HomeMobileHow Firaxis made Marvel and XCOM mesh for Midnight Suns

How Firaxis made Marvel and XCOM mesh for Midnight Suns

Eurogamer: Okay, Jake, each Marvel superhero has their very own origin story. Are you able to inform us the origin story of Marvel’s Midnight Suns?

Jake Solomon: So we had simply wrapped up – properly, really, we hadn’t wrapped up, we have been about to complete work on XCOM 2: Conflict of the Chosen – after which our writer, 2K, reached out and mentioned that Marvel had contacted them and particularly needed to know if our group needed to make a recreation within the Marvel Universe. And I’m a really hardcore Marvel Comics man so my preliminary response was an instantaneous sure.

After which I used to be like, properly, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, as a result of I’ve by no means labored with IP earlier than and also you hear tales… We have simply at all times labored with our personal IP right here. So there was that trepidation of, properly, what does that imply? However then the thought will get in your head … and 48 hours [later] I used to be like, if we do not do that, I’m strolling into the ocean – you understand, you simply get one thing in your head. I used to be like, this should occur now. So yeah, we instantly determined to do it.

“There are methods to make one thing the suitable means within the Marvel Universe”

And the primary conversations with Marvel, which most likely I used to be essentially the most nervous about, they instantly put me relaxed, as a result of they clearly understood XCOM. The method was superior within the sense that they weren’t like “it is best to use these heroes”. They did not even say any strategies about story, heroes, sort of recreation, nothing. They have been like, “What do you wish to do?” And I used to be like, I do not know, I’ve so many tales I would wish to inform and so many heroes I would wish to embody, so it was actually extra of a factor the place we got here up with what we needed to do.

After which we got here again to them and we’re like, “Okay, this can be a story we wish to inform and these are the heroes we wish to embody, and that is what the sport is gonna be like.” And that even included, “Hey, by the best way, we wish to give the participant an avatar – we wish to create a brand new hero within the Marvel Universe.” And a few of that was nearly like enjoying rooster, to be like the place’s the road with Marvel?

And, once more, they’re very enthusiastic individuals. They have been similar to – which is unusual for the way highly effective they’re as an IP – “Okay, we adore it. We adore it. We have by no means made a customisable hero however okay, let’s discuss what it means to be [a hero in] the Marvel universe,” and it simply went from there. They have been like, “Inform us the sport you wish to make, inform us the story you wish to inform, and we’re gonna enable you do it as greatest we will.”

From this facet, it seems like Marvel was fairly open to most of your concepts. Did you battle creatively about something?

Jake Solomon: Oh, truthfully, no.

I battled creatively with my very own sanity, within the sense that I had an preliminary roster of 25 heroes. I wasn’t even fascinated by what the gameplay could be. I used to be like, properly, we’ll simply have all these heroes. After which all people, the group, was like, “That is insane.” And I used to be like, “Okay, that is nice.”

However no, the roster we have now has at all times been the roster. We did not must make any switches, even the roster we introduced to them. They have been like, “Okay, nice. Yeah, this is smart. This is smart.”

They actually become involved, particularly in the case of the Hunter. The query was, ‘How does a personality, a model new character, stand alongside heroes which have a long time of tales and individuals who care passionately about [them]? How will we stand anyone subsequent to them and have them be as fascinating?’ And it helps that it is the player-character, you understand – yours instantly has a particular place in your coronary heart, proper? However we needed to work on the backstory of the character, even what their base costume seems to be like. There are methods to make one thing the suitable means within the Marvel Universe.

Spider-Man and Ghost Rider face off against a hulking Venom, and Hydra agents, in what looks like the inside of a church bell tower,

Hold on, I recognise them!

There’s fairly a couple of customisation choices out there to the participant. How a lot of an approval course of for the Hunter’s character creation did you must undergo with Marvel, you understand, contemplating you are counting on user-generated content material right here? As a result of mine seems to be a bit bit foolish and it nearly felt like I used to be being a bit naughty bringing that into the Marvel Universe. Had been they blissful to let individuals like me run amok of their universe?

