LEGO Marvel’s Avengers Handheld / Open World
Hi there, for those who missed my last post – my name is Steve Thornton and I am the Game Director of the handheld version of LEGO Marvel’s Avengers. As Game Director, my job is to ensure we’re making the best game we can, and the easiest way for us to improve our games is to listen to our fans. We read every review, user comment, email and tweet we can get our hands on before, during and after development of a game, so that we know what our audience wants and how to give it to them. So we know something people have been asking for since as far back as LEGO Batman 2 is to have a free-roaming open world hub experience on handhelds. This is obviously a huge technological challenge for a handheld game, and it’s something we have been working up to for years; experimenting with bigger and better hub areas, third person cameras and creative ways to stream in content for players.
I’m incredibly pleased to announce that for the first time ever, we have a full free-roaming open world hub city on handheld; a full 1:1 scale rendition of the console Manhattan city hub is playable on both Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, with no breaks, cuts or loading screens. Although capturing the console scale was important to us, we knew we couldn’t sacrifice life or activity, so the handheld city is also fully populated with traffic and pedestrian systems, props and Free Play content. In fact, there are over 100 Free Play objects in the city, connected to 15 handheld exclusive “hub challenges” – a few of which I will reveal in this post, the rest you’ll have to discover for yourself in the mean streets of Manhattan.
Hub Challenge #2 – Vintage Set
Avid Avengers fans might remember that in the movies Agent Phil Coulson collected vintage Captain America trading cards. By looking closely at the films and official material, our artists were able to fully recreate the actual design of these cards in classic comedy LEGO style and they now act as a cool new collectable in our game, scattered across Manhattan. Collecting one immediately spins it into view, adds it to a gallery menu, and rewards you with a voice clip from Clark Gregg aka Agent Coulson himself.
Hub Challenge #7 – Character Building
Something that’s extremely exciting is a handheld exclusive Free Play storyline starring some very popular (and very current) comicbook characters. At first they seem like a set of seemingly unrelated side stories starring characters like Daredevil, Dr Strange and Moon Knight, but it soon becomes clear there is a greater conspiracy afoot in the city, and a villainous mastermind the heroes will have to unite against.
Hub Challenge #8 – Hydraways
There are hidden Hydra hideouts or “Hydraways” all over Manhattan. Once you get hold of Red Skull’s iconic HYDRA Coupe from Captain America: The First Avenger, you can release a special radar pulse that reveals these Hydraways, and exposes the back-up memory terminals of that dastardly HYDRA scientist, Arnim Zola. Once the Hydraway is revealed, his tape decks are ripe for the smashing.
Listening to fans, we also know that although gamers value exclusive content, they also want the console and handheld experiences to become ever closer and offer the same feel and features. On this project we’ve worked closer with the console team than ever before, to ensure that the core features that define the LEGO Marvel’s Avengers experience are fully present on handheld. Many of these are traversal mechanics for blasting, boosting and leaping your way through the open world hub, including not only the Iron Man flight system and Quicksilver super speed, but the awesome Hyper Jump and Super Climb mechanics that bigger characters like Hulk can use to charge jump through the streets and smash up the side of skyscrapers. We spent a long time tweaking and balancing these mechanics to ensure they had the right weight and responsiveness, and they feel genuinely great to use.
As well as the characters traversal mechanics, we also have a full vehicle driving system, and players will be able to grab any vehicle they see on the street (you’re on important world-saving heroic business after all) but also use the vehicle spawn anywhere button to drop a car, bike, truck or tank on the nearest street, or find helipads on nearby rooftops to spawn copters, chariots and jets. New vehicles to spawn will be unlocked by completing story levels and challenges, many of which have special weapons and abilities, such as a nitrous boost.
But the Manhattan hub isn’t only used for Free Play. During the main game, the hub is used as a way to connect the ongoing storyline of the MCU levels with exclusive hub missions. Covering the behind-the-scenes moments that didn’t make it on screen in the movies, the hub missions are designed to feel like playable deleted scenes from the MCU. For example, an early mission covers Nick Fury being called to the P.E.G.A.S.U.S. base where the Tesseract is behaving strangely, covering his rendezvous at a hidden SHIELD base in Manhattan, and a drive in his decked out SHIELD SUV from Winter Soldier. Another covers Maria Hill rallying the SHIELD agents who retired after the HYDRA scandal back to action, so that they can pilot the mothballed Helicarrier to Sokovia. But as ever, we have injected a dose of LEGO fun, with Nick Fury having to help Agent Sitwell choose a wig for a date before he can borrow the base access chair, and Maria Hill disappointed to discover that if she’s going to get the old band back together, she’ll need to shake the ex-agents out of their newly found mundane jobs.
I could go on forever about the hub content, but I don’t want to spoil all the surprises in store. As I said at the start of this post, I’m incredibly impressed by what the team has accomplished this time. The design and art teams went above and beyond, pushing for a bigger and better city for players to explore, and somehow the tech and code teams squeezed it down onto the handheld screen with no cuts, breaks, bad lag or loading screens. LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is out on both console and handheld platforms on January 26th.