It's quite the Herculean effort.
In detailing Avengers gameplay at PAX AUS 2019, Crystal Dynamics’ Scot Amos introduced us to Warzones: the game’s large-scale mission areas that allow players to choose which of the game’s heroes they want to play as. This differs from the title’s core story missions which will focus on one particular hero (aptly called Hero missions).
Given the breadth of powers in the Avengers lineup — strength, speed, flight, acrobatics and espionage to name a few – we asked just what it was like to build a level with so many possibilities.
“It’s difficult!” Amos laughed. “We actually have an entire team dedicated — specifically a Warzone team, but even the level design team overall — that have to figure out, not only these core six [heroes], we have to make the levels so they can account for future heroes.”
Amos and the Crystal Dynamics team have already confirmed more heroes will be added to the game as part of their ongoing support of the title post-launch.
“We have to make sure that we can… I say, future-proof them might be too difficult, but what can we take into effect? Like, what other heroes would do? What are the mechanics we have for flight? The grappling you see that Kamala can do, you’ve got to play with a little bit. How do we build a world that’s fun for all to traverse and feel like they can keep up, but also have their own unique way through that world? And that’s a big challenge, but it’s something that we’ve built a team around. Actually. It’s taken us a while to master how to do that.”
But with such a varied group of heroes on the team, how do you balance them? When Iron Man can fly, Thor can summon lightning and Hulk can punch a mountain in half… how do you ensure that Black Widow is just as much fun to play with more down-to-earth espionage skills?
“I think Vince [Napoli] is the best answer to that. Vince is our lead combat designer, who came from God of War, who I’d known back in the Visceral Games days. Vince has been an amazing success story for us, of coming into a world with these six heroes and he just lives, breathes and eats combat. It is the thing that gets him up in the morning, it’s the reason he works crazy hours into the wee hours in the morning because he just loves it,” Amos continued.
“I literally have to tear him away from his machine because he’s just like, ‘Oh I can make it better. No I have another idea, you can do this.’ And he drives what’s called the PET Team, the Player, Enemy, Traversal team. These guys are fanatics, they’re fanatics about saying, ‘How do we make this feel fun, fluid and look just right to make the powers work with the gear, make the gear and the perks work with the powers?’”
“They’ve been an amazing team, and we started them with very hard challenges like Black Widow. It’s a great example – I’d say, ‘Take Black Widow and make her awesome.’ Now we already had, you know, some version of Iron Man and this version of Hulk and then when Vince showed up, we’d say, ‘Take Black Widow and make her amazing.’
“And after he had some amount of time making her great, we’re like, ‘Oh my God, she is great. Like this is a crazy amount of fun.’ And he’s managed to capture that essence of fluidity between her acrobatics, her more, as you said, espionage style, her guns, her batons, the kind of power that she has.”
At this point, Amos almost seemed ready to give up the goods on Black Widow’s gameplay.
“And she’s got a little extra juice. There’s a little— there’s some stuff you can see. I think on our hero drops we have some tidbits out there, if you go look on our Play Avengers sites and through Crystal Dynamics stuff, so much story background for her. But at the end of the day, we want all of these characters to feel amazing. So if they were like, ‘Oh, why would I play her? I have to get stuck playing character X.’ That’s not how it’s going to be. Quite the opposite.
“We see people fighting over who they want to be and it’s literally come down to, I want to smash stuff. Okay, you be the Hulk. I’m in the mood to be stealthy and sneaky and be more about killing stuff in a very elegant kind of fun, dynamic way. You’re going to be THIS character. I want to fly around the world, you’re probably going to be Iron Man. So I think that’s the fun thing for this is that we have a way to cater to everybody’s tastes.”
Avengers heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 15 May 2020. Take a look at an explainer dealing with Hero missions below.