Jake Solomon: They have been, they have been! And rather more they mentioned, “Nicely look, user-generated content material is user-generated content material, and we’re not going to limit that.” And even the picture mode, the picture sales space we have now – have you ever seen the [customisable] comedian e book cowl?


Jake Solomon: So once more they have been like, “We recognise that is user-generated content material,” however they have been very clear about, properly, we went forwards and backwards so much over who we thought could be the perfect illustration of the Hunter on the field … [but] as soon as we have been all in step with who on-the-box Hunter was going to be, they have been like, “Nicely, person generated content material is what it’s.” They by no means stepped in and have been by no means like, “Oh, you possibly can’t have that prop. You’ll be able to’t do this.” They have been remarkably nice in the case of issues like that.

I did have plenty of enjoyable messing round with the comedian e book editor specifically, to be honest.

Jake Solomon: Chris Bratt used to like that poster generator in [XCOM] Conflict of the Chosen – I do not forget that too. However yeah, it is enjoyable and I can not wait to see what individuals do.

Yeah, it helps add your individual persona to the sport massively as a result of I used to be adorning The Abbey with my comics and-

Jake Solomon: Oh, you are already doing that! It is one in all my favorite options. I imply, you possibly can even go right into a hero’s room and so they have frames in there, and you may be like, on the bedside desk subsequent to Wolverine’s mattress I am going to put an image of me giving a giant thumbs up!

When it comes to the character design, and particularly that of the established characters, I obtained the impression all their character and costume designs have been carried out in home. I presume you needed to undergo an approval course of with Marvel for these at the very least.

Jake Solomon: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. That is perhaps the lengthiest approval course of, and it simply will depend on the character, as a result of it is at all times a query of, okay, what’s the concept behind this look?

We mentioned, with Iron Man, the storyline our recreation relies on is rooted within the ’90s. So we have been like, properly, let us take a look at Iron Man’s costumes from the ’90s. There’s an entire story he was on known as Crash and Burn, which I actually beloved, so we pulled that costume up. Then we mentioned, properly Iron Man, his armour is type of like a sports activities automobile, so we pulled up the early ’90s sports activities vehicles – and we even go together with that to Marvel. We’re like, “Okay so this is our first crack at this character and this is our inspiration for this stuff.” And that helps as a result of they go, “Okay, nice.”

However sure, they’re geniuses, they’ve labored on so many costumes. With Iron Man, it is the problem of properly there’s plenty of Iron Man’s so what’s particular about your Iron Man? How does it tie to the story you are making an attempt to inform? And the way does yours look totally different than different video games on the market?

Then there’s characters like Nico Minoru, and he or she would not have plenty of illustration in media, [and there are] far much less variations of Nico on the market. And even the comedian variations of Nico, they’re far and wide as a result of that is type of her fashion, in order that we will have much more enjoyable with. Now we have a few variations right here and we talked by these with Marvel. So yeah, the look of the heroes – as a result of that actually conveys a lot – that is undoubtedly a giant forwards and backwards with them.

Superhero Blade faces the camera, arms folded, as his card abilities are swapped on the left hand side of the menu.

How a lot for the Toothy Grin means?

Yeah, I suppose the identical query once more however for the script writing, as a result of the dialogue within the recreation undoubtedly has that outdated Marvel comedian e book really feel to it. There’s seriousness, there’s silliness, there’s bickering between the heroes. It is also a reasonably comparable tone to what you’d anticipate to see from a contemporary Marvel film. So was all of it written in home or did you usher in established Marvel writers to assist?

Jake Solomon: Nicely, our cinematics have been written by this wonderful author named Margaret Stohl, who does write comics really, however plenty of the writing for that stuff is finished in home. The narrative director and I begin from the very starting [with] this can be a story we wish to inform, now these are the beats we wish to inform. However at each course of we go to Marvel, and so they’re like, “Oh, cool, that is nice. By the best way, in the event you’re gonna be over in that a part of the world, have you considered this character?” We’re like, oh, yeah, that is smart so as to add them in. And so once more, they’re at all times very additive, they are not restrictive.

