Sonderkommando Revolt, the video game mod that reimagines an Auschwitz uprising as a bloody, pixelated shooter, may never see release, according to the project's lead creator. He blames the "emotional trauma" of media attention for its demise.
Israeli mod enthusiast Maxim "Doomjedi" Genis says the attention Sonderkommando Revolt has received from those outside the Wolfenstein 3D modding community is responsible for its cancellation. In an interview with Heeb Magazine, Genis says "Despite having no anti-jewish elements or intentions in this free pixelated mod of an 18-year old game, the project is declared cancelled at this point."
"The project is cancelled because I cannot stand media exposure of any kind," a distressed Genis tells the Jewish magazine, saying that he's experienced "very deep" emotional trauma over the scrutiny of his team's game. "I have no internal emotional powers to deal with the press, the violation of my personal privacy and life," he adds.
Genis told Kotaku earlier this month that Sonderkommando Revolt was not designed as political or social commentary, but simply as a game meant to be enjoyed by a tight-knit group of Wolf3D mod enthusiasts. He later said he regretted using the word "fun" to describe the game.
Sonderkommando Revolt was originally planned to be released on January 1, 2011. Right now, it looks like that may not happen.
The developers of Sonderkommando Revolt, the video game set amidst a violent prisoner uprising in a Nazi concentration camp, reads like exploitative revenge fantasy. But its creator says the team behind the first-person shooter makes no political statement and has no agenda. It's "blast the Nazis fun," its maker says.
Sonderkommando Revolt project lead Maxim "Doomjedi" Genis says his team of artists, coders and writers is simply trying to make an action game only for the challenge, for the fun, to entertain a singularly focused community of homebrew game creators—even if others think its content should never be in a video game.
Genis and the rest of Team Raycast are "Wolf3D" modders, changing the graphics and scenarios of first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D into an experience that's sometimes wholly different. Sonderkommando Revolt flips the real-world event its based upon, turning a Jewish prisoner into an unstoppable SS-killing machine.
"We didn't discuss among the team any other subjects and never brought our personal views into this mod," Genis tells Kotaku. "There was no need for it, as the mod was a plain 'blast the Nazis' fun, like so many other commercial games and mods. We all just made 'another [Wolfenstein 3D] mod', nothing more."
Genis says setting the game in the concentration camp Auschwitz was "an interesting creative challenge to partly recreate a world that was very different than our everyday life, [different] than anything we know." As "Doomjedi," he has been involved in other Wolfenstein 3D mods, including the more tame Femstein, the story of Russian secret agent Max Titov and his battle against an army of Amazonian women who take over the earth.
"[The] modding community in general has no political or other agendas, and those who know modding community well as I do, know that we make those mods first for the fun and creativity of making it," Genis says. "All the respectful modders I know would make mods even if no one would ever see or play them, as modding is a philosophy, is a way of life — life of creation, challenge, imagination."
Genis himself is a Ukrainian-born Jew living in Israel. He stresses that the rest of Team Raycast is comprised of "different people from different countries, ages and traditions whose only common ground is the love for Wolf3D modding."
"Team member's political, religious and other views, views of Holocaust," Genis says was "never discussed or leaked into the mod itself. We just didn't care about it, it's not part of Wolf3D modding."
The sensitive nature of Sonderkommando Revolt's setting has resulted in mixed reaction outside of Wolfenstein modding circles. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a museum focusing on the Holocaust, worries that games like Sonderkommando Revolt can be harmful to people's understanding of history.
"What happens if this is the only thing a young person gets to know about the holocaust or a concentration camp?" he told Kotaku.
"When you speak to survivors of the Holocaust, you quickly learn they have difficulty transmitting the horrors that they went through," Rabbi Cooper said when asked for comment about the game. "I don't think even the best combination of game developers would ever be successful [at doing so]. This is not an issue that should be reduced to a game."
