary people simply see a lamp, but they don’t. They see everything that makes up the lamp: the bulb, the wires, the screws, the screws. They see everything that makes up the lamp: the bulb, the wires, the tubes and pipes, everything. Then they take it apart in their heads and can analyze it. Senua has something similar, so all those puzzles where you see runes, it’s because she has the ability to see those things in the environment. It’s all very neat.

Dave – A-ha, exactly. Everything you look at or have a relationship with in the Hellblade environment has a reason for being. What you mentioned that she’s a great warrior, they explain to you why she’s like that. They tell you the fact why she came to start training, how she started talking to Dillion… that part gets to your little heart.

Dui– Yes, yes.

Dave– And they explain why she became a great warrior, not only because of the runes but also because just by observing others she already had a great deal of knowledge of how to do combat. And just in the combat part you have those elements that come together with the voice part, where she is quite good at fighting, you can see in the animations that she is very agile with the sword. You get that sense of confidence that she does know what she’s doing. It’s not something you’re learning, you’re coming in with that direct knowledge.

Dui– Of course… because, of course, the game is not about Character Progression. It’s a very narrative game… I really think (later in the Takeaway I’m going to say it again), I think every Game Designer has to play it. Because it’s very artistic. I think that’s the best way to describe Hellblade: it’s very artistic. It even has poetry in it: the part where you finally enter through the gates of Hel, you’re narrated poetry by the voice of Senua’s Shadow, and it has very captivating music.

“And, along with that, the voice acting, and the game acting… I don’t have the name of the actress. I’ll look it up right away: Melina Juergens. Really, an award for that girl. An award or all the awards! Because Senua’s feelings are so well conveyed, like the times when she screams in despair, the times when she talks like she’s shy, because she’s talking to Dillion, the times when she talks angry. Really the voice acting and the acting; and I say acting because it’s done with real actors. Hellblade really is wonderful.

Dave– I also think that what I have to rescue a lot of Ninja Theory is that having an actor or several actors, acting directly to the camera, for a game that only 25 people made, is to have a super clear vision of what they wanted to do. And in the talks themselves they say it: they did a whole analysis, they reviewed that they could have made the game much bigger, and asked a publisher to give them the funds to make a triple A game.

“And there you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars, but if you lower the Scope, and you have a goal of what you want to do well laid out, you don’t need eighty billion dollars. If it was 25 people in I think 3 years, yes they spent millions, but it doesn’t amount to millions of millions.

Dui– Sure, I understand what you mean. Whatever you would have invested in a AAA game, you invested it elsewhere.

Dave– Right, because what they were saying is that before making Hellblade, what they were thinking about was making a AAA game. It was like Destiny, a game where they were going to release content regularly. I think Ninja Theory does what they did very well, and that’s why Microsoft decided to bring them under their wings, and it’s because Hellblade is a work of art. 

Dui– It is just like a work of art. I mean, trying to be not so subjective, objectively speaking it is a work of art. It is a game in which the artistic part is very, VERY noticeable: in the designs, in the music, in the narration. Did you see that the other day I was saying that there are games that every designer wants to make? Well, I think this is the game that every storyteller wants to make. I would love to make a game like this, where the narrative is a protagonist. You can’t really play Hellblade without the narrative part. Because how many mechanics does Hellblade have? Two, three?

Dave– Of course. With that we can move on to Core Loop & Fun Factor.

Core Loop & Fun Factor

Where we analyze how the game keeps you in its grip.

Dave– In other words, in Core Loop, it’s ultra simple: you walk, solve the puzzle, fight, walk, repeat.

Dui–Yes, yes. And even the puzzles are not that difficult. There was only one that cost me, but for not looking well to my surroundings, when you chase the beast that seems that it does not exist but in the end it appears.

Dave– This is a complicated fight.

Dui– As it is, it is difficult. I will say this: the combat in Boss Fights is complicated. Because well, you have the mechanics of the bosses, you have to dodge at the right time, look for the window of opportunity to attack at the right time.