After which tone was a giant factor for us too, as a result of even totally different Marvel video games have totally different tones, and our tone was at all times going to be, the best way that my narrative director and I talked about it, we mentioned “Saturday morning cartoon”. I like the outdated X-Males cartoon, proper, and the cool factor about that’s that the character was very earnest, they took it critically, but it surely wasn’t critical. And so we have now this darkish storyline however the darker a storyline will get, the funnier you have to get within the minute – the minute beats. So we’re at all times like, it’ll be mild hearted, we’ll take utterly totally different takes on, for instance, our Physician Unusual, who we have now a bit extra fussy. So yeah, we have now totally different takes, considerably, on the characters – we have now this form of tone we at all times needed to go for. And once more, it was simply discovering that center floor and then you definitely get right down to the precise scripts themselves.

“The minute you pull out one – not to mention two or three core parts to what makes XCOM XCOM – you are like, oh I suppose we’re simply making a brand new recreation now”

Now, you mentioned that is your first time working with an IP that is not your individual? How arduous was it to remain true to Firaxis’ fashion when engaged on a brand new IP?

Jake Solomon: I imply, it was fascinating as a result of we’re so gameplay centered, that is the place all the pieces begins with us, and clearly I say that as a designer but it surely is the place all the pieces begins, in order that half, we most likely have by far essentially the most freedom with Marvel. They only play the sport avidly and provides us suggestions, however they’re by no means prescriptive with gameplay stuff.

So in that case, we’re victims of no matter success Fiaxis has had. You are simply actually desirous to be sure to’re making one thing worthy of that, that legacy while you make one thing new. So that you’re up at night time worrying about ‘how good is that this recreation?’

Personally I’d promote my soul for an awesome recreation. Like, if I can simply assure the sport performs properly… I am going to do something for that, and I believe plenty of our group feels that means. So we fear about that first.

In that sense, the IP wasn’t a restriction in any respect however in some methods, it drove all the pieces as a result of [of] the theme of the sport. On the very starting, I believed okay, properly, we have made XCOM now we’ll put some superheroes in there. And inside two weeks, we have been like, properly, that is not gonna work for like a billion causes: no superhero is gonna take cowl and no superhero is gonna miss a capability. Thematically, none of this suits with what we have carried out earlier than. So, we have been like, oh I suppose we’re gonna construct all-new programs from the bottom up. So the theme drove us into this place the place we have been like, okay, we’re gonna must invent all new mechanics to fulfil this fantasy of you changing into a super-powered being, and that is how we ended up with the mechanics we did.

Superheroes Iron Man, Captain Marvel and Magik face off against Hydra soldiers on the crossroads of an urban, city street.

From left to proper: Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and Magik.

It sounds such as you needed to go proper again to the fundamentals when designing this recreation, then – no leaning on beforehand established XCOM gameplay.

Jake Solomon: Yeah. I imply, it was actually fascinating. We really began with a paper prototype, and we simply had these – I do not know in the event you keep in mind Heroclix, these little plastic Marvel collectible figures? We had a field filled with this stuff and we laid them out on a paper map, after which we simply began prototyping tactical video games. And we began very XCOM-like and that did not work very properly.

However from the very starting, what we had was utilizing the surroundings and leaping off of stuff, in order that caught from perhaps the primary two weeks we began engaged on this. However there have been so many issues that in the event you change core programs of a recreation, for instance like XCOM, you assume, properly, no, they can not die, and properly, nope, they are not going to take cowl and nope, you possibly can’t have talents fail in any means. It is like none of this works. The minute you pull out one – not to mention two or three core parts to what makes XCOM XCOM – you are like, oh I suppose we’re simply making a brand new recreation now.

That was a terrifying second. I imply, it actually makes me sound as silly as I really am – me going in fact we wish to make a Marvel recreation. “Okay, we’ll do an XCOM after which we’ll do it with the superheroes.” After which, two weeks later, I used to be like, that is not gonna work in any respect! I suppose we’re simply gonna make a model new recreation right here. In order that was a bit bit terrifying. I am so pleased with the place we ended up. However yeah, it was a journey. It was a journey for certain.

