I had the pleasure of joining in on an interview conference with the the producer and developer of Iron Man 2: The Video Game. What elements were improved upon for the sequel that will add to the gameplay enjoyment? How closely does the game follow the movie or comics? How long was the game in development? Those questions are answered, plus more information on the upcoming title is revealed. Not only did they improve on the flight simulation, but the player will really feel the impact of their weaponry. Players will be able to add on to their weapons and suit to make them more powerful and you will see the changes and feel the effects of the changes. Producer Dean Marinetti explains the “laundry list” of changes that they improved upon to make the sequel even better than the first. Plus you will get a sneak peek on characters that will appear in the game, such as Nick Fury and The Black Widow, among other cameos and unannounced character surprises.
We sat down with Dean Martinetti, Producer, SEGA, Mike McHale, Development Director, SEGA and Chase from Access Communications, our moderator. They came together to answer some questions that were on our minds on the upcoming Iron Man 2: The Video Game.
Mike McHale gives a quick overview of Iron Man 2: The Video Game:
A quick introduction, my name is Mike McHale and I’m the Development Director here at SEGA and we have Dean Martinetti on the line as well. He’s the producer for Iron Man 2 for SEGA. The Iron Man 2 game is an extension of the film allowing you to further explore the Iron Man universe. You can play as Iron Man and for the first time ever, you can play as War Machine. You are able to fully customize the suits and take them out and kick some butt. We have a wide range of destructibility, a lot of great villains taken directly from the comic books and a lot of the great characters also taken from the film.
Chase: OK, excellent, then we will have you answer the big, huge string of initial questions. How closely does the game’s story go along with the movie’s story and what percent does the game tie in with the movie?
Mike: This is a great question. Traditionally, movie games try to follow the movies beat by beat and then and either fill in the blanks in between or tell the story of what’s happening off camera. As we’ve worked on video games here, I started to develop a philosophy with our production teams and developers. I really don’t think following a movie point by point, scene by scene, and again is really the best way to make a game. In gamer terms, if you think of a movie is 2 hours, it’s not a good interactive cut scene, really. It doesn’t turn itself into a great game. So, what we’ve done is actually written a completely new story. We want to make the player feel like they’re part of the filmed universe and that they’re playing the filmed universe. So, we’ve taken great steps to recreate the characters, make sure that they feel like the film and that the environments could feel like they’re part of Tony Stark’s world, but it’s actually a completely new story. That way the user never knows what’s coming up next, retreading old ground, and actually design all the content for great gameplay rather than trying to shoehorn gameplay into scenes from the movie. I really think it’s a better way to make movie games and I imagine here at SEGA that’s really how we’ll be doing things going forward.
Chase: So was it liberating or daunting to create a movie timed game which actually doesn’t tie into the movie?
Mike: You know, it’s completely liberating and Marvel’s been great in allowing us to do this. We did definitely step off the movie plot and that kind of expanded on the universe, so that’s really been fun. One of the things is, we wanted to stay true to the film and make sure the things we were doing felt like they were happening in Tony Stark’s world as it’s depicted in the movie. It is truly liberating to be able to be able to design different scenarios and missions around something that’s good for an interactive game rather than move scenes around from the movie that may or may not make a good game play. I think Iron Man, the character, is a very gamable character as is Warrior Machine. It’s a great IP for the fact that you’ve got the suit that you can modify and add new technology to and really make it your own. We basically took the vibe from Iron Man 1 and what we knew of Iron Man 2 and try to build a new storyline within the world and I think it has worked out really well.
Chase: So were there any elements of the Iron Man comics, such as characters, stories and events which you wanted to include in the game, but just couldn’t make it work?
Mike: I’m not sure that there was because when we started out we look at it and thought what was a truly epic story that we could build within a game. To be honest you can do things in a game that would just be too expressive for a movie. So we’ve got some enemies and bosses that are massive. I’m sure it’s anything you’d ever see in the film, it’s just it would be too cost effective to do some of the things we’re doing in the movie. We’ve got some missions taking place in the helocarrier, we’ve got some of the bosses that are some of the biggest bosses in any video game ever made. They wouldn’t have done that in the movie so it’s not something that we’ve looked at and thought, “oh you know, we really wanted to do this, but we couldn’t, from an IT or any other perspective.” There’s definitely some features, that since we have to stick with the schedule to make sure that we were ready for the movie, we had to be careful for our feature set, but not really from a story perspective.
Chase: So what were any of the challenges you’ve had from improving on the original Iron Man? This is a good question for Dean.
Dean: The challenges for improving? Well, flight was definitely the first thing we thought of. The team basically took old feedback that they read online from the reviewers and magazines and what not, just people on the streets going to the stores. We took all that feedback and think how can we make it better than the first. I mean obviously you want to do that with every game, even if you’re first one was great, you always want the sequel to be better, right? So control was the first thing for flight. Control usability to get in and out of the game fairly simple. So you don’t need to be a hardcore gamer to sit down and play the game. You just get in and start playing and within 10 -15 minutes, you’re in control of Iron Man or Warrior Machine and you’re able to use their moves pretty fluently. You’re able to modify the weapons pretty easily once you get once you get through the first run of the area. It’s just basically looking at all the stuff where we knew we failed on the first one. Game content, melee fighting, weapon configuration, adding weapons to others to make a better weapon AI in the fights.
