Lead Designer at Zatobo. Currently working on Vinland: Arctic Assault. "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."
Zatobo Games is not just about entertainment, we also hope to inspire people to discover more about history and all the fantastic stories that it holds. I know that my own interest in all things historic came through playing games; Sid Meier’s Colonisation was the first I can remember which really made me want to read up more about American colonial history, and as a result I was first in the class when it came to studying Hernando Cortez and the Spanish Conquistadores in South America. Likewise, Age of Empires II taught me more about the Ottoman Empire than school ever did.
I think that developers who try to lecture on history (or any other subject) get it wrong, instead they should include juicy tid-bits, designed to encourage their players to discover more about the subject. In Arctic Assault for instance, we present three different ships that the Player can sail, each with it’s their own characteristics and traits, but there is a tale behind each class, a way they each contributed the rise of the people we now call Vikings.
When one thinks about the Viking age, the most potent symbol will always be the graceful Dragon longship (the Drakkar) gliding serenely onto the beach, only to then disgorge a band of bloodthirsty raiders. These would then lay waste to the locals, and return home with their arms full of ill gotten loot. This isn’t the full picture of Viking life however, though this scene is right to glorify the Viking ships as the cornerstone of their dominance during the close of the Dark Ages. However, it was not just these mighty warships which gave them their maritime supremacy, but also some more humble vessels, of which the Knarr is arguably the most important.
If the Drakkar was the cutting edge of Viking might, then the Knarr was the lifeblood. These ships trawled the oceans and rivers of Europe and beyond. They were filled to the brim with cargoes of valuable trade goods or colonists eager to make a better life for themselves. It was the Knarr which traversed the Baltic and established some of the most lucrative trade routes which were the real foundation on which Viking society was based. Viking sailors spread out along the rivers of Russia, not for loot but to forge a new route to the greatest city in the world at the time, Byzantium.
A Knarr was primarily powered by a central square sail, the sailcloth being woven out of a special Scandinavian wool which was renowned for being naturally very oily and as such was water resistant. The sail was actually the most valuable part of the ship, being worth more than the rest of the vessel together. The hull was clinker built (that is built of overlapping planks of wood, riveted together by iron nails). Each plank was split from a large log (saws were not used by the Vikings), and as such, each went with the grain of the wood lending additional strength to the structure. The planks were a mere 2.5cm thick, and would flex with the waves, making the ship at sea ripple like the muscles of a well toned athlete, allowing it to knife cleanly through the water.
The ships are not the only great asset these enigmatic people had. Spend some time with the Vikings in Vinland: Arctic Assault, and see what else you can discover.