Last weekend, the WorthPlaying team visited PlayStation Experience in San Francisco. While there, I had a chance to check out the latest builds of LEGO Marvel's Avengers on both the PlayStation 4 and the Vita and have a chat with Arthur Parsons, the game director responsible for LEGO Marvel's Avengers. Parsons is a veteran developer at TT Games, having worked on games for more than 16 years, and he was more than happy to share some thoughts about the development process behind LEGO Marvel's Avengers.
WorthPlaying: You've shown off a few different areas of LEGO Marvel's Avengers at different events. Today, you're showing off the game's prologue level, which is taken from the very beginning of "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" movie. Why start the game with "Age of Ultron" rather than starting with the beginning of the story?
Arthur Parsons: We wanted to start with "Age of Ultron" because that opening sequence of the movie is just brilliant. Not only that, it actually features every single Avenger. So for us to be able to open with that level means gamers get to play Hulk, Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Thor all at once, leading up to taking down Strucker and his castle. It then actually segues really nicely back to "Avengers" because Tony get's Loki's staff. We can then go back to the start of "Avengers" because, to be fair, "Age of Ultron" is going to be more in people's minds, and then you can just remind them, "Do you remember this staff? This is the staff that the Other gave to Loki," and then we set off on playing through "Avengers."
WP: A lot of the gameplay is going to be what LEGO gamers expect, solving puzzles and breaking every brick in sight, but one of the features that you're focusing on in LEGO Marvel's Avengers is the team-up mechanic. Can you tell us a little bit about how that differs from the team-up mechanic we saw in LEGO The Hobbit?
AP: Teaming up is something that we've never really done it whole scale. Avengers is about teaming up, so we've gone ahead and we've effectively made it a key mechanic in terms of puzzles. You'll have to team up Hawkeye with Black Widow or Iron Man with Hulk, in various situations. It allows us to really bring what is kind of the key feature of the Avengers, teamwork, bringing that to the forefront. We've also managed to make sure that's there in the combat. One of the things that people said about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes that needed a bit of a refresh was the combat. So to be able to then take team-ups to a whole new level and allow any Avenger to team up with any other Avenger to perform specials, effectively special smart-bomb moves, just means it kind of brings that whole essence of everything about being an Avenger into the game.
It allows a different feel, a different flavor, because we try and make sure every LEGO game has something new and exciting and different. Teaming up is one thing for LEGO Marvel's Avengers, and we've also got a load of different gameplay styles. As people play through the game, they'll find we've actually put different gameplay mechanics in there. For example, when you're playing as War Machine and Iron Man flying around the Helicarrier, taking out goons, or when you're playing as the Veronica satellite, Hulkbuster is one player and the second player actually plays as a moving camera, as Veronica, sending down tear gas, sending down parts for Hulkbuster. We've tried to mix and match some of the gameplay as well as to freshen things up.
WP: Speaking of Hulkbuster, he's about twice the size of a standard big fig. When you first introduced big figs in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, that changed up gameplay because of their size. How did introducing even bigger characters impact the overall game design and map design?
AP: It's one of those things. As a team, we always like to one-up ourselves. We were the first game to introduce transformations, being able to go from Banner to Hulk, bringing big figs to the forefront. We then decided when we came back to the Marvel Universe, "How can we take that up another notch?" So, Hulkbuster came in and, like you say, he's twice the size of a standard big fig, but it doesn't stop there. You're about to turn characters like Black Goliath into a character 10 times the size of a normal mini figure. You're able to play Fin Fang Foom, a huge character. So it affects map design in a way that sometimes we actually have to stop you taking characters that are too big inside, say, the container ship in South Africa, but predominantly, we don't really like to stop ourselves. We like to challenge ourselves. First to do one thing in one game, let's raise the bar again, and try something new and exciting again.
