Experienced Points: Where Are The Marvel Games?

By Shamus
on Jan 5, 2016
Filed under:
Column

My column this week talks about the lack of decent Marvel games. Of course, this is just a symptom of the larger problem that superhero games are apparently 80% utter worthless tripe.

There’s not much more to say about the column, so to kick off the conversation, let’s have a little thought experiment:


Your are the Chief Creative-type person for a medium-sized studio. The publisher is currently haggling with Marvel for one of their characters. (Or if you prefer: A group, like Teen Titans or Fantastic Four.) Let’s ignore the Fox / Sony problems and just assume the whole roster of characters is on the table.

(If you like, feel free to change “Marvel” to “DC” if that suits you better. Or even Dark Horse. Whatever.)

Your job is to come up with a pitch for the publisher. Tell them what character(s) you want, and what kind of game you’re going to try to make with them.

  1. You have to use existing characters. No “I’ll let the player make one”. No inventing your own characters. Marvel is here to boost the visibility of their own characters, not to help you launch your own. The publisher wants to leverage a known name to sell games, not let players invent something new.
  2. You need to be able to explain your game in terms of existing genres. This pitch is going to executives, and they aren’t going to understand your fancy game developer language about Kinaesthetics or Perceivable Consequence. If you try to pitch a completely new style of game, the execs will probably be confused and dismiss the idea as “too risky”. What they’re looking for is [existing game] + [twist]. As in: “It’s like Gears of War, but with eye lasers”.
  3. This project is an experiment for both Marvel and your publisher. If this makes money, they will be willing to take more chances. But for now you need to pitch something medium-sized. This means you can’t pitch “Just Cause 2, but you’re Superman”. Gergantuan worlds – particularly urban ones – are going to be iffy.
  4. Super-famous characters are best, but if you’ve got a perfect pitch for an also-ran like (say) American Eagle, they’re willing to hear you out.

Your pitch should be kind of high-level and answer a few basic questions:

  1. What hero(es) will the character play? You’ll need to stick to the established rules and tone of the given character. They aren’t interested in your idea to re-imagine Spider-Man as some brooding angry Batman type. Also, if you’ve got a villain in mind they’ll want to hear that, too. But it’s not a requirement.
  2. What’s the gameplay like? Halo? Uncharted? Arkham? Hitman? Marlow Briggs? Diablo? X-Com? Angry Birds? Like I said above, you can add a twist or a new mechanic if it’s easy to explain, but you need to pitch in terms of existing gameplay.
  3. What’s the setting? Jungle? Urban? Linear military bases full of crates?
  4. What’s the overall idea of the story? This needs to be short, like, “Batman fights Joker in an insane asylum and saves Gotham”. Execs will fall asleep (or fire you) if you try to read them a screenplay. They don’t care. Your story doesn’t need to fit within the existing Marvel / DC movieverse, but it does need to be appropriate for the character.

Also, not to put any pressure on you or anything, but Eric, the self-aggrandizing little shit who is supposed to be your assistant but instead has managed to blame you for all his major blunders? He got wind of this project last week. (I don’t know how.) He’s already submitted a pitch. He wants to make a game where Punisher travels to “Turkstanbul” and kills terrorists. For America. Marvel isn’t crazy about it, but the publisher is pretty comfortable with the idea because they understand it. In fact, when Eric pitched the idea one of them immediately nodded, “So, like Splinter Cell? That’s a successful series.”

So your pitch needs to be a winner, or Eric gets your job and Frank Castle will get re-imagined as a Tom Clancy-style military guy in a game with no actual superheroes.

Basically they want something new and interesting made entirely out of things that are old and familiar. They want something grand and and fun, but they’re not going to give you a massive budget. Your pitch needs to stick to the rules, even though Eric seems to be bending them quite a bit. Yes this is all unfair. That’s game development. That’s corporate politics. Sorry.

Have your pitch on my desk by the end of the week. Or, you know. Just leave it in the comments.

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  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If I have to pitch something that will sell,then Id pitch captain america beating nazis in a batman type brawler.

    But if I wanted to make my dream game,Id prefer something like freedom force,but with avengers(though freedom force pretty much is that already,only with fictional heroes).

  2. Lanthanide says:

    Shamus, is this your way of getting a game pitch that you and Pyrodactyl are going to approach Marvel with?

    Kidding, of course! Unfortunately.

  3. SyrusRayne says:

    “Characters like X-Man”? I hate to be that guy, but, well…

    I wouldn’t normally comment on typos, but I feel like this one has the potential to undercut the article.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    To answer your column question:

    Because marvel doesnt really have a say about those characters any more.Its all disney now.And disney likes to keep everything in its one big disney game(that you wont let Chris talk about).

    • Mortuorum says:

      For its Marvel properties, Disney only seems to want them to appear in their Game Whose Name Shall Not (apparently) Be Spoken. (The one with seemingly infinite Disney property characters.) I suspect that will change.

      I’m taking the family on a Disney cruise in a couple of months. The various restaurants, clubs, kid areas and activities are all themed, of course. While traditional Disney and Pixar properties still get the most emphasis, the older kid areas are adopting a Marvel theme, and Star Wars elements are also starting to get integrated into the ships. Some cruises are in fact abandoning the traditional Pirate Night in favor of a Star Wars Night.

      What does this mean? Disney ascribes a lot of value to its Marvel and Star Wars properties. The people in charge may not “get” the characters, but they do understand how the release of a crappy game can damage their “brand”. (The terrible Iron Man movie tie-in game certainly drove home the point.) My guess is that we will see Marvel character games (and more Star Wars games), but won’t be seeing any more quick-and-dirty cash-grab movie tie-ins. Marvel is in it for the long-haul.

      Is this a good thing? Probably yes. We probably won’t see anything revolutionary in terms of Marvel games, but we probably won’t see any more crap either. I, for one, would love to see an updated Marvel: Ultimate Alliance-type game, but given that Marvel is de-emphasizing characters they don’t presently possess movie rights for, it doesn’t seem very likely.

    • Stephen says:

      Even before Disney bought them, Marvel was notoriously hard to work with on video games. They tend to want to micromanage their licensees, and are willing to pull the license even late in the project if they’re unhappy about something (see Champions Online having to suddenly rebrand after originally being the new Marvel MMO). Disney acquisition may have made them worse. I suspect the wisdom has percolated through the industry such that nobody really wants to work on a Marvel game unless they have a really good existing relationship with the company or Disney itself is putting up all the money for the project.

      DC, on the other hand, tends to be much more hand-off and willing to let game studios experiment, so you wind up with a pretty good stable of DC games (with varying quality).

    • Supahewok says:

      Sort of, but not quite.

      If you look at the list of Marvel games Shamus linked to, you’ll see that most of the Phase 1 movies had a console tie-in game. They were rushed clones of other popular AAA games, and tanked critically (I have no idea about their sale numbers, but I expect low, given that the Avengers tie-in was cancelled before release).

      Starting with IM3, I believe, you find that there are still tie-in games, but for mobile only. My suspicion is that Disney saw that they could invest less in a mobile game while receiving equal or greater returns than the crappy console games. That’s just business.

      It’d be great to have a game that tied into the movie universe, while not being tied to any one movie so it had the time to be made well, but Disney/Marvel doesn’t seem interested in pursuing that. I have my suspicions as to why, but this so far has been a pain typing on my phone.

      • Felblood says:

        Also, I think they’re on the the fact that the hardcore gaming press won’t crucify them for having crappy tie-in games if they are mobile exclusives.

        –at least not to anything like the degree that they would see on a home console or PC game.

        The expectation of success is less and the tolerance for failure is much higher.

  5. Ardis Meade says:

    The Hand tries to kill Wolverine. He fights back. Single player Left 4 Dead with regenerative health. X23 and Daken campaigns can be DLC.

