For my second interview at Yorkshire Games Festival 2019 (you can read the first here), I had the opportunity to pick the brains of Andreas Öjerfors, senior game designer at Machinegames about his time on the Wolfenstein series to date, and an insight into the future. But before that, he noticed my Fallout 76 notepad and told me about his experience with the game.
Andreas: I play the game as the crazy hermit on the mountain. And I build my own house and just go out on crazy adventures. But it’s fun to team up as well.
Richard: I still need to do some co-op on it yet, but as a solo game I am also having a lot of fun with it.
Thank you very much for your time. As TheXboxHub we will primarily know you from your time working on Wolfenstein but where did you start professionally?
Andreas: I started as a games journalist. I was this unemployed guy in the middle of nowhere in Sweden with no real prospects but then I found a games journalist job in Norway. So, I moved to the city of Oslo.
There was one big games studio in Oslo – that’s Funcom – and a year and a half later I get a job there as a quest designer. That’s how I started making games; by making quests and it was great just making stories and adventures in an open-world for Age of Conan: Unchained and then for the big expansion called Rise of the Godslayer.
After that I thought it was time to move back to Sweden and that’s when I applied for a job at Machinegames. I went there for the interview and I had no idea what they were working on and they showed me a pitch video and it was for Wolfenstein and I was just “Oh shit I want to work on this!” Wolfenstein has always had a special place in my heart since Wolfenstein 3D which I played when I was a kid. I’ve been at Machinegames since 2011 so it’s been a while.
Richard: What year did Machinegames start then because they are a fairly new studio?
Andreas: They started in 2010 so I was an early hire.
Richard: Wolfenstein is an FPS but different from traditional FPS-type games. It is much more story-driven. Despite original Wolfenstein being such a pioneer why was the decision made to move Old Blood and New Order down this cinematic route with story and great characters?
Andreas: I think that’s about the culture of Machinegames and what you have to know about us to understand the culture is that Machinegames was founded by the creative leadership of Starbreeze Studios. A bunch of people left Starbreeze to try to start their own thing and they founded Machinegames so they brought with them the ideals and culture of Starbreeze.
One of the foundations of Starbreeze is about great storytelling and letting the player explore that story. It’s about great characters and putting a lot of resource and time into the characters.
Richard: So, it’s always felt like a natural thing then?
Andreas: Yeah, yeah. It was an obvious thing we had to do because it’s one of our ideals to have a strong story focus in our games. Not at the expense of gameplay but together with gameplay.
Richard: With the gameplay then, is that what id Software brought over? This FPS focus, huge guns and great feel of the weapons?
Andreas: I think that’s actually the other half of Starbreeze and their legacy. That’s a very important thing at Machinegames now, the gunplay and the first-person experience. We have a team that’s purely dedicated to the first-person experience and they ensure that being in the world running, jumping, shooting, vaulting, all that feels great, powerful and visceral.
If anything, Machinegames is – to a great extent – about storytelling, and a great first-person experience.
Richard: Another thing that FPS’s are known for is their multiplayer and the new Wolfenstein’s doesn’t have it. At what point does a decision like that come into the whole design process?
Andreas: A lot of the creative decisions at Machinegames isn’t necessarily about business, it’s about what game we want to build. When we set out to do Wolfenstein: The New Order we wanted to be a smaller team, not a huge team. We tried to be a smaller, more focussed team and we understood that if we were going to make the best possible single-player campaign then we have to focus all our attention, every drop of sweat onto that single-player campaign. That was something that Bethesda also really believed in.
Richard: It’s interesting that you refer to multiplayer as a ‘business decision’, that’s an interesting way of looking at it.
Andreas: That was not our approach. We didn’t approach it as a ‘business decision’, we did it to produce the best single-player campaign. I think that if we had also made a multiplayer mode it probably would have been a ‘business decision’ at that point because we try to focus on only one thing.
I also spoke to Andreas and Steve Merrett – UK PR for Bethesda – about upcoming Wolfenstein releases Youngblood and Cyberpilot in a desperate attempt to prize any details on them. I was unsuccessful. I did get a quote from Andreas regarding them: “They’re going to be great!” of which I don’t think there was ever any doubt, but still reassuring.
They did confirm that the next reveal would be happening very soon and hopefully after that we will have another opportunity to have a chat and dissect all the new information that will be coming out. Either way, it sounds like Wolfenstein is in very good and very capable hands.
Massive thanks go out to Andreas for allowing me some time with him, and once more a huge thank you must go out to the team at Yorkshire Games Festival for allowing the opportunity.