Saturday, June 21, 2008
Dear: The People Who Make Marvel Comics Video Games
Please stop putting Spiderman games in big open sandbox environments where you swing around and do oh so slight variations on 4 pretty dull mission types (chase/race/collect/etc) and then once in a while toss in a boss fight and/or a somewhat unique mission.
I LOVE Marvel Comics and I LOVE the promise of games based on Marvel Comics. But why can't you guys make a game that feels like a comic? I don't mean art style wise; I don't mean like Comix Zone with panels and cliche stuff like that. I mean feels like a comic in a story based, narrative way: a game that shows off the OTHER aspect that makes Marvel Comics so special: The characters/story. It's not JUST about the powers, you know. But your games are always ONLY about the powers.
The thing that made Stan and co's comics so unique back in the 60's is he was the first guy to say, "Hey, let's treat these stories with some respect, let's treat these characters with respect and in doing so, we'll grow the audience well beyond 8 year old boys- who ONLY care about the powers"....and with that thinking, the entire medium of American comics was reinvented.
As a huge comic and game fan- and as a game designer as well- I really hope Marvel stops ONLY using the HOW TO MAKE A MARVEL GAME template that seems to demand: Open City, Hero Powers, Recycled Missions ad nauseam, and a few Unique things tossed in. And I hope they stop because this template- in most cases- goes against the very thing that makes the comics so special: story.
The games- as well made as some of them are- get boring fast and betray the source material upon which they are based.
If I was making the calls about Marvel games, here's the #1 thing that I would do:take the templates of story based games like God of War, Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry 1, etc. and use that template as a jumping off template for games with Spidey, Wolverine, Captain America. Make STORY based games, not POWER based games. I'm not suggesting you take the powers away. I AM suggesting a much more scripted experience that allows players to revel in what makes the comics upon which the game is based so special. You can HAVE some open areas within that structure. Have like 3 really amazing web slinging areas that really show that mechanic off in a fun, excitingly designed way. Just don't base the WHOLE game around it.
And heck, if you gotta go open environment, at least TRY To do unique missions every time. GUN from Activision- who publishes alot of the Marvel games- did a good job of this. It was a big open world but it still felt like I was living in a very cool story/adventure. And I loved that about it.
Now let's be honest: the day to day reasons why things happen in a game company go well beyond the rants and desires of an almost 40 year old man who still occasionally reads comics and still LOVES the Marvel characters (yes, even typing that makes me feel a little pathetic, but what can I do...it true! :)...
And I get why decisions are made for business reasons...games have to come out and there are developers who already have a sandbox game engine and a work structure that allows a sandbox game to get made; games have to come out and publishers know that players like sandbox games so why risk the formula that makes them money,etc. I understand all that. I respect all of that. Makes sense.
As a gamer tho, and a Marvel fan for life, I just don't like it.
ps. these pics above are from 1up.com AND they are from the new Marvel game WEB OF SHADOWS. It could be the best game ever. I'm not knocking it as I have not played it. These images were just the impetus behind this post so I figured I'd post them here. And I hope I am wrong, BUT to be fair, from the images it does LOOK like another big open city/run around/swing around game. Now maybe they can make it more fun this time than similarly designed games from the past. I'm hoping cause I'm still gonna be playing it...at least for a few hours!
pps. Yes, I even played the last Spidey game: Friend or Foe and to be fair, that was a better structure for a Marvel game...it was just a- no offense to the team- pretty bland, boring game. Combat was actually pretty good but there was nothing really to it. Granted, it was more for kids so maybe that target group loved it.
ppps. I also played the GHOST RIDER PSP game that was- I thought- pretty good and used a DMC structure. I liked that game; combat was really good/fun. But again, too combat centric. Hell, that's ALL that game was. What is the deal with this pattern? And it's not just comic games...tends to be almost ANY licensed game from an action source (comic/movie/tv show). It's like: let's model the characters and locations and then just have people fight! When will developers or publishers learn that the combat is like ONE PART of the meal...it can't be the whole thing! A whole game that is pretty much JUST going arena to arena and fighting DOES have an audience. But it's not a very big one. And yet, they shove this template down our throats over and over. Why!?!