  6. Knut says:

    The player will play as Groo the Wanderer. He is a master sword fighter, and he has a dog called Rufferto, who can speak, but only Groo can understand him. The dog will act as his sidekick, both helping in combat, providing humorous comments, help (like tutorial) and point out treasures and secrets during gameplay.

    The gameplay will be centered around sword fighting, like Assasins Creed. Groo can mow down a lot of enemies quickly, and get help from his dog. There will also be levels where you play as the dog (as in CoD Ghosts).

    The setting will be fantastical re-imagining of medieval Europe. Since Groo is so destructive, a lot of spectacular set pieces (good for trailers) will be used.

    The story will be that Groo travels to visit his sister Queen Grooella, who gets kidnapped by Taranto, the corrupt general, and Groo must save her.

    Groo is a good character for a game because he is extremely strong and skilled, and at the same time often ends up in trouble where he can fight (good for gameplay) Also the Groo universe is huge with a lot of sequel material.

  7. Infinitron says:

    How about this: N.O.L.F. with the Black Widow.

    • Torsten says:

      I was going to suggest NOLF but with agent Peggy Carter instead. They could use the 60’s visuals and themes from the women rights movements of the time in storytelling.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Oh, so sold. Either of them. Both of them. Maybe we can do flashbacks to Peggy in the 1970s?

        • Mike says:

          Both could work! There have been some good not-strictly-canon comics in which 40s and/or 60s and/or modern characters have been allowed to overlap for the sake of a good story.

          Actually, 60s/70s SHIELD characters would make a damn good cast for a videogame. You could have a combination of war vets like Peggy and Dum Dum Dugan, and cold war agents like Black Widow.

          Why ISN’T this already a thing?

  8. Jack V says:

    Oh, I’m not good at pitches, but let me try.

    Spiderman. Like Arkham, but cheery instead of grim.

    X-men. Like every shoot-em-up ever, except that you switch between X-Men and each one has a different interesting power (invulnerability, laser-eyes, teleportation, etc).

    Iron-man. Like every shoot-em up ever except that… um… wait, let me think, no, seriously, like every shoot em-up ever. “Playboy white guy with inexplicable resistance to bullets and with lots of guns and some missiles and occasionally short-lived flight power kills a bunch of terrorists in the desert. Occasionally he fights a stronger enemy who is skinned as someone else in an iron-man suit. It turns out all the bad guys are actually thralls of his original company CEO, who he kills in a climatic showdown.” I think maybe a standard shoot-em-up makes MORE sense with the main character being Iron-man…

    Thor. Loki unleashes mythic monsters on central $city. Alternate between standard “punch enemies, throw hammer at them” gameplay, with occasional mystical power-ups or hammer-flight, and toned-down god-of-war style “defeat the big monster” boss-fights.

    Metropolis City. A cross between Sim City and Command and Conquer. Build the city of the future, including recruiting police, militia and heroes to put down villains as they pop up before they can destroy too much.

    • Ingvar says:

      In the one Iron Man game I’ve played (it was OK, not spectacular, but OK), you had a choice between “Iron Man” and “War machine / Iron Patriot” between each level.

      Unfortunately, it could probably have used more sandbox.

  9. ehlijen says:

    Operating out of Xavier’s mansion base, a team of X-men defend the earth against aliens in an XCOM-style base management + tactical combat game.

    It’s a mirror’s edge style racing game where spiderman has to navigate new york to get to all his classes and dates on time while stopping as many crimes as possible on the way.

    It’s a lemmings style puzzle game where you must use the powers of various X-men to clear the way for civilians to escape Magneto’s latest rampage.

    • Robyrt says:

      Now that one, I can get behind. Put that XCOM-lite sucker on mobile, then sell additional X-characters in microtransactions.

      Jean Grey not cutting it for you in the psychic department? Rachel Summers is only $1.99 and she comes with a red leather jacket! Young Jean is only $1.99 and she comes with a white and green jumpsuit! Or perhaps you’d like the ’70s Retro Phoenix outfit, on sale for $0.99 for a limited time…

      Oh wait, I think they already made that game, except they realized the gameplay was pretty much incidental at that point.

      • Abnaxis says:

        I think you lost them at “XCOM-lite on mobile” anyway

        Don’t you know the only games that sell on mobile are shallow diversions like Candy Crush or Farmville? Nobody wants XCOM on the go…

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I was thinking about this, but the problem is you need to code each of the mutant powers, and you have the problem that part of the charm of XCOM is that the characters are mortal. Thus, we’re going to get a lot of high-earning characters killed.

        So do it for Agents of Shield. SHIELD agents can get killed all the time, but you can have Coulson be Officer Bradford, and we can program in heroes like Nick Fury a la Chilong and the Operation Slingshot DLC.

        Maybe mix in some Massive Chalice or Banner Saga style roleplaying options (he says, having only seen lets-plays of those games).

        • ehlijen says:

          That could work.

          But I don’t think you’d need lethal combat. Simply having very long wound recovery times or power regression on ‘death’ would be plenty of incentive.

          But you’re right, SHIELD would open a lot more XCOM style options.

          You could even have the story be SHIELD taking on the X-men due to manipulation by hydra at first only to have them team up against the real foe later.

  10. SyrusRayne says:

    Iron Man vs. the Controller, Arkham-inspired beatings with the addition of a bunch of cinematic gadgets and powers. RPG-esque advancement system (framed as upgrades to the suit!). Moral choices! (Do you save the mind-controlled people? Paragon/renegade style, but not terrible) Etc.

    • Syal says:

      “Iron Man vs. the Controller” sounds like a Surgeon Simulator/Octodad type game.

      • Merlin says:

        You could make it about his alcoholism to keep it in character! You control a totally hammered Iron Man trying to fly home (or to short boss fights) and need to cause as little property damage as possible while fighting the controls and Eternal Darkness-y sanity/drunkenness effects.

  11. Duoae says:

    So, my two seconds of thought pitch:

    Doctor Doom has taken over a country in South America for an unknown reason. The country is flourishing under his dictatorship and the citizens seem productive and happy. Iron man is not convinced and enlists the help of green arrow to go to the country and investigate.

    The game play is a combination of tomb raider/uncharted (green Arrow sections) and dragon Ball three-dimensionl beat’em-up style combat (iron man sections).

    Turns out Dr Doom has two mines in the country – a new source of adamantium and some sort of new crystal that, in conjuction with the adamantium, produces a malleable superalloy used by doom to create super soldier armour and mobile battle suits akin to iron man’s.

    • Vermander says:

      Green Arrow is actually a DC Character. But you could use Hawkeye instead.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      I’m not so keen on the idea of playing the Avengers against Doom, but a game where you play Dr. Doom, I would love.

      Shame he’s still owned by Fox.

      • Muspel says:

        Fox has the movie rights, but I don’t think that they have the exclusive video game rights– if they did, then Marvel wouldn’t be able to use Doctor Doom in games like Marvel Heroes.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Doom already rules Latveria, so you’ve got it easy there. Actually, that’s a hell of a lever. See, lots of things have happened there that WOULD make interesting games. Reed Richards spent some time running the joint while Doom was trapped in Hell (don’t ask) trying to sort of re-educate the populace and run around disassembling Doom’s installations and technology so if/when Doom came back he wouldn’t have them anymore. That’s your SimCity/Tropico game. Build the economy, build a happen population, get some industry up and some taxes flowing in so you can afford demolition of Doom’s bases and use that to expand and grow cities. It’s not REALLY a very big country, so you could essentially do the whole thing without really taxing a modern computer.

      SHIELD ended up having to invade the place at least once, against entrenched military and partisan fighters and insurgents. There’s your military-style shooter, with quinjets dropping supplies.

  12. topazwolf says:

    To be fair, Deadpool has a solid game. It may not be the best thing I’ve ever played, but it has pretty good mechanics. Also a good sense of humor.

