Undercover: Operation Wintersun
 
Interview with Georg Heinz  
by Danyboy and Greyfuss
February 13, 2007

 

The story:

Europe. 1943. In Undercover: Operation Wintersun physics professor Dr. John Russell takes on a dangerous and crucial task. British intelligence sends him on an undercover mission to Berlin in order to confirm information on the development of a terrible weapon of mass destruction by a Nazi scientist.

Russell is anything but a trained agent and far from your typical action hero, but the British need the brilliant scientist’s expertise. The consequences of such a devastating weapons system in the hands of Nazi Germany would be unthinkable.

Undercover: Operation Wintersun adeptly mixes fact with fiction: the thrilling espionage story is framed by authentic details and historical events. Intricately designed backgrounds, detailed 3D animation and the many cinematic cutscenes guarantee a realistic atmosphere.

Introduction:

Georg Heinz, was Producer and Game Designer for Undercover: Operation Wintersun at Sproing. He also wrote the game’s dialogues and co-wrote the story with Harald Riegler.

Questions:

Can you elaborate a bit on the story?

In Undercover: Operation Wintersun, you step into the shoes of John Russell, a British physicist. Russell is called into MI6 headquarters in London, where he is confronted with evidence that the Nazis are constructing a nuclear weapon. As an expert in the field, the British intelligence agency needs him to confirm the authenticity of documents they have obtained from Germany. Before he knows it, Russell is involved in a daring mission to Berlin with the aim of getting to the bottom of this chilling scenario…

In the game we play the role of John Russel, a renowned nuclear physicist in Nazi Germany. What other things can you tell us about him?

Dr. Russell is a renowned researcher in the field of physics and a brilliant mind. Russell is not a trained agent and far from an action hero. In fact, he is more of a thinking man and at the start of the game he is hesitant to get involved in the risky high-stakes world of espionage. But as he delves deeper and deeper into the plans of the Nazis, he starts to accept his responsibility with
more confidence.

In addition to his background in nuclear research, he also speaks fluent German, which is why MI6 is so interested in him.

Since the game was developed in Germany, why have you decided to choose a hero from England as a main character?

The game was actually developed in Austria, but the question of course is still a valid one. We chose an English hero because it fits the story we wanted to tell: an espionage story inside Nazi Germany. The oppressive feeling of being a foreign spy inside the borders of the Third Reich, always in danger of being discovered and captured, was one of the main objectives in designing the story. Of course, our hero also needed to have international appeal.

Being a spy is a very dangerous job. Will we get an adrenaline rush and have the impression that our life is on the edge? During the gameplay, will we have some special spy tools to use? What tasks usually done by a spy are we going to be able to do during the gameplay? Can Dr. Russell be captured, or worse, die in the game? After watching the trailer and viewing the beautiful screenshots, it looks as if there are some stealth sequences in the game. Could you elaborate on this?

While in enemy territory, John’s life is constantly on the line. He can never be sure who to trust and needs to watch his every step. Armed guards patrol the streets of Berlin at night and watch over the city’s most sensitive areas and buildings. In the role of John Russell, you will have to find a way into these sites anyway. John uses his wit and scientific thinking – he is not your average James Bond. In fact, he has a much more difficult time with the ladies, for one.

While John can be captured if he doesn’t watch his step, it’s no big setback for the player, who will be able to just pick up again, where he went wrong immediately. This applies especially to the stealth elements of the game, when John has to hide himself from view in a darkened entrance or the player needs to navigate through a Nazi research facility, avoiding the guards at all cost.

Can you give us some details on some of the characters we will encounter during our investigation? Is there someone we can trust who will help us out?

John is not going it alone: In London, he meets Agent Graham in MI6 head Col. Travers office. Travers is the one who recruits him and Graham, an intimidating professional, is sent with him to watch his back. In Berlin, they meet Anne Taylor: as attractive as she is daring, the young woman plays a key part in the operation. She is not one to do things by the book, so you’ll always find her in the most dangerous places. While she always seems to lead him into trouble, John has a difficult time resisting her charms…

But can John really trust either of them or is everyone following a different agenda? That’s the question players will soon be faced with, as an apparent act of treason puts the whole mission in jeopardy…

In the German demo our hero Dr. John Russell picks up no less than twelve inventory items in the first few minutes of play. Can we expect a lot of inventory based puzzles? What other types of puzzles might we expect to see in the game?

Undercover is a classic point & click adventure game and you can expect a variety of puzzle types: you’ll need to put the things you find to good use, you need to talk to the right people and use your logical thinking, of course. Some of the things you’ll get to do include decoding scrambled messages, finding secret doors, constructing elaborate traps and some fun minigames that involve things like cracking a safe or silently sneaking past armed guards.

Will those familiar with Germany and Berlin be able to recognize some of the locations?

Undercover takes advantage of its historical setting to take the player to real locations from the period. After a short introduction in London, Russell finds himself in Berlin, where we recreated a number of authentic buildings and sites, such as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut for Physics, a real center of nuclear research in the Third Reich.

