Marvel’s Avengers – Interview with Crystal Dynamics

We recently had the opportunity to speak with key members of the Marvel’s Avengers development team at Crystal Dynamics including Shaun Escayg – Creative Director, Vince Napoli – Combat Director, Phil Therien – Warzone Director and Scot Amos – Head of Studio.

During this chat we talked a lot about the upcoming game, how it strives to be a dedicated Avengers experience, the lack of PvP and much more. After the recent War Table stream, we saw comments from fans that it’s still not clear what kind of game Marvel’s Avengers is.

Hopefully, after our chat, you’ll have a better idea and be more excited to get on board.

Marvel’s Avengers

PowerUp! – We’ve now seen this Thor specific Hero Mission set on the Helicarrier. Will we see Hero Missions for all of the Avengers and how many missions will be locked to one character?

Shaun Escayg – As you progress through Kamala Khan’s origin story where she reassembles these Avengers that have disbanded. Aas she goes along narratively, she will start to meet these heroes and engage with these heroes.

There are some of those missions that are hero specific that will drive the narrative forward, but as you unlock this hero, you also have these of War Zone missions that would unlock as well. They [War Zone Missions] explore, again, some of those core narrative concerns that the heroes may have.

For example, Ironman, in his hero missions, he’s trying to get the Helicarrier up and running as a base of operations before AIM finds out that they’re even a ‘thing’ now. That the Avengers have even assembled. Also, once he’s done that, there are other options where you can go out and he is confronted with what AIM has done with his technology and how they’ve abused that technology and use it and weaponise it against humanity.

So a lot of those missions in terms of balance are driven by need, but the more you through the story, the more and more missions you unlock both War Zone Missions as well as Hero Missions.

PowerUp! – The combat, from what we’ve seen looks similar to Batman: Arkham and God of War. How difficult has it been to make the combat feel unique and fresh and different for each character?

Vince Napoli – It’s a huge challenge. It’s the challenge that actually brought me to the project. The way we approached it honestly, was not trying to create a combat system and then putting Avenger’s characters into it, but actually creating the Avengers characters themselves, and then trying to wrap around a combat system once we had their core abilities.

The characters themselves are so larger than life, they’re so well-defined and so different and we realised that if we don’t nail what it’s like to be each of them then there’s really, there’s really no point in trying. We tackled each character one by one, we looked at it and said, ‘okay, let’s clear everything else off the field. Let’s just talk about what we’re going to do with Widow.’

What choices would we make if we could wrap an entire game around her?

We just thought, ‘well, we’d make stealth, right? We’d make stealth a big part of it.’

Even though none of the other Avengers uses stealth, most of them are the exact opposite of stealth. So it may not make sense from an efficiency standpoint to build stealth into the game, if we were doing a Widow game, that’s absolutely what we would do.

And so we just thought we need to do it. So let’s make decisions that way and let’s challenge the team to come up with what they would want to see, not taking into account, having to be efficient or having to deal with the inordinate task of having to repeat this multiple times; six times and even more post-launch.

As you get to each of the characters, you find that you’re writing new systems, you’re writing new targeting system so that you can play as Iron Man and you can fly around and shoot. You’re writing systems that support holding enemies and wielding them as weapons if your playing Hulk and what you end up with is characters playing so differently because the mechanics of themselves are so different that the real challenge only at that point is just developing enemies that can handle such a versatile cast.

Once we had the heroes built, it was like, ‘all right, let’s look to the enemies. Let’s build them out in the same way we built the heroes out and come up with crazy awesome powers and ways you’d want to counter the Avengers.

Thankfully, Shaun’s [Escayg] story actually sets us up really nicely to do that because the Avengers have been down and out the last couple of years and AIM has been able to rise to power. Given they’re experimenting on Inhumans and developing science to counter the Avengers’ powers, they specifically do target ways to counter every aspect of what the Avengers can throw at them.

AIM has Tony Stark’s tech and they’ve been able to manipulate it. So they have the perfect counter to Iron man. And they have ways of actually stopping Mjölnir which shouldn’t be stoppable. So when you wrap the combat system around the characters, you get something that is a lot more true to what you’re targeting than just building another action game that happens to have these characters in it. If that makes sense?

PowerUp! – Did your work on the Levithan Axe in God of War influence or help with designing Mjölnir in Avengers?

Vince Napoli – Well actually Mjölnir actually inspired the Leviathan Axe to begin with. I was always such a huge fan of Thor and the comics. And so, I think having thought about it [the Leviathan Axe] for so long, for so many years, about what to do and then thinking ‘but I can’t do that because that’s Thor and that’s Mjölnir.

