The fu­ture of the fu­ture will still con­tain the past

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Most games start as a blank can­vas. It’s some­thing the founders of Sledge­ham­mer Games have grown ac­cus­tomed to, whether it was in the mak­ing of Ad­vanced War­fare, its first game at the Call Of Duty helm, or the cre­ation of Dead Space, when the duo were at Vis­ceral Games. What game shall we make? In which year is it set? Who are the good guys and bad­dies? Weeks turn into months as you de­cide what guns should look like, what to call them, how they fire, and de­sign funky reload an­i­ma­tions for them. Slowly but surely, a pic­ture be­gins to form.

Yet by winding back the clock to World War II, Sledge­ham­mer found it­self pre­sented with a can­vas that was al­ready filled to burst­ing with bat­tles, characters, sto­ries and weaponry. That, you’d be for­given for think­ing, would knock an easy six months off the de­vel­op­ment time.

Not a bit of it. Sledge­ham­mer spent the time it would have de­voted to com­ing up with a set­ting to learn­ing about the real-world one it had set­tled on. The stu­dio heads toured Europe with a WWII his­to­rian. Back in Cal­i­for­nia, de­vel­op­ment teams ob­sessed over the finer de­tails to craft a game that was au­then­tic and re­spect­ful to the source ma­te­rial. In the process, they learned not just about WWII his­tory, but of their own con­nec­tions to it. When one of the stu­dio heads was help­ing de­sign the limb-lop­ping Plasma Cut­ter in Dead Space, we doubt he thought of his grand­fa­ther, who lost a leg to a war wound. Here, how­ever, such thoughts are un­avoid­able. The re­sult, as Sledge­ham­mer tells it at least, is a game that is not only steeped in its sub­ject, but humbly re­spect­ful of it, too.

It’s tempt­ing to sneer at Call Of Duty, one of the big­gest games on the planet. But this was too fas­ci­nat­ing a story not to tell: of de­vel­op­ers, fa­mous as fu­tur­ists, us­ing cut­ting-edge tech to teach a his­tory les­son; of a fac­tual re­search trip that turned into an emo­tional jour­ney none of them ex­pected; and of a se­ries which, af­ter years of trav­el­ling steadily fur­ther into the fu­ture, is now head­ing back to the past. Our story be­gins on p60.

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