Interview: How Wolfenstein II’s story and gameplay mechanics came to be

Gain some insight into how one of the best games of 2017 was created.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is one of the top games of the year – if its glowing review didn't make that clear enough. The game features fast-paced fun gameplay and an impressive story that manages to be over the top while managing to strike an emotional chord. The game is remarkable and is one of the best single-player games in years, with that said, I was keen on talking to someone who worked on the game to gain some insight in how the game was made!

I got to ask Andreas Öjerfors, Senior Game Designer at MachineGames, a number of questions in an email interview that range from tackling gameplay, their writing process, and more. If you have yet to play Wolfenstein II, there are some spoilers within this interview so beware!

You can read the full interview down below.

GZ: What's the process of honing in on such satisfying gameplay mechanics?

It’s a recipe of three ingredients. First, you must have a vision of the experience you want. For Wolfenstein 2 we wanted gameplay that built on the mayhem of our first Wolfenstein, but upped the intensity and quality, and strengthened the level of player freedom. Secondly, you need a talented team. We’ve got what we call the “through-the-gun team”, who worked non-stop on the first-person and weapons experience from pre-production until the end.

The third ingredient is time. Anything sufficiently complicated is not going to come out perfect, so you need to build it, test it, and then improve the parts that are less than awesome. Then you continue that loop until it’s great.

GZ: The world is incredibly realized and fleshed out with detail. Fictional German songs, countless pieces of newspaper clippings, letters, and various other things, how do you guys come up with that is there a quota you try to meet or do you stop when you run out of ideas?

It’s a question of density, really. We want a level of optional content in the world that makes the experience richer and deeper, but not so much of it that it overwhelms the player. But the truth is it’s a lot of fun to create those small nuggets of world, so we have to be careful not to overdo it.

GZ: Marvel gathers a bunch of writers and producers at a really nice house for a week or two where they just nerd out to come up with the story for their tentpole movies like Avengers. Do you guys have any sort of creative/collaborative process to help make these insane ideas fall onto a paper or is it just some crazy people typing endlessly at a computer?

The writing process starts on two different fronts. Our writing team begins discussing where they want the story to go, and at the same time, everyone in the studio can pitch ideas for locations where we’ll take Blazko. So the story is both character driven and location driven. Then it’s up to our two-man writing team to start fleshing out the beats of the story and the character arcs, and they keep working on it until it shines.

GZ: B.J. is a much more "human" character this time around. In The New Order, he certainly had emotions and personality but in The New Colossus, he's much more layered. He distances himself from Anya when he learns that he's at death's door, his reason for fighting the Nazis is much more defined than just "They're the bad guys!" He dealt with a very controlling and abusive father who tore his own family down and physically/emotionally destroyed his wife and son. Some of the actions of the Nazis reflect that of his father's and B.J. is keen on preventing anyone else from feeling the oppression he felt. What made you guys want to develop him so much more and make this game more intimate than The New Order?

In The New Order, we changed Blazkowicz from an 80’s action hero into a real character. This time it’s the second game in what we hope will be a trilogy, and that gives us more space to let the character develop further. We felt it was important to tell the story of why Blazko became the person he is, so that’s why we have flashbacks where you’ll encounter his parents.

GZ: Wolfenstein II has a lot of diverse characters both through race, gender, and personalities. How do you successfully balance developing so many characters in a very story focused game that's roughly 15 – 20 hours?

It’s carefully plotted and mapped out. Each major character has their own story arc, their own destiny. You know, we call our games “action adventures”, and a part of the adventure part is following these characters’ journeys through the campaign.

GZ: You guys confirmed earlier this year that Wolf II is the middle entry in a trilogy. Do you know where specifically you're going to go with Wolfenstein III, is there a particular scene you're trying to reach but you have to fill the gaps in the story before you can get there? Could you maybe tease the themes that will be presented in the third game?

We have a larger story we want to tell, about Blazko and Anya and the Resistance. But each entry in the series is also its own story. So it’s not about trying to reach a certain place – we have so much we want to explore with these characters, and it simply helps to have an understanding of their overall destinies.

9. Was there a particular reason why you chose to focus the upcoming DLC on new characters instead of B.J. or the already established Resistance? Is there room for a standalone expansion like The Old Blood?

I think it’s fun. The full story of The New Colossus was told through the campaign, so now we just want to camp it up a bit and have fun with the Wolfenstein gameplay.

GZ: Although development began many years before the United States Presidential Election, are you satisfied with how the general public reaction has been to the game's narrative?

Yeah. People generally understand what we’re doing. Then there’s a tiny minority of extreme right-wingers who are upset, but Wolfenstein has been anti-Nazi since 1981.

11. Following the closure of Visceral Games, many are concerned with the future of single-player video games. What's your take on the situation and do you think the fear is justified/unjustified?

I leave the worrying about money and sales to people who wear ties. We’ve made the game we want to play, with the story we wanted to tell.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.