Recently I had the chance to speak with Dan Vondrak, project lead, Raven Software about the pending release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I want to thank Dan as well as Kathy at Activision for taking the time to answer my questions.
OCMS: What is the background and setting for the game and how closely does it follow the events of the film?
DV: This story explains Wolverine’s mysterious past. How did he get the Admantium skeleton and claws? What happened between Wolverine and Stryker (the relationship they hinted at in the previous X-Men movies)? We started the game before there was a movie and once the movie got involved we worked back and forth with Fox to mold our story into the movie story and maintain all the great comic stuff we wanted to add from Wolverine’s past. In the end we’ve got about 90% of the movie story in our game plus and additional 30-40% of extra content that blends seamlessly with the movie story, it turned out awesome.
OCMS: What are some of the locales and missions gamers will see in the game?
DV: Tons! Of course the Weapon X Facility (where Wolverine gains his Adamantium), Alkali Lake, New Orleans, Sentinel Labs and a jungle mission that takes place in Africa – this whole mission is a series of flashbacks that show Wolverine when he just had his bone claws, pretty cool stuff.
OCMS: What are some of the moves players will be able to do?
DV: Man, there’s too many to pick from. Wolverine has a whole series of Claw attacks based on normal and heavy attacks – and then there are tons of moves based on the state and location and health of the enemy – ground attacks, air attacks, grab attacks. All of these flow seamlessly together. There’s a whole set of Brutal finishers Wolverine performs if the enemy’s health is low enough (slicing off both arms, sweeping low and cutting off legs, stabbing through the chest). But the best move in the game is “Lunge”. Just like in the comics when you see Wolverine flying through the air – in X-Men Origins: Wolverine you can target an enemy and fly 20, 30, 40 feet through the air pouncing on them. It’s an AWESOME way to close the distance and tear into a group of enemies. And of course there’s a whole set of moves you can branch too from lunging. Oh and there’s environmental kills using objects in the environment – forklifts, trees, electrical junctions – seriously too much to talk about.
OCMS: What gaming engine will you be using and what enhancements will it bring to the game?
DV: The Unreal 3 Engine. We’ve add an entire “Combat Node” system that allows us to not only have all these amazing fight moves, but also pull off the crazy epic action moments – sky diving to helicopters, grabbing onto them, cutting them down – jumping from truck to truck as they speed down the road. The graphics have gotten hundreds of new shaders written that really make the environments come to life – the art staff did an amazing job. Lush, hot Jungles, cold fog filled, snowy Alkali Lake forests. It’s all great.
OCMS: What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards in crafting the game?
DV: Challenges – getting the regeneration to work. We actually have 3 different models running around in game (Skeleton, Muscle, Skin/Clothes). Lots of tech and art went into this. There’s a fight with a 200 foot Sentinel – easily one of the (if not the) coolest moments in the game. It was something we wanted to have in from day one and went through a lot of iterations – but the guys on the team nailed it, this could go into the rewards section too.
Rewards – seeing all the combat come together so seamlessly. Seeing different members on the team playing and the fights always look different. At least once a day walking around Raven you’ll see someone laughing and shouting while watching someone else play “oh man did you see that, oh I can’t believe that happened”. I love the combat in this game.
OCMS: What sort of enemies and heroes will players face and will there be boss battles?
DV: There’s a great cast of characters in here – Sabretooth, Blob, Gambit, Colonel Stryker, John Wraith and others I can’t mention yet. It was fun making the enemies, we’ve got a really good mix of melee and ranged guys – shotgunners who cloak, 15-20 foot mutant experiments from the Weapon X facility, huge variety of Sentinel inspired robots – jungle mutants: Teleporters, cloning machete enemies – the list goes on and on. Boss Battles – absolutely! All the boss battles are with major characters from the comics – that was really important to us to put Wolverine in some “dream matchups” that comic geeks like us love to see.
OCMS: How do NPC characters figure in the game?
DV: There are a lot of NPCs in the game – some you meet are trying to help you, others are part of objectives. You’re trying to rescue them, interrogate them, etc. Wolverine is constantly running into NPCs – some well known from the comics, others brand new to this story.
OCMS: Will any of the films stars be providing voices in the game?
DV: This was one of the coolest parts about making a movie based games. We got Hugh Jackman, Liev Schriver, and will.i.am to all lend their likeness and Voice talent to the game. I love how authentic it makes the whole experience while you’re playing the game. We got a chance to visit the set out in Australia – all of the guys were just awesome. Hugh Jackman is the man, he couldn’t have been more excited about the game and he was so pumped about the movie.
OCMS: Is there a multiplay mode to the game?
DV: see #10 ?
OCMS: What sort of missions will players have and is there a co-op mode?
DV: Early on we decide to not do a coop mode – we saw this as an opportunity to make the greatest Wolverine game ever – and we did not want to get distracted trying to deliver other characters or a coop mode. There’s a pretty big variety in the missions, escape, rescue, hunting, all sorts of stuff. And we’ve got platforming and some light puzzle elements to keep the pacing going.
OCMS: Will there be side missions?
DV: All of the missions in the game tell a critical part of the story. We wanted to make sure to concentrate on telling a single solid story and give a uniform Wolverine experience, so we didn’t want to create lengthy side missions. There are plenty of twists in the story though, that keep the player moving around and guessing what comes next.
OCMS: Blending action with a detailed plot can always be tricky, how have you attempted to create this element, and will scripted events be a part of the game?
DV: Being huge fans of Wolverine at Raven we wanted to make sure to make the plot a big part of the game. This is not just a game about combat; we’ve got elaborate cutscenes that let this really cool story play out. We wanted the player to feel the rage and betrayal Wolverine feels – show that while Wolverine is a killer, he’s also a very complex character. We even added “worklogs” to the game – these are extra audio logs gamers can listen to, to get additional story content. We put plenty of geek comic stuff in there – I loved thinking of those.