IT IS a novel way of bringing one of Scotland’s most historic sites to life for a new generation.
An eagerly anticipated computer game will allow players to explore a fantasy version of Skara Brae, one of the world’s best preserved Neolithic settlements.
While the prehistoric village has inspired generations of artists and filmmakers, the new game will seek to bring the Orkney site back to life as a bustling town.
The upcoming title, The Bard’s Tale IV, will use cutting edge photogrammetry technology to recreate Skara Brae’s features, while a degree of artistic license will imagine vast, dangerous catacombs below.
Those behind the venture say they hope to celebrate Orcadian folklore and Scottish culture in the game. Already they have hired the celebrated singer Julie Fowlis to play a part in the production.
The title is the long awaited sequel to one of gaming’s best loved role playing series. Originally released in 1985, the inaugural Bard’s Tale was a critical and commercial success thanks to its 3D style graphics and gripping fantasy narrative. However, since the release of the last sequel in 1988, the franchise has lain dormant.
‘It is very much based on Scottish culture, Orkney folklore’
Now, the video game designer who worked as a writer and director on the original trilogy has secured the rights to continue the series and is working to reboot it for the 21st century. With nearly a month left on its Kickstarter campaign, his company – California-based InXile Entertainment – is close to meeting its funding goal. Over 26,000 people have pledged over £750,000 to date.
Although the Skara Brae that will feature in the game is not an exact replica of the one on Orkney’s Bay of Skaill – its narrow passageways are peppered with various traps and monsters that must be overcome – Brian Fargo, the chief executive of InXile, said the history of the settlement and Scotland as a whole would form an integral part of the game. He and his team have already visited Orkney and other locations to take photographs to convert into 3D objects that appear in-game.
“One of the important aspects of The Bard’s Tale IV is its connection with Scottish heritage. It is very much based on Scottish culture and specifically the Orkney folklore.
“In both its music and visuals, it draws heavily from many elements of Scottish culture. We plan to integrate Scottish architecture in the look of Skara Brae and the game’s dungeons and wilderness.
“I went to Scotland myself. There are all these cemeteries – we scan a tombstone and it looks perfect. It has the level of detail that no human artist could ever achieve. That’s a really organic, beautiful look.”
InXile is using an original song featured in the first game, which told the story of Skara Brae, and have translated it into Gaelic for Fowlis, who Fargo hailed as “one of the top Gaelic singers in the world”.
He added: “We couldn’t be more excited to involve someone of Julie’s immense talent and experience. Her music and background add a truly authentic Gaelic touch that will help us perfect the atmosphere and presentation of The Bard’s Tale IV.”
Fowlis, who enjoyed widespread international exposure after contributing to the soundtrack of Disney’s film, Brave, said she and her husband, Éamon Doorley, who plays the bouzouki and the fiddle, were thrilled to be playing a part in the project.
“Éamon and I are delighted to have contributed music for the iconic game, The Bard’s Tale,” she said. “For us, it has been a fascinating journey exploring and creating music, drawing from the depths of our ancient Scottish Gaelic tradition, and marrying it with the fantasy world of a renowned computer game, now 30 years old.”
Fargo and InXile have already started work on the game – which will be released initially for PC – and hope to complete it by 2017.
Backers of the project who pay £150 will receive the new game, the original trilogy, and a printed songbook and collector’s album of the music performed by Fowlis.