    I think the primary problem that the industry has with superhero games is that they either fail to mesh well with the characters in terms of gameplay/setting or they try to follow the movie to closely. A two hour long movie tends not to translate well.

    EDIT: I forgot to do a pitch.

    Have a Flash game (the hero, not the software) that is an open world racing style game. Do story missions to gain new abilities and increase your speed. Eventually you will be able to run up buildings and over water, adding ever faster opponents to combat. A bit like Race the Sun, it would be enjoyable without a ton of depth.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      but it has pretty good mechanics.

      Unless you got it for pc.In which case the controls are trash.Also,the gimmick levels were too short,while the shooting finale was a bit too long.But the humor was spot on.

    • Mark says:

      Whoa, now I want the Flash game but it should be based on Katamari Damacy. You start out racing through city streets but as you level up Flash he gets faster and faster and goes farther and farther. By the end you race all the way around the entire world.

  13. Josef says:

    Spiderman, but with Nemesis system. If you fail to stop a petty crook, he will get powers, come up with a gimmick and become a supervillain. The story is to find out who is giving the petty crooks superpowers.

  14. mwchase says:

    I’d pitch a MOBA, but I’m pretty sure there already is a DC MOBA. Not aware of what it’s like, but I know it exists. Existed. Whatever.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      I think it go shut down. I played the beta; wasn’t impressed much by it.

    • Ivellius says:

      Infinite Crisis, I think it was? Different incarnations of the DC superheroes had different ability suites. It basically took the gameplay from the League of Legends map that Riot Games refuses to support, but yes, it was cancelled.

  15. lucky7 says:

    Green Arrow as a Thi4f/Dishonored game.

    Perform heists/terrorize the folks on your lost, slowly getting better (upgrades!). Your behavior determines the defense of future levels, as well as how folks react to you.

    The game would be 1st person, and focus heavily on stealth (Splinter Cell/Deus Ex style with a bit of parkour thrown in) and your utility arrows. Play would be broken up into levels, each one akin to a Dishonored mission (main objective, a few side objectives).

    Plot: After using The Island as a tutorial, you go after the people on your list, gradually find out about the Undertaking. Final fight against the Dark Archer, et voila.

  16. Ingvar says:

    Like “Dungeon Keeper”, but you play as Dr Doom.

    Like “Tower defense”, but you play as Insert villain here

  17. Viktor says:

    The Flash. Parkour gameplay based mostly around speed, with combat using the sprint meter as an awesome button(Saint’s Row) and a limited bullet-time option. Steal mechanics liberally from Sonic. Final boss is Reverse Flash in a running fight where you lose if he outruns you. (Yes, DC, but I think it’s silly this doesn’t exist yet)

    X-Men meets Dragon Age 2. The player gets a customizable hero(with a choice of 3 powersets that nicely map to tank/dps/AoE Mage without calling them that) and gets recruited by Xavier’s Academy. Party-based RPG combat using the classic mutants that everyone recognizes as well as some minor ones specifically to lure the real geeks. The real big names(Wolverine, Jean Grey, Scott Szzzzz) only team up with you for one mission so they can appear in trailers without making the PC’s party brokenly OP.

    Spider-Man: Has been in multiple good games already, no need to do more than pitch a remake of whichever one you think is best.

    Black Widow: Hitman: Blood Money with better graphics and a little black dress. I’ll take my check now, please.

    X-23: Beat-em-up where you start with her in the training facility before she escapes and end with her taking the whole org down. Combo-based fighting, she heals some each time she kills an enemy, standard stuff.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Curious if you played the X-Men Legends games. More Diablo than Dragon Age, but still.

    • The Other Matt K says:

      The Flash. Parkour gameplay based mostly around speed, with combat using the sprint meter as an awesome button(Saint’s Row) and a limited bullet-time option. Steal mechanics liberally from Sonic.

      I was thinking something like this, but with Speedball from Marvel, with lots of frenetic gameplay based around bouncing off the environment at ludicrous speeds. More focus on puzzle / travel challenges (ala portal) rather than actual combat.

  18. GloatingSwine says:

    Squirrel Girl in a comedic Bayonetta inspired rampage through all of Marvel’s most over the top cosmic villains, culminating with a fight with Galactus on the moon.

    (On the other hand, if it was a good Splinter Cell ripoff and we could get Garth Ennis to do the writing I think Eric’s on to a winner)

  19. Joe says:

    Love me some strategy games. I think I’d try to license the Avengers ensemble and create a tactical strategy game a la Myth: The Fallen Lords or Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. Relatively slow, but allowing for the mixing of character traits and specialties to maximize effects in different situations.

  20. Nixorbo says:

    Borderlands-style shoot and loot featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I was thinking maybe a Telltale-style game for the Guardians … except I don’t really like Telltale-style games, so someone would need to make it really super-good. (Who wrote the film? If we can get them involved we might be onto something.)

      Oh, and it’d not be episodic, because I’m a huge anti-fan of episodery.

      In fact, maybe someone other than me should be pitching this! Let’s get Eric back in here…

  21. Phill says:

    The Hulk!

    But not as the obvious brawler, because to me that seems antithetical to the idea of the hulk – he is uncontrolled violence and destruction (to varying degrees, depending on the version of the story). So the player controlling him seems wrong to me.

    So instead, make it a Telltale-esque game (notice how Telltale has virtually become a game genre now). It is story driven, and the players decisions decide where and when Bruce Banner Hulks up, and the goal is to do so at times and places that advance your goals (defeating the big bad) without endangering your friends and colleagues. You, in the true style of Bruce Banner, don’t have any control over what the Hulk does, but you do get to try and control where the Hulk is unleashed.

    Maybe also put in a mechanic where building relationships with people can get to the point where the Hulk is capable of recognising them and avoiding harming or deliberately saving them

    Obviously it would have to be more branching than e.g. the Walking Dead, since necessarily the difference between having a HULK SMASH! moment in some location vs not doing so is going to be pretty big

    • Joey245 says:

      I love this idea. Get Mark Ruffalo on-board as the voice actor and the game will sell like hotcakes.

    • Neil D says:

      The Hulk!

      But not as the obvious brawler,

      And now I’m imagining a Hulk stealth game. Hulk trying to hide behind lampposts, Hulk sneaking up on guys while the ground shakes with every step, Hulk trying to put someone in a sleeper hold and crushing their head and upper torso…

      Kind of a running gag where every level just immediately goes all Cuftbert.

      • Dev Null says:

        Actually, I kinda like that one. Only it’s Bruce Banner stealthing around, and if he gets noticed and shot at / biffoed, then he hulks up and kills everyone, losing you the level.

        • SlothfulCobra says:

          That’d work great. The big thing a lot of people forget about Hulk is that unless they’re going with one of the times where he’s smart (which, fat chance telling execs that he’s ever anything more than an angry idiot), at least half of him is Banner. Banner is always tortured by the Hulk lurking within him, and by the same token, the Hulk is tortured by Bruce Banner always fighting to the surface and overtaking the him. That would be a perfect way to force the medium to acknowledge the inner turmoil.

      • Canthros says:

        HULK SNEAK!

    • Nick says:

      Hit Q not to Hulk out

    • Cinebeast says:

      I love this idea. I actually hope this is what Telltale is working on for Marvel. (I doubt it, but I can dream.)

    • Jonathan says:

      That actually looks like it could be fun for a few hours.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      This could actually work pretty well. Turning Hulk works as a failstate for a sequence and at the same time justifies the character surviving. So the player would try to avoid threats, defuse conflicts and stay in control, if they failed Banner goes Hulk which gets him out alive from the scene but results in devastation and possibly death around. If the player did poorly the game would end with Banner/Hulk being killed or captured and imprisoned in some kind of villain superprison, if things went less horrible he’d end up on the run, but if the player did really good both Banner and Hulk could find some human connections allowing them to manage their condition, heck for an extra good winstate he could even become part of the superhero community…

  22. shiroax says:

    My two would be Shadowrun (DMS) only without the shadowrun and with Jessica Jones and Starlord in Mass Effect (although I think I picked this up somewhere from the site or a diecast)

  23. Jarenth says:

    Man, gimme my Cable game already.

