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Requiem for a soldier: 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg

Sunday, 29 January 2012 01:04 GMT By Julie Horup

A much loved indie is getting a second lease on life. Julie Horup checks in with the dinosaurs, tank maggots, and WWI trenches of 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg.

1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg

An unusual first person horror game with an emphasis on survival, not combat.

A product of The National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment, picked up for professional releases by macbody games.

Student version available online.

I’m stuck in a trench, alone and terrified. Above me a war is being fought, but there’s absolutely no sign of life down here. It’s dark, cold, wet, and I’m fighting for my life against an enemy I never could have imagined possible. While painful screams resonate in the trenches, I see some kind of shadowy figure in the distance, and then I know: This literally is hell on earth.

But, actually, it’s not hell. It’s 1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg, an indie game build around a soldier lost in the trenches during World War 1. But despite taking place during a war, it’s nothing like we’ve seen from war-riddled games before. Instead the player is hopelessly confused and lost, clinging on to a precious life and about to meet the harbinger of death: a dinosaur.

However, despite being invaded by dinosaurs and various other hellish creatures, 1916 at its core isn’t about fighting extinct animals; it’s not about a doomed soldier; nor is it about shooting guns until the war is won. It’s about fear.

“We aimed at hitting one note on the player’s emotional palette and that was fear,” said game director David Adler.

“One of the qualities inherent in the game is creating a bigger experience for the player than what is actually in the game. This opens the universe for carrying the player deeper into the psychology of terror, not just a mere flesh wound.”

While fear is and always has been an obvious tool in games development, the combination of WW1 and dinosaurs is less obvious. Instead both are often seen as things of the past, which we only hear about in schoolbooks and on the telly. According to Adler, this was part of the reason why the odd couple was chosen as the combined mainspring of 1916.

“I am of an ignorant generation; the two subjects are equally alien to me. The dinosaurs and WW1 are just two programmes after each other on the Discovery Channel,” Adler admitted.

1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg.

“The First World War was when the world lost its innocence. All hell broke loose, and what happened couldn’t be understood. The rules of civilization didn’t make sense after the powerful nation-states sent their young men to the front where they slaughtered each other. It was a conflict as nonsensical as trying to fight a dinosaur.”

Taking these two elements and putting them together in one distressing experience also helped steer the game away from traditional shooters, where the player is often depicted as the one in charge in a typical “hunter and the hunted”-situation. Instead Adler and his team reversed the approach, letting the player be the hunted, constantly fighting for his or her life.

“Taking the game of war away from the glorified battlefields and down into the muddy trenches was a big motivator. Fear comes from not being in control. This was an attempt at getting closer to a more emotional relationship with your opponent,” he explained.

Back to school
Despite being an ambitious lot, the team behind 1916 did face obstacles when starting out. None of them are professional game developers, but instead hail from DADIU – The National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment. Here young aspiring students from different educational institutions in Denmark get together during the span of a month to create games that often push the creative boundaries. An approach that can just as easily fail as it can result in spectacular projects.

“The advantage is that you are a bunch of hungry students all burning to create and challenge yourself on this very technical media,” Adler said about DADIU.

“On the negative side, the students at DADIU are not very well trained in working in a ridged pipeline like game production requires. Most people on the team have never worked with a director before.

“In a short production knowing where to focus your energy is the key to getting a rounded game in the end,” he added.

The focus of energy turned out to be crucial for the game. With a short amount of time to create something that neither DADIU nor the Danish games industry had seen before, the team quickly realised their boundaries, but also learned how to take advantage of the obstructions forced upon them.

“In an independent production you must focus on originality. We can’t compete on the level with AAA games so we have to stray off the beaten path in order to be noticed,” Adler explained.

“For this to work a lot of things had to fall into place. We knew we were limited, so many of the decisions were made on this premise. Making the game look old was one of the ways to get around our limited resources. I wanted the game to feel like it was made in the trenches during the First World War.

