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Edouard Lussan of Wanadoo

Interview - Wanadoo tell us about their novel first person shooter IronStorm

French internet group Wanadoo is a newcomer to the gaming industry but they already have a hefty line-up, with more than a dozen games due for release in the last three months of 2001, spread across every platform from GameBoy to PC and PlayStation. One of the most interesting titles they're working on at the moment though is the gritty shooter IronStorm, developed by 4X and due out next autumn. We talked to Wanadoo's editorial manager Edouard Lussan to find out more...

A Truly Great War

The design philosophy at Wanadoo is apparently to "plunge the player into an original and easy to handle universe, a quickly and easily understandable world belonging to standards that can excite a very large audience". In the case of IronStorm this world is a rather unusual one though, grounded in reality but with a novel twist. Edouard explained that the original idea was to make a first person shooter with a difference, and the designers were looking for something to separate their game from the likes of Quake, Rogue Spear and Medal of Honor. "We had to invent something different, and we finally used the principle of alternate history." "The basis of IronStorm is very simple to get. The First World War burst out, as everybody knows, in 1914. We are in 1964 and the war is not over yet, so immediately the public can understand that the world we are presenting them with is a kind of mix between the First and Second World Wars, or a kind of Vietnam War in Europe. As modern weapons, devices and materials can allow a very accurate gameplay, you will never find any aliens, lizards, monsters or shuttles in IronStorm."

A Simple Story

Taking center stage in this war ravaged world is a mission-based single player campaign starring a German officer called Wizel. "All of the levels are linked together by a main storyline. The story remains as simple as possible, since everyone knows it's difficult to make a complex story in a game. The whole story must be clear at the end of the game, which is not obvious in most of the games I've played." Naturally multiplayer support will also be included, in the form of "a deathmatch mode playable by up to sixteen people", but there are more ambitious plans for the future. Edouard revealed that "we are actually working on a mission disk pushing forwards multiplayer feature based on maps designed for up to 32 players for deathmatch, capture the flag and cooperative modes, and maps including strong AI so that players could feel the maps are 'living places'". The whole thing is powered by the Phoenix 3D engine, "a cross-platform 3D engine allowing richly textured environments, even on low capacity platforms such as the PlayStation 2, supporting indoor and outdoor environments with real-time shadows". Certainly when we got a peek at an early build of the game during September's ECTS it was already looking quite impressive, doing a good job of recreating a war-torn Europe criss-crossed by trenches, barbed wire and ruined buildings.

Realistic Fun

"Realism of war was our main concern", Edouard told us, and "the game is supposed to be as realistic as possible without damaging the fun of the gameplay". As a result we can look forward to a believable war ravaged world of grimey trenches, artillery shelling and even gas attacks. "Mud can swallow you, gas attacks can infect you and burn your lungs for good, and it will probably be wise to crouch when you hear the whistling of a shell!" It's no surprise to learn that the classic eastern front war movie Cross of Iron has been one of the biggest influences on the game's grim atmosphere. Indeed, when we previewed IronStorm recently we commented that the lead character looks uncannily like Coburn's Corporal Steiner. "Wiz is definitely inspired by James Coburn in Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron", Edouard confirmed. "It was an important point in the brief I gave to 4X during pre-production, and I'm very satisfied that someone noticed that the main character came from Coburn." "I saw Cross of Iron when I was 12, and was deeply impressed by this war film, the first one seen from the German side on the Russian Front, very far from Hollywood status. Stalingrad is another film which inspired us a lot; not Jean Jacques Annaud's Enemy at the Gates, but the one released in 1993 for the 50th anniversary of the end of the battle made by the German director Wielsmayer."

Iron And Steel

Another big influence on IronStorm's developers has been a German book called Stahl Gewitter. This explains the game's rather unfortunate title, which (in English at least) sounds like the name of a certain Texan development studio with a bad reputation when it comes to making first person shooters... "Yes, IronStorm is probably the final title", Edouard told us when we questioned him about this ill-fated coincidence, pointing out that "the title sounding like Ion Storm is a problem of 'Englishness' which has nothing to do with the content". "IronStorm has been choosen and inspired by a famous German book telling the horrors of World War I trench warfare. Ernst Junger was the author and the German title of his book was 'Stahl Gewitter', which means in English 'Steel Thunderstorm'. I thought IronStorm (the two words are linked) sounded better worldwide than Steel Thunderstorm." So there you go, mystery solved.


IronStorm preview

IronStorm screenshots