This year’s E3 introduced us to Marvel’s Avengers, a new game from Crystal Dynamics (best known for the recent Tomb Raider games) starring your favourite villain-vanquishers — except, not quite the ones we’re used to. After seeing the trailer, you’d be forgiven for having even more questions.
We’re all so used to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s depictions of these heroes by now, perhaps many of us assumed the game would follow suit. It doesn’t — and if you thought the game might be taking other elements in a different direction as well, you’re not wrong.
Armed with questions from the Fandom Marvel communities, we sat down with Scot Amos (studio head) and Noah Hughes (creative director) from Crystal Dynamics to find out what to expect from the new Avengers game. In their own words, it’s a hard game for a lot of people to get their head around at first. But Hughes and Amos are hoping after people get more familiar with its structure, they’ll get over that initial jolt of seeing an unfamiliar America’s Ass.
Find their answers to your questions, plus a few of our follow-ups, below:
Is this in any way connected to Marvel’s Spider-Man?
Noah Hughes: We don’t have any direct comment on that.
Is it open world?
Noah Hughes: No, but I think that’s probably one of the most important questions. Because the game’s structure is a little bit hard for people to get their head around. With characters like the Avengers, we really wanted to have this sense of a global threat, and for us that meant a game structure where we had a diversity of locations. Each of those locations has its own visual style, themes, things like that.
Players will be able to go through the cinematic campaign, but as they do that, new areas, new optional missions will arise, and you’ll be able to both progress your campaign as well as take on some of these additional missions. So there’s very much an openness in an action/adventurey kind of way. But it takes place in multiple locations around the globe.
Will flight abilities be present in such a way that they matter, in terms of quickly traversing large sections of terrain?
Noah Hughes: We definitely have a variety of play spaces, so something like the Golden Gate Bridge [seen in the trailer] is a fairly linear cinematic sequence. We also have a number of areas that are less linear and really created at a scale that is catering to the flying characters. And even The Hulk, he doesn’t fly, but he’s bounding along with these huge jumps. He can grab onto walls and jump off. So we do create that opportunity for exploration and heroic traversal.
Will there be a free roam option after completion, or NG+?
Noah Hughes: It’s sort of designed into the game that you’re brought into this world through the campaign. But you’re in a world under constant threat. And in some cases that is content you can replay with your friends, together. But it’s not necessarily replaying the campaign, it’s taking on replayable missions.
But also looking forward to new content, so we are bringing new heroes into the world, new regions, and things like that. So the hope is players can enjoy the campaign, have a lot of content that’s fun to replay, and live out those superhero dreams. And also look forward to the new drops that are coming along.
That sounds almost like endgame content, like replayable raids?
Noah Hughes: Yeah, in a sense. It’s always hard to compare us directly to other games. But yeah, in that sense, you’ve got your roster, you’re levelling them up. What do I take on when I have a fully levelled up roster of heroes? And it’s important to us that there are some things that require that fully levelled hero and cater to four-player groups who are really asked to cooperate and work well together.
How many characters do you envision will be in the game a year after launch? Will there be more obscure characters? Non-Avengers characters?
Noah Hughes: Unfortunately most of the character details we’re focusing on is just the five we announced, and the promise of additional heroes is a core part of the game but we don’t want to spoil any future announcements.
It looks like Black Widow has a little more to do here, was that a conscious decision?
Noah Hughes: A lot of our choices are specific to the story we’re telling, so in this case it’s a conscious decision related to the story, not a broad concern of hero screentime inasmuch.
Do you have any restrictions set by Marvel? How involved are they in the process?
Noah Hughes: Marvel wants the same thing as us, which is a game the fans will love. We get to collaborate with those guys like Bill Rosemann, who worked with the Spider-Man PS4 team as well, so he has great experience working with game teams.
He’s just an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel lore and a great collaborator. So for us that ability to brainstorm and say, well here’s our story, we need an enemy that has this. Or we need a villain with this personality, or an NPC. So for us that ability to collaborate with someone who has such a diverse knowledge is fantastic.