“The game is clinching because grenades were going off near the programmers while they wrote the code in a bunker,” Adler added about the team’s rather odd yet functional work habits.

He’s also keen on underlining the importance of the game’s development as something that didn’t just focus on basic gameplay, but instead conveyed a feeling of hopelessness and a gripping experience.

“Game mechanics, HD graphics and surround sound are all tools to make you feel. When gameplay really works for me I don’t notice it, I’m too immersed in the experience.”

Obviously it worked. 1916 spurred quite the hype as it featured as one of the graduation games from DADIU back in Spring 2011. With a promising yet small indie scene in Denmark, it fitted right in – but also drew a lot of attention because of its resemblance to LIMBO, the ultimate vanguard of Danish indie development.

But while Adler remains thankful for what Playdead achieved with their massive success, he’s also quick to dismiss the notion that 1916 relies on the com,parison.

“I think that LIMBO and 1916 both aimed at doing the same thing but with completely different philosophies. I really admire LIMBO for opening the doors for more experimental indie games, for this I am quite thankful,” Adler commented.

“My thoughts and ambitions for 1916 were to get the player deep into the psychological horrors of war. I believe LIMBO took a more subtle approach.”

Stepping up the game
Despite seeing the light of day nearly a year ago, it’s been quiet around 1916 until late last year. The people behind the game had gone their separate ways until developer macbody games showed interest in the game – an interest that turned out to stem from a mutual love for relentless creativity.

“Indie games are made on furious creative will, and here macbody and I found a common ground. Macbody wanted to make games that pushed the limits of what computer games could be and they saw this in potential in 1916,” Adler said.

“When I saw David’s plans for the full game I was literally floored,” macbody games’ CEO, Peter Thomsen, added.

“He took a first person avoider game – in which the object was to be killed by dinosaurs and escaping via a ladder – to one lonely, deranged soldier’s quest to find his lost squad, and along the way the horrors of WW1 were seen through his eyes.”

“Airplanes become flying lizards, tanks become giant maggots and so on. The fact that all the monsters are in the soldier’s mind, that is brilliance at work!”

With a promising partnership in place, the hard work has only begun. Even though Adler and macbody games share the same vision for 1916, they still need to get funding, and while they’ve teamed up with Bandello, a Danish agency dedicated to help out indie developers, there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to expanding the game into a financially viable version of 1916 rather than a graduation game from DADIU – something Thomsen is fully aware of and ready to deal with.

“I sincerely believe, more than anything in this world, that 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg will be not only a hit, but a game that will get the entire industry talking. It is so personal and so ambitious that there is little to no danger of being lost in the shuffle.”

“The expanded 1916 is more than just dinosaurs, in fact the player can expect to see some new and scary monsters. The expanded game is a lone soldier’s quest to find his squad, the backdrop is still WW1, but we have much more than dinosaurs in store for the players,” he explained.

The release date for 1916 is currently set some time during 2013 with platforms like Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade being considered, but nothing has been set in stone yet. That doesn’t change the fact, though, that Thomsen is confident that snapping up the game was the right move.

“David is an ambitious man, and so are we in macbody games,” he stated.

“I sincerely believe, more than anything in this world, that 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg will be not only a hit, but a game that will get the entire industry talking.

“It is so personal and so ambitious that there is little to no danger of being lost in the shuffle,” Thomsen concluded.

The DADIU version of 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg is currently available online at Kongregate.

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5 Comments

  1. absolutezero

    Oh my this is amazing news. For a tiny experiment the game was brilliant, unsettling, panic inducing and bloody frustrating.

    Its also a bit of a memory test in figuring out where to go and why did I just die God damn.

    The concept for a full title gets better everytime I read it, I do hope they can keep the same art style aswell its pretty integral to the experience.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. DSB

    The finishing games from that place are really getting to be top class.

    Back to Bed has a ton of potential as well:

    http://backtobed.dadiugames.dk/

    With products like that, DADIU really needs a rebrand. National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment – What?! Danish Games Academy. Fixed it for ya.

