"We had hundreds of letters from them that we could read and discover in fact what happened, day by day," he adds. "It was like a diary, because they had dates and we could rebuild the story of what happened."
Granted, Fanise admits that France's key role in the conflict made nailing the tone for an accessible, widely available game a particularly tricky endeavor: "It's a bit dangerous, because we didn't want to talk up any French allegiance. The game is for all countries, so we wanted to make sure that it's not one point of view."
That approach comes through in the narrative, which focuses more on personal relationships between soldiers and their loved ones than motivations for war, or the perceptions of right and wrong. When the war breaks out, Karl is deported from France, away from his wife and child, and then drafted into the German army. His father-in-law, Emile, is pulled into the French military, but when they meet on the battlefield, they're not enemies, despite the opposing uniforms--they're family.
Pained letters from separated lovers and family members not only gave Ubisoft Montpellier rich source material to work from, but they also inform the presentation and emotional sense of the game, with the letters framing the scenarios that follow. And it was those real-life letters that helped steer the studio away from making just another violence-filled war game.