    The character: Cable. Gruff, masculine, gun-toting future warrior with psychic powers and a rad metal arm. Best known for absolutely oozing 90’s design aesthetic, for fighting boom-boom explodey world-saving battles in the Grim Darkness Of The Far Future, and for hanging out with Deadpool every once in a while (don’t ask).

    The game: FPS with platforming elements. Marvel Presents Half-Life 3, basically. You have room for a whole plethora of space guns, psionic melee weapons are an established property, and Cable’s telekinesis means you can rip off the Gravity Gun easy.

    The setting: The aforementioned Grim Darkness Of The Far Future. Think apocalyptic near-future: close enough to our world to be recognizable, but with enough tech advancement to allow for space guns. A la Fallout, but grimmer. And darker.

    The story:The mutant overlord Apocalypse is trying to take over and/or destroy the world, and it’s up to Cable to stop him! Players fight through Apocalypse’s army of robots and mind-controlled lesser mutants and face off against the Four Horsemen — four well-known mutants controlled by Apocalypse, warped into monstrously powerful forms — before finally battling the big man himself. And of course, Cable doesn’t always have to go it alone: possible temporary sidekicks could include occasional love interest Domino, fellow time traveler Bishop, and fan favourite Deadpool.

  24. Darren says:

    Asymmetric, team-based multiplayer action game based on DC properties. Two teams, Heroes and Villains, attempt to achieve objectives within a time-based match, set in a large city.

    Villains must create “Mayhem.” If they achieve the required amount of Mayhem points within the time limit, they win the game. Each villain has different ways of earning Mayhem, in line with their traditional depictions in other media. Some, like the Joker, can earn Mayhem simply by killing civilians. Others, like Lex Luthor, must complete randomly generated tasks, such as stealing technology from a facility.

    Heroes can reduce Mayhem by defeating Villains and by saving civilians from dangerous situations. Civilians who are allowed to die generate additional Mayhem points. If the Mayhem level stays below the Villain win threshold for the duration of the match, the Heroes win. Each Hero has different abilities that make them more or less suitable for certain tasks, and more or less capable of fighting certain Villains. This should naturally balance the scenario, preventing specific Heroes from dominating the proceedings. For instance, Superman could theoretically defeat many Villains much more easily than other heroes, but he is also more capable of saving civilians in a variety of situations, forcing him to spend time negating the civilian death Mayhem bonus while letting other Heroes try to defeat Villains.

    Villains go to prison when defeated, but escape after a preset amount of time. Heroes must recuperate as well if defeated.

    All characters earn experience as players use them, and this experience serves as a currency to purchase and upgrade abilities.

    I’m not saying this would work 100%, but it seems like the kind of thing that someone could take a stab at.

    • Jonathan says:

      12v12 or 20v20 like a giant MOBA?
      My concern would be keeping the match time reasonable (20-50 minutes) while still having gameplay depth. As the game size increases, the complexity increases (good) but the communication gets more difficult.

      • Darren says:

        I’m not sure what the ideal size is. In my vision, the Villains would mostly be off doing their own thing; each Villain has different means of generating Mayhem, and so there’s little incentive for them to team up. The Heroes are the ones who would benefit more from coordinating.

        It would NOT be MOBA-like, as I don’t like the idea of a rigid “field” at all. It would take place in a big, open city.

    • Steve C says:

      I like this idea! Ditto everything Darren said. It should not be 12v12 or 20v20 though. It should be built for varying player size. So it might be 12v20 by design at the start of the match. Additionally the player size might change during the course of the match as people quit a match part way through.*

      Players pick characters from a roster. As players are defeated the hero/villain they were playing is removed from the roster. The defeated player has to pick a new character. Each character costs points from a personal and team budget.

      So the heroes could bring out Superman, but it’s going to cost them. The counter to that could be the villains bringing out a bunch of weak guys. They will each be defeated easily but Superman can’t be everywhere at once. Or they might bring out a villain to specifically counter Superman like Lex in a Kryptonite suit.

      There is constant meta-play of who to put onto the field and what they will do when they get there. It also avoids penalty boxes for players. (Respawn timers) I’m against real world penalties (forced not to play) for in-game actions. Especially in multiplayer.

      *This is one of the reasons why I don’t play most multiplayer games. Especially not DOTA style games. Too often one side will get a team size advantage. There’s no chance for the team that is missing/AFK players to win but all players are still forced to play it out. Which is frustrating for the team that is definitely going to lose, and boring for the team that is going to win.

  25. Abnaxis says:

    X-men in a class-based first-person combat game that centers around taking objectives. Players can be either on the Blue Team (X-Men) or the Red Team (Brotherhood) and capture points/defeat other players/escort a minecart to win each match.

    Like TF2.

    Alternatively, X-Men MOBA. Same as above, just zoom the camera out to an isometric view and add lanes.

    Wait, was the goal to come up with a pitch we’d want to play? Never mind the MOBA, then…

  26. Fictrix says:

    The original Thunderbolts as The Sims 3 meets We Happy Few. You play as one of the team members in a team of supervillains disguised as superheroes. You have to fool the world that you are totally the heroes they think you are, and occasionally you have to fool the other team members about your motives too.

    I was going to say it’s like a digital board game where you compete with AI and/or human players and everyone has their own secret motive (a la Dead of Winter), but everyone knows The Sims makes mucho money, so that’s what I’d pitch to a publisher to get their attention.

    Each team member has their own end goal (like a Sims 3 Lifetime Wish) such as taking over the world or becoming an actual hero. You have to manage keeping up a heroic facade, stopping other superheroes and supervillains from recognising you, covering up when you or other team members nearly give the scam away, and so on.

    Since we’re dealing with a limited budget, story choices can be presented similar to the comic panel dialogues in On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 1-2 or the Pillars of Eternity scripted interactions. Sims 3 does this with popup dialogues but they are not as nicely or appropriately presented.

  27. Primogenitor says:

    (not a pitch, sorry)

    My theory is that exec only think multiplayer games are popular (which is wrong), and Marvel execs (sensibly and correctly) think that a multiplayer game where everyone is Batman would be rubbish.

    • Daimbert says:

      Marvel doesn’t have to worry about that, though, because they don’t have any one hero that’s that dominant. They can easily include a roster of characters and let players choose to play one from the set, which is how Marvel Heroes et al is succeeding.

    • Falterfire says:

      This is actually where Marvel Heroes goes right, at least in my opinion.

      Now that new players can pick any of the heroes except the most recent one or two released, it means that you and your friends can group up as the Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, Squirrel Girl, and Psylocke superteam. Since there’s now a ton of characters you can pretty easily find a team of entirely different characters so you can all play somebody you know without all being the same person.

      The problem, of course, is that creating that many different characters severely limits both the types of games you can make and the kinds of monetization models you can go for. Continuous development selling different characters piecemeal for a diablo-type game works pretty well, and fighting games have had success in the past, but I’m not sure how many other games you can make, especially if you don’t want to make people pay for DLC but still want enough work on each hero to make them feel unique.

  28. Daimbert says:

    Well, first pitch is “Just take on another Marvel Ultimate Alliance” clone with the movie storylines.

    The second is to do a Persona 4 Arena/DC Injustice For All style fighting game with movie or other storylines. The whole “Marvel vs Capcom” stuff is crap compared to that. You can even go back to the old X-Men fighting games for an example of how to build the story, and those latest games showed that you can do a deep story inside a fighting game.

    The biggest pitch though? A Mass Effect style game, featuring the Shiar storylines, mostly from the Avengers. This lets you insert the Guardians of the Galaxy ALONGSIDE the Avengers, doing the Nebula storyline or the Gamesmaster/Collector storylines, and lets you branch out into actual space exploration as well. There’s really no way this can fail unless you really screw it up.

