San Diego Comic Con 2011 – Activision Panel
This year at Comic Con Acitivsion had a lot to share with a good number of upcoming games, many looking to be enjoyable. This panel saw a lot of changes overall but a good number of people worked on a large number of products. For the first part of the panel there was Peter David: writer for Marvel responsible for Spider Man 2099, T.Q. Jefferson: Producer of the game, Stan Lee: founder of Marvel Comics, Dee Brown: Studiohead of Beeknox, Julian Spillane: Assistant Project Director of Silicon Knights and Ryan Penagos as the Moderator of the panel.
The first panel focused on the upcoming game, “Spider-man: Edge of Time”. Stan Lee spoke first after they showed the trailer for the game. He was amazed to see it and felt it would be very exciting to play as Spider-man in this game. Julian spoke next saying that as you played you would earn experience and with that unlock new abilities. He loved how it represented Spider-man's actual learning curve as he finds his abilities. Dee and T.Q. were next up talking about how they had given a lot in their last Spider-man game, Shattered Dimensions, but they wanted to take the story to the next level. They both agreed that “You simply need to know what to keep in a game and what needs to go” to make it better. In this game Spider-man is dying thanks to the temporal manipulations of one person, Walter Sloan. This game is also to feature a new Cause and Effect system. What one character does can influence the environment and situation of the other. They wanted to have two characters in a single narrative. T.Q. remarked that no games really took the tack of trying to save a dying hero. Stan Lee remarked at the end that he was not terribly happy to see the possibility of Spider-man dying but he had the utmost confidence in the team to find a way to bring Spider-man back.
The second part of the panel largely kept the same people just they added in the voice actors for “X-men Destiny” and about that game at length. Stan Lee was quick to comment on how they had brought the X-men to life so much bigger and better than he ever could have on the comic page. He further said that games now have bigger budgets than movies and ended his comments with “Eat your heart out Batman!”
Julian talked a bit about the game itself, that you would be playing as one of three newly awakened mutants. The game focuses on one of the big themes within X-men, Mutant Persecution. The antagonist here are a group called the “Purifiers”, a group bent on preserving the purity of the human race. Throughout the game you will be making choices that will align you ultimately with the Brotherhood of Mutants or the X-men. This comes down to the philosphy that you would have your character embrace, thus giving a more tailored experience than most other X-men games offered.
T.Q. spoke next, talking about making this game different. He said that there are particular expectations for a game where you play as the X-men. He felt that by having a game where you started as a new mutant you could get a better experience overall, letting you decide who you will align with. Both Magneto and Professor X make very compelling cases so it is never a black and white case. Stan Lee jumped in to express his excitement about all this. He was happy to see the amount of choice that the game was going to have and had to add a few words about the panel. That he had worked with some amazing talent over the years, phenomenal artists and writers but put them in front of a microphone and they froze. He was astounded at how easily all the panels could talk about the game.
Just before Stan Lee left the panel, T.Q. took a moment to show his business which had a number of Marvel Super Heroes on it stating plainly that “We're all in this business because of you [...] We're here today because of what you created”, to which Stan humorously replied “So give me money!” everyone cracked up at that point. We all thanked Stan Lee as he left the stage.
As Stan left, Jamie Chung and Scott Porter joined the panel. These two voiced Iami and Adrian in “X-men Destiny” and were asked to tell us something about their characters. Jamie started with hers, telling us that she is the daughter of Sunfire. Apparently over in Japan there is much more radical mutant persecution so he sent her over to the United States via cargo ship! She found herself in San Francisco and was very confused and hurt at her father's actions. This is also how she comes to learn about both the Brotherhood and the X-men. Scott spoke next about Adrian who is the son of a Purifier. The Purifiers are drawn from the X-men universe itself and are well known for their radical approach to mutants, seeing them as the spawn of the devil. With this change also means that everyone he ever knew before now has turned on him.
