Ready your Walkman.
Guardians of the Galaxy was today officially announced by Eidos Montreal and Square Enix. Ahead of time, Stevivor was fortunate enough to check out the upcoming single-player game and speak with Eidos Montreal about it.
We below, we discuss design choices, Easter eggs and more with Mary DeMarle (Executive Narrative Director) and Olivier Proulx (Game Director). You can listen as part of the Friendly Fire Show podcast or simply refer to the handy transcript that follows.
Steve Wright, Stevivor: I guess I’m going to start with the sort of elephant in the room being Avengers and it’s, you know, obviously a completely different beast. It’s a single player game. It’s a multiplayer game. It’s a game as a service. It’s a looter shooter and Guardians of the Galaxy is a single player narrative story. I was just curious to learn about the design process and how you got to that?
Mary DeMarle: One of Eidos Montreal philosophies as a design team, when we’re starting on games, is to really immerse ourselves in… the material that we’re dealing with and figure out what is the best player fantasy.
So when we started this, of course we did consider ‘should this be a multiplayer? Should this be Co-op? Should this be whatever?,’ but the more we started to dive into it and the more we started to look at it, we realised that the real strength of the Guardians is that you have this team of completely unpredictable characters who are so true to who they are, but they respond to things in very foreign and unexpected ways.
We thought, ‘I really want to hang out with these guys’. The best way to do that, we kind of realised, [is through] Peter Quill. Number one, he’s human, so we can understand the human. Number two, he is the ‘so-called leader’ of the team. So what would it be like to actually have to be wrangling these people and being the leader who has to react to the unpredictability of what they do. You make a choice in the game — because we put choice and consequence in — as Peter you’re making choices and then you’re getting reactions from these guys and you have to respond to that, and you have to figure that out.
Once we kind of settled on that, it became very obvious to us that we wanted to keep it a single-player game and we wanted to focus on redefining what team gameplay is from a single-player perspective.
Olivier Proulx: To add to what Mary said, at Eidos Montreal we love to do those single-player experiences with really strong narrative arcs and and strong characters as well. So when we had the option to discuss with Marvel and approach these amazing characters in this franchise, for us it was kind of tapping into our strengths as well, and we felt really comfortable going with that approach.
Stevivor: Now I definitely don’t mean to do a disservice to your design, but if I had to boil it down like in a little snippet, I would kind of call it like a combination of the comics and like the MCU. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, so I’d like your take on that.
The other thing is, considering Square Enix and Avengers, there was a bit of backlash when Avengers was first shown and fans were like, ‘that look like Chris Hemsworth!’ How have you factored that into design?
Mary DeMarle: Well, we were already pretty deep in our designs by then. I think we already had our designs all settled by the time that happened.
I have to say, The Avengers did a really good job at creating an original origin story for Kamala Khan. And we were looking at that afterwards and saying, ‘well, that’s really cool’ because Marvel basically gave us license to this; we’re creating our version and our own origin stories and our own stuff like that.
But you know, we were all making the games and we’re all like sitting there [asking] ‘how’s this going to be received,’ but cross your fingers and hope it works.
Olivier Proulx: The reaction we get from fans when we do focus groups or playtests or now we’re starting to start [talk to journalists] about the game and people are like, ‘is it the comics? Is it the movies?’ and it’s a bit of everything. It’s a like a lot of inspirations from all those sources. It’s our own inspirations as well and our own artistic direction and narrative direction.
You’ve never seen these Guardians before but for sure, things like the great tone and the humour and banter that you that you love from the movies, that’s something that MCU fans will recognise. And of course, music. Music is a big part of the experience for sure, and that’s the case in our game.
Stevivor: I think you were pretty much hitting on this as part of player choice and branching story paths, but in what we were shown there was a little, almost Telltale-like tooltip that said ‘Rocket is angry at you’ when you make a choice. How does that impact gameplay? Does it impact team cohension or something?
Mary DeMarle: We call it the memory system. We’re not going deep into something like a Dragon Age where it’s like how I’m handling my characters will actually cause them to have reputations and all that stuff. We’re not going that deep.
But we are going into those moments where it’s like, ‘Rocket’s not gonna appreciate being thrown like that.’ And if you do it, a little later in the level you’re going to come upon another challenge, and you may have — because you pissed him off — he refuses to help you in in one moment.
It’s not necessarily [going to have] lasting repercussions later on, it’s kind of immediate like his temper is. So it kind of stays true to the character; I call that one like a small to medium change.
Olivier Proulx: Those little hints [are] to tell the player, ‘what you experienced before? Here’s the payoff to it.’ So it feels rewarding and you know what you’re getting.
