At this year’s Gamescom, I was able to not only play a lot of incredibly interesting and very promising developers – but I also got to ask a series of questions to a bunch of very talented developers. While I previously asked developers a lot of questions in regards to their person, the games they were making and somewhat unimportant parts, I wanted to focus more on a few good questions and get to the point of it, essentially.
Hence, I present to you the first of many dev interviews that I’ve been working on for the past couple of days.
In this interview, I asked Jörg Friedrich, the game director of Paintbucket Games, five questions about their upcoming title, The Darkest Files. Paintbucket Games is a German Indie studio that is known for their work on Through the Darkest of Times as well as Beholder 3 (Here’s my review on that!).
Just like Through the Darkest of Times, The Darkest Files is about Nazi Germany. In my opinion, the studio does an amazing job at spreading awareness of the events of said dark times while also providing the player with an interesting experience.
While their first game placed you directly into Nazi Germany where you’d manage a resistance group that is opposing the Nazi regime, The Darkest Files plays a decade later. The Darkest Files is a historical investigation and courtroom game based on true crimes of the Nazi era. You investigate cold cases, search for clues, interrogate witnesses, immerse the crimes and defend your case in court to bring the perpetrators to justice.
You can wishlist this game on Steam over here! I played the demo for a fair bit at this year’s Gamescom and I can say that it not only looks stunning but it also is a rather immersive experience that really pulls you in until you solve the case.
What is The Darkest Files about?
The Darkest Files is about an investigator/prosecutor in Germany/West Germany in the 1950s, eleven years after the end of World War II. You’re part of a young team of prosecutors without ties to the old regime and your job is to investigate Nazi Crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Are these cases based on real cases that actually happened?
Yes. The prosecutor you’re playing is fictional. There was never an Esther Katz – but the cases were real.
What was the most challenging part of your work on The Darkest Files?
Actually, finding the genre.
We previously worked on Through the Darkest of Times, our last/first game, which was a narrative strategy game about a resistance group in the Nazi time. And after developing Through the Darkest of Times, we were thinking: “Well, what happened afterwards? What happened to the victims? What happened to the perpetrators afterwards?” – So, we found the story of Fritz Bauer who was a general prosecutor in Germany who really lived and who was chasing down Nazi criminals.
We found the story super fascinating, so we thought “Let’s make a game about this” and our first idea was to make it a similar game to Through The Darkest of Times – because that’s what we just did. We were thinking about making it a management game where you send out investigators on a map and you chase down Nazis and so on.
But then we realised that this wouldn’t do the cases justice as we wanted to use real cases. So, this kind of strategy game – that would require lots of cases, maybe randomization, and all kinds of other things – wouldn’t be appropriate for the topic.
So, we switched and we made it a first-person investigator game. We made the player a fixed character and lost all of the strategy elements – and turned this into a pure investigation game.
What was the most fun/interesting part of development? Or rather: What is something in this game that you’re really satisfied with?
I’m really happy with the “immersive mode”, as we call it.
As a prosecutor, you’ll have to talk to witnesses a lot and interview them. We were thinking about a way to make this less “talky” in a way and more exciting and interesting. So, we came up with an “immersive mode” where you imagine what [happened based on what the witness is telling you]. And then, instead of having a regular dialogue tree, you can interact with objects and people in that mode.
So, that was an idea. We didn’t know if it would work – but it worked. We really like it. We think that it’s lots of fun. So that was fun to develop!
Yeah, that certainly did look really interesting. What was it that made you want to switch from a 2D environment to a 3D environment/First-Person in the first place?
There was this problem that we sort of ran into. In Through the Darkest of Times, even with it being a strategy game, everything felt very emotional and impactful because you were there when it happened. The (…) crimes of the Nazis were really affecting you and your group.
Now, with this game, we are eleven years past that and we’re talking to people about things that [happened] a long time ago – which is very indirect and less emotional. We wanted to have more emotional impact and we wanted you to feel like you were actually there – so that led to the First-Person perspective.
I had a blast interviewing Jörg Friedrich this time around and I’m incredibly excited about the release of The Darkest Files. Make sure to wishlist the game if you haven’t yet! Wishlists help developers out a lot on Steam. Furthermore, I believe that it’s important to talk about these events – and a well-made game is a great medium to do exactly that.
On another note, I did ask Jörg Friedrich another question about what his advice is for aspiring developers – but you’ll find his answer in a post that I’ll link here once it’s out. In that post, I’ll compile the answers of a lot of different publishers and developers together into one article. Look forward to that!