Interview with Verdun dev BlackMill Games

Interview with Verdun dev BlackMill Games

A while ago we’ve previewed Verdun, the collaboration of M2H and BlackMill Games. We’ve had a chance to sit down with Jos Hoebe from BlackMill Games, one of the developers of Verdun. The team behind Verdun is small as it is made out of three core people: the two brothers from M2H and Hoebe himself from BlackMill. A few freelancers have joined the team to work on animations and mapping, creating weapons and new characters but the core team is made out of only three people. Considering the size of Verdun, this is an achievement on its own as Verdun is a multiplayer first-person shooter set in World War I. The game is based on the trench warfare during that time and it comes back in several elements of the game – mostly in the turn-based gameplay itself. The turn-based gameplay is refreshing and even more so because it’s based on squads. “Other games have done squads but we are really trying to take it to the next level. So we introduced a squad leveling system and this system opens up historical content.”, Hoebe explains. He also mentions that they are trying to create the game as accurately as possible by putting in “a lot of research and details into the levels, weapons and uniforms. They’re all as accurate as we can make them and that is another big point of the game.” When asked to describe Verdun, Hoebe sums it up in “three elements: the trench warfare, the historical accuracy and the squad gameplay.”

Verdun-flanders

The main inspiration for the concept of Verdun came when Hoebe used to visit the area as a child with his friends, who were amateur archeologists. According to Hoebe, they explored the area together and discovered artifacts belonging to the first World War. “That was really the main inspiration,” says Hoebe. Opting for a collaboration with M2H came years later when Hoebe went to university, where he met Mike from M2H. Together, they wanted to create a game and the subject of Verdun came to light. “Later his brother joined and then we sort of worked on the project on a hobby basis. Early 2013, we decided to pick it up professionally. Since then we’ve been working on Verdun full-time.” Hoebe further adds.

Visiting the area as a child was the first inspiration for the game, other inspiration comes in many different forms. Hoebe explains that “There is also a lot of literature available, plenty of books on specific details such as the little buttons on uniforms. I got a lot of material on that so that has definitely been a great inspiration. There are a lot of fans on the internet who like to help us to make sure that the game is historical correct as well.” Of course, games inspire other games. The team behind Verdun “used to play a lot of multiplayer first-person shooters like the Battlefield series as a squad.” but without futher ado, let’s jump right in the interview.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect to develop Verdun?

When we started out in 2013, we wanted to make a simple game. As time progressed we wanted to make a more accurate game. We found out that the simple mechanics of the game were not sufficient enough to portray the World War I type of war. Over the course of a year, while we were in early access -or beta- players tested the game and we incrementally updated the gameplay to reflect more of an accurate trench warfare scenario such as the attack and counter-attack phase, spawning in certain times, making the map accessible only on certain parts and being dynamic. This was all developed over time and this was quite challenging because you didn’t foresee this.

verdun-german officer

Q: How will you continue to attract the players? I assume that Verdun is a standalone game but I don’t think you will be adding DLC’s?

I wouldn’t use the term DLC but content in the future is certainly possible. In a few days we will be launching a massive update that is a combination of three new squads, gas and a new map. We’ve added another sector of the Western front that is going to be the new level. In the future we can add things like Belgian and American squads and much more.

Q: Will there also be additional game modes or are you purely focusing on maps?

We want to focus on making the Frontline game mode as perfect as possible so we’re not going to add any extra game modes at this point.

Q: The first World War has many great stories to be told. Will there be a single player campaign in the final build?

The game does lend itself for single player but this is a feature we really cannot tackle with the current resources. I am passionate about recreating the war and a single player would a great way to contribute to that but at this moment, no.

Q: Several new weapons are in the works. Can you reveal which weapons they are and will they be coming with the new squads in the new update?

So we have three new squads, one regular rifle squad which is British so we have the Lee Enfield and the Webley revolver. Of course there’s the Lewis gun with the drum on top of it which is really iconic. On the German side there will be a trench shovel which will act as a melee weapon for the assault squad, the Stormtroopers and there will be a submachine gun, the MP-18. Lastly we have the Canadian squad with focus on fighting at close range in the trenches, they will get a trench club. Additionally there are several trench knives added for close range fights but the biggest weapon that is going to be added is the gas as gas was very iconic in the war.

Verdun gameplay

Q: Most modern first person shooter games have a kill-cam and it has almost become a necessity and a standard in these games. Will the kill- cam be a feature implemented in Verdun in the future?

First of all, it requires a major architectural change because you have to be able to rewind the game. It seems like a simple feature but technically it is very hard to do. So that’s the first reason why we would not implement a kill-cam.

Secondly, there’s the fact that the options to effectively defending a trench line are slim once you know where the players are. Camping, as people tend to call it, is actually a feature in the game. A bit of detailed explanation of the gameplay is one side attacks and they get a certain amount of time to attack. This time is extended based on how well the attackers do. If they kill enough defenders, they have more time to attack. If you add a kill-cam, you will take away the defensive advantage that they have by camping because you know that he is behind that sandbag in that trench and you know he’s not going anywhere.

verdun-leveling system

Q: A unique feature in Verdun is the leveling system. At first glance this system is fairly complex. Why did you opt for a leveling system this large and can you elaborate on how the leveling system works?

I fully understand that it is really complicated and we’re about to implement a tutorial which explains the leveling system. For now it’s really a bit hidden from the players because we really want it to come out really well. We’re slowly trying to make the entire leveling system more transparent and more clear.

The level of the squad determines how well and how long the players have fought together, it is really nothing else. We could have done it as an individual player level but that does not reflect on how well people actually play together. The higher the squad level, the different the uniforms and abilities will be of the roles. They don’t have a gameplay advantage as it is very subtle. Aside from the uniform, there’s ability upgrades such as the gas for instance. Next to that, each role also has passive abilities. So each role has pros and cons and these also change when the level progresses. There’s a whole range of abilities, we’ve summed it up in the tech tree that is available in the game.

Verdun art

Q: Are there any other unique features that will set Verdun apart from other shooters?

The scenario itself of course. There are other shooters which have zombies and time-travel or something like that but never has there been a dedicated World War I shooter. Bigger companies thought it would be too big of a risk to tackle this but in our scenario it works well because we have the squads. For them it would be a step back in terms of content they want to deliver. The uniqueness of the game is the scenario as well.

Verdun is currently available in Early Access on Steam. An estimated release date is not yet known but Hoebe does mention that they “want to release the game when we think it’s a good quality game. We don’t want to say we will release on this date and fail to deliver.” As their initial goal was to “get the most of the content done by September”, I say they accomplished that as the biggest update will be released before EGX London which means it’s right around the corner. Additionally, we would like to thank the developers to take the time to sit down with us.

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Interview with Verdun dev BlackMill Games, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Drydwen


Hi! I'm Jess and Iā€™m a writer, dreamer and gamer at heart since the early ages. I primarily game on PC but occasionally also on PS4 and Xbox One. I have a tiny obsession for World of Warcraft and caterpillars but you may also claim I have a devoted passion for the gaming industry in general. If you want to hit me up, find me on twitter!

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