    I also like the idea of a Dragon Age style game. Dragon Age 2 has the best structure for this, and you can easily put in a squad of Avengers with specific powers so that you get the feel of their abilities but aren’t massively overpowered. The Legends/MUA series got away with this, so there’s no reason to think this couldn’t either.

  29. Mephane says:

    Like Space Marine, but you are Thor, and fight through hordes of the evil ice guys (I’ve honestly no idea what they are called).

    • Vermander says:

      Frost Giants.

      I think you could make a pretty decent fantasy rpg set in Thor’s “Nine Realms,” each with different terrain and enemies. A level set in Midgard would even allow for cameos by the other Avengers.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Those’d be the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. (Wow, already hit my nerd quota for this quarter!)

      Edit: dammit! Doesn’t count towards the quarter quota now I’ve been ninjaed, o’ course. But I do like where Vermander is going with this…

  30. Vermander says:

    I’d pitch a stealth/shooter game with RPG elements, similar to Alpha Protocol. You play as Black Widow infiltrating facilities belonging to various evil organizations from the Marvel Universe like Hydra, AIM, or Weapon X. One of the key mechanics will be calling in “tactical strikes” by the other, more destructive Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, etc.) but these have to be used sparingly or you risk compromising your operation.

  31. Christopher says:

    Mass Market means consoles.

    Soooo…

    1. The Avengers, but the expanded roster and you’ll hear why in a moment.

    2. Final Fantasy X style party combat and swap outs but with a retro look to cut down on cost and production time.

    3. Mountain forest to city to castle, mostly linear. Again a time saver in production.

    4. Red Skull Neo-Nazi’s versus the Avengers.

    Characters level up and get more powerful but also you unlock special costumes and alternates.

    Standard progression. Mooks, mini boss who becomes a mook, midboss, elite mooks, and then Red Skull in some kind of mech thing you could easily sell as an action toy for the avengers to fight.

  32. Neko says:

    Like The Witcher (2, let’s not go nuts), but with Thor.

  33. Ninety-Three says:

    It’s a racing game, but with superheroes instead of cars. People liked running around in Saints Row 4, Arkham Batman’s gliding, and every game with hookshooting, right? You get a bunch of heroes with different travel powers (so Spiderman, someone with super speed, someone with super jumping, someone with Mario 64 style flight…) and send them on races across a city. Why are they racing? I dunno, it’s a… tournament or something. The writer will figure it out.

    We get to brag about how it has loads of replay value because each character’s unique movement style means you can play through each level again with each character and get a radically different experience. Environments are pretty big, so we get to use all the hip new “open-world” language everyone loves, but we’re talking about building contained cities here, this isn’t an open world game where we have to design 400 square miles of countryside.

    Because we’ve got multiple characters, it naturally has room to expand in DLC. We’ll never run out of characters to add, so we can keep cranking out additions as long as it makes money. Did Guardians of the Galaxy just come out and everyone’s obsesssed with the new insect-man character? Insect-man DLC, coming right up!

    I spun this idea out of the old City of Heroes MMO travel powers, where they had flight, super-jumping, super-speed and short-range teleportation. They were all fun to use to traverse the city, they had interesting tradeoffs, and after like eight years of the game being around, despite all the game-balance arguments of Brutes vs Scrappers and the like, the community never even approached saying “Well obviously superjump is the best and everyone should just be using it.”

  34. Joey245 says:

    I might have left this on an older post (in much more verbosity) but I’ll put it here since it came up again…

    Doctor Strange, trapped in a strange alien dimension that he needs to fight his way out of. He’s a mage, sure, but he’s also a swordsman, and so combat can switch seamlessly between up-close Assassin’s Creed-like swordplay and long-range spellcasting using an over the shoulder view (like when using biotics or tech powers in Mass Effect). Spells require no mana or have any cooldown times, instead they’re basically like the gadgets in the Arkham series (so each spell can be used for different applications, and can be quick-fired in combat).

    So basically, a fusion between Arkham and Assassin’s Creed wtih a heavy emphasis on magic and spellpower. Could be open world, but could also work as a set of open-ish chapters without backtracking. I’d play that and love it.

  35. Here’s two Marvel game ideas:

    1. X-Men/Star Trek: It hearkens back to the (in)famous crossover comic between Marvel’s Mutants and the Crew of the Starship Enterprise! This time, they’re helping to make the JJ Abrams Trek-based game not suck as much as the first one did.

    2. Damage Control: A SimCity like game (but good) where instant repairs make sense and disasters happen across your would-be metropolis (no pun intended) as heroes and villains duke it out with no regard for the (luckily and amazingly fortunately comics-code-compliantly) empty buildings they destroy.

  36. What? No calls to revive the treasured “Questprobe” series of Marvel games? Surely those are available on GoG, right?

  37. =David says:

    I like your “Black Widow in an Uncharted/Tomb Raider” sort of action-platformer. But if you’re making me come up with something unique…

    An “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” game: Basically Rainbow Six with Agent Phil Coulson. Your team has been tasked with recovering alien artifacts, subduing or securing superpowered civilians or criminals. Suddenly HYDRA attacks, destroying bases all over the world, and you have to escape the ruins of your base to reconvene with the last remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. to mount a counterattack before HYDRA takes control of a massive superweapon with which they could control the world.

    Or how about a Free-To-Play MCU “MOBA”? Like League of Legends, but with the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Save (or attack!) New York, Sokovia, Xandar, or Knowhere (with the potential for more locations to be added later); playing a lot or microtransactions let you buy heroes and villains to increase your skills, and clothes and hats to increase your style.

    And if you’re not feeling that, I wonder if I might interest you in a Kinect game where you play as Iron Man. Fire his palm repulsors, fly through the sky, and save the world in every possible way as the “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” of the Marvel universe.

    • Muspel says:

      Making a MOBA is a really, really bad idea. There’s been exactly two successful commericial ones: DotA 2 and League of Legends. (Maybe two and a half, if you count Smite.)

      Every single other studio that has tried to cash in on the MOBA craze has crashed and burned, because the PvP market generally focuses onto just a tiny handful of games– unlike with more traditional single-player and co-op experiences, PvP-based games don’t wear out their welcome anywhere near as fast, and as a result the people that play them don’t “finish” them and go out looking for new stuff– they just stick with them.

      It’s the same reason that Steam is littered with the corpses of failed arena shooters and whatnot– as soon as your game falls below the required threshold of players to sustain a healthy competitive community, there is no game, because people stop logging on when they can’t find matches. Look at the forums for some of those games sometimes, and the only thing you see is a new thread every month or so where some poor newbie asks why they can’t find any matches.

      • Ivellius says:

        I think you can add Smite and Heroes of the Storm to the list of successful MOBAs. Heroes of Newerth probably did okay for a little while (and is still running), but it is a reasonably crowded field.

    • Jarenth says:

      Slight issue with that pitch: there’s already been a superhero MOBA. DC’s Infinite Crisis. It failed.

  38. Jabrwock says:

    I would love a Freedom Force style game, but I doubt it would be “console friendly” so they’d probably turf the idea. Unless they figured out how to make it using the XCom engine or something. I guess that would work.

  39. Take all the existing code and assets that SOE had created for The Agency and retcon it to be a game about Black Widow.

    *wipes hands together*

    DONE!

  40. krellen says:

    Now, I’ve already talked to Deep Silver and they’re willing to license us their engine and gameplay from Saints Row 4 if we can get the names; all we need is permission to use the Justice League. We’ve already got the engine and powersets; just need to add a way to change heroes on the fly to change which powers you can use and add scenarios to let the heroes stop villainy around Metropolis. Since the Watchtower is an amazing device, on-the-fly switching is just a button away; teleport in a new hero!

