MachineGames, or MachineGames Sweden AB as it is officially known, is one of the most prolific European studios at the moment. They became known in 2014 with the extraordinary Wolfenstein: The New Orderand have since developed more than half a dozen titlesmost of which have continued to exploit this franchise that popularized idSoftware in the early nineties. Along the way they have also developed some other spin-off of the quake seriesand, at the moment, they are working on a new project starring Indiana Jonesin which Todd Howardone of the greats of Bethesdawill serve as producer.
With such a production behind them, the studio’s humble origins are surprising. Based in Uppsala, one of the largest metropolises in Sweden, it was founded in 2009 by seven employees of Starbreeze Studiosthe same studio responsible for myths as The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Baywhose trajectory we reviewed not long ago, or as the often forgotten The Darkness, based on the homonymous comic. Five of its developers, Kjell Emanuelsson, Jerk Gustafsson, Jim Kjellin, Fredrik Ljungdahl, Jens Matthies, decided to leave the study in 2009 during the development of Syndicate. They were joined shortly after by Michael Wynne and Magnus Högdahl, who incidentally had once been one of the founders of Starbreeze.
The reasons for its abandonment are complex. On the one hand, the studio had grown enormously, with up to a hundred workers on the payroll at the time, so many They wanted a change of scenery and a return to the origins, simpler in comparison. On the other hand, the development of Syndicate it was complicated. The relationship with Electronic Arts, who managed the license, was very difficult. Still it was not an easy decision. According to Matthies: “When we left Starbreeze we had been there for about eleven or twelve years. We had invested so much in the company, so much of our time, all of our creative energy had been poured into the company for over a decade, so it was very scary to leave. all that back.”
A new beginning for MachineGames
Founding a new studio is an adventure that always excites but also one that can end the career of its developers. The beginnings of MachineGames were not easy at all. None of the production companies to which they proposed projects decided to bet on them. To the point that they spent more than a year with their arms crossed, looking for that company that wanted to publish one of their ideas. According to Matthies: “The first thing we did was brainstorm all kinds of different concepts. And then we pitched them to various publishers. That was basically our first year and a half.” In the end, against all odds, the one who answered his call was Bethesda.
“‘Is someone working with Wolfenstein?’ They told me ‘no, no one is with it’. We asked them politely if we could use it.” (Jens Matthies)
The year 2009 was an interesting one for the corporation. Zenimax Media, the company that manages the study, had just bought that same year id Software, responsible, among others, for the sagas Doom Y of the quake. It is a stage of growth in which Bethesda multiplies its operations, publishing all kinds of titles such as Rogue Warrior, Wet either Brinkoften dismal failures. So when the Starbreeze veterans knock on his door, they don’t think twice. They signed on to collaborate with the studio on the development of a new video game, though not on one of the many original ideas they had devised during that hiatus, but one based on one of the franchises under his belt. And then Matthies launched the question: “‘Is there someone working with Wolfenstein?’ They told me ‘no, no one is with it’. We asked them politely if we could use it.”
This is how the development of Wolfenstein: The New Order begins. A reimagining of the classic Wolfenstein 3D in which the Nazis have won the war and its protagonist, BJ Blazkowicz fights with the resistance. MachineGames developers, some of whom had started in the industry developing mods for id Software gamesThey felt like kids with new shoes. They flew to Mesquite, where their headquarters were then located, to meet their heroes. Says Gustafsson: “It was a big thing for me. I remember when we got there Tim Willits went to get us coffee. It was a big experience for me. He was extremely nice.”
Wolfenstein’s New Order
The signing with Bethesda couldn’t have come at a better time. The study, inactive for more than a year, was on the brink of bankruptcy. According to Matthies: “When the Bethesda deal was closed, I was about a week away from having to sell my apartment. There were no other avenues left to borrow more. We had even borrowed from our families. There was nothing left to squeeze. In the end everything was solved as in a fairy tale”. Its developers knew how to rise to the occasion. And also the name of the franchise. Especially after the previous reboot of the series in 2009, by RavenSoftware, which was not very well received by the community. MachineGames spent three years working on the project, which came to light in mid-2014. It was a success. Its aesthetics, its careful gameplay and its music captivated the players. In this house we define it as “a very funny proposal of crazy, hysterical and wild action”.
The studio grew by leaps and bounds, becoming, over time, a company as big as, or bigger than, Starbreeze.
Matthies defined his development this way: “We basically did the same process that we always do. We filtered out the ideas that we think were the main ones and we want to support and we started building on that. And it was incredibly important that whatever we did we had the blessing of id. The last thing we “We wanted to make a game that didn’t feel like it kept what Wolfenstein is. We tried to nail what Wolfenstein was and when we felt like we had it, we focused on combat, and that’s what The New Order became.” The reception was so good that, just a year later, MachineGames published a kind of expansion titled The Old Blood, which was also very well received. Since then, Bethesda decides to entrust the license to these Swedish developers, who have become strong with titles as extraordinary as Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
The studio grew by leaps and bounds, becoming, over time, a company as big as, or bigger than, Starbreeze. Which, by the way, Gustafsson assures that more than half of his staff came from there. It is undeniable that the brain drain affected the studio, although they knew how to overcome it, starting to work on other types of projects that are smaller in comparison, such as Brothers: A tale of Two Sons. Meanwhile MachineGames becomes one of the leading studios in Sweden, and after the purchase of Zenimax by Microsoftin one of the main Xbox Game Studios development teams. Pending that game about Indiana Jones, and a third of Blazkowicz’s adventures, the studio’s future is very promising.