We’re really excited about Fritz, an 8-bit PC game that hopes to recreate trench life for a German soldier in WW1.
Based around the mechanics of an RPG, Fritz concentrates on building camaraderie with your squadmates, instead of building stats to fight ogres, in preparation for that final push into No Man’s Land.
Full of questions, we exchanged emails with Mel Cody, the writer at developer Truceful Games, and talked historical accuracy, research, and the future of Fritz.
BitPulse: Why German soldiers? Is there a particular choice in focusing on that side of the conflict?
Mel Cody: We feel that both the German and the French side of WW1 are under-represented in Anglo media. Naturally the British and American side is the most relatable one in the English-speaking world, so big-budget films (or even possible future big budget video games) have to take that perspective in order to optimize their success. But as an indie project we can afford to do things without as much commercial pressure, and therefore want to focus on the German-French side of the conflict.
We chose the Germans as protagonist specifically because (especially since WW2) there still seems to be the misconception that the Germans were “the bad guys” in WW1, too. So there’s a bit of an educational part in this.
Furthermore, taking the German side is interesting from a gaming perspective because the Germans had a lot less supplies. Food especially was sparse, so it gives the game a management / trading aspect, since food is a valuable trade commodity, but the food is already sparse. (And hunger will have negative effects on Fritz’s performance and mental health)
Also, the page says the team has done a lot of research on historical accuracy. Can you give me a specific example of that?
Cody: An example of something interesting and historically accurate, that people don’t think about often, is the army post system. Especially in the German army, the mail from home was very important and mail logistics were very well organized.
The German army mail transported around 16.6 million letters and packages a day. (Compared to that, the French army mail transported 4 million.)
Prussian army traditions had it that the soldiers would only get a light breakfast, and the soldiers’ families were supposed to support them with food from home. That way the Prussians had effectively introduced the “home front” earlier than most other nations, which very strongly helped the people at home be involved with the battles going on far away. Because of that, the mail system was very elaborate and well-organized.
While packages got through reliably though, letters were censored from the front to keep up propaganda at home. Officers were allowed to read the letters. In the game the player will have the option to send letters at home. (and choose what to include). Depending on how Fritz’s character develops, he may be inclined to bribe the mailman, so he can send uncensored letters home.
Will we see specific battlefields, such as Passchendaele?
Cody: The game takes place on one specific battlefield, as most soldiers were unlikely to see more than one. We are basing the game on the Battle of Verdun, but we won’t be specifically following every beat of that battle as it happened, because we want events to occur as spontaneously for the people experiencing the game as they did for the soldiers at the time. If we followed the battle perfectly, players could do a little bit of research, know what to expect, and plan accordingly. Soldiers didn’t have that luxury.
How was the German experience of war different from, say the British or French, and how do you hope to show this?
Cody: As stated above, because of the British sea blockade, food supplies were sparse, and people at home suffered or even starved because of the war. Soldiers didn’t get the amount of food they were supposed to get, simple things like tea or butter were highly sought after if they were at all possible to get.
The French had the noira system which meant their soldiers would spend a lot less time at once in the trenches and get switched out quickly. The Germans with fewer troops and supplies were often forced to keep their regiments close to the front lines for many weeks at a time. When they finally got rest, they’d often return to the same battlefield (although different parts, which we want to represent in the game) again.
Is this the first game you’ve all made together?
Cody: Dan and Mel have worked together on many creative projects, from games to music, but it’s the first game that the three of us have worked together.
How did the three of you meet?
Cody: Dan and Mel have known each other for years and share a very close relationship. We’ve been working on Fritz since December and finally sought out a programmer and found him in Jordan, because he fits our team well and has excellent references in programming and great ideas for the game.
If you don’t get funded, what will you do with the project?
Cody: Since it’s a work of passion, we will likely keep working on it, although we definitely wouldn’t be able to give a reliable release date. We might also have some issues getting the funds for Sound FX together, so the overall quality of the finished product would definitely suffer.
Thanks, Mel! You can read more about Fritz via the official Kickstarter page.