“When you played, which one did you play first, Valravn or Surtur, the one with illusions or the one with fire?

Dave– To the fire one.

Dui– I went to that one first too. Surtur. And the combat against Surtur is complicated. It’s true that here you dodge easier than in Dark Souls or Jedi Fallen Order, which we played recently, but you have to dodge at the right moment. For example, the fight against Valravn, the one with the illusions, is much more complicated.

“I think it’s meant to be that way in the design: I think if you defeat one, the other gets harder. In fact they tell you: ‘for every enemy you defeat, the shadow gets stronger’.

“And it also has the mechanics that you mentioned, that when you lose, the stain grows on your arm. And if it supposedly reaches your head, you lose forever.

Dave– That news was really funny, because supposedly when the game came out, they said that. If you die too many times, but they didn’t say how many times, the curse you have will reach a point where it will corrupt you and you will die, and the save file you have of the game will also corrupt and you will never be able to open the game again. 

“That’s what the devs said… obviously if that’s what you say on the internet, there’s people who are going to get around to testing. Then there was a report that someone had died like 3000 times and never got that to happen. And on top of that the devs never disproved the curse idea.

Dui– And… if someone died 3000 times, it’s a narrative element and nothing more. Maybe they wanted to do it and it didn’t work out hahahaha.

Dave– Never made it to production.   

We pause to say hello to some listeners who were commenting on the Twitch chat.

Dave– Well, back to the topic. As I was saying, the Core Loop is super simple, but the Fun Factor of the game… playing with what you see literally in the world, the runes, and what you hear. The Fun Factor revolves around all of that. Of all the ways of perceiving Senua’s world. And being in there inside Senua’s head, it puts you in a situation where a person who has that condition could relate to it.

Dui– Sure, in fact, as in Psychonauts, it tells you at the beginning. When we discussed Psychonauts 2, you brought up Hellblade as an example. In fact, Dave got tired of talking about Hellblade throughout the podcast hahaha So I said “Okay Dave, let’s play it, that’s enough”. What these games do is give you at the beginning as a disclaimer. Hellblade tells you “this game has episodes of psychotic breakouts, and if you’ve experienced a psychotic breakout, don’t play it. Or play it carefully, and if you’ve never had it analyzed, ask for help”. And that sounds like ten points to me.

Dave– It’s super important that kind of message. Because there are people who never even think about going to a psychologist. People used to think that why go to a psychologist if I’m not crazy. And just today I was having lunch with a friend and he said to me “Oh, my psychologist told me such and such a thing”, and I thought “I would like to go to a psychologist too…”. Because it is already more accepted and widespread to be able to reflect on the things that happen to you and to be able to understand what is going on in your head.

Dui– It is a matter of mental health. Sometimes you don’t have any latent problems, and you go the same because you need someone to listen to you, to give you another approach. It’s not a friend or a friend, it’s someone who is going to talk to you from a super neutral point of view.

Dave– And in addition to being neutral, he tells you with wisdom. With professionalism. 

“Anything else you want to talk about Fun Factor? Or shall we move on to Nerd Moment?

Dui– About Fun Factor I would just like to add that I think it is a game that aims a lot at the emotionality of the player. I think it aims to make you feel something. So it’s like a constant anguish, in a good way. There are times when you’re tired of playing, and it’s not like it’s a long game; it’ll be about 10 hours of Blind Gameplay; or less, around there.

“Knowing what you have to do, it’s shorter. So, it’s not a long game, but you end up getting tired; because Senua is having a very, very bad time. So the fun factor goes a lot through there; because it’s not an anguish of ‘I don’t want to play this anymore, I’m sick of it’, but of ‘well, let’s take a break, let’s rest, I’ll keep playing it.

“That’s a weird feeling, isn’t it?

Dave– Yes, because it’s not a “Oh, I played 8 hours, I’m exhausted. My fingers, my buttocks hurt”. It is not a physical fatigue. And this has to do with something we have been talking about a lot, and that is the ease with which games transport you to the world they are presenting to you.

