TT Games Talks New Moves, New Characters, and New New York in ‘Lego Marvel’s Avengers’
This year, TT Games continues its brief tradition of rotating comic book Lego game releases from Marvel and DC with Lego Marvel's Avengers. Based on the two Avengers films, Lego Avengers will allow you to play through both movies with the actual cast doing the voice overs. No new audio will be recorded of course; like Lego The Hobbit, this game will reuse the dialogue from the films in place of having actors like Robert Downey, Jr or Chris Hemsworth reprising their roles.
TT Games held a small interview session before the panel at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, and we spoke with producer Matt Ellison about the upcoming action game. As the third Lego game TT will be releasing this year (Lego Jurassic World is available now, and Lego Dimensions arrives this fall), we discussed what makes Lego Marvel's Avengers different and what new elements would be incorporated, from characters to mechanics, to keep the Lego experience fresh.
ComicsAlliance: One of the new features this time around is the tag-team maneuvers. When implementing those, what's the process in creating the ways each character works with one another?
Matt Ellison: What we try to do is base it on what we see in the films. This game is the first Avengers and the Age of Ultron, so there's stuff that happens in those movies that when we see that, we go, "Oh we can use that." In Age of Ultron, for example, Thor hits Captain America's shield with Mjolnir, and knocks it into some enemies. With the combat in this game, we're able to make it so that if you defeat enough enemies, you've got a little charge bar that when filled, can let you pull off a special move with the characters. A lot of it is based on the stuff we do see in the films.
Some of it is not, which is a bit of fun. For example, Hawkeye can pull out a big bow, and then Black Widow jumps on it, and he shoots her into the air. Then she shoots any enemies in the surrounding area. So it's a combination of things that happen in the films and things that are just a bit of fun because it is a Lego game after all. We're always trying to have a bit of fun.
CA: In addition to the core cast from the films, you're again ramping up the number of characters included to top the previous effort (Lego Batman 3). When adding new characters, do you look for those that fit in with established power archetypes in the Lego format, or are you looking for characters that can add a new twist?
ME: It's a bit of a combination, actually. We are always trying to make as many characters as we can possibly fit in a game. It's something people kind of expect and love. As you said, we've got the core characters, and we've characters that when we speak to Marvel, they kind of tell us, "These are the characters that will be up and coming, and when the game comes out, these are the ones you're going to want in there." So we've added in characters like Sam Wilson Captain America and Wiccan, and whole lot more. We try to get as many of those in as possible, and then we go back over the history of the Avengers and Marvel and find a few obscure ones as well.
In terms of the powers, it's amazing how many fit into things that we've done in Lego games already. We've covered the vast majority of superhero abilities by this point, but there's always new things. Quicksilver, for instance, has a new attack in this game that we've never done before. He runs super-fast, but he's now got an attack where if you target multiple enemies, the game goes into bullet time. Everyone else slows down, and he goes around and knocks everyone out. We're always looking for new ways to add things that fit these characters, and taking what Quicksilver did in the film and making that work in the game was one of the ways we tried to add in new abilities.
CA: So with a character like the Sam Wilson Captain America, will he have strictly Captain America abilities, or will he have some of his Falcon skills as well?
ME: Both. He'll have the Captain America shield, and he'll have a special type of switch, where he can then go to the Falcon abilities and fly around. What we always try to do is, if there's a character in this game, any ability that you expect that character to have, they'll have it. If there was ever a character we couldn't do that for, I'd imagine we wouldn't have them in the game. We want to make sure that whoever your favorite character is, they'd play just like you'd expect.
CA: Previously in Lego Batman 3, the big feature was transforming characters. You did that to an extent with the previous Lego Marvel Super Heroes game, but the games definitely have had different gameplay styles. Do you keep those mechanics separate for the Marvel and DC brands with a purpose, or is it more of a fit thing?