    It’s a shame that they’ll have to go outside the country to get a job too.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. KrazyKraut

    I think…the mankind lost their innocent during the thirty years war, but yes it was the first time the modern age wasnt afraid of using gas all this other hellish stuff.

    Awesome game, a full and big one would be great!

    #3 3 years ago
  4. LOLshock94

    this has got to be the best idea ive ever heard!! any chance for a console release?

    #4 3 years ago
  5. absolutezero

    http://www.mediafire.com/?5cadimaeo004aee

    Ill just leave this here, its a little experiement in making a game out of a SCP article.

    http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-087

    Video from the guy that made it : http://youtu.be/uiHQN1q8ln4 Bit spoilerish if you watch it all. Its not really a game, its not really anything. Its pretty cool.

    #5 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The Legend of Zelda franchise producer Eiji Aonuma is featured in the latest video update on the status of The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, stating a 2015 release is no longer a “number one priority” for the team. While Aonuma never specifically says the game has been delayed into 2016, the announcement confirms […]

  • Destiny gameplay designer exits for Bethesda

    Destiny’s senior gameplay designer Josh Hamrick announced on Twitter overnight he would be leaving the company in a week’s time for Bethesda. Hamrick joined Bungie in 2009 after working two years at Midway Austin, where he created multiplayer maps, modified single-player levels, and other designer functions. He was in charge of fixing bug in code […]

  • What to expect from the Call of Duty Championship this weekend

    Just settling down to the Call of Duty Championship this weekend? Here’s a rundown of today’s matches and what else to expect over the next three days. The Call of Duty Championship is taking place in LA this weekend until Sunday, with 32 four-player teams battling it out for a prize pot of $1 million. […]

  • MLB 15 The Show video highlights improved graphics, updated grass patterns

    Sony has released a video for MLB 15 The Show which provides a look at graphical improvements made to the game. Along with the visual upgrade over MLB 14 The Show, the game contains new minor league stadiums, dynamic sun generated in real-time, and upgraded grass patterns which reflect each stadium’s unique look. MLB 15 […]

  • Valve to offer HTC Vive Developer Edition free to qualified developers

    Valve has said it will offer the HTC Vive Developer Edition for free to qualified developers in an effort to buoy projects before the tech launches commercially. Surgeon Simulator developer Bossa Studios and The Room studio Fireproof Games are just some of the developers which already have a free Vive in-hand. According to Valve’s Doug […]

  • DriveClub gameplay video features MotorStorm’s off-road buggies

    Some gameplay footage of MotorStorm’s off-road buggies in DriveClub has surfaced. Pictures of the buggies were shown on the Japanese PlayStation Blog earlier this month, which considering the game was developed by Evolution Studios – which developed MotorStorm – this isn’t too much of a surprise. The buggies were first spotted by Videogamer, which pulled […]

  • Mortal Kombat X live-action TV spot features the track Chop Suey

    The TV sport for Mortal Kombat X has been released, and not only does it contain a “spontaneous fight circle” taking over an entire city, but it features the System of a Down track Chop Suey. Mortal Kombat X will be released on PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One April 14. The […]

  • Bloodborne Forbidden Woods progression bug caused by multiplayer summon

    A progression bug in Bloodborne is in the works, according to Sony and From Software. The issue occurs when players activate a multiplayer session in the Forbidden Woods using the Sinister Resonant Bell or Small Resonant Bell. It also appears the Lunarium Key won’t appear because of the multiplayer bug, and without the key you […]

  • Yo-Kai Watch game franchise has sold over 7 million copies

    The Yo-Kai Watch IP has sold over 7 million copies, according to developer Level-5. The figure included both physical and digital download sales. Yo-Kai Watch 3 will be unveiled during Level-5 Vision 2015 next month. The first title is in the works for the west but is still without a release window. Thanks, Gematsu.

