Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Exec Producer Burke Drane
Going Inside Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Whether a gaming fan first or a comic fan first, when the Spider-man gaming franchise was re-launched by Activision to coincide with the first game, people were thrilled. The game offered a sense of height, speed, and spider-powers that none before it had accurately achieved. With the second game, these things moved into an even better scope, with new combat added to the mix. Ultimate Spider-man offered an in-continuity story to accompany very similar gameplay, allowing comic fans to be much more engrossed by the gaming experience. Then there was Spider-man 3. Critics decried the game, like the movie, as a step backwards. The gameplay wasn’t as tight as the previous games in the series, and the story was jumbled and confusing.Now, un-fettered by a movie to tie-in to, Activision is back with a new game in the Spidey franchise. Spider-man: Web of Shadows offers an all-new story co-written by Brian Reed, featuring a slightly similar premise to a recent Mighty Avengers story. The world is over-run by invading Symbiotes, and it’s up to Spider-man and his amazing friends to stop the invasion. Spidey uses his spider-gifted natural agility and his symbiote-enhanced strength to fight off his enemies this time around. We spoke to Burke Drane, Executive Producer of lead development studio Shaba Games, who are swinging with Spidey for the first time, to find out some more details about the upcoming action game. Newsarama: The game is being billed as having an all-new combat system. What can you describe from this, and will more web-based combat be involved? Burke Drane: We have married Spider-man’s unique, high speed movement to high impact attacks for an experience that makes you really feel you are Spider-man. You can still drop to the ground and brawl with your enemies, but we wanted to craft the combat in the way the Spider-man would fight. You can target your enemies from on top of a building, drop down to gain speed, and then swing kick through them, smashing them into the air. You can use your web to pull yourself between enemies, a move we call Web Strike, to either bounce between enemies acrobatically, or drive them into the ground. You can even link them together: swing kick, web strike, yank. Ranged web combat is key. NRAMA: Players can switch between the traditional Red/Blue suit (agility) and the Symbiote Black suit (strength) throughout the game. How is this mechanic handled, and how often can players use it? BD: Spider-man gains the symbiote in the first mission and he can switch between his suits at any time until the very final mission. Each suit has its advantages. If you want to subdue enemies with webs, then you want to be in the red suit. If you want to throw cars, then you need the black suit. Some of the combinations I enjoy the most involve switching suits between moves. NRAMA: Team-ups and epic Super-villain battles are both promised. We've seen Luke Cage, Wolverine, Vulture, and of course symbiote-powered foes; can you name any other guest stars on the hero or villain side for us? BD: No, not yet. NRAMA: There will be an RPG-style point system to upgrade powers; how does this work? Can a player theoretically max out Spidey in all abilities? BD: There are hundreds of moves and your enemies are ramped heavily against you, in order to keep from drowning you in options, attacks are purchased with experience gained from combat. Health and speed are gained by collecting spiders around the city. The upgrades page previews each move that is unlocked for purchase, so that you can choose the moves that fit your play style. Experience is awarded for defeating enemies, but you also get experience based on how you defeat them. Using combinations, juggling enemies from the ground to the wall to the air, and defeating lots of enemies quickly will really rack it in. NRAMA: Choices are a much-touted feature of this game. How much will your decisions affect the world and the actual storyline? That is, will the cityscape change and/or will the storyline have major divergent points? BD: The cityscape does change through out the story, and your decisions affect the way other characters, including the civilians react to you. There are big story decisions, but there are constantly decisions about how you deal with foes, how much destruction you wreak on the city, and how you react to people in need. It is difficult to repel the invasion on your own, but the heroes won’t assist you if they think you have been corrupted by the symbiote and the villains won’t assist you if they think you have gone soft and won’t do what needs to be done. NRAMA: Will players be confined to Manhattan, or will other boroughs of NYC be available? How much of the city will be there this time around (as previous games have not had EVERY building by any stretch)? BD: The game takes place in Manhattan. It is playground for Spider-man that is nearly eight square miles and packed with things to do. Our focus was never on replicating the real New York and creating a simulated city, but to create the Marvel New York experience. NRAMA: You have four developers making variations of this game for 7 platforms. Is it being made for one first, then the others? Will there be major differences from one version to the next? BD: Much of the development was simultaneous. The 360, PS3, PC and Wii will be fairly consistent, though the Wii, of course, has unique controls. NRAMA: Is it difficult maintaining a vision, using the same basic premise and title of a game, when there are several developers like that? BD: Cross-studio development is always difficult, but Shaba and Treyarch have been able to play to each other’s strengths and the development teams. NRAMA: Previous game designer and current comic book writer Brian Reed worked on the script of this game. Why was he chosen, and what did he bring to the table to make the choose-your-own-adventure style story work? BD: I think you’ve summed it up in your question. Brian isn’t just a great comic author, but he understands the realities of game development. The story elements are often in flux and take shape around the game play pacing. It is a very different medium than print. You can’t jack up the player’s adrenaline and then expect them to sit back and soak up interpersonal relationships between the characters. One of Brian’s strengths was working with our internal writer to craft narrative during the action rather than between it. NRAMA: Any favorite feature/character/move/moment you'd like to tell fans to look forward to? BD: Swing kicking! Spiderman: Web of Shadows is due Fall 2008, with an exact release date forthcoming.