Having biffed, bashed and boshed our way through hordes of evildoers we took a brief pause to chat with Marvel Heroes lead designer, David Brevik, about free-to-play games, the challenge of creating loot for superheroes and why he’s moved on from the realm of high fantasy.
Your game development history is really rooted in the realm of high fantasy, why the switch to superheroes?
Well, first and foremost I’m a Marvel fan, so that really appealed to me. But then also, I really like to change things up and do different things, so I thought that having superheroes within an action RPG would present the ability to do things I haven’t been able to do before – stuff like flight and a lot more environmental destruction and stuff I was really excited about that.
How has the ability for anyone to play the same hero affected some of your decisions about the game? Was it an easy one to make or were you worried that everyone would be running around as Iron Man or whatever the latest Marvel release was?
Well, now I’m worried about that! But, really, no, I wasn’t really worried about that choice. All along I thought it was the right decision because as far as the IP is concerned I wanted to play as the famous heroes, I didn’t want to play as somebody that I made up. Part of the appeal of the actual license is the relationships the characters have with each other and when you create your own hero I don’t know who this is or how my character relates to them so you lose some of the meaning and purpose behind the world.
So, even though it kind of breaks the reality in that there may be multiple Spider-men on screen, it was worth the price. In my opinion, having something that allows you to play the guys you want to play but also have a better story and a chance to convey those relationships was really important- it overrode the fact that there may be multiple versions of the same hero.
And when you’re playing the game, honestly, nobody really complains or even notices so it’s not that big of a deal. You quickly forget the entire thing and it becomes kind of a non-issue.
I’m not sure how aware you are of the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games…
Sure, I’m very aware of them. They’re some of my favourite games…
It’s just I was getting a similar feeling from Marvel Heroes in the way the heroes relate to each other and how you can combine attacks and so on. Was that an influence?
Absolutely it was an influence! I love the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. Obviously, they were first influenced by Diablo and then Marvel Heroes has now been influenced by them, so there’s some weird, bizarre love triangle going on there or something. It definitely was an influence, though, and on purpose we’ve designed skills and powers that work together so that one hero is doing one thing that enables his party to do something or has an influence on another character’s skills and finding those combinations can be a whole lot of fun for the player.
Touching on the story briefly, you often find in a lot of MMOs that it’s simply delivered in a big wall of text that you just click accept to and get on with killing 100 rats or whatever. What did you find was most difficult about bringing a superhero story into an MMO?
In a lot of ways we had to change the structure of an MMO. To make a story really important part of what you’re trying to do it has to be the centre of what you’re trying to do. Making more of a linear storyline through an MMO is not the way that it had really been done before. Most MMOs you start in separate parts of the world and then…they did this incredibly with The Old Republic where they had eight zillion lines of text and eventually wove together all these different parts of the story, but trying to do that was a Herculean task. For us we just wanted to have some story that allows us to tell something that everybody can experience and kind of simplify that whole process.
Is there a definitive end to what you have at the moment then?
It’s the same kind of ending to what we had in Diablo: is it really the end? I don’t know!
It seems like the sort of thing that, with the way you’ve structured it, you could very easily add to it.
Absolutely! That’s exactly it.