Genis believes reception to the game was "totally blown out of proportion" and that Sonderkommando Revolt was—despite —never designed to "teach anyone [anything] regarding the real camp or the real events."
"We have many other resources to do that," he says.
"The mod, though based on some real events as an inspiration, has a plot of its own and shouldn't be linked to any particular real set of events or particular persons," Genis believes, in spite of Sonderkommando Revolt's clear ties to history. "I have nothing in this mod to show disrespect to my people and their suffering at the time. I didn't want to offend anyone in this mod. I'm not only a Jew myself, [and] not only believe I was a Jew in the Holocaust, but I'm also a spiritual person."
Genis wrote via e-mail that he was partly inspired to create Sonderkommando Revolt based on his spiritual convictions. The game maker believes that, in a previous incarnation of his life, he was imprisoned as a Jew by the Nazis, served as a Sonderkommando in a concentration camp and died before the events of 1944 that prompted the creation of the mod.
The project leader stresses that his personal religious beliefs are not shared by his team. He writes that he doesn't want the mod to be "provocative in that area either."
Genis says his only intention was to create a fun Wolfenstein 3D mod, to "change the outcome to [a] more optimistic one to the character I was there, not to court controversy.
"I'm going to give the person who made it the best intentions," Rabbi Cooper added, after learning of Genis' goals. "Let's respect what he's saying and what his motivations are, but I believe it's simply a topic that doesn't really belong in a game."
Regardless of the online reaction to Sonderkommando Revolt, the game will be released on January 1, 2011, according to its creators.
An Israeli modder has turned a 1992 first-person shooter into a bloody tale of revenge set in a Nazi concentration camp with Sonderkommando Revolt, putting players in the role of an Auschwitz death camp prisoner on a killing rampage.
Sonderkommando Revolt is based on the real-world uprising at Auschwitz in October 1944—with some obvious Nazi exploitation as entertainment—and built on the foundation of classic shooter Wolfenstein 3D. The actual event in Auschwitz resulted in the deaths of just three German Schutzstaffel soldiers and the murder of 451 Sonderkommandos, a "special unit" of primarily Jewish concentration camp workers who aided in the killing process during the Holocaust.
In the video game version of the Sonderkommando Revolt, the tables are clearly turned, with protagonist and actual Auschwitz prisoner Zalmen Gradowski tearing through Nazi soldiers.
"Graphically it'll feature many themes," write its creators, "including Crematoriums, Block 11, Gas Chambers, execution, interrogation and torture areas...most of which are ripped/based off real pic from the real site."
Video game modder "Doomjedi" has been working on Sonderkommando Revolt with the group Team Raycast since 2007. The developer describes the Nazi revenge tale as "very realistic, moody, challenging and detailed." The game is part one of a planned trilogy, with Sonder 2 - Warsaw Uprising and Sonder 3 - Mission: Treblinka currently in the works.
The makers of Sonderkommando Revolt say they will release their mod for Wolf4SDL, a Wolfenstein 3D port, on January 1, 2011.
Kotaku has reached out to the Anti-Defamation League seeking reaction to the game.
Sonderkommando Revolt [MODDB - thanks to Jukio for the tip]
The RtCW source code can be downloaded from FileShack, with separate multiplayer and singleplayer components, as can the Enemy Territory source code. All are licensed under version 3 of the GNU General Public License.
id's chief technical wizard John Carmack had promised that the RtCW and Enemy Territory source code would be released soon after QuakeCon 2009. He explained yesterday that they were so delayed as he had been too busy to clear them with legal.
Carmack explained that these things aren't always as clear cut as the community might think, as it opens the company up for liability if someone somewhere used a bit of code that wasn't original or they didn't have the rights to use. Despite that, Bethesda decided to okay the source releases.
This is the latest in a long line of source releases from id, who has so far shared the source code for all its engines from Wolfenstein 3D up to Quake 3: Arena. Carmack teased that id would start looking into releasing the Doom 3 source after Rage ships.