As a result of the Marvel IP is so large, I anticipate that Midnight Suns goes to herald an entire new viewers to technique video games. Individuals who’ve beforehand by no means touched that style earlier than would most likely be overwhelmed by one thing like XCOM, however this appears rather more accessible. Was it a problem to discover a steadiness that will please hardcore followers of the XCOM collection, while additionally opening the door for the brand new gamers who’re solely going to be acquainted with the Marvel franchise and never technique gaming?

Jake Solomon: Particularly in techniques video games, technique video games, you are gonna throw the phrase “accessibility” round an excessive amount of. I undoubtedly do in pitch conferences: “accessible, accessible, this one’s gonna be accessible”. However you possibly can’t begin there. I believe the issues that hold us up at night time, undoubtedly the issues that hold me up at night time, is how good is that this recreation? Like, actually: how good is that this recreation? I nearly do not care about the rest till I am like, “Oh, good, that is gonna be enjoyable for individuals to play for hours.” And you must get that down first.

I consider there must be complicated programs that may’t be mastered, so which means you actually have to fret about programs which are fascinating and have sufficient complexity to the place you possibly can assist tons of heroes and a whole bunch of talents, and gamers can play this for a whole bunch of hours and say, “Oh, I have never mastered this but.” So that you’re apprehensive about that first.

Captain Marvel and Tony Stark, and a couple of others, stand around a war table that with 3D, holographic projections of landscapes, as they plan their next move.

That is a elaborate desk. And what e book is that somebody is studying?

Then you definitely go, “Okay, how will we make this as accessible as it may be?” However you do not begin from “properly let’s not do this as a result of we’re apprehensive it is not accessible sufficient”: that is a harmful highway to go down. We at all times begin with let’s make the perfect techniques recreation that we will, after which let’s assume that we will discover a strategy to make it extra accessible. I simply consider you must begin there; you possibly can’t begin from the opposite path.

However I believe that is the good factor that occurs once we signify talents as playing cards. We get all of this complexity individuals do not even recognise – until you break down the design of playing cards, you do not recognise all of the complexity that comes together with it. Persons are already like, “Yeah, I perceive how card video games work.” If I mentioned, “Okay, you might have talents and each flip, I am simply gonna jumble up your talents and provide you with 5 of them.” If it weren’t playing cards, you would be like, “What the fuck are you speaking about?”

However as a substitute, we’re like: it is playing cards. And other people go, “Yeah, I get that, I understand how card video games work.” So we have packed in all these complicated mechanics which are very accessible to individuals as a result of they’re like, “Yeah, I get what a random hand of talents is now and I get that this card says ‘draw three extra talents’. I get that.” But when it wasn’t playing cards, individuals could be like, “This does not make any sense.”

Yeah. And naturally as a result of they’re playing cards, you might have the illustrations on there that make it rather more visually putting and fascinating for newer gamers in comparison with say an inventory of textual content or a bunch of menus.

Jake Solomon: Yeah, and we could be specific – we will say explicitly, that is what is going to occur while you play this card. One of many issues that falls out of that’s this concept that in Midnight Suns, due to the system design, you actually cannot play the sport mistaken, which is not true for for instance one thing like XCOM. You’ll be able to’t play Midnight Suns mistaken within the sense of an assault card does precisely what it says. You assault that individual, you are gonna deal the injury on that card, proper? It isn’t mistaken.

Now could be there a greater choice? Positive. Perhaps it is best to have attacked that individual there, or it is best to have carried out this earlier than you used that means. However there are different video games the place it is like, properly, you really did one thing and you bought nothing out of it, and that is very dangerous, and also you’re gonna must study some extra programs to study what to do. And so I believe that is additionally one other ingredient of accessibility. That wasn’t deliberate but it surely type of comes out of the playing cards.

Okay, can I ask yet another shortly? Would you wish to see the Hunter pop up within the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Jake Solomon: I would adore it man! For me, since I am such a nerd, I would love it extra in the event that they popped up within the comics by some means – that will be so cool to be within the comics as a result of I have been studying them for thus lengthy. They’ve such an extended legacy that if I may in any means contribute to the comics, the Hunter that we have made, if that might by some means make it into the comics, I would be like, properly, they will be there ceaselessly. That to me could be the best factor.

Thanks a lot.

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