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Inglorious Designers: MachineGames on Taking on Wolfenstein: The New Order
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:22am 29/05/13 | Comments
We chat with MachineGames' Jens Matthies about their debut game under the Bethesda umbrealla, it being the IP that first intriduced the FPS to the world and what it means to be a Basterd designer. Read on or wtach for what they had to say...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly. We’ve been invited out, once again, at a special pre-E3 event, to talk to MachineGames... and a bunch of other things, but nothing is as important as your game! [laughs and points at Jens]

.. and I’ve got Jens here, from Machine Games; it’s a studio that’s kind of born from Starbreeze, which is another celebrated studio -- The Darkness was one of my favourite games from this generation. So you guys are working on Wolfenstein, which came out of left field, and I’m curious to know: how did it come about? Who pitched to who? Who ran with this?

Jens Matthias: Well essentially, when we started talking to Bethesda, that was obviously one of the IPs that was in their catalogue, from getting together with id. And we are huge Wolfenstein fans from the olden days; for me personally, that was the game that opened up my eyes to what was possible in games.

So we knew that they had the IP, and we knew that nobody was working on it, so we developed a pitch that we’re really excited about.

AusGamers: It’s arguable that the last lot of Wolf games haven’t done too well, and the license... I mean, it’s been handled well, but I just don’t think it’s had the sort of reverence that the game actually deserves. It’s arguably the first first-person shooter ever made.

For you guys, going into that, what was the pressure like? Or was it more a case of: well, no, here’s this thing that we love; let’s do it right?

Jens: Yeah, it was very much that approach, but that’s not to say there’s not a lot of pressure. There’s always pressure, because we want to deliver a game that’s perfect. But that’s sort of regardless of what kind of game it is, that’s more just the pressure of doing the work that we do. So there’s no real added pressure because of that, but yes, no, yes.

AusGamers: You’re mixing it up. There’s no multiplayer, which is a huge thing. But then, the first game didn’t have multiplayer, right? So you’re genuinely bringing it back to its roots. For you guys, when you brought that up with Bethesda, was that an issue, or were they like “well, you know, we do single-player games anyway, so this makes sense”.

Jens: Yeah, that wasn’t an issue at all, which is also why we love working with Bethesda, is that they put the quality of the game, and the creative freedom of the developer, first. And they’ve proven that they can sell a large quantity of games without multiplayer.

So for them, it’s not something they force us to shoehorn in there. They just want us to deliver the best possible game that we can, and that’s exactly what we want to do to, so we’re extremely happy.

AusGamers: Now, this might sound a bit weird, but it seems like what you guys have done -- and technically Wolfenstein came first-- but what you’ve done with this, is kind of done what Duke Nukem Forever always should have been...

Jens: [laughs]

AusGamers: Because you’ve got BJ and his wisecracking, and he’s just kicking ass everywhere. Instead of aliens, it’s Nazis that have gone to the moon and stuff like that. Were you guys conscious of that?

Jens: No, we don’t really look to other games for inspiration, and especially with this one, you don’t really need to, because there’s such a rich legacy to explore. But we just do the stuff that we think is best for the game -- that interests us, and gives us the right feeling when we play.

So the kind of approach we have is very... it’s very structured, but it’s not bound to a certain game system, or a certain kind of storytelling, or certain this or that. We approach [a] moment of the game, or each scenario, as its own entity, and whatever that entity needs is what we want to give it.

So in the demo that we showed you today, there’s a number of different sections. First there’s an introduction where you ride in this car, then the Panzerhund, then it leads into this other thing. We construct those both conceptually as an emotional arc, in terms of what it gives you when you play it. Then it’s just a matter of trying to implement that to the best of our ability and iterate on it until it feels really solid and strong.

AusGamers: I’ll get onto id Tech 5 in a minute, but before that: it’s kind of funny that id created the game, then it went out into the publisher ether, and other people have had their hands in the pie. Then when id landed back at Bethesda, now it’s come full circle and it’s back under a publishing umbrella that actually works for everybody.

When you guys decided to do the game, did you actually sit down with the id guys, and say “look, we’re going to do this; this is how we’re going to do it”? Was it kind of an asking permission type thing?

Jens: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was like. Because they own their IP, and they’ve always owned their IP. So whenever another developer has done a Wolfenstein game, it has been through a deal with id Software, and they are very careful about maintaining the backstory of BJ, and all of these sort of things, and we are not interested in doing anything that they disagree with.

And what was so amazing for us, was when we started talking to id, they were just completely on board with the idea. Because in this game, we honour a lot of things, but we go in a different way too. It’s in the 1960s, the nazis have won the war, and they rule the world, and they have all of this strange technology, and nazi robots and what-have-you. There’s all of these things that are not traditionally a part of Wolfenstein. But when we pitched the idea to them, they were on board, and they’ve been extremely supportive, and we’re very thankful to be sort of in this family, with developers who care about games first and foremost.