“So you see a world where Senua, for love, decides to enter Hell (so to speak because it’s not literally hell), she decides to enter Hel, and everything she carries in her head, all the weight she has, you’re really carrying it too. That’s why it’s super important to play with headphones.

Here Dave tells an anecdote of a friend who decided to play Portal without headphones, without sound; coincidentally that friend was just listening to the live show.

We also talked about how it would be a good idea to play Portal for the Podcast.

Nerd Moment

Where we give free rein to our nerdiness, with nerd data and nerd daydreaming.

Dui– Now I let you say all the things you wanted to say hahaha You were in the mood to say it!

Dave– I take away all the pins! The psychology part, as I said a while ago, is not something that was recognized much before, that one has to be of sound mind; and for a game like this and like Psychonauts to present the things that go on in one’s head is a form of presentation that hasn’t been seen.

“Obviously there have been books and movies that have wanted to portray this, but one of the characteristics of games as I was saying before is that you have that immersion in the world you’re playing, and by presenting a character who has psychosis and schizophrenia so well, it gives you insight into a lot of the things that most people don’t suffer from.

“And it even makes you feel empathy for what other people may be going through. And one thing I thought with all this is that, of course, before, in medieval times, none of this existed. And of course, if you heard voices, there were two options: either you were being blessed by God, or the opposite, and you ended up burned or died in some other way.

Dui– What you are saying seems fundamental to me. Because we’re very used to medieval fantasy, and this fantasy brings with it certain ailments or certain evils that are like a vital part of that fantasy: leprosy, tuberculosis, the black plague. In fact, in the background of Hellblade, there is a plague similar to the Black Death, and Senua is blamed for this because of her condition. Because she has spoken to the gods of death, she has this darkness that follows her everywhere and that’s why she brought the plague to the place.

“So, I was saying, these are the ailments that are very present in medieval fantasy. But, let’s see, in this era in which we live, there are more and more diseases because new diseases are being discovered. For example, cancer, until, I don’t know, one hundred and fifty or two hundred years ago, did not “exist”. Nobody knew what it was. You died of “natural causes”. And what people said were things like “no, well, he had a breakdown and he died”.

“A game that also does something similar and I really like is Guild Wars 2. There’s a character who has cancer, and they don’t literally tell you ‘he has cancer’. They tell you that he has a degenerative disease that prevents him from walking well, and he’s limping more and more. And the character, who is a scientist, says “my disease is in remission”. That’s when you get the idea that it’s cancer. And then the same character tells you that her disease had started to progress again… like a cancer.

“There are many diseases that are there today, and as Dave said before they were also there, and they were not recognized as diseases.

Dave– Sure, there are a lot of things that used to be assumed to be a good thing or a bad thing within a religious framework. They didn’t know how the plague worked or where it came from, but they knew that if it came to a town, it was very likely that town would disappear.

“And now that you say about cancer. That is something that has existed since time immemorial. Fossils have been discovered in which we can see that dinosaurs had tumors, some kind of cancer. These are things that science has been bringing to light, that before in the midst of ignorance and in the way of treating humans, it made some kind of sense. And of course, before, they used to cure you by putting a leech on you to remove the black or yellow bile, and now they don’t.

Here Dui comments on the existence of this web comic:

Crédits to ToothyBJ

Dui– Sure, there used to be incredible meditional methods. In the middle ages doctors told you not to bathe because it was “healthy” to have a protective crust of dirt. It was ridiculous, but it happened at a time when that was perfect, because you couldn’t drink water. You drank water from the river, and it was soggy.

“I, once was working as a Community Manager, I was lucky enough to have some client breweries, and I learned that in the history of beer in Europe, children drank beer. It was called Small Beer and it had 1% alcohol content, it was much lighter (1% is nothing), and it was called “liquid bread”, because of course, it was made from wheat. And it was part of people’s nutrition.

Dave– Of course, that is, drinking water was bad. 

