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Discussing Super Heroes, Lego And Marvel With Arthur Parsons

Assembling a Super Hero team.

Following on from our preview, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Game Director, Arthur Parsons, about everything from next-gen to handhelds.

There are a couple of unintentional teases as we chat about the PS4 and Vita games, which will have you pondering what they might mean, but be warned that towards the end of the interview, there are some spoilers which you may wish to avoid. Don’t worry, I’ve tried to mark the danger zone for you.


TSA: With Lego Marvel Super Heroes coming to both current and next-gen, what has it been like working across the various pieces of hardware? What kinds of differences will we expect to see?

Arthur Parsons: From the actual content perspective, there’s no real differences. All the differences going to next-gen is the amount of stuff on screen; there’s more Lego, it’s shinier, there are most post-effects, more clever stuff going on, and it runs at a really nice, fast and steady frame rate. The thing about the PS4 is… it’s great! There’s no load times, everything is just instant and it’s really slick.

So the difference between that and the PS3 is really just the generational thing. It’s the difference between HD and normal definition, the difference between watching a Blu-ray and a DVD.

There are a couple of extra features we’ve put in, so for the touchpad, it can be used as a kind of touch screen for the map. Some bits and pieces have been put in there to tie in with the PS4’s other features, like sharing. There is also something for the PS4 version that’s being run, but that Sony haven’t announced yet, which should all be very exciting for when the PS4 comes out. [laughs]

TSA: [laughs] Well that just brings up a whole load more questions, but sadly not for today!

TSA: On the PS Vita side of things, I think a lot of people were quite disappointed with how recent Lego games turned out. What has been done to improve the handheld games?

Arthur: The handheld versions are done by our other studio in Wilmslow, and what they’ve done with Lego Marvel has changed quite drastically. This time around, it’s a completely different game, which I think is actually called Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Universe In Peril.

It’s a different game experience, and all very touch-centric and gesture driven. So I think what they’ve done this time around is gone, “What are the features of the handheld?” and tried to make best use of it. This is potentially because of previous criticisms, I’m not entirely sure and I’m yet to play the finished version of that because I’ve been head down in this, but from the snippets I’ve seen it is better warranted to have both versions, if you so wished, because it’s that different.

They’ve done a pretty good job, and they’ve actually got characters in there that I haven’t got in the main console game!

TSA: Is there a little bit of envy, and thinking, “Oh, why didn’t I do this?”

Arthur: No, not quite to that extent! I’m quite happy with the characters we have. There’s one or two where we didn’t think of them, but we ran out of space and went over budget on characters already.

There is also, um…

Arthur turns to the PR guy sat with us and asks him a question.

TSA: Is this more of the teaser you gave earlier?

Arthur: No, this is a different thing. Um, so there’s a thing that’s going to happen. [laughs]

TSA: [laughs] I think we can split this off into a separate news post now: “A thing is going to happen!”

Arthurs: Yeah! The console PlayStation versions have something that’s unique for them.

LegoMarvel-IL1

TSA: You mentioned the huge cast of characters in passing, but how difficult has it been to keep them all feeling unique and distinct, even with the powers overlap?

Arthur: It has been an undertaking mainly from our character animation department. A lot of the time, when we have a big roster of characters, we will do an awful lot of sharing. On this one, even though the characters have some crossover – a few of them might shoot fireballs or ice balls – but they are so unique and there is a lot of differentiation.

Thankfully the animators really just went to town, and they were wanting to give every character unique combat moves and finishing moves. They want one to fly differently to another one, even though they’re both just flying. I think it’s more down to the fact that most of the team are geeks. Not game development geeks, but Marvel geeks!

The animator who did Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic, he just asked as soon as he found out he was on the team, because he wanted to go for all the crazy stretchy stuff.

TSA: That animation is incredible. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but then his arms are looping all over as he punches…

Arthur: Yeah, and his finishing move is that he punches them, and they go the Lego equivalent of 20 meters back, and then he just grabs them, pulls them straight in and smashes them!

That’s where it all feels unique, because they do have this from the actual characters. In fairness, that’s also where we invested a good portion of our time. Unique dialogue, unique sound effects and moves. Even down to the fact that even where abilities are shared, like Human Torch’s fire beams compared to Dr. Strange, he has etherial fire, so it’s actually a different effect and slightly different animation.

We tried to make it as authentic as we can, and that’s going to be the same for the DLC pack for the pre-orders. Even those characters have got unique stuff for them.

TSA: I think you said in the presentation that this is the largest voice acted Lego game you’ve undertaken. Is voice acting going to be in all Lego games going forward?