Stevivor: Dan Abnett was referenced in the video –did he help craft the story or was he just kind of commenting on the story that you have made yourselves?
Mary DeMarle: He wasn’t involved in the creation of the story, or in the writing of this story — other than the fact that he wrote a lot of the comic books that we read as reference.
He did do something for us, at the very end, that is in the game that I can’t really reveal at this point. So he did at some point have it, but he was not involved in in coming up with this story.
The story was created by myself and [Jean-Francois Dugas], the creative director, and Kasper Hartman my lead writer. And then of course we have an in-house team of writers who just helped bring it all to life.
Stevivor: The soundtrack is obviously an integral part of this game; it’s part of the Cosmic Deluxe edition. How much work and effort has gone into crafting the soundtrack to begin with.
And I know your game hasn’t come out yet, but we’re seeing problems with things like Alan Wake, you know years after release, where soundtrack licensing issues make it so a game has to be pulled from a store. How are you thinking about that kind of side of things as well? Or is Marvel and Disney making some of that a little bit easier just because of the nature of that beast?
Olivier Proulx: Music licensing is complex, definitely, but it was so important for us. We have 30 tracks and a wild variety of 80s tracks from Iron Maiden to Rick Astley, KISS and New Kids on the Block. [We’re all] across the spectrum of good 80s songs there.
We worked with a consultant in the music business who did a lot of music licensing with video games in the past. We have a great legal team as well within Square Enix publishing; from really early on in the project we worked with these experts. You need those experts to sort of guide you through that process, and make sure that we get those tracks.
We didn’t get everything we wanted at first. But we still have a good amount that we were aiming for and, eventually, I think the way we use [the tracks] in the game really adds to that experience.
Mary DeMarle: On the creative side, you have to have the music. Yes, you’re picking songs that that will be used in very cinematic moments or to help convey the emotions or really kind of fit the situation really well. But at the same time, it was really important to us to make the music not just a passive thing, but actually bring it in to moments of gameplay.
We mentioned that you can listen to all the songs you want when you’re in [your ship], but we have this… thing called the huddle, which when you’re in the middle of battle… and you need an extra boost, Star-Lord can call the team into a huddle and basically motivate them using a speech that he has kind of used song lyrics to help him craft.
Then if you go into the battle afterwards — if you were successful in motivating them — everybody gets a boost and you are hearing the song as you finish the battle. Star-Lord always gets a boost ’cause he always motivates himself, but sometimes the Guardians aren’t as motivated as you.
Olivier Proulx: Yeah, it’s funny. A couple of days ago — of course, right now we’re testing our game — I had a moment… [and] tested the huddle and I started to have this fight to ‘The Final Countdown’.
I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome, it works so well.’ So, we create those moments that I’m sure players will really enjoy that level feature.
So we’ve seen I don’t know. You probably can’t answer any of these questions and like I just want to know there were snippets of supporting Guardians characters kind of like thrown in there and and and fans will see that.
Stevivor: There were snippets of supporting Guardians characters shown; I just want to know if Nova is going to be in there. I’m sure you can’t say yes or no, but I just can’t get that question out of my head, so why not?
Mary DeMarle: Well, you know I can’t. I can’t reveal that stuff.
It’s really funny ’cause it’s hard for me to talk story even though I love it to death. But I hate spoiling it for anyone.
Stevivor: It’s safe to say they’ll be lots of Easter eggs and things that fans will be able to get.
Mary DeMarle: Yes, there are going to be so many Easter eggs in this game.
Olivier Proulx: Just in that trailer you see Mantis, and I know Mary always says that’s [her] favourite character in the game. We have Cosmo the Dog and we have other characters that you saw in the trailer.
We have more in the game that we didn’t want to reveal – we don’t want to spoil it — but I think Marvel fans will be happy with the wide range of characters. There’s some moments in the game when you explore different areas and you’ll see some Easter eggs as well. [There are] some Marvel deep cuts in there for our fans, that’s for sure.
Stevivor: We’ve timed this perfectly.
Mary DeMarle: I would say one last thing about it. What’s really cool about working on [Guardians of the Galaxy] all this time is, especially having just come through a pandemic — or well, not yet 100% through but, working on it: this story is fun.
It’s a breath of fresh air and light and humor[ous], and yet at the same time it’s dealing with really deep themes of faith and family and loss. And it’s a story of hope at the same time. So I think just that will help add to how much fun the game is to play; it’s just it’s a fun, fun thing to do. I think. At least, I hope.
Olivier Proulx: I agree, Mary.
Thank you to both Mary and Olivier for their time.
Guardians of the Galaxy heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 26 October 2021.
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