Inga Mittendorf, Associate Producer at Replay Studios
What challenges did the German-based team face when creating a World War II game?
The topic is a lot less sensitive among people of our generation than it would seem. From early on, schoolchildren are taught about the crucial historical period of WWII. We have developed a critical view on the things that happened 60 years ago. Our generation has learned to talk about our past from childhood on, we accept that our country has this cruel and embarrassing past and by dealing with this topic we can assure that these atrocities are never forgotten. However, we feel enlightened enough not be intimidated by the topic anymore - we consciously make it a topic! The reality is that WWII happened many generations before, so we, the young people, should not feel guilty about it but instead make sure by open discussions and critical thinking that we never let this happen again.
But indeed, there are challenges and limitations when you use this era as subject matter for a game in Germany. A simple one is that you are not allowed to use symbols like swastika and show them in your game, no matter whether it is with a politically correct purpose or not. Although the message of the game is definitely anti-Nazi. For us, this is not really understandable as the position of the player during the game is always politically correct and he does not even have the choice on which side he/she wants to be. They are always against the Nazis. So, when all this is clear, why can’t we print the swastika on the Nazi vehicles?
We can comprehend that people - even Germans - at first have a sceptical stance on the idea of using a serious, sad and dramatic topic like WWII in a “game” (which usually is meant to be fun). There is this fear of abusing our cruel past. This is why we decided for a female main character, who is less brutal (in some ways) and the whole purpose of the game is not “running around and shooting as much as you can”, but instead we chose the stealth-genre, which enhances the concept of the game a lot. People who saw the game give the same feedback and think that our way of dealing with the topic looks “healthy” and “grown up”.
Of course, one of the biggest focal points of the game is the main character. Our female heroine, Violette Summer, who was inspired by Violette Szabo, a real woman who went behind enemy lines and fought for the British MI6. Fighting for revenge against the Germans killing her husband during the war. The real Violette had only a few missions, but we based our main character on a woman like her. You don’t play through Szabo’s real life - our missions are fictional. However, knowing that this could have taken place makes it that more exciting, and actually there were many female spies who fulfilled such missions.
Furthermore, we tried to base the game on historically true locations, did research on uniforms, cars, weapons and all small details of that time. For example, for the dishes soldiers use in an old bunker we took pictures from some of our grandmother’s china and implemented that into the game. Things of that nature to bring the reality home.
Did the team meet with Violette’s daughter, Tania Szabo, or any other family members?
We had phone contact with her as we need to ask for permission using her mother’s name but she did not have interest of being in public. We of course respected this and so we did our best to separate the two. However, we have to admit that we would have liked to get some of the material from Violette Szabo into the game or in our background story, like for example some of the poems from her. But the utmost respect for her family’s feelings and requests is definitely of higher importance to us.
Why did the game’s name get changed from Sabotage?
We wanted the title to put the main Character more into the centre of attention. We feel we found a title with Velvet Assassin that both fits to Violette’s female appearance as well as her stealthy missions.
Peter Chung is a real icon in his genre and so we decided to ask him for this project. Thankfully he agreed on doing a comic on Velvet Assassin, which was super exciting for us. Now, that I have seen the comic I can say that he did a really good job because the way he designed it fits perfectly into the vibe of the game and therefore really contributes to it. I am sure any graphic novel, WWII or stealth action reader will love it! That said, it will only come with the preorders of the game – so hurry to get your Chung-comic!
There are said to be a massive number of stealth kills for the title, did any need to be scaled back for ESRB reasons?
No, that was not the case. We always planned on getting an M-rating, so we did not have to make any changes.
How much replayability is there in Velvet Assassin?
Off the top of my head I can think of four major reasons to replay the game:
- Check out alternative approaches how to get through the game, which can mean playing it more action-oriented or vice versa.
- Upgrading Violette’s abilities in a different way, which can mean upgrading the morphine instead of the stealth, etc.
- Unlock the missing achievements or fight for a better mission rating within the single missions.
- Master Velvet Assassin also in its "Agent" Level of Difficulty.
What is your favorite achievement in the game?
My favorite achievement is definitely the “Blast ‘em”-one, where you have to trigger five grenades on your Nazi enemies without being detected by them. So, you sneak behind the first soldier without making a sound, and if you get close enough to his back you decide to pull the pin from his own grenade, located at his belt. Then he is blown up in a sweet explosion! Sometimes you can even take out other guards around him if you time it right…
What does this game have to offer for those who aren’t already fans of the stealth genre?
This game is absolutely perfect for those who aren’t yet fans of this game genre. The controls are easy to understand and the fact that we decided against a million different pieces of equipment allows the gamer to concentrate on the action of his heroine. It’s a great introduction to the stealth genre, asking players to think hard about a situation before running in – necessity is the mother of invention – and I think you’ll find a lot of strategies for solving any given mission. Furthermore, we have two different levels of difficulty, so you can start in the easier mode to get yourself acclimated to the stealth genre. Then there is another aspect, which makes the game worth playing for new stealth-gamers: we’ve got a very creative approach to the game and so Velvet Assassin impresses the gamer with an interesting story outline with exciting missions, fantastic dynamic lighting, a gloomy and surreal atmosphere, intense sound design, and interesting dialogues. So there is definitely a lot for everyone in the game-no matter if you are a stealth-pro or a starter!
Velvet Assassin comes out next week for the Xbox 360 and PC. We'd like to thank Inga Mittendorf for her time, and remind everyone to check back next week for our review of Velvet Assassin.