    Flash gets the superspeed with all the bells.
    Superman gets flight and brawling strength, plus eye lasers as a blast.
    Green Lantern gets flight and all the blast powers.
    Wonder Woman gets flight and brawling strength, plus death from above. (Why not Superman? Because why would he bother groundpounding when he has eyelasers?)
    Batman gets base-level play, no special powers, but we’ll add wall-climbing through gadgets and he gets a minimap (no one else does).

    Instead of Wardens, we’ll occasionally have supervillains make an appearance; story is, of course, Lex Luthor getting all the villains together to try to take out the Justice League. The League has to find them and stop them.

    And hey, if DC doesn’t bite, we retool it to the Avengers and give Marvel a shot.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      You know what? When I was playing SR4 with a friend we really, really liked the feel of the gameplay and were wondering how else they could use it. A superhero game was the main concept we came up with.

      That said I think I’d prefer if they did a non-licensed game with the full character creator and sufficiently wacky plot.

    • Jarenth says:

      Obviously Batman would also get the ability to call in cars and helicopters as-needed.

  41. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Spiderman Dating Sim. Nuff Said.

    Storm starring in a God Game sim where she uses her weather powers to affect the prosperity of the city. Its kind of like Sim City but with Storm as the Mayor. And since this is a cutthroat corporate setting, I’m going to swipe ps238principal’s idea for Storm to have to deal with the logistics of managing a city with superhero battles constantly compromising infrastructure.

    She Hulk in a Phoenix Wright style game as an attorney representing superheroes (Not new, she’s done this in the comics).

    Poker Night with Marvel Superheroes. Spiderman, Deadpool, Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine, She Hulk, Squirrel Girl, maybe some of the Guardians of the Galaxy (not all at the same time). This last game in particular I think could really capture the essence of what has made the Marvel movies so successful.

    Peter Porker the Amazing Spiderham in a game that shoots for the whimsical tone of Lego Games. Cartoony aesthetic allows for cheaper development of open city crime fighting as Peter Parkours around NYC. Must fight a human supervillain from the main Marvel universe intent on harvesting Peter for bacon.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      For a Spiderman Dating Sim: You can make all the choices you want, but halfway through the game, Stan Lee forces you to marry Mary Jane, and you’re stuck with her until satan comes along to make you single again.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        Maybe thats how the game starts.

        Alternate version of my idea above. Poker Night with the Illuminati. Listen to Tony Stark, Reed Richards, White Queen (plausible replacement for Xavier), Dr Strange, And Queen Ororo (Storm) of Wakanda plot and scheme over a game of Poker. Each new game they discuss what a failure their last outing was.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        Who all do we have? Just listing.

        Mary Jane.
        Gwen Stacy.
        Betty Brant.
        Liz Allen.
        Black Cat.
        Kitty Pryde (Ok, so its ultimate universe Kitty who dates Peter, so we’re fudging timelines)
        Aunt May (She’s only his Aunt through marriage. Uncle Ben is Peter’s Father’s Brother. This is what happens when you cast Marissa Tomei to play the character. )
        Anna Marconi (perhaps mistakenly believing he’s still Superior Spiderman).

    • SharpeRifle says:

      Any poker game in the marvel universe requires the involvement of Benjamin J. Grimm the ever-lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing by law. Its like Stan Lee cameos.

    • Chuk says:

      The Spider-Ham game could be great. Can you unlock him in any of the Lego games?

  42. Christopher says:

    The column made me reflect, what modern marvel superhero games have there been? That Diablo clone that seems to do fine, the Lego superhero games that seem to do fine and Disney Infinity, which seems to do fine. Also Marvel Vs Capcom 3, which was decently received as far as I recall. But their movie tie-ins? I remember Captain America the movie the game being mediocre, Thor ‘s being completely forgotten and Iron Man 2 is infamous for being bad. It’s not weird they quit after several bombs and just stuck to updating their toybox.

    Here’s my pitch: Persona 4, but in the X-Men school. Half villain lair crawling, half talky flirty social management school stuff. Problem is, I don’t know any of the characters that well.

    What I actually want to see is an old Thor comic book adaptation by Platinum Games. It’s not impossible. They can slap anything onto their sub-Bayonetta combat at this point, and have done so with Metal Gear, Transformers and Korra already. Turtles is rumored to be next. If one of them could have space satan and jormungandr and battles in space on a spaceship that looks like a submarine, I would be stoked.

    • Daimbert says:

      For Persona 4, what you probably want is New Mutants/Generation X (Jubilee, Cannonball, Husk, etc) and start as a new mutant who has just joined the school, and has a link to the overall villain lairs. You get to play with and choose a number of heroes to fight with, probably starting with the other students, and building to the teachers — Emma Frost and Banshee — and then maybe to the full X-Men team. You wander around the school, spending time with and bonding with the various X-Men who are there, and also out away from the school, meeting people there. Depending on who you’ve bonded with, it impacts their performance in the dungeons, and maybe even who you can take with you. Based on the relationships you’ve formed, you can get different “endings”, and have an impact on the story or potentially even on more famous storylines, depending on how they want to play it.

      They’re already done this, as the first X-Men: Legends game has you start as Magma, and X-Men: Destiny has you choose one of three characters to play as, so this can work really well. Heck, any of the JRPG-style dating/life sim X dungeon crawler games would be able to pull this off.

      • Robyrt says:

        This would work quite well. Call it “X-Men Academy”. As a bonus, a lot of the New Mutants / Generation X squad has low power levels that gradually develop, making them a good fit for an RPG progression scheme. (Cannonball or Husk’s skill tree practically writes itself.)

  43. Decius says:

    Fantastic Four as a multiplayer coop, like Left 4 Dead with aliens.

  44. Dev Null says:

    I’d actually argue that pre-existing superheroes make lousy video games by their very nature.

    Apart from Shoot Dudes 17 – style competitive games with no story, most people want to see a little character progression in a game. Sure, I end the game wearing power armour and one-shotting tanks with a 6-foot hammer with a live crocodile for a head, but I started the tutorial in bermuda shorts with a sharp stick. But most superhero comics have established – and highly-detailed – power levels that don’t change much. Thor is a god; what does he do for a second act? Captain America… what? Gets a new shield? Nobody wants to play the bit _before_ he gets drugged up, and after that he’s pretty static. Iron Man could work if you did his origin story and then let him build progressively better suits of armour, but we all just watched his origin story last week, so the story is old hat. Most of them have some kind of iconic movement ability that makes the scale of the game too large, and taking that away outrages your existing fans and breaks cannon.

    Of the ones you mention in the article, I reckon Ant Man could make a fun game with varied but constrained environments, but he’s never really been a top-shelf hero, name-recognition-wise. I’m not sure this latest movie changed that. Wonder Woman could be very cool if done well, but the character has been pretty badly smirched by previous lame attempts to pull her out of the comics, and studios would never go for it because some significant portion of dudebros would never play a game with a woman as the only choice for a main character. So both of those could be awesome, but I don’t know if they’ll ever get made.

    • Duoae says:

      You’re talking about a very specific sort of story that’s only based around the power of a character. It’s quite easy to do short “episodes” of an established hero with established powers and still make it interesting to play – you just don’t focus on their power increase and instead the player’s mastery of their mechanics for the main gameplay hook.

      Most fall into the same trap you did in that first paragraph. Just take a look at the arkham series. It”s weakest when dolling out lots of new tech (especially in origins and knight) and strongest when it just let’s the player use the tools they have available but upping the ante of each fight incrementally. The biggest problem of the arkham series is that batman undergoes no emotional or knowledge evolution as a character – at least on screen. He’s pretty much static from minute one of asylum to the last minute of knight (including origins). That’s pretty boring from a story perspective.

      Compare any good story with the sort we tend to get in games and you’ll see that the characters very rarely get more powerful without any sort of evolution as I mention above and often they don’t get more powerful at all from beginning to end.