AusGamers: Was it always going to be that you guys were going to use id Tech 5 for this, once the deal was made? Or was that something that you also asked when you were pitching?

Jens: I think they have a history of all of their IPs being made on their engine, so I think it was just the harmonious thing to do. And we love the engine, so we’re extremely happy.

AusGamers: Have you had many hurdles dealing with it, given that it’s not something that you’re immediately used to?

Jens: Not really, and it’s kind of weird, because id Software has always been the leader when it comes to game engine technology -- for first-person games, they were doing things way, way before anybody else -- and so they kind of set the standards and practices for how things make a first-person game, in terms of the tool-chain, and in terms of the methods you use as a developer. So when we were at Starbreeze, and we had our own Starbreeze engine, the practices sort of derived a little bit from what id had done, so when we went to an id engine, it was very familiar -- so it’s this weird full-circle thing there too.

But it was very quick for us to get into it. The big thing about the engine is that you can make every pixel in the world unique, in terms of the game world. So you can really make it staggeringly detailed, and that’s obviously quite a challenge, because you want it as detailed as you can do it, but there’s no end to how much you can obsess over every little thing.

AusGamers: And obviously, Carmack’s baby for the last year and a bit, as been Oculus Rift: have you guys been dabbling with that at all?

Jens: I don’t know, it’s not something that I’m very well informed of, for a technical question.

AusGamers: With the PC, obviously you guys have a history there as well, and id obviously has a big history on the PC. Will there be any differentiation from the console releases and the PC, or are you just going for the platform parity?

Jens: Well... that’s always kind of hard to quantify. But obviously, we’re releasing for next-generation platforms, so I think there’s parity there, and PC will be the same essentially. Currently, with 360, and PS3, I’m sure there will be a difference, but exactly where that line is drawn, I have no idea.

AusGamers: A lot of people have been talking since the teaser trailer was released, and I guess with the presentation dynamic that you have, Tarantino's name has been dropped left, right, and centre, but I’d argue -- apart from the Bubi sequence that we watched earlier, which was hilarious -- were you going for that kind of Inglorious Basterds tone? Is that something that you’re using as a tonal reference?

Jens: Yeah, that’s very much... it’s so great that that movie came out, because it’s one of the few examples ever, that sort of walks the fine line between really intense truthful drama, and just over-the-top mayhem and cathartic action, and that’s exactly our sweet spot for this game.

So it’s not like... our story has nothing to do with that story of course, they’re two different animals, but in terms of the tone, it’s a very good point of reference.

AusGamers: Finally, you guys have worked almost exclusively on publisher’s IPs, and obviously if this does really well, sequels are possible, if not inevitable. Now you don’t have to say that you are, but is there something going on in the studio, were “maybe it’s time we spread our wings and do our own thing, from the ground up one day”? Has that been on the cards at one point, at all?

Jens: Yeah, we are developers, so... and that’s the thing: if you are a game developer, your brain is full of ideas and things you want to do. But I don’t think... we don’t really look at it as though its our own IP, and somebody else’s IP. Because as soon as it’s within our office, it’s ours! We love this project so much; it’s not like if we did something that was our own brainchild, we would love it more.

Obviously, we have plenty of ideas, and we could make some kickass things from the ground up too, but we’re maxed out in terms of how passionate we are on this project.

AusGamers: Alright, well, we’ll leave it there. Thanks so much for your time today Jens.

Jens: Any time.

AusGamers: Sorry, left-handed shake. [laughs]

Jens: Yeah, I was really perplexed there. [laughs]

AusGamers: So guys, you heard it here: Jens; MachineGames; Wolfenstein.
Read more about Wolfenstein: The New Order on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 09:48am 29/5/13
I know you're busy and Wolfenstein probably isn't high on your list of priorities, but this piece was horrid.

It’s arguable that the last lot of Wolf games haven’t done too well, and the license...

Sure, the last game sucked, but the ones before that were great. At one point ET was one of the most played Multiplayer games around. It definitely had a huge following here and abroad.

I mean, it’s been handled well, but I just don’t think it’s had the sort of reverence that the game actually deserves

And what, these clowns are finally going to give the franchise more respect than RtCW?

There’s no multiplayer

What a crock of s***. That's like releasing a quake game with no multiplayer. This just..... ugh.

what you’ve done with this, is kind of done what Duke Nukem Forever always should have been...

Why did you mention DNF? WHY?! Thats like mentioning cancer.

Because you’ve got BJ and his wisecracking, and he’s just kicking ass everywhere.

This is starting to read like its written by kids, for kids.

Tarantino's name has been dropped left, right, and centre

It has?