Like, that’s how Mjölnir would behave and coming up with something different. This was an opportunity to use all of the decisions I would’ve made if it actually was the thing I was trying to emulate.

I’m not going to lie. It was also a huge bonus for me is get to actually work on the thing that I was trying to emulate all these years and delivering on that. That’s also quite the challenge, but fortunately, we have a tonne of reference and I happen to have all of that reference already with me already so I’d already done the research on that one. I pulled it out, we talked to the team and we talked about delivering on that. It was a lot of fun working on that again.

PowerUp! – You’ve said Marvel’s Avengers takes place around the globe. Is there any chance we’ll see Australia in the game and what other new regions are you considering?

Phil Therien – Will we go to Australia? Eventually, I’m sure. The cool thing about the way we built the game is that we have all these regions that are in different parts of the world and really when you complete the campaign and you’ve got the Avengers back together, you’re looking at your War Table and you kind of get a sense that AIM is this global threat.

Cause AIM has been really busy while the Avengers were disbanded and we wanted to cover the entire planet. So of course the first conversation is ‘can we build an open the world that’s a giant planet?’

Well, maybe, but that sounds really crazy. We’re crazy, but not that crazy.

So we decided to build these regions. These regions are subsets of open worlds. For example, when we go into urban areas with cities, that’s a cutout of an open world. It’s still really big though. It’s several hundreds of metres wide and long. So you still get a lot of footprint and it’s not always the same city.

We have different city layouts. When you’re going through a region, that’s basically what you’re experiencing. And that takes us to North America, we’ve got stuff in Asia, we’ve got stuff all over the place, but obviously we’re going to keep adding missions as the game progresses, post-launch. My hope is that at some point you’re going to see hotspots all over the planet because really that’s the goal.

Even with just what we have at launch, you’re going to see the Avengers go to cities, forests, deserts, the Arctic, they’re going to go to secret underwater basis and they’re even going to go into orbit around the Earth. So really the Avengers ARE this global presence.

I’m super excited to see where we’re going to take this and you have to consider this is just the start really. There’s 80 years of super, super cool Marvel stuff that we can fish from. I’m personally really excited to see where we’re going to go and take this, this crazy, crazy adventure.

PowerUp!You’ve said you’ll add additional missions, heroes and the like post-launch. Will we see a conclusion to the campaign and the story with MODOK before diving into post-launch content?

Escayg – Specifically the Kamala Khan origin story and the reassembling of the Avengers is the campaign. You go through that process of gearing up, outfitting your Avengers, bringing them back together and taking on the immediate threat which is George Tarleton and his rise to MODOK.

When you complete the campaign and you get into the much larger world, AIM, as you’ve known historically from the comics has had many leaders and likewise many villains see opportunities brought about by AIM, could be hired by AIM or profiteering off of the Avengers on their back footing. That canvas is pretty wide open and continues to grow and fester cause the idea of science versus superheroes is still not resolved.

‘Is science and technology, the answer yes or no?’ that’s still not resolved.That also introduces opportunity for the new villains, like I said, but new heroes as well.

What have they been doing during the five years? How do they tie into this world? What are the, the new escalating threats that may be seeded to come? All of that stuff is in this expanding world. And as you can tell, the stage is set for us to explore this 80 year history that we have to draw upon.

PowerUp! – Do you have any plans for PvP in Marvel’s Avengers?

Scot AmosWe are an amazing co-op experience. At the end of the day, the reason we built this game, the way we did is because the Avengers, true to their core, from the comics and any other media they’ve been in, is a team. And so for us, that’s first and foremost, get that right, get this out there, build this world where you have a team of heroes with an amazing campaign with an origin tale, for Kamala to becoming Miss Marvel with MODOK from George Tarleton and how that world gets set up as a stage reassembling those heroes.

The campaign is the beginning act of ‘we’ve now got our team together.’ Then that post-campaign where you have your team, that you can go off to do all this crazy stuff that Phil has planned for us in the War Zones and what that means in the size and depth of the combat and gear systems.

We didn’t even get into gear. We have common through legendary rarities and all the different things that unlock with the different scope of gear and the perks, and then the attributes systems on top of that of how you can really fine tune your build.

So all of that stuff, getting that that right and we want to make this team experience, whether it’s an AI team or a human based team for us as the focus of making that great and getting that right.

PowerUp! – When playing co-op, if players are of different levels, will there be scaling so each player faces an appropriate difficulty?

Escayg – We haven’t talked about exactly the mechanics or what range we’re going to allow, but yes, there will be some scaling mechanic to account for different levels.

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Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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