The first-person shooter genre was launched in 1992 with id Software's Wolfenstein 3D - this year, developer MachineGames is giving the iconic franchise a reboot with Wolfenstein: The New Order.
The game is set in an alternate history 1960s world in which the Nazis won World War II. Players once again take on the role of series protagonist William BJ Blazkowicz and are tasked with launching an impossible counter-offensive against the Nazi powers that have taken over the world.
After playing a Wolfenstein: The New Order demo session at QuakeCon 2013, I interviewed MachineGames senior gameplay designer Andreas Öjerfors. Watch the video or read the transcript below.
This game features various old-school first-person shooter elements as a nod to the original Wolfenstein 3D. How do you balance those old-school elements with all the new-school innovations in the genre?
We've tried to combine the best of that era's school of first-person shooter design with the best ideas that have come from modern-day school of design. We've tried to combine those into a cohesive whole and make that into a 2013 game. One example is the health system we have. The health system works like it did back in the day where you have 100 health and 100 armour. That means that every fight matters, you really have to take care of how much health you have left as a resource you manage. But we've added a little bit of health regeneration on top of that, to make sure you always have a fighting chance. So if you have a fight that leaves you very hurt with 5 percent health left, we'll regenerate that back up to 20 percent. So it's just a little bit to give you a fighting chance, but it's little enough that you still have to manage health as a resource.
Do you think the evolution in the first-person shooter genre of regenerating health turned us all into sissies?
It's changed the genre so that every fight needs to be completely, crazily intense, because it needs to be balanced against the fact that your health will regenerate back up. So what we can do using the old-school health system is have smaller fights alongside the bigger fights and be able to pace the game differently based on that.
Killing Nazis is always fun, but we have done an awful lot of it in first-person shooters. Do you think people are still passionate about Nazi-killing?
I think people got sick of it after all those World War II shooters, but that's a while ago. And this is not a World War II shooter. The New Order is an action-adventure set in an alternate history 1960s where the Nazis won the war. So it's not really the same sorts of Nazis were killing in those older games. This is a very new take on a dystopia.
The game isn't open-world, but there is still a certain amount of exploration in it. Can you tell me what it's offering players who love looking around and finding out loads about the game world they're in?
That was very important to our game. This isn't just a shooter. We call it a first-person action adventure. It's based on two pillars; one is the old-school, super-intense action, of course that's there because it's a Wolfenstein game. But the other pillar we have is the adventure side of it and that's more of a revolution for the series. That's been very important to us as we've been developing The New Order. It's about exploring the world of the New Order, what it would mean if the Nazis had won and taken over the world. What does that mean for the people living in the world, oppressed by the New Order? It's about exploration and adventure in that regard. It's about meeting and interacting with the heroes of the game - and also the villains. It's about exploring the world and exploring history.
You just mentioned villains. I really liked General Deathshead, he's a great villain. He reminded me a little of the Red Skull from Captain America, was he an inspiration at all?
I don't think so. Deathshead is in the last Wolfenstein game, so that's a character that we've taken and made into our own and given more depth. He really is one creepy guy.
In the early Wolfenstein games, BJ Blazkowicz was a cool character but we didn't know much about him. In The New Order, you're giving him much more depth and could've built his character in any number of ways. Why did you decide on the direction you have with him?
Well as a studio, we're passionate about story and characters. They're very important to us. So if we make a game, it's going to be a game with fleshed-out characters. Having the step where BJ ends up in a coma for 14 years, and wakes up to a changed world; democracy is dead, his country is lost, all the easy answers he had are gone. That idea allows us to give BJ much more depth because he needs to find a new footing, new answers to how he can live in this world, how he can continue to fight a war that is pretty much lost already.
For you personally, what is the coolest thing about the character of BJ?
I like that he never gives up, even though it's completely dark and hopeless. Everything is lost, but he doesn't know how to give up, he doesn't know how to stop fighting. He won't ever stop fighting against this enemy that has already won. That's a really great quality.
Let's talk guns. I've gotten a taste of the dual-wielding in this game and that's a lot of fun. Do you have a favourite weapon?
When it comes to dual-wielding, my favourite is undoubtedly the shotguns. I play the game every day because I'm working on it and have done so for years. But something I never get tired of is when I get to dual-wield the shotguns. It's just total mayhem, you just slaughter everything, it's like a wall of carnage in front of you. So that's really, really fun. But my favourite weapon is probably this retro sci-fi laser. You can use upgrades on it that you find throughout the game to change it and make it more versatile. It's kind of a toolbox that you can use tactically in different situations. You can use it to cut through different types of metal surfaces. You can do that during exploration, which is very important, but you can also use it in combat by cutting holes through cover and then shooting enemies through them. But you can also cut holes through enemy covers and shoot them through those. So that's a lot of fun.
When you are making a game that has a strong narrative that includes player choices, how to you balance that with the epic cinematic set-pieces?
Story is in everything we do. Even in the combat scenarios, those are unfolding the narrative somehow. Y'know, it'll be in the context, it'll be changing something. So it's not about balancing the storytelling against other elements of the game, it's about how those other elements of the game can portray the story in a way. This is not just simply a shooter. The story, the exploration, the adventure elements are really what makes this a unique MachineGames game.
There's also potentially emotional drama in it. I was introduced to Anya in the demo I just played and I don't know if she's going to be a love interest, but she's definitely someone BJ cares about a lot. Is it difficult to drive emotional drama in a game that also has giant killer Nazi robots?
Um, as I said before I think what we do is convey our story in different ways. You can still do it in combat. What is the combat about? Why do you fight? That's how we tell the story. Why are you doing what you're doing? Why are you fighting? Why are you pursuing this already lost struggle against the empire? That's how we think about it.
I'm very happy there's no multiplayer in The New Order. I hate it when a great single-player gaming experience is sullied by a tacked-on multiplayer. But multiplayer functionality can bring extra revenue to a game. Was it a difficult decision to exclude multiplayer?
For us it was really easy because we knew what kind of difference it would make to the game. If we could take every bit of energy and sweat the studio has and pour all that into the single-player campaign, it gives us the resources to make something very, very cool, compared to if we would also have to divert some of our resources to making multiplayer. So for us it was an easy decision that we made pretty much immediately.
There is quite a bit of violence in The New Order. In the demo I just played, when I slit the guard's throat in the hospital it was very graphic, for example. Were you cautious of going too far with the violence?
We're not really pursuing being violent, but I think the story motivates the violence and the horror of the game. I think we need to portray it that way to give the player a sensation of who BJ is, what BJ does and what has become of the world.
Killing Hitler was a real thrill in the original game. Any chance we'll get to kill him again in The New Order?
I can tell you that we don't give away any spoilers!
Wolfenstein: The New Order is released later this year on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
source: newshub archive