Q&A

Jens Matthies

EDGE - - THE MAKING OF... -

Cre­ative di­rec­tor

How did you want to por­tray the Nazi char­ac­ters dif­fer­ently to pre­vi­ous

games?

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.”

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