William Joseph B.J. Blaskowicz. He may not be a household name, like the Marios and Laras of the video game world, but for many fans of first person shooters, the protagonist of the Wolfenstein series is a downright hero.
First seen in 1992's "Wolfenstein 3D", he's appeared in most of the Wolfenstein series and, most recently, got a new look for the recently released "Wolfenstein: The New Order".
We spoke with Tommy Tordsson Bjork, Narrative Designer at MachineGames, about the challenges of redesigning such an iconic character.
"We looked back on older games as starting point," Bjork said. "We looked at all the games that had been made in the Wolfenstein series and picked the one that we thought were the most appropriate as a starting point for this style of reboot."
That was, of course, Wolfenstein 3D -- the game that introduced us to the character of B.J.
"This is the game that really started the entire first-person shooter genre," says Bjork.
According to Bjork: "We felt like we could do something cool and left-field with this blank slate -- this archetypal 80s action hero guy -- and give him a rich inner life in the new series."
"The redesign was a daunting task to take on, but we were all excited to do it. Most of us grew up on games like this -- Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS I played on my brother's PC. So, definitely daunting, but also exhilarating."
Bjork said that it was the shape of B.J.'s head that went through the most changes:
"We probably worked most of all on how wide his jaw should be. You can see some of the older concept art where he looks quite different."
Jens Matthies, the creative director on The New Order, adds:
"There were two major iterations but many small ones. At the end of the day, though, they were all based on the original Wolfenstein 3D character."
MachineGames did, of course, look at the other Wolfenstein games for inspiration. But according to Bjork "there's not a lot of detail about him as a character in the other games -- the focus is on his actions, on what he does".
One thing that was always settled in the minds of the developers was B.J.'s 'dirty blonde' locks.
"We definitely didn't want B.J. with the black hair from Wolfenstein 2009 -- we wanted to get back to the original dirty blonde of the Wolfenstein 3D game," says Bjork.
But wasn't B.J. a little more ginger back then? Not according to Matthies.
"The guys at id informed us that the red hair on Wolfenstein 3D’s B.J. was due to the limitations of the colour palette back then. The intention was always to have him be dirty blonde, so that's what we did."
A few people have noted that B.J. now bears a resemblance to German actor Til Schweiger -- especially as Hugo Stiglitz in "Inglourious Basterds". However, MachineGames assures us that the similar look is "purely a coincidence".
One thing is definitely certain: at no point did MachineGames take any inspiration from actor Daniel Krauss. Krauss played B.J. Blaskowicz in a German short film with the incredible name of "Der goldene Nazivampir von Absam 2 - Das Geheimnis von Schloß Kottlitz".
(In English, that's "The Golden Nazi Vampire of Absam Part 2: The Secret of Kotlittz Castle".)