What To Do About The Avengers Movie Tie-In Game

Role playing time. You’re Marvel. In an incredibly complex amount of chess-like moves you’ve done the near impossible. Not only have you launched a major motion picture studio to create movies based on your superheroes, you laid the groundwork for them to crossover in one big team-up movie: The Avengers. Fans everywhere are rejoicing. Of course, as with all major blockbusters, licensing deals have been made every way possible to both promote and maximize profit of your movie. It’s not crass or as some say evil. That’s part of how big budget, special effects action movies fanboys crave are paid for. But one of your major deals has fallen apart.

Last month, news spread that THQ had canceled the Avengers tie-in game that they had been developing. Though some lament that leaked early videos looked promising, publishers rarely kill good games. It either wasn’t coming together or wouldn’t be ready in time.

So the rights have reverted back to Marvel. There’s less than a year to make the game in time for the movies release. What do you do? You can cancel it outright. You can shop it around and hope for the best. Or you can go in with a plan worthy of Nick Fury.

Since there’s less than a year, that rules out starting a game from scratch. There’s just not enough time. So review what developers have previously done a big Marvel team game. Well, hey! Look at that. The late lamented Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series published by Activision. A lot of comic book/video game fans were crushed when Activision lost the Marvel rights. That’s a double-win move. You have a basic game engine already made and it has a pedigree that gets gamers excited. Raven Software and Vicarious Visions, the two developers who’ve worked on the series, are both Activision in-house teams so getting them to work on it is a scheduling problem but not impossible.

Cut out the large cast of superheroes that MUA was famous for. Only include the six that are in the movie. That cuts development time. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, and even Nick Fury have been done before and can be recycled. So you already have base models, animations, powers, etc. You just need to update the character skins to match the movie. That leaves Black Widow as the sole all-new character. Not bad.

The main workload will be levels and enemies based on the new movie. Once again, not as bad as starting from scratch. It’s no secret that the enemies in the upcoming movie are the Marvel Comics alien bad guys the Skrulls. Guess what? The first Marvel: Ultimate Alliance game featured an entire level where you fought the Skrulls! You’ve at least got a starting point for the enemies and their powers. That leaves the levels, puzzles, scenarios, and boss fights to design. Difficult but not impossible to accomplish.

To avoid the stigma of being a quickie cash-in, the game can do what no X-Men: Legends or Marvel: Ultimate Alliance game has ever done before. Have excellent online multiplayer. Dedicate a team to just making that work. The MUA series had the rare misfortune of a series whose sequel had worse matchmaking than the original. It boggles the mind how that happened.

So the question remains, Marvel. What do you do?

Karl Cramer

October 4, 2011

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