Verdun is a squad-based multiplayer FPS set during the First World War. The game was inspired by the infamous Battle of Verdun in 1916, and includes historically accurate features. These include authentic WW1 weaponry, historical maps based on sectors of the Western Front, and authentic uniforms and equipment. The game immerses you audiovisually into one of the bloodiest conflicts ever fought in Europe.
It’s been in Early Access for a while now, but is set for a full release soon (TBA). We talked to them a while ago, so we thought we’d catch up with the devs and talk game engines, community feedback and how its coming along.
Why did you decide to make a WW1 FPS?
One of our team members visited the Verdun region when he was a child, and it made a great impression on him. We also have some friends who own a house near Verdun (and who have done some archaeological digging there), whom we sometimes visit. At Verdun especially, the remnants of the battle (rifles, grenades and even bones!) can still be found sticking out of the ground in the many forests that surround the town, so it is not hard to be impressed, interacting with history which may be 100 years old, but is still very much a part of the environment there today.
Needless to say, we did a lot of additional research. When the members of the team first got together, at university, the idea to create a game with Verdun as its central theme was formed pretty quickly. Being big FPS fans ourselves, we chose to make it a shooter because it gave us the best opportunity to fully immerse players in the action. Verdun was also chosen as the name for the game, as the battle is regarded as the epitome of the futility and struggle of the war, especially in Germany and France and the European memory.
There aren’t that many WW1 FPS games on the market, are there? Why do you think that is?
Well, there are several reasons. First, there is the narrative, which is nuanced and has no clear Nazi-like villains, which makes it harder to create a compelling story without fantasy elements (such as time travel or zombies).
Secondly, there’s the collective knowledge which dictates that all battles were fought in the same horrible fashion as those in 1916 , whereas the actual conflict, the types of battles fought, were as diverse as during the second world war. For instance, the fighting in 1918 was as mobile and varied as it was in 1939. So with our game, we tried to bring this variation back in the level design, which is trench-based but has mobile elements as well.
Lastly, there is a distinct lack of variation in the weaponry, with most of it being bolt-action rifles. In an age of ‘1001 unlocks’ and model re-skins, this could be considered somewhat limiting. But we took this element of Verdun and turned it into an asset, such as with the hard-core Rifle Deathmatch mode, which is a no-nonsense game mode using only these weapons. This makes kind of a change from the ‘kill streak’-craze we’ve seen in recent years. I should also add that we’ve tried to give an accurate portrayal of the battles, and this is embedded deep in the gameplay on all levels, for example, in the attack and counter-attack mechanism. Modern shooters (as we found out during the alpha) are not very well-suited to accurately representing the way that battles really took place.
What’s your proudest moment so far in Verdun‘s development?
Our proudest moment was probably when we looked at the reviews and comments on the game from the ‘Christmas truce’ sales offer we ran. People were very enthusiastic about the game, some even thanking us personally for our efforts. Also, interacting with people in-game while actually playing it is always a proud moment. Besides that, showing the game to a load of people at EGX in London was a great moment, and at that point we kind of realized that it’s all real!
Cool! You’re very active on Verdun‘s Steam forum, seeking opinions and feedback and interacting with the community, so how do you strike the balance between what they want and what your vision for the game is?
Well, we’re at a unique and troublesome crossroads with this game, between realistic features and accessible first person shooter mechanics. Players who are more used to either way are very fierce in their opinions (especially from the realism side of things), and things can never be real or accurate enough. Sometimes it does feel like we’re negotiating compromises and that some sort of political game is going on. During our lengthy Open Beta process, we made numerous changes to the gameplay and the community was a big contributor to that. If somebody posts a rant about something, we generally don’t take it literally, but we acknowledge that they originate from an experience somebody had with the game. So reading between the lines of both the fanboys and the haters gives us an overall idea of how the game is being perceived, what’s working, and what not. For instance, we added bullet physics based on an overwhelming number of requests for it. But apart from all that, we have certain core concepts which we are sticking with, such as the squad system and its levelling-up. This is new and people don’t understand it yet, so they tend to respond somewhat dramatically!