A Digital Iron Age Environment – Recreating Uppsala Bit by Bit.
Creating a Digital Iron Age Environment.
With game credits like Neverwinter, Star Trek Online and Reef Run (amongst others), Daniel Westergren has a great deal of experience creating fictional worlds. Recently though, the game designer and artist has been turning his attention to a real world which has long since gone. We catch up with Daniel to see how his digital Iron Age project is developing.
HR: You have an impressive background in game design – who or what convinced you to apply your experience and skills to the world of archaeology?
DW: I was always fascinated by the Iron Age graves, ruins, and monuments where I grew up in Uppland. In the past few years I’ve been reading books and reports about recent archaeological findings made in the area and my interest has spiked. One project to mention is “Gamla Uppsala, a mythical centre“. Cryengine offers an amazing platform to visualize anything in real-time, which means one can drop in and walk around the digital world and interact with the environment.
HR: Why a Swedish hillfort in particular?
DW: I was born and raised next to a Swedish hill fort. There was a mysterious air about the place and I was surprised that it had so few visitors. The particular era and place I’m trying to recreate used oral traditions to pass down knowledge, tales and legends but there are few written accounts to rely on. I hope to be as accurate as possible but also create a mood and atmosphere which is a bit more subjective.
HR: How important was getting the flora correct? Did you rely on pre-existing assets, or did you research which plants would have been present at the time?
DW: Every plant and tree is custom-made. Flora is very important in this project and I’ll do my best to be accurate and do the natural world justice. A slew of imported species would not have been present back then and others would have been more prolific. In my digital environment the climate is cooler and there are less trees than today though the human footprint is less extensive leaving more areas of primeval forests and greater biodiversity.
HR: How deep is the house model? Did you build the whole structure component by component, or is it an outer shell? In short, if you pull some of the clay off, is there anything underneath?
DW: So far the houses have 1-2 layers, exterior and interior walls, but there hasn’t been a need to go deeper into the walls. There may be houses needed later where the walls are exposed in a way that it becomes necessary to build several layers.
HR: You’ve also created a digital Uppsala – are we going to see this and the hillfort in a larger landscape?
DW: The world will be centered around Uppsala and there will be a number of hill forts in the surrounding area as well as estates and smaller villages. In between those will be grave sites, forests, meadows, pastures, marshlands and other points of interest.
HR: Many thanks Daniel – we’ll be following the process with keen interest.
Daniel’s main website can be found here – www.westergrenart.com.
His Youtube channel can be found here.