      • Dev Null says:

        Compare any good story with the sort we tend to get in games and you’ll see that the characters very rarely get more powerful without any sort of evolution as I mention above and often they don’t get more powerful at all from beginning to end.

        Actually, that’s kind of my point, but you said it better :)

        It’s not only comicbook superheroes who often end up with a very flat arc… but stories with very flat arcs don’t always map well to AAA games, because there we often _do_ want an arc, to prevent the gameplay from getting stale. I don’t really want to play To Kill a Mockingbird either.

        • Duoae says:

          Ah, sorry. Then I completely missed your point!

          I agree and also disagree. I think you can have a flat arc mechanics-wise whilst also having an actual arc character-wise. NB: As long as you’re pushing those mechanics to greater heights over the course of the game.

    • Mike S. says:

      Iconic characters and progression aren’t a great fit. (And if the rules were different, there might be an interesting discussion about whether constant powerups are a necessary element or a contingent result of history. After all, in games like chess, give or take pawn promotion, you mostly spend the game losing resources and “powers” and almost never increase it.)

      But it’s easy enough for a lot of the heroes. For Thor, it’s practically built into the character: he ticks off Odin (legit or framed), and is sent to Earth stripped of his powers and weapons. (I doubt gamers would stand for a level of “Don Blake with a limp”, though it’d be cute.) He has to prove himself worthy by accomplishing tasks, each of which restores some power, enchantment, or tool to him. (Or gives him a choice of applications for a new grant of the Odinforce or whatever.) Unlocking the hammer is the line between early and mid-game, but the hammer’s powers have been increased and decreased at various times in the comics. So he still has to earn the ability to fly with it or to call lightning or whatever.

      Gadget-based heroes can be deprived of their equipment when they’re trapped on an island by Doctor Doom or whatever. Hawkeye jury rigs a bow, and can upgrade it and his arrows as he breaks into labs and storage facilities while getting closer to escape.

      And of course the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. But also the less controlled, so maybe you have tradeoffs between the ability to use various acrobatics and special attacks and sheer, raw gamma-powered strength.

      • Dev Null says:

        It’s a good point. I guess I get a bit tired of the “No really I’m a badass; I’ve just lost all my powers” plot, but it is a good map to your average AAA gameplay. To me though, it works better when it’s someone I don’t know the whole backhistory for. Playing Wolverine without the claws isn’t really Wolverine at all. And playing Superman and getting your butt kicked by a mugger because (powerloss reasons) somehow feels lamer than playing some random guy who gets his butt kicked by the same mugger. I think it’s something about the difference between earning _new_ powers vs simply scrabbling back to an expected status quo. but maybe that’s just me.

        • Mike S. says:

          I think you’re generally right, but there are heroes where getting stuck having to discover/rebuild their powers is either a recurring theme or a well-known element. The aforementioned Thor, Batman post-Bane, most gadgeteers at one time or another, etc. I agree it doesn’t work for characters like Superman. (He gets depowered occasionally, but it’s a binary– he doesn’t have his powers for a while and then he does again.)

          Personally, I prefer high-powered superheroes, and don’t care all that much about progression. But I’m assuming that in Shamus’s hypothetical the company isn’t going to be willing to question that as a baseline feature of a game.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Justice league:gods and monsters has shown that you can easily break the status quo by making an alternate setting.Superman that kills and batman that sucks blood?Sure thing.Apocalypse being a nice guy who gets shafted and backstabbed?You got it.Mr freeze and the atom never even becoming their alternate personas?The cartoon has that too.

      As for a somewhat less radical example of that,the Nolan batman trilogy did a bunch of stuff that was off from the existing status quo.Heck,practically all the good batman adaptations(Burton and Nolan movies as well as tas and beyond cartoons)have diverged from the established rules quite a bit.Tas even invented characters that got introduced into the comics after the fact.

  45. AndyHat says:

    You really need to play Lego Marvel Superheroes, and this month, Lego Marvel’s Avengers. Lego Marvel Superheroes was already a pretty big open-world game, and Lego Marvel’s Avengers sounds like it’s going to be even bigger.

    • Alan says:

      Lego Marvel Superheroes is a really good Lego game. The open world stuff is a bit weak; I found most of the side quests just tedious, but the core plotline is goofy fun.

      Also pretty good is Marvel Puzzle Quest. Not amazing, but fun. Down sides: if you want to back up your game, you use Facebook (WTF?), and it’s a “free”-to-play (although I’ve been enjoying it for months at this point and have never paid a penny).

      If one can cheat and include non-video games, Marvel Legendary is a lot of fun. It’s a cooperative deck-builder. Like Lego Marvel Superheroes, a lot of its strength is the sheer potential size of the cast. I have no idea who about half of the characters are, but mixing them all up is fun.

      • Zekiel says:

        Your Mileage May Vary on Marvel Puzzle Quest. I thought it was extremely fun but had to stop playing it – not because I was tempted to spend money, but because it was sucking up too much time and getting into grindy territory. In order to get rewards you are incentivized to play a lot during a limited time window, and I realised I was playing to get rewards even though I wasn’t enjoying it (and negatively impacting personal relationships to boot). Not good for me!

  46. kikito says:

    Pitch: Like X-Com, but in Asgard.

    1. Main heroes: Thor & Asgardian friends. Other heroes might appear in missions / DLCs.

    2. Gameplay is turn-based combat, like XCOM. Thor & co have habilities (i.e. teleport, confuse enemies, heal, etc). Main differences with XCOM: any of your guys, you lose and must retry the mission. There is no base management and no air combat, but your team can level up different habilities/skills in-between fights, and also pick the next fight (the next place they will travel to) and change the team roster.

    3. The setting depends: in Asgard, Science-is-so-advanced-that-is-magic fantasy. In the frost giant world, it is mostly snow. We could add more environments like the Dark Elven Desert or even Earth. But we can also leave those for DLCs if the game sells well.

    4. The overall idea is: Thor and his friends stumble upon one of the Gems of Power while doing one of their adventures (Possible Thanos tie-in). Odin sends Thor and his friends looking for the others. Heimdall sends you through portals to different missions, and also gives you upgrades. Your team gets gradually more powerful (althought you lose some people). At the end, you fight Thanos, or somebody else looking for the gems, hinting for a Thanos fight in the future.

  47. Gethsemani says:

    Black Widow: Vengeance
    Story Hydra has managed to capture Black Widow. Now she has to escape captivity in their secret lair and use the opportunity to deal the evil organization a serious blow.
    Gameplay Arkham Asylum meets Metal Gear Solid. As Black Widow the player can choose between a stealthy approach or a more combat focused alternative, using a sleek mix of handguns and brawling gameplay. The player will be able to re-visit previous areas of the secret lair and can unlock additional secrets and side missions by doing so.
    Setting Hydra’s secret lair has two main areas, the current Hydra lair which is a high tech facility and their old lair which is a WW2/Cold War era inspired bunker. The lairs are inter-connected and the player can easily travel between the two. The levels themselves are linear with several paths but are based around a central hub location that ties various missions together and allows exploration of mission levels after their completion.
    Secondary feature Arena mode where the player can take on combat and stealth challenges and use different (potentially DLC) characters such as Captain America and Iron Man as well as Black Widow.

  48. Two things to learn from this then:

    #1 Don’t get a job where there is a Eric.
    #2 Make sure that Marvel (or a Marvel subsidiary) is the publisher.

    That way your ideas don’t get fucked up and a publisher won’t screw up Marvel’s IP.
    A Marvel (subsidiary) publisher is also more likely to be willing to experiment more (see the movies they’ve made these last few years as an example) or let a developer dig deeper into the chest of comic weirdness.

  49. Ilseroth says:

    I actually do indie game dev for fun, and have been considering making a super hero game for a long time, but I would want to do the system where you create your own hero, similar to City of Heroes (maybe with just a few less options because seriously that game was ridiculous… I mean I appreciated it but as a solo dev that level of customization would have me wrapped up for an infinite period of time.)

