NYCC: Marvel's Video Games, from "Avengers" to "Deadpool"

A frenetic pace, a slew of projects, and some wild surprises made up Marvel Studios' Video Game Panel Saturday at the New York Comic Con. The panel line-up included Marvel's Javon Frazier, Director of Games Marketing, VP of Games TQ Jefferson, and Manager of Licensed Games Chris Baker, Ubisoft Producer Pierre Leroux and Art Director Dan Vargas, Gazillion President and COO David Brevik, High Moon Studios Game Director Terry Spier, Disney Interactive Media Group Creative Director Luigi Priore, and Wideload Game Director Patrick Moran.

TQ Jefferson began the panel by explaining Marvel's philosophy on game creation, stating it's built on three core pillars: making the games fun, giving them a compelling story, and providing a true-to-character experience. He noted that 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Marvel video games, which began with the Atari 2600 "Spider-Man" game in 1982. A running feature throughout the panel was Marvel video game trivia, in which bits of lore spanning the company's 30-year gaming history was displayed on a screen. The first trivia item noted that Spider-Man starred in four games in the 1980s, and made a surprise guest appearance in a fifth -- "Revenge of Shinobi," a clip of which was played for the audience to much laughter.

A pair of "Amazing Spider-Man" games were the first up for discussion, one for mobile platforms, and the other for consoles. The console edition will feature a "Stan Lee Adventure Pack" that will allow gamers to play as the Spider-Man co-creator. Jefferson noted the producers even got Stan to record the line, "I'm totally gonna tweet about this!" The game will be coming to the Wii U this spring, and that edition will come with all the DLC as well as motion controls.

Next up was "Marvel: War of Heroes" from Mobage. A digitized version of a collectible card game, it will be available on iOS and Android, and players will be able to build their deck by trading cards. "Marvel Pinball" was said to be one of their most popular games, and Chris Baker revealed that writer Dan Slott, who was in the audience, is ranked 16th worldwide in the game. The newest edition of "Marvel Pinball" will be based on the "Civil War" storyline, and will allow player's to choose either Captain America or Iron Man's side; their choice will determine how the game is played, and which characters are available to help them. For example, if Iron Man is chosen, the Thunderbolts will be available, while if the player sides with Captain America, the Punisher can provide some firepower.

One of the major game franchises for Marvel is "Avengers Alliance," and Jefferson emphasized the enormous popularity of the free-to-play Facebook game. The "Avengers vs. X-Men" storyline is now featured as a "special ops" chapter" in the game. One notable change from the comics is that Jean Grey, the original Phoenix, takes the place of Namor in the Phoenix Five. Asked by an audience member where Namor is, Frazier quipped, "He's on vacation." An array of alternate costumes for characters including Cyclops, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and Daredevil were displayed to much enthusiasm from the audience. Wild cheers erupted when Cable and Deadpool were shown on screen, as potential PvP rewards.

The "Avengers Initiative" game is available now for touchscreen devices, and as an NYCC exclusive, players will be able to download a free Gladiator Hulk costume, based on the "Planet Hulk" storyline. Captain America has been added to the game in a brand new costume designed by Marko Djurdjevic, although the audience seemed more excited by the on-screen image of him battling Taskmaster. And in a unique tie-in, if players are able to beat the Hulkbuster Iron Man boss, they will get access to the classic Iron Man Mark V armor in the "Avengers Alliance" game.

There was a bit of mystery about the next topic of discussion, as Javon Frazier put on a show of being "concerned" by the fact that Terry Spier of High Moon Studios had apparently not yet arrived to discuss "Deadpool: The Game." Seemingly in a panic, Frazier offered to put on a video to keep the audience entertained. What followed had the audience in stitches, as they watched "Deadpool" on a caper through Comic-Con International in San Diego, annoying and entertaining passersby in equal measure. When the video ended, Frazier returned to his agonizing over Spier's absence, but Spier soon arrived -- bound and gagged in duct tape. The gag was removed, and Spier explained that he'd suffered this indignation at the hands of a certain Merc With A Mouth. "He was too busy to make it, but he did send a friend," Spier explained.

With that, a smaller, wispier Deadpool emerged, and began dancing up and down the aisles. While the audience was awed by this display of showmanship, it was soon topped when the "real" Deadpool ran out onto the floor and engaged in a dance-off with his rival. Deadpool then took the stage and entered into a lengthy rant, the gist of which amounted to a demand to buy his game, the creation of which he claimed he was solely responsible for. Deadpool did offer one piece of useful information, that Domino of X-Force fame will be in the game as well; Deadpool seemed to be particularly fixated on her chest, however. "Deadpool" will be the rare Marvel video game that is rated M for Mature; the panel noted that the last one was 1997's "X-Men: Rise of Apocalypse," which was a mod for the first-person shooter "Quake."

Brevik then spoke about "Marvel Heroes," which he described as "the first core Marvel MMO." It is currently in closed beta testing, which users can sign up for at http://www.marvelheroes.com.

Pierre Leroux introduced the "Avengers: Battle for Earth" game by asking the audience, "Who here has ever wanted to be a superhero?" He got an enthusiastic response, and proceeded to explain what he described as a "motion fighting game," which will capture the player's natural body movements and translate them into their favorite superhero moves, such as Spider-Man's web-spinning, Wolverine's claw-popping, and the Hulk's smashing. He described the game's moves as "easy to perform, but hard to master." The game will have 20 playable characters, and Leroux said this take on the Avengers was inspired by "The Avengers" film, which he said he and Vargas had seen "3 or 4 times," prompting a shout from the audience of "That's all?" Vargas mentioned that Stan Lee himself had play tested the game and enjoyed it, prompting Leroux to mention that the panel had one more special guest. "Are we ready to bring him out?" Frazier asked. They were, and out bounded Stan Lee to shock and wild cheers from the audience. He stayed for a few minutes, and soaked up the acclaim, before disappearing behind the curtain again.

With the panel packed with announcements, there were only five minutes left for questions from the audience. One fan wanted to know if the "Deadpool" game would be available for the PC, but Spier said, for now, there were only plans for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Another fan wanted to know if there would be a lot of fourth-wall breaking, per Deadpool's penchant in the comics. "Oh yes," replied Spier. "Fourth-wall breaking everywhere."

The next question was about sequels to "Ultimate Alliance" or "X-Men Legends," and Jefferson directed the fan to the "Marvel Heroes" MMO. Describing its influences, he said "It's in the spirit of 'Diablo.' which makes sense, since we have the creator of 'Diablo' working on it ," pointing to David Brevik. With that, time ran out, and the whirlwind panel drew to a close.

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