Dui– Yes, if you drank water you were sure to get dysentery. You would fall apart in fecal matter. Then you had to drink wine or beer, because they have alcohol, they are sterilized. And you say “how crazy, today I wouldn’t even think of giving alcohol to a child”. But of course, they couldn’t drink water.

“Then the doctors, to keep people away from the water, would say “Don’t bathe! Don’t drink water!”

Dave– Yes, yes, it is striking how we have evolved. And I think that’s why this game is an excellent representation. And besides that, Ninja Theory did a very good job of consulting and talking to specialists. And when the game was released and it was a success, there was a period in which Ninja Theory said “From such-and-such date to such-and-such date, everything we earn from sales will go to a foundation that helps people with mental disorders”.

“So not only did they do the research, but they are also committed to the cause and to what they are doing. They didn’t just say ‘ah I like the idea of doing this game’, they went way beyond that.

“And, from the little that has been seen of the second one they are doing, with much more resources, they have already said that they are talking to people to make a fair and objective representation of what happens in the plot. You have to review what you want to do, because otherwise you can fall into the ignorance of not knowing what you are saying.

Dui– Regarding the second, Senua’s Saga… I made the mistake of watching the trailer, the preview, which I usually don’t watch any of that. I thought it was great because the way she sings, and all the facial expressions and everything that happens… again, applause.

Dave– Yes, you can see a much bigger production behind it.

Dui– Yes yes, the shaders, the image quality is beautiful. But I do have one criticism, which is something I want to talk about right here in the Nutty Moment. In one, she goes alone to Hel. In fact, the character that accompanies you, Druth, is part of the voices that Senua hears.

So, if Senua’s Saga has other people around her, it kind of loses the mystique a little bit… and it has another thing that makes me lose the mystique: the giant. And not that she’s fighting the giant, but that the people are also fighting the giant.

Because when I played Senua’s Sacrifice, which I told you about, I thought “how crazy, because none of this is real”. Isn’t it? For me this is a matter of debate: what you are playing in the game, is it really happening literally as it is happening? Because there is Ragnarok, and we are in a magical or mystical fictional universe. Or is Senua imagining it?

Dave–And that we have not touched anything of the mythology part. Which is fundamental and is ultra well done. I mean, how everything is told and how they tell the stories is great.

Dui– Yes, the narrative part of mythology is a 10. Because for those who already know something, you can recognize what they tell you and say “how nice what they’re telling you”. But all the things that are happening, that the sword is glowing, that she’s really growing a shadow on her arm… Are these things that are really happening in a magical or mythological world? Or are they part of Senua’s schizophrenic condition and mind?

“That, in reality, the game, the whole plot, is not a journey to rescue him from Dillion (all this to me seems beautiful, in fact in the final part is where it is most remarked), but it is a journey for her to overcome his death and let him go.

Dave– It is her journey to represent her grief.

Dui–Sure, it’s all the grieving. It’s the whole process she goes through, mentally (because her head works otherwise), to make sense of her beloved’s death and let him go. That actually Dillion dies because the Northmen invade and kill him, and that’s it. And if you complete all the runes you find out that the one who gives safe passage to the Northmen is Senua’s father himself. So that’s why everything is so distressing for her too, because it’s her father who is to blame for the death of her beloved. In addition to the fact that he was really pissing her off and beating her up…

Sorry for the obvious argentinisms jajajajaja

“… and he hated her. And at one point he tells her “the Gods have chosen me to correct you through my hand. My hand is the instrument of the Gods.” And there you see that, right off the bat, he slaps the shit out of her. He destroys her…

More argentinisms!

“So the whole game is that journey, the whole process that she goes through to get over the death of her beloved. And in her head, she thinks she has to go to hell, and face Hela, and then we players can take it one of two ways: either it’s really a world where this is all real. You do face Valravn. You do take on Surtur. It’s really them. You do take on Hela. It IS Hela; it’s not a thing of the imagination. You’re facing the shadow, you’re facing the beast, all of that is really happening.