Arthur: Yeah, definitely. I think Lego Batman 2 was the first one to have it, and obviously Lord of the Rings too, but yeah, it’s here to stay.

It works really well, too. We still get away with the slapstick humour and the peripheral stuff that happens in the background, but if you think of something like this game, a young kid is going to resonate and recognise Hulk and Iron Man and Spider-man, because he’s got Spider-man pyjamas, or whatever it might be… as do I! [laughs]

But he’s not going to know who Mysterio is or Polaris or any of these more obscure characters. He might not even know who Wolverine is, so it helps us by having this banter and dialogue, to make sure that we’re telling the kids who these characters are. Then fanboys will like it, because they get to enjoy the banter between The Thing and Human Torch, with their constant rivalry.

So yeah, it works really well, but it’s a lot of lines of dialogue!

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TSA: With younger players in mind, how do you try and balance the gameplay so that it’s easy enough for them to handle, but also has the depth for older gamers to enjoy?

Arthur: I think that comes down to the way we approach the design. We make it accessible and fun for kids, and if it’s accessible and fun, then usually other people will like it too.

That also comes down to the way we treat the IP. For pretty much every Lego game that I’ve worked on, we live, eat, breathe and sleep the IP as much as possible, to create a believable world, whether it’s Marvel’s New York or Hogwarts.

For this one, we’ve drawn from stuff from the 50s and 60s, right the way through to stuff that’s going to be coming out in the next couple of years – cartoons, comics, films, everything. We try to create something authentic and fanboy-ish, but to the level of accessibility that the kids enjoy it.

At Eurogamer, we had people queueing up to play the game; there were dads with their kids, and that’s what we like to see. Dad spending time with their little kid, both smashing each other up and playing through the level.

TSA: What was the thinking behind going after this full recreation of New York, rather than jet setting around the world?

Arthur: Well, if you think of anything Marvel – any of the movies, most of the cartoons and comic books – it’s almost all set in New York, so it made sense to have that as our open world. Then, in the course of the story, we do actually go off to space and Asteroid M. So you do go all around the place for the story, but for a central open world hub, we thought we’d do a great New York City.

I don’t know how you’d do a fully open world Earth…

TSA: Oh! I meant more of a linear experience, taking you straight from one mission to the next.

— SPOILERS AFTER THIS IMAGE —

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Arthur: The discussions early on were there, but New York just made more sense. You get to put in landmarks, for example. We’ve got the Statue of Liberty in there, which is great, because half way through the story, Magneto brings her to life and trashes a nuclear power station.

TSA: I was thinking you could head for a Ghostbusters 2 vibe there…

Arthur: Yeah, it’s along those lines, but I think we’ve done it cooler, because it’s in Lego form.

We actually desecrate the Statue of Liberty, because Magneto knocks her head off. All of the heroes have scaled her insides and got to the top, so Magneto just goes, “Off with her head!” and makes her tear her head off and throw it off. So you’ve got a decapitated Statue of Liberty wandering around New York.

Then Captain America has a bit of a breakdown, and is like, “I can’t believe they’ve done that!”

TSA: So… what age rating are you going for again? [laughs]

Arthur: It’s all done tongue-in-cheek Lego style, and we fix it at the end, so it’s happily ever after.

— SPOILERS END —

TSA: Finally, something which I’ve been wondering about for a while, because it feels like your games have a lot of strange relationships which cross industries. Traveller’s Tales is owned by Warner Bros., but you’re working with a Disney property now, and so on. How on Earth do you manage to get these games to come together?

Arthur: It’s great! We are owned by Warner Bros., which is brilliant, but Warner Bros. know that we make great games for kids. If the demand is there for a title, then we’ll work with anyone.

This game came about because the consumers asked for it. There was demand for the game, everyone got round and said, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

It’s great as a developer to be able to still work on pretty much anything that we can. It means we get to work with great IP like this, and obviously we’ve got great IP at Warner as well, so it keeps us in the business of making cool Lego games!


Thanks a lot to Arthur Parsons for taking the time to sit down with us for a chat. Lego Marvel Super Heroes is out on October 22nd in the USA, but the EU has to wait until the 15th of November. It is a launch day title for next-gen platforms.

2 Comments
  1. elpablo79
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    Great read, this game is shaping up well and I’m very much intrigued with the hints regarding the PlayStation versions. Hopefully issues with Vita versions of these games will be addressed, as was hinted at.

    Comment posted on 14/10/2013 at 18:22.
  2. blackredyellow
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    I can’t wait, it sounds like a superb combination to me.

    Comment posted on 15/10/2013 at 17:16.
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