Theres one dream that almost every comic book fan shares. If they could step into the multi-colored spandex of their favorite super-hero, even for an afternoon, their happiness would be guaranteed for days, months, or years down the road. Dont believe me? Just take a look at the box office results of Spider-man 3. One hundred and forty-eight million dollars in an opening weekend is nothing to sneeze at. Everyone wants to live the dream, to be the super-hero, and to wear the tights.
With this dream in mind, Cryptic Studios created City of Heroes/Villains. They captured a world that existed only in popular comic books and graphic novels and really created a living breathing world of heroes and villains. Now theyre getting ready to make the dream of every comic book reader come true.
At OGDC, I had the opportunity to sit down with Victor Wachter and Shayne Herrera, the Community Relations Manager and Development Director of Art for Cryptic Studios. Both men seemed eager to share all that they could about Marvel Universe Online, but with their connections with Marvel and Microsoft, they couldnt release all their information to us. They were eager, however, to talk about the development of tools and the research necessary to develop a game like Marvel Universe Online. They told me that they would answer the questions that they could.
My first question was one that both Victor and Shayne knew was on the cusp of every comic book fans mind. That is, the inquiry about whether they would be able to integrate a storyline between the actual comic book Marvel Universe and events that were going on in the gaming world. There had been some rumors that the Marvel and Cryptic designers were working on creating a real-time world, where events in the game would echo in the panels a comic book reader would peruse on his monthly visit to the comic shop.
Its probably premature to start talking about that, Victor said.
Yknow those questions we couldnt answer, Shayne interjected, Thats one of them.
Its something wed love to do, Victor continued. But we just need to look at the feasibility of it. You have the publishing timeline vs. the development timeline. Its just something that we cant make any significant comments on. We do know that people would love it.
Research was the next topic of our discussion. As any comic book fan knows, some of our favorite super-heroes have histories and backgrounds that go back four or five decades. Each heros story morphs and twists and changes as news writers and artists are recruited to work on particular brands. I was curious about the extent that Cryptic was pursuing the research of particular characters.
Yes. Each of our designers are given a set of comic books that they are to read from beginning to end, Victor said. They are given characters that they are to become intimately familiar with. Its a better job for some cases rather than others.
Some people have a pretty scattershot sort of assignment, where they are researching Black Panther, Silver Surfer, Ka-Zar, and the Sub-Mariner. Then there are guys that have the X-Men with its huge amount of spin-offs and backstories. But in both cases, these guys go all the way back to the beginning of the characters to the 60s in a lot of cases.
Were building a database of every single piece of Marvel arcana that we can find, Victor continued. If youve read some of the graphic novels by Alex Ross, those stories are the same sort of things were interested in we want to know the life behind the Marvel Universe. Ross looks for the minutiae in the lives of these characters. Were doing the same level of research for the game, where the really big fans will recognize a scene and appreciate the inclusion of it.
With that much involvement in the lore and canon of the Marvel Universe, it seemed appropriate for Marvel and Cryptic to share developers, designers, artists and writers. So, I asked Shayne and Victor whether there were any big name writers or artists from the Marvel world. They couldnt directly answer my question, but they did say that there was a number of interested big names that may be coming on board the Marvel Universe. These individuals will add even more background knowledge to the rich arcane already being complied at Cryptic.
Wachter certainly knows the kind of research needed for a game like this, with his background in the Dungeons and Dragons Online community. Every detail will be scrutinized by the public, no matter its place in the game.
As far as buying into loose interpretations of the canon, Herrera wasnt sure the Marvel fans would buy into it. In this scenario, we dont think this particular fanbase would buy into it because theres so much precedent. We want them to feel like this game is truly Marvel.
But the Marvel fans arent the only group that Cryptic is aiming for. Were targeting the core gamers, the console players, and the Marvel fans. So whether youre the Marvel fan on one end or youve gone to see the Spider-man or X-men movies, were trying to cater to you.
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