ME: The Lego games are iterative, so with every game we make, we learn things. With Lego Marvel Super Heroes was the first that introduce big figures, like the Hulk. That was the first time we'd done that sort of transform ability. Obviously we will continue to do that if it's something people love, but we like to try new things that we haven't done previously, and try to do these things that people want to see.
This time, with Iron Man, when you want to change suits, you press the transform button and it will take you into the JARVIS heads-up display. There will be a little suit wheel in that inside of Iron Man's helmet, like you see in the films, and when you exit out you'll see a little animation that references where the suit you chose came from. If it comes from a film, it'll be a little reference to how he suits up with that.
We're always looking to improve all the different aspects, and make sure it fits the game and the reference it's based upon.
CA: Speaking of the animations, one thing that's always been a hallmark, even when the games were back in the silent era, are the idle animations. Previously, I've seen that if you leave a character like Captain America sit for a moment, he'll whip out his compass with the picture of Peggy Carter. When putting these together, are you always looking for a small reference like that to sneak in, and do different versions of the same character get different idle animations?
ME: It varies, but it really comes down to the animation team in the studio and what they want to do. They're amazing. It's a passion for the source material, and they are good little Easter eggs for people. Not everyone is going to stop playing to see these, but the people that do will appreciate these cool little things we've added.
We've actually got Stan Lee back in this game, and he's actually in an Iron Man suit --- we call him Iron Stan --- and he's got his own Stan Buster suit, too. For him, when he's left idle for a moment, the hatch will open up and a typewriter is sitting there, so Stan will just start writing. We want to always be including little moments of humor like that.
CA: While the core game is based in the two films, there's also going to be another open world area. Is it going to be just like the previous game, where it was a fairly large New York, or will it be a little more confined?
ME: We're back to New York and making it bigger and better. We've revamped it, so it's being adapted to fit the Avengers more. We upgrade Stark Tower to Avengers Tower between the films, but we did want to make it more than just New York in this game. In Age of Ultron, the team hops all over the world, and we wanted to incorporate a bit of that. Instead of just being game levels to play, you can visit these places as sort of hub worlds between the story. They'll all have their own quests and collectibles, too, so you'll have New York and all of these little areas as well.
CA: After not using the open world previously in Lego Batman 3, why did TT decide to go back to it again for Avengers?
ME: It's just a matter of doing different things between games. We had an open world in Lego Batman 2, and the previous Marvel game, and with so much of the first Avengers taking place in New York, it just made sense. We want each game to offer something different, and with Lego Avengers, we knew open world New York would be back.
Note: After our interview, TT Games held its panel on Lego Marvel's Avengers at Comic-Con, where the developer officially revealed characters like Sam Wilson, Crossbones, Iron Stan, Jane Foster Thor, Carol Danvers, Kamala Khan and America Chavez.
While the fan response was great (Jane Foster, Carol, America Chavez and Kamala Khan in a game? Awesome!), the initial images released painted a picture of an America Chavez that didn't match up with her Hispanic heritage. Fans of the character, who rose to prominence in Kieron Gillen's and Jamie McKelvie's Young Avengers run, were vocal on Twitter and sites like The Mary Sue with their disappointment in how Chavez was seemingly white-washed. It looked like they put a palette swap on the Scarlet Witch character model, and that really diminished Miss America's unique importance.
The outcry reached Kieron Gillen, who got in touch with Marvel Games creative director Bill Rosemann. Marvel and TT Games responded quickly this week to assure concerned fans that this problem would be fixed by the time Lego Avengers arrives this winter:
It's a shame that fans' delight at the inclusion of characters like Chavez and Kamala Khan was almost immediately overshadowed by a poor character model, but that TT Games and Marvel responded to the issue is great news. That they responded this quickly is remarkable. That kind of speedy turnaround and mea culpa in the gaming industry is almost unheard of.
Hopefully this means the development team will be more aware for other minority characters planned for Lego Avengers, and we won't have this issue again when they finally show off the likes of Kamala or (fingers crossed) Miles Morales.