Interview, Video Games

Interview With M2H And Blackmill Games

It’s not easy developing a decent game set during the events of the first world war. That’s why when we get one, it’s truly a reason to rejoice. The great minds over at M2H and Blackmill Games have given us not one, but two amazing WW1 first person shooters this generation. Those who know me know that I’m a huge military history buff, so when ever I can get my hands on a historical wargame I’m definitely going to geek out.

I’ve been following WW1 Game Series for quiet some time. Ever since I saw the first screenshots of Verdun I was immediately hooked. I’m a PlayStation gamer exclusively, so watching the PC get handed all the great wargames was discouraging. That’s not the route M2H and Blackmill took. They made sure to deliver their amazing experiences to console players leading the way for historical Mil-Sims to cross over in the future. It’s something I will always admired about them, and is why I’ll always be a fan.


Interview

Tannenburg

1)Tell me a little about your company, and your team of developers. 

We’re actually two companies! M2H and Blackmill Games work together on the WW1 Game Series. Both Dutch, and based in Alkmaar. The studios came together behind a common vision: a historically authentic WW1 game that would be something different to the typical FPS. Our collaboration led to the creation of Verdun, and the rest is history.

 

2)What is your favorite part about developing a historical wargame?

You get to do a lot of fascinating historical research, and it’s amazing when everything comes together and you realize you’ve created something that really captures the time period. We have a few comparison images where you can see a location in the game and the reference photo that inspired it.

 

3) How much time goes into researching a location of a war fought over 100 years ago?

A lot! We don’t try to exactly recreate battlefields because we want to be able to balance them for gameplay reasons, but we do make sure to create a space that has the feel of a real battlefield. All of our map props are based on careful research, from photos and drawings to memoirs and discussions with historians. For instance, our ‘Poland’ map doesn’t match any real village from 1914-1918, but the individual parts of the map – the buildings, the fields, the airstrip, and so on – are all based off real places we’ve come across during research.

 

4)Did any members of your team get to test out WW1 era firearms to aid them in development? 

Our research trips have given us a chance to handle some firearms from the era. But we’ve also benefited greatly from the generosity of various reenactment groups and historians who have shared their knowledge and experience with real firearms that we haven’t been able to get hands-on with ourselves!

 

5)Would you consider Verdun and Tannenburg a military arcade shooter, or a WW1 military simulator? 

Honestly, it’s something in between, leaning towards simulator. We are making a game rather than a pure simulator, and there are some concessions towards entertainment value in things like mission objectives, interface hints to help players with things like identifying their allies, and allowing players to use weapons and squads from across the war in any battle they like.

 

The weapons and uniforms featured in Tannenberg are as authentic as possible, from their 3D models to their firing sounds. As we mentioned before, the items and structures you see in maps are also highly accurate.

Verdun

6)In such an over saturated market, how does Verdun and Tannenburg stick out from the rest of the pack?

First off, WW1 shooter games aren’t the most common – we released Verdun years before BF1 was announced for instance, and there still aren’t a lot of WW1 shooters out there. Secondly, we aim for a more thoughtful and authentic take on the war than games like BF1, while being less hardcore than something like the ARMA series. It’s perfect for people who want to get some sense of how it might have felt to be present on a First World War battlefield, without needing to train for it 😉

 

7)When developing a WW1 era shooter, what is more important: Fun gameplay or historical accuracy? 

There’s usually a compromise to be found! We chose not to simulate specific battles so that players could use weapons, nations and uniforms from across the war in any match they play. But we have not changed how weapons function to make them all balanced – there are some outdated weapons in the game (like the single shot Werndl M1873/77 rifle) which are simply not as good as other guns. They’re included so players can challenge themselves or just experience using these guns. 

 

8)If you could add one new game mechanic to the franchise what would that be?

Something to allow players to build defences and weapons on the battlefield would be a great addition – for instance allowing defenders to put up wire at key points, while attackers can cut through it to make paths, would be very cool. You could even extend such a system out to include putting up machine guns or supply posts, etc.

 

9)With a majority of console players playing with AI, do you plan on expanding Verdun and Tannenburg’s single player experience? 

Both games feature AI support for their main game modes, and the ability for players to set up custom matches which includes choosing weather conditions, setting specific squads for the AI to use, and more options. Verdun also features a 1-4 player coop defense mode against waves of increasingly numerous AI attackers.

 

However, we don’t have any plans to expand the single player of Verdun or Tannenberg. To do justice to the First World War in some kind of single player campaign would be far too resource heavy for our studios.

 

10)Being the beginnings of armored warfare, could players expect to see a small addition of tanks in the franchise? 

Tanks are featured in the maps of Verdun in the form that most soldiers would have encountered them – disabled or bogged down. Commanding and fighting WW1 tanks would not be an entertaining gameplay experience in our opinion – it could make for a fascinating simulation game, but such a game would have to be built from the ground up. We’re focused on infantry combat, and so have no plans to add playable tanks.

Abandoned Tank In Verdun

11)Piggybacking off the previous question, could players see a role for aircraft in a future update or entry?

Aircraft are included as call-ins that players can use, primarily for recon. The battlefields of Verdun and Tannenberg are sizable, but still much too small for playable aircraft. You will certainly see them crossing above you though!

 

12)Now that the Western and Eastern front have been covered, can we expect to see the Gallipoli campaign with the Ottoman Empire in the future?

Let’s just say that we’re not done with the WW1 Game Series yet. There are several theaters of the war yet unexplored…

 

13)Do you have any plans on providing paid DLC for Verdun and Tannenberg in the foreseeable future? New squads or weapon packages?

We have no plans for releasing paid DLC for Verdun and Tannenberg. The updates for those games, including new content, have always been free. It’s possible that we would consider paid DLC for future releases, but it would need to meet some strict constraints. We’d never go for anything pay to win, so you’d be looking at cosmetic, historically correct visual content.

 

14)With the upcoming release of the next generation of consoles on the horizon, how do you plan on making that jump?

The first indicators suggest that the new platforms are even more accessible than the previous generation. Combined with the extremely powerful hardware, it should only make our job easier in terms of getting better quality to console players.

 

15)Could you give any hints to your friends at 101 Militia Gaming about any potential projects you’re working on?

As we said before, we’re not done with the WW1 Game Series. We will say this – any new title will include a new signature game mode to match the predominant style of combat seen in the theater. There are some interesting ideas going around the office!


If you haven’t checked out Verdun or Tannenberg be sure to do so! Not only are they both deeply immersive, they are both highly accessible to players of all skill levels. Let us know your experiences with WW1 Game Series in the comments below!

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