How did you want to portray the Nazi characters differently to previous
We wanted to go beyond just leather uniforms and symbols. It was vital that players knew what the Nazis were about, so they could understand why the war they were fighting needed to be fought. I think in 2014, the atrocities that went on in WWII are less alive in the cultural mindset. A lot of people who were alive back then aren’t now. To do the subject justice, we really needed the player to understand the Nazi ideology.
What were your reasons for leaving Starbreeze back in 2009?
I was there from the very beginning; it was a big part of my life. But I ended up in a situation where the opportunity to make a really good game had disappeared. I had to decide whether to stay there, collect a salary and treat it as a job, or leave and start something where I could really make the games I wanted to make.
What sort of things have you learned since starting MachineGames?
We have an obsession for making game worlds feel as real as possible. Wolfenstein helped us explore and develop that. We learned to introduce small details that would make the world feel like it existed. If it made sense that your character would jump in a car, for example, then we put that in. When we were less experienced, we had to make compromises to get around stuff that we couldn’t figure out. Now we can spend all of that time making the game better. It’s still the same amount of reworking, but it’s reworking in the right direction. directors. They all have different ideas, which sounds like a recipe for disaster, but these guys balance each other very well – Jens is very passionate about narrative, and Fredrick is deeply into systems and gunplay. All the aspects of The New Order – combat, story, stealth – represent these guys. Out of different ideas they manage to find a single direction.”
Tordsson was instrumental to this process. Once development was in full swing and ideas began to fly, it was his job to ensure all the narrative beats flowed into the gunplay, and vice versa. He authored Wolfenstein’s walkthrough document and was responsible for how the game was paced. “Pacing is something we always try to think about,” he says. “It’s like when you’re writing a novel. You don’t just want to keep hitting the same note over and over; you want to provide a whole range of emotions. Give players violence over and over again and they just get numb to it.”
As the game started to come together, Tordsson also took charge of Wolfenstein’s localisation process, translating it into Italian, French and Spanish. But it wasn’t just language that needed to change. For the German market, Machine had to “sanitise” – as Tordsson puts it – the game, removing any mention of Nazis or Nazi ideology. The trench-coated villains would be referred to simply as ‘The Regime’.
“We had to change the dialogue and a lot of the imagery,” Tordsson explains. “We just did what we could, tried to make it as close to the international version as was possible. The problem is that in Germany games aren’t viewed as art; they’re viewed as toys. There needs to be a change in that perspective.” The demands from Germany barely slowed proceedings. The solid foundations laid by Matthies and the others finally began to pay off and, after four years of fairly smooth development, Machine had realised its vision. “Everything we wanted was there in the finished product,” Matthies says. “It’s extremely close to the original pitch. The one-page story document we wrote is exactly the story that’s in the game.”
“We had a good idea from the very beginning, and in the end, when we shipped the game, that was the experience that was on the disc,” Ojerfors says. “And four years for such a long shooter is not a lot of time, especially when you consider we were building the studio as we went along.”
Wolfenstein: The New Order launched on May 20, 2014 and cruised to the top of the UK sales chart. Later that same month, it was the second best-selling game on Steam, behind Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. Matthies was able to pay back his loan. “There are so many ways you can make games,” he says, “and there are so many ways you can invent a worthwhile experience. But this was a game that perfectly suited us, one where our sensibilities could really shine. For the first time in my career it felt like I didn’t have to make any compromise. I’m very, very happy with the result.”