Exclusive Post-Mortem Interview: X-Men Legends II

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Now that X-Men Legends II has shipped to retail, not to mention found its way into the consoles of many an X-Men fan, we thought it would be nice to give Activision’s development team a chance to sit back, relax and wax nostalgic about the game-making process. Below are the fruits of our interviewing labor with Matthew Paul, the game’s producer at Activision.
Formalities first: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your role in development and your X-Men background?
Matthew Paul, Producer: My role is to make sure the game is great. I?ve been an X-Men fan for about 20 years, since I read my first Uncanny X-Men comic book while in grade school. I went to comic book conventions for years and years, and in fact often spent more money on comic books than I spent on video games as a kid.
So you must have been pretty stoked to work on an X-Men game the first time around. Did some of that “wow” factor wear off for X-Men Legends II?
I don?t think the wow factor ever really wears off with such a great group of characters and classic stories. As much as I think I know about the X-Men, I just keep learning more. And Marvel continues to do such a great job expanding them into movies, cartoons and other formats. This is the stuff that I grew up with. Sure, every game you work on can start to grow old after a few years, but there is so much good material to work with and we?ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what we can do with these characters.
What lessons did you learn during development of X-Men Legends that you are applying to X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse?
A lesson learned from X-Men Legends is that this game is really a collection of many types of different games. We?re one part RPG, one part fighter, one part action/adventure and one part platform game. With such a huge diversity of gameplay, we realized that it would take another game to really get a chance to polish it all. So, everything in the sequel has been upgraded and improved along those lines.
The X-Men and Brotherhood will be fighting side-by-side for the first time. Was that an idea you approached Marvel with, or was it a Marvel idea that your game just seemed like the best vehicle to make become “reality”?
The story is written by both Marvel and us. Together we came up with a great story and the game naturally fell out of that, which is how it should work. If you try and create a story around a game, then the story will never makes any sense. Marvel is great to work with and really champions us to borrow liberally from their great library of stories to come up with something the fans and non-fans will enjoy.
Online multiplayer has got to be one of the things gamers will be most excited about. Was that something from your ?wish list? with the first X-Men Legends, or was it something that you?d always thought would be best saved for a sequel?
Online multiplayer is a major endeavor. There was offline co-op multiplayer in the first X-Men Legends, and even that was a large amount of work. However, bringing the game online means adding game lobbies, matchmaking, optimization for slow internet connections and much, much more. In order for us to even contemplate doing online, we wanted to make sure we could do it right, so it was worth saving. We contracted out a great developer that specializes in multiplayer, Supervillain Studios, to help us out. After the release of X-Men Legends, we?ve spent almost all of the time working with them to get the game online. They?ve done an awesome job.
For those who haven’t had a chance to play the game yet, can you descibe how those online multiplayer mechanics work?
We set up a save game system that?s really cool. You can use any save game and take it online at any time. So, if you were playing the story mode by yourself and want to continue the story with your friends online, you can do so. If you play with your friends online and want to continue the rest of the game by yourself, you can also do so. You can also start with some friends and swap them out with other friends. You do have to go back to the game lobby to swap people in and out, but it?s really easy.
And the co-op storyline and levels: are they the same from the single-player game, a la Full Spectrum Warrior, or are they new, a la Splinter Cell Chaos Theory?
The entire single player story mode can be played online co-op up to 4 players from beginning until end without taking a break. But unlike Full Spectrum Warrior, we don?t just end there. In addition, we?ve create exclusive levels and equipment that you?re only going to find when playing online, so you won?t see the full game unless you play online. Also, there are 6 different competitive modes that you can play, including a sparring mode, where you just fight head to head, and more complex modes, such as King of the Hill and Last Man Standing. You can also search for these types of game when going online, so if all you want is a quick 10 minute battle rather than hours of co-op story mode gameplay, you can get your fill.
With all that co-op support, it’s obvious you guys really were focused on the flexible storyline, then….
The game has a totally flexible story line. During the game, the player will come across NPCs in the world, familiar X-Men supporting characters, that will give the player missions. Although some missions are mandatory to progress the story, tons of them are not. It?s up to the player to decide how and when to do these missions. Some mission have cool rewards for beating them and would be an incentive to complete even if the player was already a much higher level than was necessary to complete it. The game does scale in a variety of different ways, but I don?t want to give away all the secrets. Go buy the strategy guide….
Before we let you go, now that the game has shipped, what elements are you most proud of being able to include?
I?m actually most proud of the big things ? the awesome missions briefings and movies, the depth of the combat, the huge amount of locations. However, there is one little thing that we don?t talk much about because we wanted to leave it a surprise to the fans. By carefully selecting which heroes you choose for your team, you can unlock team bonuses. For example, choose all the female heroes and you get the ?Femme Fatale? team boost. There?s a ton of these hidden in the game and it?s just one of many types of secrets to search for throughout the game. I?m really proud we pulled off so much good content that will keep players going back to this game for more and more.
Thanks to Matthew Paul and Activision for taking the time to chat with DailyGame.