Marvel Heroes: re-interpreting Marvel's stories

By Ozzie Mejia, Oct 25, 2012 12:00pm PDT

Though it's a long way from completion, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding Marvel Heroes, the upcoming free-to-play MMORPG based on the Marvel Universe. Beta invites have started rolling out, and we got in touch with Gazillion studio director Jeff Lind to learn more about their massive interpretation of the Marvel Universe.

Diablo co-creator (and Gazillion president) David Brevik's involvement has had Marvel Heroes drawing comparisons to Brevik's previous series, while the Marvel license is making others think of the Ultimate Alliance series. Lind doesn't deny the influence of these titles. "Marvel Heroes is a free-to-play massive online action RPG where you get to play as the famous Marvel characters," he said, describing the game. "The gameplay is action-packed, taking inspiration from games like Diablo and Ultimate Alliance, which will let player really feel like these super characters, wading through hordes of enemies and battling lots of great Marvel super villains."

While many details of the story have not yet been divulged, the original debut trailer reveals that big-time bad guy, Doctor Doom, has somehow gotten his hands on the Cosmic Cube, an object capable of taking the holder's wish and making it reality. The story will unfold over a series of motion comics, along the lines of the Astonishing X-Men and Iron Man: Extremis adaptations previously released on DVD. The story for Marvel Heroes will feature an original narrative from "Avengers" and "All-New X-Men" writer, Brian Michael Bendis.

"This is an all-new stand-alone story," Lind added. "Brian wanted to help us re-interpret some famous Marvel storylines from the past for this medium, and those come from various parts of the continuity. We also wanted to give players the opportunity to experience the huge variety of characters and villains Marvel has had over the years."

Though Bendis is the main writer, he'll also have a capable team backing him up. "Brian is the lead writer," Lind continued. "He wrote the main story outline and is writing all of our motion comics, which are one of the main narrative devices. We have other writers helping us with some of the in-game dialogue and story design. We are also partnering with Marvel artists, like Ron Lim ("Infinity Gauntlet," "Silver Surfer"), to bring our motion comics to life."

Fans of the Marvel Universe will recognize a rich, diverse lineup of characters and settings. While many are familiar with the Avengers, they represent a single facet of the Marvel U. There are also street-level heroes, like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and The Punisher. There's a magical realm, the domain of heroes like Doctor Strange. There's an entire cosmic theater, home to heroes like the Silver Surfer, Nova, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Can Marvel Heroes fit all of these different aspects of the comic book world into the game?

Lind acknowledges the challenge of bringing together all corners of the comics together. "They call it the Marvel 'Universe' for a reason," he answered. "There are just a huge variety of settings, characters, teams, stories and rivalries. And that's why everyone has always wanted an MMO based on it. We can't cover everything at launch, but we will definitely hit a few of the areas you mention. But the great thing is that we are an online game. We can keep making more content and we'll never run out of great Marvel material to explore."

One of the most exciting features of Marvel Heroes is the ability to play as your favorite hero. To prevent redundancies and confusion, players will be able to select different costumes, pulled from the Marvel U's rich history. I asked Lind to explain more about how different versions of the same character will be able to set themselves apart.

"Each character will have a large set of powers that are appropriate to him or her," Lind explained. "So Wolverine will have a fast-paced play feel and a set of slashes, lunges, healing factor, but this is still an RPG. You have to choose what powers to pick and which to invest in. This way, one player's hero will be different from another's. If a player has invested a lot in Wolverine's healing and regen powers, then their Wolverine is going to play very differently than the player who's invested more in his hero's movement powers or damage powers, like bleeds. They are all recognizably Wolverine, but they'll play very differently. Plus, Marvel history provides us with just a huge library of costumes for these heroes, which adds another level of customization."

There are 26 characters confirmed so far, including Luke Cage, Jean Grey, and Nova (Sam Alexander), who were revealed at NYCC. Lind pointed out that this would be the video game debut for the new Nova, though Richard Rider fans should take heart, as the breakout hero of "Annihilation" and "The Thanos Imperative" has not been ruled out as a future playable character. Beyond that, Lind was not ready to divulge more details on them, though he does note that there is dialogue ready for each character -- including Luke Cage exclaiming, "Sweet Christmas! I just punched a dinosaur!"

Marvel Heroes will include veteran voice talent, many of whom have voiced these heroes in the past. Look for Steve Blum to return as Wolverine. Also, many of the voices from the animated show Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (as well as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3) will come back to provide voices -- those names include Fred Tatasciore (The Hulk), Brian Bloom (Captain America), and Chris Cox (Hawkeye).

Gazillion is looking to fine tune some server-related issues, so they've started rolling out beta invites and giving invitees a small taste of what to expect from the final product. "It's just a slice of the game in there right now," he said. "We'll be adding more chapters and characters over the next few weeks, and also, new beta testers. Right now, we are focused on shaking down the servers and tuning some of the large-scale multiplayer elements."

The Marvel Heroes beta isn't going to end anytime soon, so those that haven't made it in should not be discouraged. "We'll run the beta until the game is ready to go live," Lind added. "Applications will be accepted for quite a while and a large number of people will get into the beta eventually, because towards the end, we'll want a large-scale test."

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