Julian took the floor now and started talking about the game itself. As you would be playing someone new to the universe, this gives you a chance to learn their personality. You would also get the chance to immerse yourself in the characters through the choices that you would be making. Much of the players experience would be handled through the choices that they make and where they come to stand a number of social issues in the X-men universe. It was his greatest hope that they would come to stand a chance to move into the Marvel Universe itself. He also explained a bit on how the game would be handling the mutant powers. In-game you would be able to collect these “X-genes”, by using them you can gain an aspect of a mutant's powers, be it the offensive, defensive or supportive element of it. By combining them in different ways you can create a very powerful hero with a unique skill set. He told us that he wanted something that would be simple to understand . He explained at the start of the game you would be choose from three basic power sets: Energy, Density and Shadow. Energy allowed for elemental blast (like those of Havoc or Storm) while density allowed the character to change their body making it to their liking while Shadow allowed for teleportation and a few other nasty bits. Scott hopped in and added that you would be able to choose 3 mentors from whichever side you chose. It just added another dimension to how this whole experience could be. This allows you to see the Marvel characters in a new way.
T.Q. took the floor here and made it clear that powers are just one part of the game's experience. He told us that you would come to know the character's hopes, dreams and fears over the course of the game. He felt it was incredibly important for you to find the characters recognizable as people. Julian made a quick comment here on how that was part of what made Spider-man so successful, that the reader could see that aspect and could truly relate to him.
Before this part of the panel ended, there were a few questions from the moderator to everyone still there. The first was who were their favorite X-men. Ryan chose Cable, T.Q. chose Wolverine and Magneto, Jamie chose Psylocke, Scott gave us his top 5 (Havoc, Ice Man, Beast, Nightcrawler and Psylocke), Julian chose Apocalypse and Calvin chose Wolverine and Storm (before she was married). Thee second question was what side would they personally choose between the Brotherhood and the X-men. T.Q. responsed that it was like the choice between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, and while he could see himself as a good guy he would ultimately end up on Brotherhood. Jamie opted quickly for the X-men as Scott did for the Brotherhood. Julian pulled a curveball on us choosing the Morlocks while Ryan opted for the brotherhood much for the same reasons as T.Q.
Before the panel ended, we saw it shift back to “Spider-man: Edge of Time”. This time they brought out the voice actors behind the game. This was Laura Vandivor, who voice Mary Jane, Katie Sackoff, voicing the Black Cat, and Vil Kilmer who did Walker Sloane. Dee Brown also returned to the panel as did Peter David. The first questions were directed to the voice actors about how it was to play their characters. Val took the floor saying that it was really fun to voice Sloan. He was very confident about how the game was going to be received. He always finds it fun to voice a bad guy, he loves to growling. Laura enjoyed playing MJ, even if it was a lot of falling down an elevator shaft. Katie enjoyed voicing the Black Cat. She wanted to incorporate a purr but that was just too sensual.
Val told us that he had done some voice work before on Dreamworks first animated film. It was easy for him to care in this world. It makes it easier to deal with the elements that you need to incorporate for a character. More so, he felt it could be done meticulously as everyone could easily be involved. He was later asked who Walter Sloan would choose between Mary Jane and Black Cat. He commented on one of the perks of being the bad guy is that you do not have to choose.
Next Dean and T.Q. talked a bit more about the narrative and the Cause and Effect system. They wanted two characters within this narrative. Within the system you could see what is happening to the other character along and see the results of what your character does to aid them. Through something called “Quantum Tunneling”, the two are able to talk to one another. This all came from a strong need for that to be part of the game to build the desired narrative. Most of this stems, in-game, from the fact that Peter Parker's DNA was stored in a permanent database. We were also told about one of running gags within the game relating to Spider-man asking his future counterpart just how this works. To this Spider-man 2099 will reply “Do you really want a three hour lecture on ...”. This is something that propels the narrative as well because all of this gives them a chance to bond.
The final bit was on how the whole story started. They had the game down in the broad stokes: the cinematic, locations, story. The entire team was surprised at what Marvel would approve of. They kept an open channel of communication with them and were surprised at what they approved of. They also gave helpful feedback on the Universe and its mechanics so things kept to the proper consistency. This only enhanced the flow of ideas and improved the game overall for everyone.
The panel took a good look at the two up coming Activision games “Spider-man: Edge of Time” and “X-men Destiny”. Both games look to offer up something different from what we have previously seen in either series. There are great minds behind both games and both have a solid cast. It will be a pleasure to play them when they come out.