Interview: Talking Wolfenstein: The New Order with narrative designer Tommy Tordsson Bjork
A few weeks ago Bethesda released a teaser trailer for Wolfenstein: The New Order. This next entry in the long-running FPS franchise is currently in development, with MachineGames at the helm of production. I had the chance to sit down and speak with Narrative Designer Tommy Tordsson Björk at a recent press event held by Bethesda. During our interview, he discussed the changes that are coming to the Wolfenstein brand, what players can expect, and much more.
GameZone: First, I kind of want to address something I've been thinking a lot about lately. I'm talking about Warren Spector. What do you think about Spector's comments that “the world doesn't need a new Wolfenstein”?
Tommy Tordsson Björk: I'm a huge fan of Warren Spector, actually. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. That's all I really have to say about that. He's entitled to his opinion.
GZ: In a follow-up statement, he did make sure to clarify that he didn't think the MachineGames staff lacked talent. He specified that you guys are definitely a talented team.
TTB: Yeah, I believe he also said if he ever met us he would buy us each a cup of coffee. So as a big fan I would kind of like to meet Warren Spector and have a cup of coffee with him.
GZ: What changes are coming to the Wolfenstein series with The New Order?
TTB: So what we're doing is we're going back to the core experience of the old Wolf 3D, and we want to take it in a direction from there, and The New Order changes this history. BJ is thrown into a world where he doesn't know what's going on, and the player is going to share this experience with BJ where this world is unfamiliar to you.
Gameplay-wise, we're going back to the old school mechanics with new shooter mechanics. When you're playing, you have health packs, but we also have regeneration, so there's sort of a mix between old and new. There's also the inventory, which lets you carry all the weapons you want.
What we really want is to make this a first-person action-adventure, not just a straight FPS. We want to balance the game where there are these shooting parts and we want to mix this sort of drama with the action experience.
GZ: Will newcomers be able to jump right into The New Order, or is this game geared toward series veterans?
TTB: It's definitely something that you can jump right into. It's definitely a standalone experience, but we're also bringing back a lot of the old characters, such as villains, obviously BJ, and there are also references.
GZ: The New Order won't feature a multiplayer component. Was this decision made in order to focus on a more complete campaign experience?
TTB: Yeah. Well, I think that as a studio we've always been passionate about story-driven FPS experiences. Most of our team are members are from Starbreeze originally, and our founders were the founders of Starbreeze. We worked on Chronicles of Riddick and Darkness which had focus on drama, and that's what we love to do.
GZ: How long is the campaign in The New Order?
TTB: I haven't the exact number. I think it's about 10 hours but I can't say for sure. It's pretty long.
GZ: Can you explain the plot?
TTB: So at the end of the Second World War the Nazis somehow got a hold of mysterious advanced technology, which allowed them to win the war and advance to global domination. So BJ is injured and comatose for 14 years and he's lost in his mind. But there's this nurse named Anya who takes care of him, and when the Nazis come, he and Anya end up on the run. Together with the resistance they will try to overthrow the Nazis once and for all.
GZ: How much input did MachineGames have as far as the story in The New Order is concerned? Did you work closely with Bethesda, or did the company give you free reign over the series?
TTB: At the start of production MachineGames went over to id Software and worked closely with id laying out the groundwork, but from there it's been our vision, which has been driving this development. And Zenimax is really keen on letting this be our series, so that's really cool, I think. Besides that, we always have id to go back to, and as far as id Tech 5, they're always there to offer tremendous support when it comes to the technical side.
GZ: Are you looking to reinvent the series? This is your first time working on a Wolfenstein game, so are you hoping to make it your own and infuse it with a MachineGames vibe?
TTB: Yeah, I think so. This is sort of a reimagining, and we want to really take it in a direction and make something that is truly ambitious and has a huge variety of gameplay scenarios and really try to go back to the core experience and paying homage to that and seeing what cool stuff we can do.
A huge thanks to Tommy for taking the time to sit down and answer all of my questions. Wolfenstein: The New Order is due out later this year for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, and the game has already been confirmed for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
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