Reinventing Wolfenstein – An Interview With Andreas Öjerfors

The Wolfenstein games are a staple series in the gaming community, going through many changes since the first title back in 1981. It’s such an iconic franchise and it’s only gotten bigger and better, with millions of players exploring the rebooted titles that started back up in 2009. Relaunching a much-loved game franchise is no easy feat though, and no-one know that better than Andreas Öjerfors, senior games designer on Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

GameByte had the opportunity to sit down with Öjerfors at the Yorkshire Games Festival 2019, to talk about his time at MachineGames, the history of Wolfenstein and his many achievements in gaming.

Credit: Bethesda

As senior games designer, Öjerfors has helped shape and create the latest iteration of the Wolfenstein games, and his passion for the franchise is more than evident. I wanted to know which part of the development process Öjerfors enjoyed the most.

“Pre-production is something I love a lot,” he says. “That’s when you can be free and go nuts with what you want to create. In pre-production I have to reign it in a bit and make it something you can build, something more realistic. But pre-production is a lot of fun because of the freedom you have.

“At a later stage, when you start building the game, and you have to find the fun in it, you know, when you have to tweak whatever you build to actually make it fun.”

As fun as creating games can be, it’s also a difficult process, and if you’re thinking about getting into the field, be prepared to be terrible, says Öjerfors.

“The truth is with any of the games really today they were terrible games for at least half of [their] production, right? Because it alway starts out that way. You make a lot of presumptions about how it’s gonna work and what’s going to be fun – you’re going to be partially right for a lot of it and you’re going to be dead wrong for a few things. Even the stuff that you’re wrong about it’s something you’re going to have to tweak and massage and fix, until you find the position where the gameplay really clicks. That’s also a fun portion of it.”

The latest Wolfenstein games received critical acclaim and introduced a new generation of gamers to one of the oldest franchises in gaming. With so much praise for the fresh and innovative take on the series, I wanted to know what Öjerfors was most proud of.

“I’m not sure it’s so much about new innovative features as kind of the blend of features that we had, and the style in which we presented it,” Öjerfors tells me. “It’s like if you compare it to cooking it’s not necessarily about finding completely new ingredients, it’s about how you mix the ingredients, which ingredients you use.

“One feature that I think made our Wolfenstein stand apart from other shooters was the dual-wielding. Dual-wielding weaponry. That’s not a new feature, but it hadn’t been used for a long time and it really added to this really intense, mayhem-style combat that we wanted for Wolfenstein.”

Credit: Bethesda

In terms of innovating the franchise, you don’t get much more innovative than the critically-acclaimed Wolfenstein: The New Order, and I was keen to hear how the idea came about.

The New Order moved away from the ’40s WW2 era into the ’60s in a new setting, an altered history setting. Partly the reason for doing that is it’s a really cool idea, and I think another reasons was that WW2 was pretty boring and done at that point,” admits Öjerfors. “WW2 was almost like a running joke at that period in time because there had been so many games in that setting that people were really tired of WW2 games. It’s coming back now, it’s pretty popular again now, because the setting has had the chance to rest for a number of years. But I think that’s one of the reasons why The New Order was so popular, because it was Wolfenstein but in a fresh, new setting.”

As for reshaping the franchise and making it what it is today, Öjerfors credits Bethesda and id Software for giving MachineGames a lot of freedom when it comes to decision-making.

“The Wolfenstein series is a bit different from maybe other game series because [it’s] been done by a number of different studios and they kind of went in different directions. You’ve had Wolfenstein games since the early ’80s.

“I think that we had the luxury of working with an IP that we both a) loved and b) had a lot of freedom to create the sort of game we wanted, the Wolfenstein we wanted. So I haven’t really felt that we were limited in the sort of game we wanted to make. I think Wolfenstein is the sort of franchise where you can explore new territory without breaking what is Wolfenstein. As long as you’re sensitive to certain aspects of what Wolfenstein is etc.”

Delving deeper into the pros of working with the gaming behemoth that is Bethesda, Öjerfors spoke about how important creative license and trust are when tackling an existing IP.

“Bethesda’s been great because they understand that to create great games… first you work with the talented studios, and then you kind of leave them alone and allow them to create something new and something fresh and cool – that’s something Bethesda really understands. That’s why we have the new Wolfenstein games and really great games like Dishonored and Prey and all those sort of games.”

Credit: Bethesda

2018 and 2019 saw the release of dozens of remakes and remasters, designed to hit nostalgic players in the feels and drive sales, but if you’re hoping for a remake of some of the older Wolfenstein games, you might be out of luck.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to make a remake or something like that because we just want to create new things and new experiences. We don’t want to rediscover the same territory, we want to find new territory and make new great things. Working together with Bethesda and id, they really bought into our vision for what we wanted Wolfenstein to become, so that was never a problem with us.”

There’s a lot more to Andreas Öjerfors than just Wolfenstein though, and I wanted to know if there’s any other Bethesda franchises he’d be keen to offer his take on.

“I’d love to work on an Elder Scrolls game, I think, because I love Elder Scrolls. I love working with these grand, open, fancy worlds. It’s where I kind of started making games. I did an MMORPG called Age of Conan, and the sensation of working with a team to build a world, filling it out with different characters and small nooks and crannies, stories and missions… it’s a great, great adventure to make a game like that.”

Credit: GameByte

As all Wolfenstein fans know, there’s some exciting things planned for the future of the franchise. Staying tight-lipped on the matter, Öjerfors simply told us that if he could take the series anywhere, he’d take it exactly where it’s already headed.

“We as a studio, we are taking Wolfenstein where we want to take it, we have that freedom and that support from Bethesda and id. I think we’ve worked with Wolfenstein for so long that it’s kind of ours now,” says Öjerfors. “It belongs to MachineGames and not id anymore, so I think we’re kind of doing what we want to do with it. If you see where we want to take it into the future then just stay tuned and check out whenever we drop more info about Young Blood.”

A big thanks to Andreas Öjerfors for talking to us. Check out what he’s up to next over on Twitter!

GameByte was the official media partner of Yorkshire Games Festival.

Featured Image Credit: Bethesda.