And Wolfesntein III could bring back Mecha Hitler from the 1992 original! Last week we had the pleasure to speak at length with the Creative Director of Machine Games, Jens Matthies. A life long fan of id Software he began dreaming of game development as a child wanting to create immersive and cinematic worlds that players could explore. When Wolfenstein 3D rolled around in 1992 the promise of that dream began to look like a reality.
And now he leads development on the spiritual reboot of the franchise. Talking about the success of Wolfenstein: The New Order, Jens noted that he's always wanted to work on a sequel. And that the hope was that Wolfenstein would become a trilogy.
AusGamers: In terms of Wolfenstein as a franchise, it has changed quite, I wouldn't say drastically, but there have been big changes since its first appearance in the early '90s. What were some of your original thoughts on the series, and how did that evolve to shaping the new direction?
Jens Matthies: That's not a trivial problem when you start approaching it. When we started talking to Bethesda, they had recently acquired id Software. We are, of course, huge fanboys of them at Machine Games. We were like, "Oh, is anyone working on Wolfenstein?" We found out that no one was, and it's how we started elbowing our way into working on it. But of course, the series has been through a number of different hands, and many different studios over the years. It's not so easy to just say exactly what Wolfenstein is. So for us, we decided we wanted to go back to its roots. For us, it is Wolfenstein 3D, by id Software in '92.
We made a deep dive of that game, and tried to analyse what the core principles are, which is deceptively tricky. It's not such a big game by today's standards, and doesn't have so much functionality either. The more we started looking at it, the more we approached this core ethos on that game, which is this totally unrestricted created freedom that those at id Software had back then.
Of course, for them, this was before any kind of publisher entered the picture, any kind of marketing department, anything like that. They were inventing a genre, basically. They just put whatever the fuck they wanted into that game. It's like a WWII game, but the protagonist is this ultimate Nazi killer who's clearly inspired by the action heroes of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It's all kinds of weird stuff like Mecha Hitler, it's fucking crazy.
That core ethos, more than anything, is what we decided we were going to celebrate with these games, and to really honour the legacy of that. And interestingly, even though you could argue that B.J. Blazkowicz is very two-dimensional in character, which is not an unfair assessment, there is also storytelling in there. Every time you migrate from one scenario to the next, one, there is a story explaining what's going on, and all of that conveyed through text. It's not very fancy looking at it today.
AusGamers: Ah, the days of text. Yeah, that was totally fine back then.
Jens Matthies: In a sense, I don't feel like story is something that we've added. Or that we've added this story telling layer to Wolfenstein. It was always there, we are just able to express it in a way now that was impossible back then.
AusGamers: On a side note, has there ever been any inkling or urge to actually put a mechanised Hitler in the new Wolfenstein? Would that even be possible today?
Jens Matthies: Well we, like I said, our job is not to restrict ourselves creatively. But to go as far as those kids back in '92 when they made Wolfenstein 3D would have wanted us to go. That's what we're going for. We always envisioned doing a trilogy. We, of course, didn't know when we were making the first one, if we would actually get to do a sequel. We worked under the assumption that we would, so we seeded a lot of ideas in that. We introduced Frau Engel in the first game in the hopes that we got to do the second game, and she would be the main antagonist in this one.
Once you start bringing Hitler into the picture, there's no way to go from there, if that makes sense.
AusGamers: Oh, definitely. So, hint, hint, nudge, nudge. Wolfenstein III will end with a massive Hitler battle.
Jens Matthies: I'm not commenting on that.
Check back tomorrow for our full interview with Jens, where we also talk about how fun it is to kill digital Nazis, the impact of the original Wolfenstein 3D, and fascism in America.