Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (updated)

I would like to wish you a merry Christmas and, in advance, a happy new year!

2014 has been a great year for all the Wolfenstein fans, with the release of a new game, Wolfenstein: The New Order, which got a great success and many very positive reviews. The game is regularly added in lists of the best games of the year, like on PC Games N, God Is A Geek, Game Informer, The Sixth Axis, Slant Magazine, and Stuff, even winning some awards like on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, where it has been selected as the best FPS of the year! It was also nominated for the Best Shooter and Best Narrative categories at the last Game Awards, and for the “Best Storytelling” category at the Golden Joysticks awards.

Update: Polygon has just chosen Wolfenstein: The New Order as one of their Games of the Year, with great comments:

It helps that The New Order’s old-school influences find a positive middle ground with modern design sensibilities, and it so rarely seems to run out of things to say or do. It’s a fun, often bombastic action game. The veteran developers at Machine Games have made many of those in their long careers, but this is arguably the best, the one that feels the least like a support mechanism for storytelling.

Update 2: The french website NoFrag – dedicated to FPS – made a poll about the best games of the year, and Wolfenstein: The New Order was chosen as the best sequel game, with this comment:

Congratulations to Bethesda, who succeeded to resurrect the Wolfenstein licence. Indeed, there was no multiplayer part, but the solo one was very nice. We didn’t believe in it, so the surprise was even better.

Update 3: The game has been chosen as “2014’s Dark Horse” by HardcoreGamer, and “Best FPS in 2014” by the French website GamAlive!

 

This is also a great Christmas for some legendary Wolfenstein developers like John Romero, who received a wonderful present from his wife, Brenda Romero: a great Doom sculpture!

romero17-2014-xmas

This object has been created by an artist called Jason Hite, and sold to the Romero’s. Polygon has written a post about it, and the artist added an entry in his blog about this work.

 

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Developer Commentary (The Train Sequence)

Bethesda has posted a new developer commentary about one of the levels from Wolfenstein: The New Order, the train sequence, some weeks after having released a similar video about the Gibraltar Bridge level. This time, it’s up to Tommy Björk, narrative designer of the game at MachineGames, to explain this special sequence of the game…

Here is what he’s telling about it:

  • He’s joking about the high quality of the rendering of the coffee in the cups, which is moving smoothly and in a very realistic way. They love coffee at MachineGames, that’s why it’s so nice!
  • It’s the first time BJ and the player meet Frau Engel, a high-ranked nazi officer, and her toyboy called Bubi
  • During that sequence, BJ is forced to talk with Frau Engel, who makes him pass a “test” to verify how Aryan he is… A armed guard and a Guard Robot are protecting the infamous lady.
  • When they started to design that level, they had only the beginning and the end of the level in mind, where BJ would have to join Anya in a train with an obstacle in the way.
  • They wanted to make it intense and interesting, instead of having yet another shooting scenario. The player is trapped by this nazi officer without knowing if he’ll be able to make it through, or if he’ll be caught by her.
  • It was the perfect moment to introduce a new character, Frau Engel. She didn’t exist like that at the beginning; the player was just facing a male officer with his wife – who was supposed to be Frau Engel. Bubbi – whose real name is Hans Winkel – came later and took her place, while she was “promoted” as the main dominant character by creative director Jens Matthies.
  • At the end, BJ discovers that the test was fake, and just there to see if he wanted to take the gun or not. It’s a way to show how stupid were the “scientific” arguments used by the nazis to justify their ideology.
  • They added a lot of propaganda posters in the game in order to show to the player the outside world as it would have been if the nazis had won the war. It makes the environment very rich and interesting, and this alternative world believable.
  • The newspaper you can read in the game are part of this effort to make this world rich and coherent. It allows them not only to explain its history without forcing the player to see some cinematic, but also to tease him some elements of the storyline to come.

Historians talk about Wolfenstein: The New Order

A very interesting video was posted on Gamasutra where 3 historians discuss about Wolfenstein: The New Order, and how it depict Nazis in a fictional world where they would have won WWII.

Could it have been possible for Nazis to go on the Moon? Why would they have done that without the Cold War to drive them? How would be a world dominated by Nazis during a so long period? How could they invade USA and other countries? Historians also discuss about the representation of concentration camps in the game, and in other fictional works, and why they’re offended with that. They discuss about the grammatical accuracy of German texts, propaganda and NPC talks in the game. A very fascinating discussion!

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Developer Commentary (Gibraltar Bridge Level)

Bethesda has released a video of the Gibraltar Bridge level from Wolfenstein: The New Order with the comments of one of the developers from MachineGames, Andreas Öjerfors, the senior gameplay designer of the game.