  • Bloodborne trademark returned to Sony after accidentally losing it

    In case you were worried or anything, Sony has once again obtained the Bloodborne trademark. Earlier this week it was revealed that Sony mistakenly abandoned the Bloodborne trademark along with four others registered with US Patent and Trademark Office: Guns Up!, Kill Strain; How Games Were Made to Sound, and No Heroes Allows: No Puzzles […]

  • GTA 5 PC official trailer coming next week, 15 new screenshots released

    New PC screenshots of GTA 5 have been released along with word of a new trailer coming on Monday. The screens below are from the PC version and you can view them in 4K glory over on Rockstar Newswire. The PC version of GTA 5 releases on April 14.

  • PSN real-time server status page launching in Europe soon

    PlayStation users in Europe will soon have its own a PSN Service Status Indicator. It was released earlier this month in North America. The indicator makes it easier to check whether PlayStation services are down or running as planned. This includes account management, PlayStation Now, the store, social services, etc. Sony told Eurogamer the service […]

  • Exclusivity contract prevents Bioware from revealing Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC release on PS4

    Bioware is unable to discuss when the Jaws of Hakkon DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition will arrive on platforms other than PC and Xbox One. According to various tweets from executive producer Mark Darrah, due to the exclusivity contract between EA and Microsoft, the studio is unable to announce a release date for PlayStation 3 […]

  • LEGO Batman 3 demo, Namco Museum, more added to North American eShop

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with a demo for LEGO Batman 3, Namco Museum on Wii U Virtual Console, and various sales. Below is the full update. Nintendo eShop Dot Arcade – Wii U LEGO Ninjago – 3Ds LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Demo – Wii U Harvest Moon: The […]

  • Square Enix’s Easter Surprise bundle contains five mystery PC games

    Square Enix offering another mystery bundle to customers in the UK, which comes with five mystery PC games for £3.99. As before, customers will be unaware of the games they are purchasing in the mystery bundle, but the bundle contains triple-A titles worth £40 combined. One of Square’s previous mystery bundles contained Tomb Raider, Just […]

  • From Software’s PSone game Shadow Tower coming to PSN

    Shadow Tower, the first-person action-RPG developed for the original PlayStation by From Software, will be released on PlayStation Network. In the 1998 title, players took on the role of a mercenary who has returned home to the Holy Land of Zeptar to find the place has been sucked into the Underworld. He must use the […]

  • PlayStation TV gets price cut in the UK, now £44.99

    PlayStation TV has received a price cut in the UK. After several retailers started offering the console for less than the RRP of £84.99, users on DealSpwn began to wonder whether this is an official price cut, and not just regular deals or stock clearance. Sony later confirmed the new price of £44.99. “Starting from […]

  • Fast & Furious expansion for Forza Horizon 2 is now available, for free

    You can download Forza Horizon 2 expansion Fast & Furious starting right now. Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious is available to download now through Xbox Live for Xbox One and Xbox 360. The expansion is standalone, so you don’t need to own Forza Horizon 2 to play it. It’s also free from now […]

  • Fire-based weapons come to PayDay 2 with the Butcher’s BBQ Pack

    The 20th DLC for PayDay 2, the Butcher’s BBQ Pack, is now available on Steam. The DLC will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: Piglet Grenade Launcher, 12G Steakout Shotgun and Mk1 Flamethrower Molotov cocktails and incendiary ammo Four new masks, patterns, materials and achievements The Butcher’s BBQ Pack is another co-development between Overkill and Croatian […]

  • Lords of the Fallen developer offers Hideo Kojima a job

    Amid the current turmoil between Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami, one studio has offered the legendary designer a position. Lords of the Fallen developer Deck 13 took to Twitter to extend a job offer to Hideo Kojima. Dear Mr. @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN In case you are currently searching, we have an open position as Head of Game […]

  • Destiny Xur update: should you buy MIDA Multi Tool?