Later, Russell visits Haigerloch, a small town in Germany’s rural south, where German researchers constructed a hidden underground lab and a nuclear test reactor. When the war ended, the complete reactor was captured by the Americans and transported to the US…


The game has already been released in a few countries. Are you happy with the feedback you’re receiving so far? What are your expectations for the game?

So far, the game has been released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and it is soon coming out in France and Italy. We are very much looking forward to the reception in these countries, where we know there is a great audience for good adventure games. From the response we got to the German version, we are very confident that gamers all over Europe will enjoy Undercover: Operation Wintersun: We collected awards from all major German adventure gaming websites and placed 3rd for best German adventure game at the German Developer Awards.

Are you planning on releasing an English demo beforehand?

That will be up to the publisher in the respective territory. We would definitely love to.

Lately some developers have added some type of help in their games to give a player a hint if they are stuck. Can we expect Undercover: Operation Wintersun to give us any help?

We decided to include a comfortable function to display all hotspots of a location simply with the press of a button –in case adventurers needs some help along the way. If you want to, you can switch this off though, as well. This way, you can find help if you get stuck looking for an object or searching for an exit.

How long would you estimate it would take an average adventure game player to complete the mission?

Probably about 15-20 hours, depending on the skill level of course.

Are the saves unlimited?

Yes, you can save as often as you like and anywhere you want to.

The Nazi subject has been explored a lot in the past. After finishing the game, will we have learned new facts about this time in history?

The story of Undercover: Operation Wintersun explores a topic not many people know about: Germany’s attempt to harness nuclear power for their ends.

The Nazi regime worked on a way to take advantage of the principles of nuclear fission very early on. There are plenty rumours about this enterprise, widely known under the name “uranium project”. The German researchers were in a leading position in the field of nuclear technology by the end of the 1930s: In 1938, nuclear fission was first accomplished in a laboratory at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute in Berlin. In 1939 a special laboratory was set up to research the technology for military purposes.

This progress prompted the American and British governments to step up their efforts in this field and that’s what ultimately got the ball rolling for the “Manhattan Project”.

So while the story of Undercover: Operation Wintersun is fictitious, it is grounded in historical facts, framed both by authentic details and actual events. You will explore the actual locations, like the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for example. .


We’ve read on the internet that we will be able to visit a couple of countries. Can you tell us which ones and give us a few details about some of the locations?

Undercover takes advantage of its historical setting to take the player to real locations from the period. After a short introduction in London, Russell finds himself in Berlin, where we recreated a number of authentic buildings and sites, such as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut for Physics, a real center of nuclear research in the Third Reich.

Later, Russell visits Haigerloch, a small town in Germany’s rural south, where German researchers constructed a hidden underground lab and a nuclear test reactor. When the war ended, the complete reactor was captured by the Americans and transported to the US…
The game’s finale is set in another country altogether, at a focal point of the war, but I don’t want to spoil any of it.

The time period between World War I and World War II is a very dark one for many of us. Will we be able to see something positive coming out of this after we have finished the game?

Undercover is ultimately about John Russell having to come to terms with his responsibility. At first, he is very reluctant to face the danger that is presented to him by MI6 and hesitates to accept the mission. But as the mission goes on and his involvement grows, he grows more confident and he starts to take over control of it. In the end, he also needs to face his responsibility as a scientist and a nuclear researcher for the results of his work, as he comes to face with the most horrific weapon so far devised by mankind. So, it’s not a light-hearted game, I admit, but one that tries to give a new perspective on its subject matter… of course, there is some humor in the game as well.

At the end of the game will all of our questions be answered or will you leave us in suspense for a sequel?

We think the ending of Undercover wraps the game up nicely and will leave gamers satisfied – of course, we did leave some little strands dangling to pique people’s curiosity a bit for future Undercover games…

After looking on your website, we realized that Undercover: Operation Wintersun will be your first attempt at a PC Adventure Game. What motivated you to try the adventure genre? Can we expect more adventure games from Sproing? If so can you give us a little hint as to whats next?

We actually developed a smaller-sized adventure game before this, which was an adaptation of a very successful German movie and was well received by fans and critics. That’s what gave us the impetus to try our hands at a full-fledged adventure game, seeing as we’ve always been big fans of the genre. It also ultimately led to our partnership with dtp and its ANACONDA label.

We’re currently working on a very exciting project and the next entry in the Undercover franchise: Undercover: Dual Motives takes John Russell to the Nintendo DS in a portable point & click adventure game. Using the unique capabilities of the DS, we’re hoping to establish adventure games on this exciting platform. Storywise, it is set before the events of Operation Wintersun and we will see John in his days as a researcher in the late 1920s. Undercover: Dual Motives is set for release in August 2007.

Finally is there anything you would like to add that we haven't already touched upon for Undercover: Operation Wintersun?

We would just like to thank you for your interest and thank all the readers for taking the time to find out more about our game. Please visit the official website and the forums if you have anything else you’d like to know. Hope you enjoy Undercover when it comes to your country!

Official Website:

Undercover: Operation Wintersun

Back to Library
Mystery Manor Home