There was a big laundry list so this is like a reboot, if you want to put it in a different terminology, I guess, to get people to understand that we were really serious, that we were making a better game. So hopefully, and I think that we did, people will notice right out the box when they start playing it, that the game feels a lot better and it’s a lot easier to get into it. It’s a lot easier to understand what you’re supposed to do. There’s a lot more stuff laid out for you so that you can quickly realize your situation and adapt to it. We’re using Jarvis more, which only makes sense because he’s basically the AI for Tony in the suit. So we’re using that to the best of our abilities with what we can do with the title. That’s by giving them the map indicator, like a radar, showing accurately on the screen where the bad guys are. Marking them in such a way that you can clearly see the bad guys from the good guys. So we made a lot of steps to make it better than the first game.
Chase: How long was Iron Man 2 in development? Was there enough time to improve on any missions that the first game had and work in some of the characters that you wanted to see in this next time around?
Mike: It’s kind of a tricky question because I don’t think any production or development team really feels like they have as much time as they want. I mean you have to, at some point, finish the game and you never ever quite finish, there’s always some additional polishing you get out of it, but the game was in development for about 2 years. We had a starting point. With the character, Iron Man, he has an IP that’s very gamable and that’s very challenging. You literally have a character that has near unlimited abilities, basically you can switch from ground movement to flight, there’s a huge variety of weaponry. Certainly when you have a character that has a large variety of range weapons but can fight hand-to-hand, it provides a lot of challenges there all because it’s from a hybrid to a shooter, from a more traditional brawler game. But, it wouldn’t be Iron Man if you didn’t add all of those elements. We had a good amount of time. Would we have liked more time? Of course. If you ask anybody on a project if they had enough time, they’d probably tell you no. Certainly our aim was to provide the best content we could within the time we had given the movie schedule. The one nice thing was because of the success of Iron Man 1, we knew Iron Man 2 would be green light as a movie and we had an existing relationship with Marvel. So we were able to get up and running pretty quickly and we didn’t waste too much time after Iron Man 1. So that at least that time between when Iron Man 1 filmed and Iron Man 2 filmed we were able to use in development again.
Chase: So what would you say, out of everything, is the most important element that would emphasize the feel that you were trying to accomplish?
Mike: I would say that it depends on the feel. There’s attitude, there’s lifestyle, his technology is genius. What we talked about early on was how can we bring it out in the game and give you a sense of who Tony is and let you play the character. We added what he could do in the lab and what kind of research you can do. That’s one of the great things about Tony, he’s constantly inventing. His great asset is how he uses the technology, so we built that out. We also tried to include some humor and the attitude that Tony has. For us it was, let’s build Tony in, with that sense of the character.
The other thing is obviously is letting the player really feel the power behind these two characters, Iron Man and War Machine. So when you do jump into the suit and you jump into a mission, really letting the player feel the power behind their weaponry and their technology. So early on again what we talked about was, hey we can’t have a static world, we need a world where if you shoot a missile into a building that’s not made out of massive concrete. If something hits, it should blow to pieces. That was definitely our aim early on, and I think that we were successful there where a lot of the buildings and props were destructible and you can really blow a bunch of buildings to smithereens. You see the damage and the impact of the battle around you. The enemies can do the same. Some of our bigger enemies can just literally walk through buildings. I think that was really important for us.
Chase: With a fetch of other super hero titles being released after the first Iron Man title, did you feel any extra pressure to get this game right, and what makes this game stand out in a crowded field of super hero movie adaptations?
Mike: Well, if you look at other sequels that have come out within the last year now, one of the ways to make a good game is to make the game and make sure to make a much better game the second time. Iron Man was not without flaws and the day after we shipped it, we were talking about what we wanted to fix and what we wanted to bring to a sequel that was going to be made. So we’ve strengthened and built upon those things that people really liked, like being able to fly around in a big open space, being able to tweak out your suite and being able to customize the suit. Dean mentioned it before that the controls was what we really failed at because of the challenge with a game that has a character that can fly around, run around on the ground, he can hover, quickly switching to shooter type controls to melee type controls. We worked quite a while in refining our skills there and I do think that it’s much easier to pick up and play once you jump in. We solved a lot of those issues and you could really transition from flight to ground, for example.
There will be different villains depending on which version that you buy. Mike made it a point to let us know that both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 version are going to be their own games. Plus the Wii and DS will have their own villains, as well. The final boss was explained as a real “massive boss” that they were not ready to inform us of just as of yet. For the complete Q & A session from the Iron Man 2: The Video Game Developer Call, listen to it HERE.