"G.I. Joe fans new and old packed themselves into a San Diego Convention Center room at Comic-Con to hear the latest news from the stewards of the franchise. The fusion of new and old was the watch-ward of the panel, hosted by the Hasbro design and marketing team and the makers of the new "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" video game, which ties-in to the new live-action film of the same name. Aaron Archer and Michelino Paolino (Hasbro Design) and Jeff Labovitz (Hasbro Marketing) hosted the panel.
Archer began by commenting on the G.I. Joe displays currently featured on the floor of Comic-Con, joking that they felt like the real life version of the G.I. Joe forts he used to construct as a kid. "Many of the toys you see downstairs are in the movie, but many are not in the movie," Archer said, priming the crowd for the new characters the panel would be unveiling. "Some of them are what I think of as off-screen characters."
Archer then began to show slides of these "off-screen characters," which he described as "specialists." "We did a lot of thinking about what kind of characters might exist in the Joe world in a support role that we haven't seen," Archer said. Following this design aesthetic, Archer and Hasbro created a variety of Joes that in his mind represented "the best of the 1980s but modernized by our talented design team for the new movie." Among these new characters were:
- Charbroil (a flame-thrower character)
- Night Adder (security)
- Red Ninja Viper (complete with "ninja disc launcher")
The panel also unveiled a new character they dubbed "Nano Viper," a Cobra Viper outfitted with the nano technology featured in the new film. Nano Viper is detailed in the signature green of the nano tech in the movie and comes complete with a large, rubbery piece of nano tech that can be wrapped around vehicles.
"I don't think of Joe as locked in time," Archer said, explaining the new characters. "There's a lot specialists we just didn't get to in the '80s."
Hasbro also teased upcoming new vehicles, which they also felt were a fusion of the '80s G.I. Joe aesthetic and the modern take offered by the new movie. Some of these vehicles were updates on modern classics, while others are vehicles featured in the new film. Among these:
- Polar Shark, complete with driver Ice Storm (a character described as "the deadliest catch Joe")
- Desert Rock Slide
- Dragon Hawk XH1 (comes with driver Wild Bill)
- Crimson Hydra
Other new toy packs announced include Classic Snake Eyes with Cycle, Cobra Claw with Air Biker, R.H.I.N.O. with Rampage and Polar Battle Bear with Snow Job. Some of these vehicles will be featured in the upcoming "Now/Then Packs," double vehicle packages featuring the modern versions of Joe vehicles, alongside their classic counter-parts. "We're really proud of these," Archer said, and told fans to expect single characters to get the same treatment soon.
According to the panel, the design team is keenly aware of nostalgia for the '80s toys and will always capitalize on that with a classic driver or viper design accompanying new vehicles.
The panel also teased their new "scene packs," depicting scenes from or inspired by the new movie, including:
- Attack on the Pit
- Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow at Dojo (with lots of accompanying ninja weapons)
- Mini combat station (with laser artillery)
- Outpost Defender (with Tripwire and Road Block)
The panel also previewed two multi-character packs, one featuring Joes and one featuring Cobra characters. The Joe version is "Assault on Cobra Island" while its counter-part is "Defense of Cobra Island."
With this, the panel wrapped up the toy preview section of the panel and a slide declared "Now You Know!" in homage to the same titled segments of the old "G.I. Joe" cartoon. The slide drew wild applause and laughter from the audience.
The panel then turned things over to the designers of the new "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" video game tie-in. The designers made a point of how closely their team worked with Hasbro to provide a game that was a thrill to fans new and old. The game features vehicles from the toy line, as well as the vehicles featured in the movie. "We understand that playing with vehicles as well as the figures is a big part of the G.I. Joe experience," the lead designer said.
One example of the partnership between Hasbro and the designers was a battle-tank, designed by Hasbro but never produced, which is featured in the game. "Because we had access to the blue prints, we were able to design it so that when it blows apart and its panels fly off, it's almost like you put a firecracker behind the toy."
The game features a system of unlockables based on earned "battlepoints," a reference to the points one could earn from buying "G.I. Joe" figures in the '80s. These battlepoints unlock new characters, as well as the classic costumes of characters featured in the new movie.
The game is designed as a co-op experience, which is fully functional for just one player. The computer controls the second character when a second player is unavailable and the second player can jump in and out without interrupting the flow of the game. "If your friend gets home from work while you're playing, he just has to press the start button to jump in," they said.
The design team acknowledged that playing with a computer partner is often frustrating, so the game allows the option to toggle between the two Joes in the midst of battle.
The designers also promoted the Nintendo DS version of the game, which is a separately designed game built from the ground up, as opposed to a port. The game offers Cobra vs. Joe multiplayer between two or more Nintendo DS. The design team will not be using the stylus. "We thought about it, but it didn't work. It's just good old-fashioned run and gun play."