"'Okay, you have this musclebound '80s action hero. How do we turn him into a relatable, interesting human being?' [laughs] That type of decision is so much more interesting than if we had just turned him into another Nathan Drake clone."
- Wolfenstein: The New Order
creative director Jens Matthies
How do you take a franchise like Wolfenstein
and make it relevant again? How do you make its story make sense and engage players in 2014?
That's the challenge that Wolfenstein: The New Order
creative director Jens Matthies undertook, and in a new interview with Giant Bomb, he talks about
that tension, and his studio's approach to development.
"At its core, it’s kicking Nazi ass. In the most pure sense, that has to be in a Wolfenstein
game. If it has that, you can call it a Wolfenstein game
. If it doesn’t, you can’t. Then, it has to be larger-than-life. It has to be dealing with characters and scenarios that are grossly exaggerated from reality. That’s also very key to the experience," Matthies says.
But there's an important distinction: "Just because it has those things doesn’t mean it has to be emotionally alienating. Some people have a problem with this, and they see it as an odd mix, in terms of the tone of the game. For us, that was never the case. It’s weird to me that you can’t have rambunctious attitude in a video game. This is the medium for those kinds of expressions."
In Matthies' view, the important thing is to make sure the plot and the gameplay are going in the same direction -- that they both aim toward the same goal.
One way that the team was able to achieve this synthesis, says Matthies, was by putting in extensive pre-production work.
The team went through numerous revisions and got external feedback on the game's script before beginning production -- and consequently had ironed out many of the problems with the story and its tone before jumping in the deep end of implementing that work.
"That’s not to say there isn’t a rough edge here or there once we are deeper into production, but compared to previous games, the source material that we developed in pre-production is what it is in the game today to an extremely high degree. That’s both rare and it’s very rewarding creatively to go through a journey like that," Matthies says.
The full interview, which goes deeper into how Matthies approached these considerations, as well as his creative influences, is at Giant Bomb
. For more on Matthies' approach to storytelling, you can read
Gamasutra's own interview with the creative director.