by: Anthony Zangrillo
Over the weekend, Lego Marvel’s Avengers smashed through New York Comic Con, maintaining a strong presence at the Marvel Comics booth. The Motion Picture Club received the opportunity to interview Arthur Parsons (Game Director, TT Games), Mike Jones (Executive Producer, Marvel Games) and Bill Rosemann (Creative Director, Marvel Games).
Before heading to the interview, I had a chance to experience the newest Lego game on the show floor. Utilizing a team of four pint-sized Avengers, I fought my way through the Battle of New York leaving no brick unturned. I jumped at the opportunity to play my favorite Avenger: Captain America. From the moment I moved the avatar, I understood how much care and time the development team had invested in every aspect of the game. If you move Cap fast enough, he begins charging towards the objective with his vibranium shield raised high. While a little touch for most players, I am utterly content watching the fearless Captain rush into battle for the entire game. Moreover, each character has his or her unique finishing maneuvers. Once again, my favorite involved Captain America’s neck-breaker move, reminding me of a classic wrestling finisher. Enriching the combat further, team moves are the key to completing this game. Almost any two characters can perform team attacks, which vary the combat potential significantly.
After experiencing the fresh tweaks to the newest addition in the Lego franchise, I headed to the first round table session, where Arthur fielded questions from the multitude of outlets in attendance. One of the biggest concerns involved the continuation of the individual Lego titles. Recently, Lego jumped into the toy-to-life video game market with the highly acclaimed Lego Dimensions title. Reporters wanted to know if the platform model would usurp the independent games. Arthur relieved any worries of a shift in the market, solidifying Lego’s commitment to individual titles launching separate from the Dimensions platform. However, Arthur keenly left the door open to Marvel characters joining the Dimensions fray.
Arthur reverently spoke about the creative team’s access to Marvel’s gigantic library of characters. The team tried to include a vast array of Avengers characters to satisfy players of all ages. A resident Marvel expert helped the developers create the move set for each character, literally bringing the heroes to life within the game. Still, an effort was made to somewhat focus the scope of the library on Avengers characters, so you won’t see Spider-Man swinging across your screen. As the Marvel creative team later explained in response to a demand for Spider Gwen, the characters in Lego Marvel’s Avengers “must have a significant relationship with the Avengers.” Furthermore, the game aims to provide player s with the highlight sequences of each film. While it would be interesting to play through an entire narrative of Iron Man 3, there just isn’t enough time to match the story beat-for-beat. Rather, the development team will drop users in the most compelling sequences for each film.
As mentioned earlier, the team wanted to change up the combat. Arthur expressed the need to keep the gameplay “fresh,” so audiences will keep coming back. Even though the Lego games “focus on a younger audience,” the developers are aware of their older gamers who thoroughly enjoy the game as well. To satisfy these two varied audiences, there is a conscious effort to provide gameplay that is deep but accessible. For example, Lego excels in its collect-a-thon gameplay, yet younger players never have to feel compelled to grab every brick in the game.
Arthur expressed immense pride in the game’s star-studded cast from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whereas the previous entry, Lego Marvel Super Heroes utilized an original voice cast, this game will have the benefit of using audio from the movies. To Arthur, it was a treat to have these talented voices within the game, and the team was able to create some new lines of dialogue for MCU actors, like Colbie Smolders, reprising her role as SHIELD Agent Maria Hill. This added touch truly enhances the overall presentation of the game. On a side note, Arthur hinted at the return of Stan Lee in a new capacity. Without divulging future secrets, Arthur commented on how proud he was to have the comic book legend appear in Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Arthur joked that he originally wanted him in the game, just so that he could meet the Excelsior originator.
To wrap up our time with the developer, journalists swarmed Arthur with questions concerning future IPs ripe for the Lego treatment. I laughed at the idea of a Lego Walking Dead game and agreed with Arthur’s assessment that a Walking Dead game is too mature for Lego’s intended audience.
Shifting roundtables, I joined Mike and Bill as they discussed their aim in developing gameplay: “How fun can you make the gameplay?” Marvel and Lego want to “lean into the fun,” allowing the team to be very flexible in picking which characters appear in the game and how the characters interact with each other. When developing this title, the team focused on the two tent pole films: Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. They went on to remark, “as for future things, that’s [for] another day.” They expressed great interest in making future title for the future MCU films, such as the recently announced Ant-Man and Wasp.
I asked the creative duo if they were open to introducing new characters in the Lego Marvel games, similar to Guillotine’s introduction in Contest of Champions. In a simple reply, they said “why not.” The Lego games aim to encourage imagination and creativity. They mentioned that their own kids would mix and mash figures into new creations. For example, one of their sons made his own Sam Wilson, as the all-new Captain America, by combining the pieces of Captain America and Falcon. This example shows how kids play with Legos and what the team hopes the video game platform encourages.
A reporter mentioned that some characters in the game were never realized as physical Lego toys. Mike and Bill love things translated “under the Lego lens.” For example, they loved witnessing the iconic Avengers assembled scene from the first movie in Lego form. They want to keep the game “authentically Marvel” as well as “authentically Lego.” They think it’s great if some of those virtual mini-figures would eventually become an actual consumer product.
On to fan requests, Mike and Bill mentioned that fans clamor for the new characters (in the comics and the MCU). Fans are always craving for “the new wave…to see things they have never seen before.” Additionally, comic creators are always excited to have their creations appear in the game. Artists and writers will often send the game’s creative team advanced artistic renderings of projects they are working on. There is also much communication with the film and television departments at Marvel. This lead-time enables Marvel to communicate with the many different arms of its company to support a “hive mind” approach to its releases through “constant communication.” At the same time, “gameplay is key” and will ultimately inform the selection of characters for the game.
When asked about future release, the Marvel representatives could barely contain their excitement about the games “being cooked in Jarvis’ kitchen.” For example, they mentioned their upcoming partnership with Tell Tale Games, explaining, “they’re quietly at work in the lab” and are excited about the future of Marvel games.
Bricks will fly when LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is released on January 26, 2016, available for Xbox One®, Xbox 360®, PlayStation®4, PlayStation®3, PlayStation®Vita, Wii™U, Nintendo 3DS™ and Windows PC.