Eivor's tattoos are an integral part of Assassin's Creed Valhalla that players universally love - but they almost didn't happen, according to Ubisoft.
During a video call, art director for conception Nicolas Rivard explains that during production on Assassin's Creed Valhalla, the game's historians were hard at work trying to find concrete examples of Vikings having tattoos. "AC is historically accurate, as much as possible. This one of the pillars of our brand," he explains, "so we were a bit stressed out because our historian was hard at work trying to figure out is that true? Did they actually wear tattoos?"
Rivard says that if the answer to that question had been 'no', Ubisoft would have cut Assassin's Creed Valhalla tattoos, which don't just offer players extensive customization options for their Eivor, but are also mini-quests that involve chasing down slips of paper with tattoo designs on them. "We would have a lot of explanation to do on social media, people would have been outraged," Rivard admits before launching into an impression of a potential Valhalla player. "'I gotta have my head tattoo on my badass Viking, what the hell's this?"
Rivard was even worried that his entire branding plan for Assassin's Creed Valhalla would have to be redesigned. "I remember I was in one meeting, my head was shaking, because I was like, the tattoo graphics are going to be used across every touchpoint, every aspect of my rendering. If there are no tattoos, I gotta rethink my art direction for this," he says.
Luckily, the historians working on Assasin's Creed Valhalla discovered that the existence of Viking tattoos is something of a grey area, with one historian's account potentially confirming the warriors were inked. "They started digging on the time period we were exploring and what could the graphical representations those people could have on their body. So they dive deep into this story of a Muslim historian who encountered this clan," he explains. "The guy was named Ahmad ibn Fadlan, and this guy is sort of a religious advisor and a historian and he was travelling to Scandanavian countries... he describes their ritual of a burial of the chief. Every historian now says, 'those were Vikings, for sure, those were Norse people.' And they were wearing markings on their body…it set us up for 'okay, we can go with this.'" And so, Assassin's Creed Valhalla tattoos got the green light.
Rivard and I spoke at length about the tattoo designs and inspirations in Assassin's Creed Valhalla for an upcoming feature about tattoos in video games, so stay tuned.
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