As a Wolfenstein fan, everything about this sounds awful. I don't know if it was your intent, but the people making this come off as being completely full of s***. Huge fans, my ass.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 10:29am 29/5/13
eski, I used the qualifier "arguable" and was referring mostly to the single-player component of previous Wolfenstein games. It's also okay for you and others to enjoy something I and many others didn't -- it's called opinion.

The first Wolfenstein game from id had no multiplayer, that's reverence right there, but it's more about their overall tone and how it feels on-point with id's original vision.

The DNF reference was also backed up with "always should have been". I was not referring to how the game actually turned out. The further you got into the original series the more powerful and unstoppable BJ became, this has the same thing going on with it: it's as over-the-top as DNF sounded on paper 12 years ago.

And yes, Tarantino's name has been dropped as a result of the art-direction of the marketing materials, the game's logo and some of its tone. This was also poignant because one of the sequences I saw featured a high-tension conversation between the bad-guy (in this case an old lady), her Aryan toyboy and BJ -- it had Tarantino written all over it, but in an Inglorious Basterds kind of way, which is line with the team's single-player narrative-driven experience.
Posted 10:32am 29/5/13
people disliked RtCW sp? i loved it.
Posted 11:06am 29/5/13
It's also okay for you and others to enjoy something I and many others didn't -- it's called opinion

I guess that's what it boils down to. It infuriates me that someone is making a Wolfenstein game without MP.

Sure the dev team has a good pedigree, but AAARGH they're turning their back on the best part of the franchise and making out that this is a positive thing.
Reverend Evil
Posted 11:12am 29/5/13
people disliked RtCW sp? i loved it

Was that the one using the Q3 engine back in the day? Because that one was awesome fun.
Posted 11:16am 29/5/13
I guess that's what it boils down to. It infuriates me that someone is making a Wolfenstein game without MP.

But the original Wolfensteins didn't have MP.

I mean I could see your point if it was Doom 42 and didn't have MP. Wolfenstein was always a Single Player game first. RtCW I did not like, the multiplayer I didn't like. DoD was heaps better, anyway I understand many people did. It doesn't make Wolfenstein a must be MP game though...
Posted 11:30am 29/5/13
ET was the first online MP game that I put a significant amount of time into, so any suggestion that MP is removed is heretical blasphemy :P

I ran House of Renshou ET for several seasons, ahhh memories.....
Posted 11:32am 29/5/13
I can only vaguely recall mummies and generic shooting in RtCW single-player, but I do have good memories of the multiplayer, which was very innovative for its time, and was followed by ET which was even better.

The last Raven-developed Wolfenstein must have been even more forgettable than RtCW's single-player because I can barely remember any of it, only that there was heavy use of some green-glowing occult element.

The gameplay shown from The New Order so far doesn't look terribly exciting, but I really enjoyed Ridd***: Escape from Butcher Bay, and The Darkness, so if the talent from those games is in place at MachineGames, I'll remain optimistic.
Posted 11:35am 29/5/13
All this b****ing that games don't have MultiPlayer - not every game has to be MP to be enjoyable - when will people get that?
Not everyone is interested in multiplayer - it's a completely different market segment.

What's surprising to me is Tech5 - if those screenshots are T5, then I'm thoroughly underwhelmed. I can't honestly say it looks much more impressive than the early Q3 TechDemo screens I remember. That's going back to 1998.
Posted 11:41am 29/5/13
All this b****ing that games don't have MultiPlayer - not every game has to be MP to be enjoyable - when will people get that?

True, but imagine if they released the next CS and focused on its epic single player roots in half life, because that's how this feels to me. Just look at how poorly Quake 4 was received, that's what happens when you focus on SP in a MP driven franchise. I understand the debate that Wolf is not a traditionally MP driven game, but see my above comments to understand my bias.

I'm tired of publishers dredging up old IP's and using nothing but the name because they figure their marketing spend can be smaller. Noone is asking for more Wolfenstein SP, just make a new IP already.
Posted 11:45am 29/5/13
I remember RTCW as being awesome as well, but I played it recently and it's really bad!!!
Posted 11:45am 29/5/13
I'm kinda 50/50 on this game, the last Wolfenstein sucked and this idea of nazi robots isn't much to my liking. I think RtCW was the best one, great story, level design and the mutants blended very well. I guess time will tell but I'm not holding my hopes high.
Posted 12:09pm 29/5/13
some gameplay footage

Posted 12:21pm 29/5/13
Holy plastic coating engines Batman. It seriously looks like everything has a thin layer of plastic on it.
Posted 12:49pm 29/5/13
Just look at how poorly Quake 4 was received, that's what happens when you focus on SP in a MP driven franchise.

Quake (1) was not designed as a MP game. It had MP, but its focus was SP.
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