    The question on every Destiny player’s lips today. And the answer, supplied by resident Destiny expert Paul Davies, is… Yes! We asked Paul whether or not he thought Xur’s Exotic weapon this week was worth the 23 Strange Coins. Here’s what he said: “It was already a great gun to own for PVP owing to […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 has an all-male cast to make it “more approachable”

    According to Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata, the main cast of the game is all-male because it makes the game “more approachable.” Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata spoke to Gamespot about the reason for his choice of making the core cast an all-male affair. “Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable […]

  • Hearthstone Blackrock Mountain is coming April 2

    Blizzard has given Hearthstone expansion Blackrock Mountain a solid release date. Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain adventure pack will be released April 2 in the Americas region, and April 3 in Europe, Korea, Taiwan, and China. Blackrock Depths is the first wing to be released, others will follow one week apart. Other than the 31 new cards, […]

  • Bloodborne: if you can’t load your save after installing firmware 2.50, this will help

    If you’re having issues loading your Bloodborne save after applying firmware update 2.50 to your PS4, this should help you out. Reddit user KBALLZZ encountered an issue after installing update 2.50 on his PlayStation 4. Bloodborne started reinstalling the day one patch again and when it was done he couldn’t continue his game or load […]

  • Use this code to get 10% off on PSN purchases

    Sony is offering a 10% discount coupon to anyone looking to buy games on PlayStation Store this weekend. Sony’s latest discount coupon code is here. You’ll receive 10% off your cart total when buying from the PSN Store. The offer is not valid on purchases made on PS Vita, PlayStation TV, PSP, or in-game stores. […]

  • Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin upgrade path announced, system specs revealed

    Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin will offer returning customers a chance to upgrade at a discounted price. Those who already own Dark Souls 2 on Steam and are interested in picking up the Scholar of the First Sin edition will be happy to know that publisher Bandai Namco is offering them an […]

  • Bloodborne: this is what happens when you have 40 Insight

    Insight is one of the currencies in Bloodborne, but it’s also a mechanic that affects the gameplay. There are MASSIVE SPOILERS below, so turn back now or one of Bloodborne’s gameplay mechanics will be SPOILED for you. Just like Blood Echoes in Bloodborne, Insight is used to purchase certain items from vendors in the game. […]

  • Phase two of Xbox One April update brings voice messages, dedicated servers for party chat, more

    The second phase of the April update for Xbox One is now open to members of the Preview programme and and it looks like there are even more features in store. Phase one of Xbox One’s April firmware update started a few days ago with improvements to party chat and achievements notifications. Today, phase two […]

  • GTA 5′s graphical “downgrade” is a bug, will be fixed in upcoming patch

    As of patch 1.8 for GTA 5 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, a few graphical issues have cropped up leading some to believe there has been a stealth downgrade to the game’s overall graphics. Over the past couple of days, Reddit went nuts over a video showing what appears to be a downgrade to […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for March 27, 28 – MIDA Multi-Tool edition

    Xur: Agent of the Nine has arrived at The Tower in Destiny to rid you of your Strange Coins. Xur: Agent of the Nine has once again made it to Destiny’s Tower to sell you Exotic weapons and gear in exchange for Strange Coins and Motes of Light. For this weekend, Xur can be found […]

  • Destiny vault space upgrade will have enough room for every Exotic

    Destiny is finally getting the vault space upgrade players have been begging for almost since launch week. Destiny players can currently use vault space to store 20 pieces of amour, 20 weapons and 20 general item stacks. In the latest Bungle Weekly Update, the developer revealed that as of patch 1.1.2, due before House of […]

  • Half-Life 2: Update mod applies some sparkle to the original title

    Half-Life 2: Update will be available tomorrow, and thanks to the modding community, those who own the vanilla version of the game can apply a visual update to the 2004 title. The comparison video shows you the differences between the original version, and the version with Half-Life 2: Update applied. Here’s what the mod includes: […]

  • Neverwinter MMO can now be pre-downloaded on Xbox One

    You can now pre-download the free-to-play Neverwinter MMO on Xbox One. The game launches on March 31, but you will still need an Xbox Live Gold account to play it. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, the game can be downloaded from the Xbox Store.