“Or, you can take it to mean that these are things that she is thinking about on her way to that structure. That they say it’s the gateway to Hel… and it’s like when the Greeks said that at the top of Olympus live the Gods. They didn’t live there, but people believed it.

Dave– Sure, it’s the mythology part, isn’t it? It’s not that you’re going to get to the top of Olympus and there they’re going to be sitting around eating ambrosia, but it’s “the idea of”. It’s the same, when you enter Hel, it’s not that you are greeted by Hela…

“And the part where Hela comes out is… It’s awesome. And to see her… If you don’t know a little bit of mythology, the game tells you how she was created, and how she has a black part and a white part, and when she comes out you can see that she is like that, and it’s very well done. It gives you a preview of what you’re going to see, and the moment it shows it to you, you see the Goddess in front of you… it’s compelling.

Dui– Yes, it’s very good. And, one thing I really like about the times we live in, (and those who play Magic cards will understand what I’m saying), is how people’s imagination, the collective imagination, is becoming more and more visceral, it’s getting better and better. A few years ago, imagining a dragon was not the same as imagining a dragon now. The representations of the gods throughout history have nothing to do with what they are now.

“For example Hades, the game we played a few months ago. The designs of the Gods, they were never thought of before. It was never thought that Zeus had a beard made of clouds; or that Aphrodite had pink hair. All the representations are different. In fact, Cancerberos was small. In all the statues of Hades, Cerberos is small. He has three heads, yes, but he is a little dog, like a mutt in the street, with three heads and nothing else. And as the collective imagination has been developing the concept (and this is a phenomenon of the last twenty, thirty years… maybe it started a little earlier), we have a gigantic Cancerberos. Because it is much more imposing for a three-headed dog that guards the underworld to be something that scares you, than for it to be a little guy that you can kick.

“And the same thing happens with Hela’s design. If you go to the Hela from Age of Mythology, it’s like… half black, half white, it’s a good design, but, black hair, white hair, one side of the face is normal and the other side is like an undead. On the other hand, Hela’s design, here, is… it gives you much more apprehension. It’s really scary. It’s very imposing, that’s the word.

Hela from Age of Mythology vs Hela from Hellblade

Dave– As Gods should be. There Dui claimed your glasses in the chat.

Moment when a user exchanged some chronocoins for a live Twitch reward.

Dui– Well, in a nutshell. That’s the reflection: is it all happening; is it real; or is it Senua’s imagination? Choose your side.

Dave– Of course, that’s the beauty of it. They don’t make it clear; they leave it open for you to interpret.

Dui– As it is.

Dave– Let’s move on to Takeaways?

Dui– Let’s move on to Takeaways?

Takeaways and Closure

Where we think about what we want to take away from the game for posterity.

Dave– On this occasion, Dui, what are you going to take as takeaway from Hellblade?

Dui– Well, what I was saying a while ago is that I think Hellblade is a game that every Game Designer should play. Because beyond the fact that it is not a challenging game, it is not a challenging game.

Dave–It is not Dark Souls.

Dui– Sure, it’s not Dark Souls. It’s not a game for players who like to be challenged. It’s not a game for players who like to have character progression. And it’s not a game for players who like to explore. So one says, what’s the target audience for this? 

“And yet, it’s a game you have to play it. As a gamer too. Bah, not as a gamer, because it’s not a game that a gamer who’s going to stream 3 hours a day a game would play. It’s almost like watching a movie. In fact it’s like living a movie. And there’s my takeaway.

“When I played it, I thought “damn, the only difference between this and a movie is that here I’m seeing the moments when I’m walking from point A to point B”, and in a movie maybe it skips it and sends you to the action scenes or the turning points. It’s living the movie.

“And it’s also the number one example of immersive gaming. Do you want to learn what an immersive game is like? Do you want to learn what a diegetic HUD is like, without traditional elements? You have to play Hellblade. Do you want to play a game where you have to use non-traditional design elements: sound, poetry, music? You have to play Hellblade.