And on top of that, even when we’ve made those broad choices, just making sure… we do playtesting at Crystal Dynamics to make sure the gameplay is great, but also there’s a sense of getting feedback from the fans, getting feedback from Marvel, and saying, we all want these characters in this game to be both original but familiar.
Having that expertise helps us. I mean, we’re fans, but there are millions of fans out there. So it’s great having someone who’s worked with these properties so much and has a great sensibility for them.
So you can sing out what kind of traits you want various characters to have, and they can recommend which hero or villain might be the most suitable for that role?
Noah Hughes: That’s just one of the many skills Bill has. He’s also been an editor of books, so he gives great feedback on story, and all of those things. Some of my fondest memories are of these brainstorming sessions where Bill is saying mind-blowing stuff and we’re looking it up on Fandom, and we’re like wow, you’re right, that is cool!
Will there be unlockable outfits for each character?
Noah Hughes: Yeah, definitely. We’ll have three facets of customisation for the heroes. So the skill trees that you unlock, there’s equipment and gear slots where you can load out your character with what you earn. And there are outfits where you can customise the appearance of your heroes. And in that case you’re choosing full outfits for your heroes. It’s something you can unlock and earn in the game. Generally the outfits are not customisable beyond what’s in the game.
It’s also something players will be able to purchase. With outfits, we’re committed to not doing randomisation and loot crates, or pay-to-win scenarios where you have to buy gameplay. But we do allow players to buy outfits. Some of them new and original, and some of them fan favourites.
And some of those players will be able to unlock through play as well. They’re purchasable but they’re also part of the reward structure of the game.
Can you speak about how abilities will combine to allow Avengers to become greater than the sum of their parts?
Noah Hughes: Sure. Baked into the designs of the heroes is such a diversity of powers that they naturally lend themselves to asymmetrical roles in combat. The idea that The Hulk can get in there and mix it up with a whole bunch of melee guys, and not care as much, and start smashing… The idea of the Hulk is to feel powerful against these enemies.
And then Iron Man taking out some high value flying targets or something, you can really start to see players naturally dropping into some of these roles based on their favourite heroes. And we’ll have more to speak to about the co-op experience later on. But teamwork is core to the Avengers experience and we want to make sure we capture that.
“It’s tempting to want to live in the past. It's familiar. It's comfortable. But it's where fossils come from." – Captain America #crystaldynamics #marvelgames #playavengers pic.twitter.com/FF9TbZIoBU
— Shaun Escayg (@ShaunEscayg) June 22, 2019
Can you tell us about the Marvel creators that helped craft the story?
Scot Amos: We have an amazing cast inside of our story, we have a narrative director team, we have five narrative folks at this point that are part of that. Sean Escayg, who’s our creative director, from Naughty Dog, so someone who really knows how to tell great cinematic stories. Bill [Rosemann] himself has written his entire career for Marvel. And he has literally everybody on speed dial. Like “Hey, you wrote this episode with this character, at this time, can you come talk to the Crystal guys and tell them if a hero would say this thing?”
So we have the luxury of being able to access people who know these characters better than anybody. So I would say we have the best of both worlds. We get to craft something original, that’s not the game of any one story or movie — an original take on this. But we have access to the people who invented this.
With this not being in the MCU, do you have free reign? And do you plan on including heroes and villains that we haven’t seen?
Scot Amos: Marvel has said “Take these characters and put new twists and spins on them.” They’ve also asked what we want to add, and what we think would be new. We’ve also said to the community, what do you guys want? What have you never seen, or want to see us bring back? And how can we do that?
And that means we can add new story threads and new ways of things happening, or references to something that had happened but do it in our way. So for us we have an amazing partnership but also a freedom to say, hey, we’ve got an idea. We go to Bill, and we say Bill, we think this would happen with Widow, and he’ll think back. So as long as we get a story that makes sense, he’s all for it. Because it’s all about that root story that comes back to “why would I do this, why would this make sense?” They’re our true north. They help us keep honest with these characters.