How to make Nazis fun to fight, and other Wolfenstein questions

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is out. We just received a copy of MachineGames' follow-up to The New Order Monday evening and we’re working hard to get our review to you. In the interlude between now and then, I took a moment to ask Arcade Berg (who may have the most appropriate name in the game industry) at MachineGames a few questions about how they approached the standalone prequel.

PCG: How have players' expectations for single-player FPSes changed over the past five years or so? What makes a great single-player FPS in 2015?

Arcade Berg, senior game designer: All types of gamers want good games. Being a FPS fan has been great because of the popularity of the genre, which in turn makes for many games – but all that choice also means that players have to be picky because they can’t always play everything. That’s where I think successful games come in—with enough quality that people feel it’s worth their investment. In the end, that’s all there is too it.

To me, The New Order's success as a game doesn't stem from the fact that it tried to reinvent the wheel—it's still a game with turret sequences, item pickups, stealth sequences, and other FPS touchstones. At the outset of the project, what would you say were the big points of focus?

AB: Of course, development is an organic process with a lot of changes along the way, but I think we had a pretty clear idea on what we wanted to do from the start. We wanted an FPS with a really solid core and a very relatable and immersive narrative that would drive you from the start to the end.

If I had to say, I think the biggest things we focused on were the core mechanics and making sure the story was intertwined with the actual game and not just slapped on top and we also wanted to embrace and carry forward what Wolfenstein is to us and hopefully to the fans.

We also knew we wanted the game to run in 60fps. It makes a big difference and it’s a huge undertaking tech-wise to make it work if you want high fidelity. It took a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

What's MachineGames' approach to weapon design?

AB: More than anything, our approach involves persistent iteration with continuous and constant testing and tweaking to get it “just right.” It’s all about the user experience -- how it feels to use and the response you get when hitting (or missing, if you’re one of those) a bad dude or even any surface.

At MachineGames, we encourage people to bring their expertise as much as possible so we get animations that really convey the weight of the weapon and the audio is super satisfactory. There’s no “here’s how we do it,” it’s really just a long process of craftsmanship from everyone on the team and lots of tweaking until the game launches.

How do you make Nazis, one of the most "popular" enemies/characters in FPSes, interesting to encounter?

AB: By making them more than a symbol. I don’t think it’s solely the fact that they’re Nazis that makes them fun to shoot—though it does help! They could be cowboys, surfers or Vikings.

What’s important is their presence and the player-interaction with them. The way they take cover, how they try and evade grenades, how they try and flank you, how they react when hurt and how they stay away from dangerous areas. We try and make them less one-dimensional and have spent so, so much energy on their AI and behaviors. It has stay interesting even if you’re encountering the same type of baddies over and over. To achieve that, we make them versatile enough to be able to react to situations differently, so it’s never quite the same depending on the environment you’re in and what the player does.

The Old Blood is way more pulp than The New Order.

How can we expect the Nazis' fascination with the occult to be expressed in The Old Blood?

AB: There are many parallel layers of that in the game, and players will find varying degrees of it depending on how much attention they pay. There will be the obvious big pieces in the story, but there’s so much more if you start listening to soldiers’ conversations, reading the various articles and letters lying around, and just looking around the environment. There are bits and pieces everywhere throughout the game for those who are attentive.

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A lot of people commented on the "Tarantino" quality of The New Order. How do you feel about that comparison, and is it something we'll see expressed in The Old Blood?

AB: Every time we hear those kinds of comparisons it’s as a good thing, so we’ll gladly take the compliment. While we haven’t strived to make something Tarantino-ish, I can see what they’re talking about. More than anything, The Old Blood is way more pulp than The New Order, something you’ve probably seen with the trailer and marketing material as well. You’ll definitely feel that old b-movie style when playing the game.

Other than the setting, what did you want to do in The New Order that you couldn't, but that you've put into The Old Blood?

AB: Put a big heavy pipe in the hands of Blazkowicz!

The nightmare Easter egg was such a success and positively received by the fans, so there will be more of that in The Old Blood.

The biggest addition, however, must be our completely new Challenge game mode in which you can replay some of the best combat scenarios from the main campaign for score. Each scenario comes with online leaderboards so you can finally settle on who the best Wolfenstein-player around is!

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.