Saturday at New York Comic Con, Gazillion Entertainment and Marvel Entertainment presented a panel discussing their upcoming MMORPG “Marvel Heroes.” Moderated by Stephen Reid, Gazillion Director of Community and Customer Support, the panel included designer David Brevik, art director Josh Book, associate producer Matt Group, and TQ Johnson, VP of Games Production at Marvel Entertainment. The panel included further details on gameplay, character building options, and the announcement of three new playable characters: Luke Cage, the new Nova AKA Sam Alexander, and Jean Grey.
“Really, it’s totally free,” announced Brevik, though he added that certain achievements and skin designs could be downloaded for a price if players didn’t wish to wait for certain prizes to be earned in-game.
Distinguishing it from other MMOs, “Marvel Heroes” features randomized zones in a style similar to “Diablo II,” another game on which Brevik served as designer. The same areas won’t be played in the same way twice. Players will be recruited for missions involving well-known villains of the Marvel Universe. One such mission involves Professor Xavier calling for help to protect Mutant Town against the Purifiers, an anti-mutant cult. The missions and cut scenes are done in the style of motion-comics and are written by “All-New X-Men” writer Brian Michael Bendis.
“We have a variety of motion comic artists,” explained Matt Group. “We’re trying to get it as authentic a Marvel experience as possible.”
Unlike “City of Heroes” or “DC Universe Online,” this game does not require the player to create an original character or one influenced by famous superheroes. Instead, players select previously existing crime fighters and adventurers of the Marvel Universe, whether it be the Thing, Spider-Man, the Hulk or Deadpool.
“There’s a really long history of this,” Reid explained, recalling several versions of the Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game from TSR, where players acted as established characters rather than create original one. “One important thing for us, we don’t want knock-offs in this game. You don’t want to be fork-and-knife-man. You want to be Wolverine.”
“What if there’s a whole ton of Wolverines running around the screen at the same time? The first answer is, who the Hell cares? Get together, form a guild, call yourselves the Bubs, have a good time.”
Josh Book went into detail concerning how players choosing the same character can still personalize their attributes and costumes. “Hulk has had a lot of different looks over the years and everyone, in their mind, has a different idea of what Hulk looks like. So we take a look at all the different sources.” The panel then revealed screenshots of several Hulk incarnations, including Mark Ruffalo’s incarnation from the film “The Avengers” and gray-skinned Joe Fixit in his suit and hat. Other screen shots displayed Storm of the X-Men in different costumes, including her original suit and her 1980s Mohawk and leather jacket look, resulting in loud cheers from the audience.
Players earn more costumes as they complete more missions or can purchase them directly. Concerning further customization, Brevik explained that each hero has its own character class based on what’s been seen in the comics. A comparison between the Hulk and the Thing illustrated this point. “They can both do things like throw cars and leap around, but Hulk really rips up the street. Whereas the Thing is much more a group character. It speaks not only to their personality, but they have very different skills and very different traits.”
“In most RPGs, ‘flight’ means hover,” TQ Johnson remarked as a video of Nova flying was shown. “In this game, ‘flight’ means FLIGHT.”
Even multiple versions of the same character can play differently, based on the player’s ideal version. One might prefer the X-Force Wolverine who is focused on stealth and bleeds, while another can play a more agile Wolverine dressed in his classic brown and tan suit.
Concerning the game design and story, Johnson said Marvel Entertainment is focusing on basics that made previous games popular. “First is fun and engaging gameplay. Second is compelling stories — an engaging story with fleshed out characters with deep backstories, but presented in a way that’s also approachable. If you don’t know anything about Deadpool, that’s fine. You can learn along the way. ”