At this point I want to summarize where we are in the tropes and mythos of Castle Wolfenstein. Silas Warner introduced the following items:
- The player is captured and taken to Castle Wolfenstein – a place with a very bad reputation.
- The player must escape but not before finding plans about some big mission being planned in the future.
- While the player can escape with all guns blazing, they would be advised to use stealth whenever possible.
- The castle is filled with both enlisted soldiers and the dreaded SS. The SS seem to need a lot more fire power to be taken down.
Id Software expanded the mythos further in Wolfenstein 3D:
- The captured soldier now has a name BJ Blazkowicz, an American of Polish ancestry.
- The Nazis have expanded medical science by creating a serum that can bring the dead back to life in a zombie-like state.
- Further to this, they have adapted these bodies to support attached weapons.
- They have also created a large supply of chemical weapons and are in the process of actually using them against the Allies.
- The castle is also filled with treasure which we assume has been stolen from their oppressed. The player might as well take as much of it as possible as he escape.
- The castle also has plates of turkey diners waiting to be eaten!
- Certain characters are stronger than all the others (the bosses).
- Large, almost tank-like body armor is ready to be used by the Nazis.
- Events can take place in other castles/fortresses while still being a Wolfenstein game.
Id Software further expanded the mythos with Spear of Destiny:
- The Nazi leadership is prepared to go to any length to win, including occult means.
- Legends of the past can be used in current Nazi plans.
- The Nazis are further advanced than first thought in nuclear weaponry.
- The Nazis have a secret base in Norway devoted to nuclear research.
- Submarine pens are cool places.
- Through occult means, Hitler has been shown the future and has almost ready to deploy computer technology, powerful lasers and killer satellites.
- They also have advanced robotics with either computer or organic control.
Genesis of Return to Castle Wolfenstein (RtCW)
RtCW wasn’t released until November 2001 which gives us a lot of time to fill in. Id Software (or John Carmack really), worked out the issues with the floors and ceilings producing an architecture that looked more realistic. They incorporated it into their next smash hit Doom (and Doom II). Doom was described as 2.5D rather than 3D as the up and down dimension was still not fully implemented. That was fixed in their next game engine and game named Quake. The Quake engine was further refined and released in their game Quake II. Quake II was their first that supported a 3D graphics card but a non-3D display option was possible. The 3D engine was further refined and now exclusively needed a 3D graphics card to run. The third Quake game, Quake III Arena used this new game engine and now supported curved surfaces, 32 bit color and shaders. This game engine was one of the most popular and was licensed to other companies and produced other popular games such as Soldier of Fortune II, American McGee’s Alice and of course, Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
- The actual game creation was undertaken by a company called Gray Matter Studios. The company had been newly formed from Xatrix Entertainment Inc that had previously created games such as the Redneck Rampage series. They were partially owned by Activision.
- They had a prior business arrangement with id Software, having produced Quake II: The Reckoning, an expansion mission for Quake II.
- Id Software took an executive producer position with the game development. They certainly provided help with the Quake III game engine but it isn’t clear how much direction they provided with the actual game content.
- There was some competition between Gray Matter Studios and Raven Software over developing the game. Gray Matter favored a Wolfenstein 3D reprisal while Raven Software wanted to try something different. Gray Matter was chosen by id Software for the game. Raven Software got their chance to express their ideas in the later Wolfenstein game.
Games had changed in the eight years between Wolfenstein 3D and RtCW. By the end of the 1990’s, it was expected that a first person shooter game have a plot, support certain primary objectives with perhaps secondary objectives introduced as needed and have a reason for every action within the game. What had dropped away from these games were the concept of a score, the collecting of objects (treasures?) with no apparent usage and except when the plot required it, specific kill counts and timed levels. Secret areas were still being used but secret levels were not used unless they could be worked in as optional secondary missions.
The RtCW team was sensitive to the game’s heritage and they certainly took a look at what makes a Wolfenstein game. The exact parts that were chosen from such a list, we will discover as we work through the game.
Two interviews with Drew Markham of Gray Matter are available here and here. Also an interview with Todd Hollenshead is here. This last one is from Nvidia so the emphasis is on the graphics engine rather than the game. A list of all the game credits can be found in this link.
Finally, we are ready to start the game! The next entry will be about the starting ‘film’ created by Blur Studio that runs before the game begins properly.