WP: To quickly talk about some of the hub worlds, you're flying around Manhattan again, and you've got the Helicarrier back, but when you were flying around in space during the demo, it looked like there were quite a few additional hubs, similar to what we saw in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
AP: Everybody that we heard from has said that one of the things they found most exciting about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was being able to go around Manhattan. So it was a no-brainer to bring Manhattan back into the game, and it's obviously key to the storyline, but we wanted to offer something bigger and better this time around. We've actually got seven other hub worlds. Now, obviously, they're not the same scale as Manhattan, but they're pretty big, and they revolve around different bits of the story.
You have Malibu in there from "Iron Man 3." You've got Washington from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and you've got Asgard from "Thor: The Dark World." Then also some locations from the main story; so Sokovia, we've also got South Africa, we've got the S.H.I.E.L.D. base from the start of "Avengers," and the idea is just to allow people more freedom. It's not just Manhattan this time. You've got other areas to explore. It gives us scope to add more crazy quests and crazy kind of side missions. If you're in Washington, yeah, we can have a little nod to the whole, "On your left," thing. Little Marvel easter eggs. It gives us more free rein to have fun.
WP: What about the PlayStation Vita? That's one area where you guys have been criticized in the past. The Vita LEGO games have always felt like cut-down versions of the console games. Here at PlayStation Experience, you're showing the open world Manhattan hub running on the Vita. Are you taking a step up with the portable version?
AP: The way that we develop games at TT, the console development for LEGO Marvel's Avengers is done in Knutsford. My colleague Steven over at TT Fusion heads up the design on the Vita and 3DS versions. The first thing he wanted to do was to get the open world into LEGO Marvel's Avengers. They spent a lot of time and effort to try, again, to push the boundaries for the handheld version, and this time around, there's an open world Manhattan, there's a load of side quests, there's a load of hidden content. I think they've really raised the bar from the previous Marvel Super Heroes Vita game. Hopefully, people are going to really enjoy what they've done.
WP: As far as revealing characters, you are fairly active on Twitter and interact directly with your fans. How did you come to do that? More importantly, how did you convince WB's PR team to let you be so open and direct with your fans versus having everything come out of WB's mouth, so to speak?
AP: It's one of those things where we pride ourselves on listening to people that effectively pay our wages, people that buy our games. If we are not keeping them happy, then they're not going to buy our games. So ultimately, every single one of us that works at TT Games wants people that buy a LEGO videogame to really enjoy it and to really be pleased that they've bought one of our titles. So yeah, I'm very active on social media, and it's one of those things; Warner embraces the fact that people get in touch. It's one of those things where, why not reach out? Why not get in touch with people? What don't you like? Tell us what you don't like, so we can fix it. Tell us what you do like, so we can give you more. Tell us just what you had for breakfast; we don't mind.
At the end of the day, it's a great way of really engaging. We're in the 21st century. Events like PlayStation Experience, you get to speak to people. I FaceTimed someone's lad before, a six-year-old boy, because this guy, Miles, absolutely loves LEGO games, and his Dad was like, "Can you just please FaceTime my son because he'll be so excited," and it's that level of engagement.
You know, people out there feel that they are part of the games that we make, and they are, so being able to give back to them. Like even today, accidentally telling people that Doctor Strange and Trauma are in the game. Some of this is obviously pre-cleared, so it's all fine, but ultimately, we're trusted to make sure that we don't say the wrong things. We just like to keep people happy.
WP: Last question. You're covering both of Marvel's Avengers movies. You've got nods to Iron Man, to Winter Soldier and the rest. Are we going to see a lead-in to "Captain America: Civil War," or does the game end right where "Age of Ultron" ends?
AP: The game finishes, as in the main story finishes, at the end of "Age of Ultron." It's a pretty epic conclusion to the game. Probably the most epic of all the games I've worked on. However, like every single video game that myself and the team are involved with, we leave plenty open to the imagination with our post-credits teasers. I'd like to think that people, when they play it, will be able to read into what they see and, I don't know, get in touch and let us know what you think.
Editor's Note: Don't miss our EXCLUSIVE LEGO Marvel's Avengers contest! You can win an autographed LEGO Marvel's Avengers limited edition collector's card, direct from PlayStation Experience. Check out the contest page for all the details!
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