While playing the level, he explains several choices they made while building it:

  • They started the level with a quiet and relaxing moment looking at the sea, in order to prepare the player for the upcoming intense action.
  • The developer is happy with the fact that BJ can hide behind the passenger seats of the wagons, and shoot through them towards the enemies, bringing some creativity to the player.
  • They really wanted the players to be “creative” in the sense that he should be able to decide how he should approach a gameplay challenge. That’s why there’re usually several paths towards a hot spot.
  • There are several visual hints in the game in order to warn the player about a hidden place or treasure, like a dead soldier hanging, leading to an enigma code part.
  • This enigma code can be found, for instance, in a briefcase chained to a dead officer arm. That has been made to bring more coherency to the world, in order that everything in it makes sense, and never weaken the suspend of disbelief.
  • They were very concerned about environmental storytelling in this level, more than story of characters. This is the story of a bridge and a train…
  • No visual event or object in the level is incidental. It’s usually meant to lead the player to the right path, give him some places to hide, or to show him a spot where he can go later to bypass enemies, for instance (like enemy soldiers hanging, etc…). But enemies can also use every part of the level in their own advantage.
  • In several places, you can have several ways to approach a group of enemy and fight them: with discretion, sniper rifles, or with all guns out, using various places, paths and hidden spots to defeat them more safely. Later in the level, in the building, there are 3 different paths to approach a group enemies, with one leading you behind them, thus giving you a big tactical advantage. It gives some choice to the player, and make him explore the level, which is very important in a Wolfenstein game.
  • It’s usually very difficult to communicate to the player about all these possibilities without telling him explicitly what to do, which is less fun anyway. It’s a big challenge, and they use visual effects and catchy level elements in order to attract his eyes to a place where they want to show him something. Everything should look natural and as being a part of the world in order to increase immersion, including this kind of conversation between the player and the designers about all the possibilities he has in his hands to face a challenge.
  • Explaining to the player where he has to go next without telling him explicitly is also a big challenge. They faced several problems while designing this level, as the player could be lost while searching a specific wagons among several others. So, from times to times, they use some kind of cinematic in order to focus the sight of the player to a specific level element, and guide him through the level. It’s not very subtle, but it gives a way to the player to hear BJ’s voice and internal thoughts, which also increase immersion.
  • You have to use the Laserkraftwerk in this level in order to make your way through the wagons. It’s a very nice weapon you can upgrade in this level, and use as a powerful lethal weapon. They also saw many people drawing happy faces in metal with the laser, or other body parts…
  • In some places, or during some scripted sequences (like inside the helicopter), the player has a clear view on the massive destruction he has done to the bridge, the train on it, and all the people inside this train or driving on the road. And also some views to his main objective, the hanging wagon with the white officer suit, and where he comes from.
  • The level is a nice mix between linear and non linear gameplay, as even if there is always a single way towards the main objective, you can find several paths to handle a gameplay challenge.
  • In the middle of the level, there is an epic battle with plenty of enemies. They’re very proud of it, as it force player to move from cover to cover, and never stay at the same place too long. He can use all his weapons to defeat his enemies, and need to know the different kind of soldiers in this place, and how to handle them efficiently. He has to master his controls, the cover system, he has to look everywhere, and that’s why this kind of gameplay is usually near the end of the game.
  • This fight was very difficult to make, as it’s very organic, very dynamic, and very hard for the AI to move with all these obstacles and misshapen ground.
  • The mounted canon was meant to  be insanely powerful, but very limited in ammo. You have to use it carefully on the right enemies. Once it’s out of ammo, you can just throw it away, it’s useless, unless you’re able to recharge it.
  • When designing the building part of the bridge on paper, it was larger that what it is in the final game. But while building it in 3D, they saw that it was larger than the bridge, which was not what they wanted. So they had to correct it.
  • It was a big challenge to place resources that the player can pickup in the game while keeping the environment real, without breaking immersion. That’s why you can find, for instance, many pickups in a kind of big storage room in a building of the bridge, or some of them in some places inside the wagons. The player has to believe that the pickups really belong to the place where he’s found them. And in some places and some rooms, you can’t place ammo or other pickups, as they’re not supposed to contain anything like that.
  • They wanted to place some non-interactive storytelling moments without disconnecting the player from the gameplay, or stealing his controls away from him! That’s why, from times to times, you get caught by some big enemies, like the super soldier on the bridge. It must be fluid, and have its place in the world.
  • While being in the helicopter, the player can use his mounted weapon as a cover in order to avoid enemies fire. It’s not always easy to use, and many players didn’t see it.
  • The reason why the player has to pickup manually collectibles is to have the player in full control of actions like health overcharge, for instance.
  • The MegaTextures technology from the id Tech 5 engine of id Software was very useful in order to create this kind of levels. It allows every surface of the game to be unique, and it allowed MachineGames to really show how much the bridge was destroyed.

