TECH

'Valiant Hearts' Interview: Remembering WW1 With A Video Game

04/08/2014 10:58 BST | Updated 08/08/2014 15:59 BST

Simon Chocquet-Bottani is a game and level designer on Ubisoft's latest title Valiant Hearts. He's a man who has gone from designing Rayman levels to re-creating the war torn landscapes that dominated the First World War.

'Valiant Hears: The Great War' is an animated side-scrolling game from Ubisoft which tackles one of the most destructive periods in history.

Widely praised for its unique, emotionally mature approach, Valiant Hearts focuses more on the people that lived through the conflict, rather than focusing on the conflict itself.

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Of course when you've spent the last few years building cartoony platformers, how do you even begin to start taking on a subject like this?

"We were aware of the importance of approaching a subject such as the First World War and we really wanted to bring a new dimension to our game," said Simon in an interview with Huff Post.

Realising that this would be unlike anything they'd worked on before, Simon explains that the team threw themselves in at the deep end, becoming completely immersed in the history. "We had a lot of WW1-era objects and books around us – even such things as grenades, bomb shells, bullets, a sword."

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"It was a very unique production, especially with this inspiring history all around us and people [were] always reading letters, documents, books, old newspapers, etc. as sources of inspiration. It was a very memorable project for all of us, and very different from how we are used to developing games."

Writing on PlayStation's official blog Chocquet-Bottani explains that as they further they got into the subject matter it was clear that some bold decisions about the game would need to be made.

"In order to focus on this more “humanized” side of the war, we were very careful not to have the characters kill anyone. The war kills people, but none of the characters do. We really thought that enabling players to kill someone would lead to a break in the bond between player and the character and would confuse the game’s overall message. Even while performing an indirect action, such as destroying a bridge, we made sure to show the player that the soldiers on the bridge escape BEFORE the explosion."

While at its core Valiant Hearts is a puzzle-based story game, the team always set out to with multiple objectives. "We knew we wanted this to be a game with an educational component that would allow the player to plunge deeper into the historical material without being forced to do so."

"Most players at first feel like they are “just playing a game,” but as soon as they open up the menu with an historical fact related to the location they just played through, whether the ruined city of Reims or the gas attacks of Ypres, it reveals a wider historical significance and makes playing the game that much more immersive."