“That’s why I say my takeaway goes that way. It’s a great game to learn and understand design things that you don’t see in other games. And you have said it in other takeaways: the importance of audio. The importance of playing with other elements. It really is a Must_play within the cult games, you have to play it.

“And again, if you’re a Game Designer and you like to participate in Jams or make short games, Hellblade is a short game, so it’s a very good example of a short game, perfectly made. So it’s a very good example of a short game, perfectly made. What do you have of Takeaway?

Dave– And… not to say what we always say about having a vision and believing in the same…

Dui–Which, well, that’s the case.

Dave– Yes, as it is, that’s the case. But I think the fact of not just having the idea that you want to play a character that has a condition, is to do the study and do justice to what you want to do with the character. If you want to say your character has color blindness….

Dave thinks for a few seconds and Dui comments:

Dui– How nice it would be to make a game like this….

Dave– Haha yeah, it just occurred to me. You don’t just have to have you remove the colors and see more red tones. Because that would be encapsulating in one thing, because color blindness has different spectrums and ranges about it.

“Was it you that got into this game or was it in another game that you put on the menu and it had a lot of colorblind options?

Dui– I don’t remember if it was in this one or in Jedi Fallen Order.

Dave– Yes, the Fallen Order.

Dui– That gave you a choice of different types of color blindness. I don’t know the names… I don’t remember, but it was like two-tone, three-tone.

Dave– Yeah, yeah, my best friend is color blind. And when I told him “you have to play Doom”, he said “I get screwed by those games because they’re too fast and I don’t see well”. And I tell him “you have colorblind options”. And when he played and put the option that was for him, he said “Very good recommendation, so I can play”.

“And one thing about conditions like this is that when you don’t have it, you don’t think about it or take it into consideration. So, if you’re planning to make a game where you’re trying to represent something, say a psychological condition or say some reference to some minority group, it’s not just saying ‘oh I’m going to make a game where the main character is gay’. But there has to be behind it something representative that is why things are the way they are. Not just doing something that’s trendy.

“So my takeaway goes that way. If you’re thinking about doing some kind of representation, have the proper study behind it. You should be able to talk to people who know about it, to people who are in that group. So that the vision that you are representing, if you don’t have that condition or you are not part of that group, is well done and that the art that you are creating is representative of what you want to show. So that would be my takeway.

Dui– To complement this, it would be nice to have a takeaway that is a bit more of a task. Because you saw that we always take more symbolic takeaways. Something I like to do in terms of character design, and this game gives it to you as a teaching for character development, is to think of characters that are not so flat. He has a disorder, well, and he has a disorder and it’s all developed and studied around that.

“But as a takeaway for storytellers, and well, also for Game Designers, it’s good to think of characters that aren’t so flat. And they don’t all have to have schizophrenia. Maybe they can have, I don’t know, hydrophobia, a fear of water, which is a disorder that I love for role-playing games, for more comic characters.

“But well, I always try to ask in character design: “what phobia does he have? what disorder does he have? does he have a problem?”. Because people are much more complex than the Solar Hero, the hero who does everything right. There are obsessive-compulsive people, there are people obsessed with order, cleanliness, there are people with phobias… and it is not necessary that “they are all crazy”. We are not talking about madness and dementia.

Dave–We are all crazy here hahaha

Dui– Yes hahaha. Or, characters with some disease. Colorblindness: I thought that was a great example, Dave. And a game made for normal people to see how colorblind people see would be great. It would be great.

“But hey, what a way to have takeaways this game. What a way to have tools and good examples. That’s why I say it is a must-play for designers.

Dave– It’s a must-play. And I’m really looking forward to the second one. Now that the xBox conference is over I thought they were going to say something but nope. Apparently Hellblade is not in plans to be released within the next year.

Here we start with the closing of the program and decide that the next game is The Sexy Brutale. The next program will be about Color Psychology.


If they made it this far, they are lifelong idols and the universe. Thank you!

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