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Post-mortem interview about the game difficulty

One month ago, VentureBeat did an interview of Jerk Gustafsson – executive producer of the game and managing director of MachineGames – and Anders Backman – lead artificial intelligence programmer of the game for MachineGames – about the difficulty of the game, and how they tweaked each battle of each level to reach the ideal difficulty in any game mode. Here are some interesting extract from it:

  • The E3 2013 demo of the game – which was the giant moon level in London – was too hard, they admit it. But they didn’t change it for the final game, as the player would have enough upgrades and weapons to tackle it more easily, and more experience of the game.
  • They had an analytic system to observe how people would play the game, consisting in some variables indicating for instance how much damages the player receive and how much he dish out. Some levels appeared as being very difficult, like the Gibraltar bridge one.
  • The number of enemies was fixed no matter what was the game difficulty, and was not dynamically changed during the game in order not to alter the game experience they wanted to have – and give too much work for QA and play tests. Only the type of enemies (melee or distance) was changed according to difficulty, and their health – which was lower for easy mode.
  • The places where checkpoints were put were chosen carefully in order to avoid having game reloaded in the middle of an action, and force player to think carefully about his next actions before playing.
  • In places where the action is not forced by ambushes and scenario, the player should try to use stealth the longest possible, as it will give him a real advantage on enemies.
  • They wanted to avoid having players staying in hiding places by having enemies throwing grenades, forcing players to always move.
  • When fighting super robots in Oder bridge level, many players didn’t see that they could use the turrets against them, unmount them, and mount them again in order to reload their energy.
  • The grenades are magnetic, so they can be launched and stick on a robot before exploding, thus doing more damage. But it was not seen by most of the players as the grenades were too small.
  • Even if there are several paths to fight enemies in a combat scenario, there is usually one recommended way to do so without getting too much damages. MachineGames is happy with this kind of gameplay, and would like to make the combat more dynamic, and give more gameplay options to the player in future games.
  • The AI is made in a way that it is never “cheating” against the player – that is, it’s not able to detect the player unless it’s able to see or hear him, or if a commander tells his soldiers that the player is at a specific place. Thus, the player can sneak while in combat, and take the enemies from the rear if they didn’t detect him in the meantime. It’s not only more realistic, but also easier for level designers and scripters who shouldn’t plan every possible situation.
  • The combats will be always harder if the player hasn’t killed the commander before. It’s always recommended to sneak and get these guys down before starting killing soldiers.
  • The fight against the big London Monitor robot was one of the hardest of the game. They say that the boss fights are the hardest gameplay to do, because you have to communicate to the player what he has to do and let him have the time to learn and know how to defeat it, while giving him a hard challenge.
  • If players took time to explore and get upgrades for their weapons and abilities, combats will become easier in the game. Finding things should be a bonus, and not a penalty.
  • MachineGames wants to remain a studio making single-player games with a long lifetime. They focus on the main storyline of the game, but also on exploration and optional content, and having multiple paths in scenario.

John Carmack becomes rebellious!

John Carmack has posted a funny twitter post today with a picture of him wearing a Wolfenstein: The New Order t-shirt, and saying “Many years ago, I was told by lawyers that I could be arrested in Germany due to Wolf 3D. Better now, right? 🙂 #IFA

Note that he’s currently promoting the latest work of Oculus VR – of which he’s the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) – on the upcoming Samsung Gear VR in the IFA show in Berlin, in Germany!

The game design of Wolfenstein: The New Order – The pickups

Jerk Gustafsson, the managing director at MachineGames and executive producer on Wolfenstein: The New Order, was also the lead game designer of the game. On Gamasutra, he discusses about the choice that MachineGames made to keep a manual pickup mechanism for collectibles and weapons, instead of having an automatic one. He explores all the possible choices, where the player would switch automatically to a new more powerful weapon – which could lead to some interruptions in the middle of a battle, or to have a full loot mechanism as first designed for the game – which slows down the gameplay. A very interesting read!

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Summer sales promotion on UPlay

Steam is not the only digital distribution platform for PC games. The UPlay system from Ubi Soft has also a quite large catalog, even if it’s far smaller than the Steam one.

And similarly to Steam, they’re also regularly doing some massive reductions on some of their games, especially during the Summer Sales, where the discount can reach 75% on games like Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex The Fall, Just Cause 2, Portal 2 and Tropico 4 for instance, even if most of these games are not published by Ubi Soft.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is also in the list, with a discount of 25% on the original sale price. You can buy it for £26.24 (instead of £34.99) in the UK shop, or for $44.99 (instead of $59.99) on the US shop. It’s still more expensive than on Amazon.co.uk for instance (see our partner shop), but it’s quite a good deal.