John Romero haunts game developer id Software. Yes, he co-founded the studio and thus more than earned his place in id history. But Romero only worked there between the years of 1991 and 1996.
Yet, there Romero remains, like a ketchup stain on the carpet. When you think of id, you think of Romero. Whether it be coining the term "death match" or opening up his games to modders, Romero's impact on the company (and ultimately on gaming) is too great to cast aside.
"Romero was the game industry's first rock star," David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom, tells Kotaku. That, Kushner says, helped put not only Romero, but id's games on the map. "No one had played games that were as loud and fast and funny and violent as Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake — and Romero's passion for these games was off the charts." According to Kushner, Romero defined the gamer personality that we now take for granted.
Id Software did come into its own with 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, the game that spawned the modern first-person shooter. As detailed in Kushner's book, Romero hit the big time. Money, women, sports cars, you name it. And so did id.
Wolfenstein 3D was followed up by Doom and that was followed by Doom II, a game that featured Romero's severed head. Id Software was on a roll, turning out hit after hit. 1996 saw Quake, and the next year brought its sequel and Romero getting fired from the company.
Romero went off to found game developer Ion Storm and become mired in Daikatana, which never lived up to its marketing hype. (Hype that stated John Romero was going to make you "his bitch" — something he later apologized for). "Like I describe in Masters of Doom," Kushner says, "Ion Storm had absurdly huge ambitions which I don't think anyone could ever fulfill." During the period that followed, Romero seemed to go off into the wilderness, working on mobile games and at Midway for at stint before settling at Slipgate Ironworks at Gazillion Entertainment, which is rolling out Marvel and LEGO massively multiplayer online games.
"Romero's greatest legacy is his passion for games," says Kushner. "And that's something that's easy to overlook." Kushner's right — it is. With the Daikatana disaster and Romero's long flowing locks, it is easy to forget that, as Kushner points out, Romero was always a gamer first and id's biggest fan. "Some people saw that as pure ego, but Romero's enthusiasm for stuff like mods and deathmatching helped shooters become what they are today." That's not all Romero has given to gaming, though. According to Kushner, "He's hugely committed to being a kind of archivist/historian of gaming — which, in the long run, could be one of his biggest contributions to the industry."
Id worked steadily on Doom and Quake sequels. The company's upcoming game Rage is id Software's first major IP since Quake. (Id, however, has been working on stuff like fantasy game Orcs & Elves). But Rage is more than a brand new series, it's a clean break from Romero and the start of a new chapter in id's gaming history.
For years now, video games have been divided into two categories: 2D and 3D. With the advent of 3D televisions and portable consoles, those definitions might be antiquated. Time for an update!
2D video games refer to action happening on a 2D plane and typically are either side-scrolling or vertically-scrolling. What's more, the characters and environments are usually rendered in 2D. 3D video games refer to characters and environments rendered in 3D. Action and movements have depth. These definitions hold up on 2D screens, but as previously mentioned, video gaming could very well be moving towards gaming on 3D screens. (The upcoming Nintendo 3DS seems to be an indication of that.)
Here's where it gets confusing though. Super Mario 64 is 3D in the old-fashioned sense. But it's not 3D in the flying-off-the-screen sense of the word. Referring to it as a "3D game" and Super Mario Bros. as a "2D" game doesn't really hold up any more! Take a title like Wolfenstein 3D, which would be confusing for modern audiences as the game isn't in Avatar-like 3D. (The game itself is actually in 2.5D with the bad guys rendered as sprites, but that's beyond of the scope of this conversation!)
We need a new way to refer to gaming on a 3D screen. I came up with "Full 3D". And then, for example, Super Mario 64 would be simply 3D? But then, that might confuse those who do not follow gaming. Perhaps all these older games will be retro-actively displayed in Full 3D on new game consoles?
Suggestions are more than welcomed.