    Essentially the gameplay would be an overhead beat em up, where you can roam around the city stopping crimes, with “lairs” popping up and an active crime rate in each section of the city. As you prevent crimes from happening successfully and remove villain layers it will lower the crime rate in that section.

    Wouldn’t be too complicated, I even full designed a system of character progression in 8 power types… but like all things the need for artwork (and my lack of real skill or patience in art creation) prevents me from going through with the project.

  50. guy says:

    X-men in the style of Fire Emblem.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      And retain the “marriage” system but also add perks for characters who are cheating on each other or having inappropriate psychic relationships while married for that TRUE X-Men feel.

    • guy says:

      1. The X-men. As many of them as we can get. Start with Jean Gray as Lord-analogue, turning into Phoenix as a plot promotion, Cyclops as the overleveled crutch. Storm has range and mobility and joins early midgame. Wolverine is a tank/melee type who joins midgame and is fully usable the moment you get him without needing to spend time leveling. Professor X spends most of the game unavaliable, joins late at an extremely high power level. See if we can get a partial exemption from the “no original characters” rule for a playable Avatar; if not we dive into the depths of the comics for someone who can have a customizable powerset. Not Rogue, she gets her own special mechanics. Maybe Danger has traveled back in time to help them. Villains most definitely include Magneto and Sentinels.
      2. FIRE EMBLEM. With some archetype rejiggering.
      3. There will be all sorts of environments, though most likely the X-mansion will provide early levels and late levels will be in villain lairs. Mix of urban and rural for the rest.
      4. Sentinels have attacked the X-mansion, knocked Professor X into a coma, and scattered the early X-men across the globe. Gather them back, get future X-men who haven’t joined yet, and defeat the Sentinels. Magneto is also up to something.

  51. SlothfulCobra says:

    I loved the hell out of the last Hulk game that came out, but I think that Marvel’s kind of trying to scale back on Hulk on his own after their Hulk movie didn’t do so hot. Spiderman 2 was great, and all the Spiderman games since have pretty much followed its model faithfully with no major innovations. I’d love to see a proper update on that now that Marvel has Spiderman back.

    Guardians of the Galaxy seems like pretty ripe territory for a party-based RPG (not like X-Men Legends, a turn-based one). Wandering around in space, fighting whoever they come across, and lots of room for writers to add whatever they want in.

    I’m not exactly sure what angle they’re going with for the Doctor Strange movie, but he seems like he’d be perfectly at home in some kind of adventure game, solving all sorts of magical problems lying around. The only problem is, Doc Strange normally is his own source of exposition, so maybe it’d be better to have the player play as his assistant, in order to counteract any ludonarrative dissonance?

    You know, it’s funny, the ability of most of these characters to fly comes in handy whenever the writers need them to get someplace, but if feels like almost a liability when it comes to making a game for them. You’re practically forced to put them in some kind of open world because it seems wrong for these characters to be penned in, and any sort of obstacle I can think of, they just go over. I don’t think there’s a lot of games where you straight-up fly other than flight sims and space games, which are practically a dying breed these days.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think Hulk is actually on the upswing. We have Hulk’s #2 military bad guy on Agents of SHIELD (Colonel Talbot), Hulk’s #1 military enemy in Captain America: Civil War causing trouble (General Ross), and finally Hulk is joining Thor 3 to make it be more of a buddy movie than a solo Thor effort.

  52. Syal says:

    “Superman: Exodus”. Orcs Must Die meets Lemmings.

    “Batman Vs. Superman, the Great Hot Dog Contest”. Like Mario And Sonic at the Olympic Games, but with DC Characters.

    “X-Men: Retalivenge”. Angry Birds but with X-Men.

  53. Diego says:

    All right *ahem* thank you all for coming to this meeting.

    Anyone here ever heard of Call of Duty? Pretty awesome, right? haha um… Well, I want to propose a game with War Machine. Not Iron Man! because this will be canon to the movieverse and I want to explore this other character, so you can watch the movie and then play what happened off-screen. War Machine: Battlefield (working title) will be a mission based military game. Each mission will have plenty of action mixed with tactical elements. After each mission the player then earns investment based on how successful it was. This money can be used to upgrade the armor with all kinds of different guns and gadgets. And he can alter the armor for visual effects, like put this cannon on his shoulder *clicks to change slide* or on his forearm. As well as purely aesthetic things like color and pattern. Maybe War Machine needs a white coating when doing a mission on snow, right?

    Seriously though (I’m out of character now, this is not a meeting, just a comment on a blog) this game does look fun. The CoD comparison is just bait for the dummies attending the hypothetical meeting, because the game will have none of that shit. It will be a tactical mission based shooter with stealth elements and a fully upgradable armor. And I totally need to play this now.

    • Diego says:

      A little addendum to my pitch:
      “…As well as purely aesthetic things like color and pattern, which can be purchased with real money by a microtransaction system.”

      And my pitch just won. Sorry, everyone else, but I have microtransactions.

  54. Joe Informatico says:

    He’s already submitted a pitch. He wants to make a game where Punisher travels to “Turkstanbul” and kills terrorists.

    Ugh, I read that comic. If you ever wanted to read a Tom Clancy-fever dream written by someone even more ignorant of geopolitics, have I got the comic for you!

    • Mike S. says:

      Though while the Punisher isn’t my particular flavor of wish-fulfillment, superhero fantasies that ignore geopolitics go back to the genre’s infancy: Cap punching out Hitler, of course, and the special for Look Magazine How Superman Would End the War from 1940.

      Simplifying complex, intractable problems into something that can be solved by punching (or shooting) is kind of the superhero genre’s raison d’etre, after all. Likewise several video game genres, of course, which should bode well for adaptation.

  55. Knul says:

    You know what’s one of the best superhero games out there? Saints Row IV. No, I’m not kidding. It’s the game that best tackles playing a flying superpowerful person who can leap over buildings and punch people 30 yards away.

    Of course, nobody in AAA management would know about Saints Row IV so you could never pitch it. Which might explain why there are no Marvel games.

  56. James says:

    Watchmen

    – Like Batman but with the Watchmen Characters, Alternate between them via story beats like Arkham City did.

    – Use the Movie’s Plot because the Giant telepathic vagina monster was weird

    – Characters who are mentioned like Nite Owl I ect can be DLC, Alt Skins for people like Comedian are also DLC, price them at like 5 bucks each

    – Season Pass for Story DLC for the prequel comics

  57. Ramsus says:

    Drakengard style Iron Man. It already had ground only, ground + flight, and flight only maps and an excuse for having lots of different weapons (suits for Iron Man) and RPG mechanics like leveling them up and not a ton, but more than enough, impactful choices.

    Could even keep the companion characters idea and have other Avengers show up.

    Each chapter would probably feature solving different kinds of problems caused by different recognizable villains… that wind up of course having been being manipulated by one of the big ones or maybe someone we wouldn’t expect.

    I think this would be pretty enjoyable since it’d be a great excuse to have a lot of different Iron Man suit types (like say a Hulkbuster) and they’d have a lot of room to feel different from each other and still feel great to use.

  58. mechaninja says:

    Guardians of the Galaxy vs Skrulls.

    Left 4 Dead meeets Shadows of Mordor meets They Live – no one but the Guardians can see the Skrulls, and no one believes them.

    The Skrulls are trying to steal the Infinity gem from the Nova Corp to sell Thanos. They’ve replaced enough key personnel to frame the Guardians for murders they didn’t commit at a heist they did commit, and are working to get enough Skrulls in place to get the gem out. Game opens with the heist, which functions as the tutorial.

    Single player is mostly Shadows of Mordor in a city (or a few cities, or across a couple planets, depending on budget and release schedule). Every Skrulls story has a Super Skrull, and the Guardians will get captured (end game? escape mini-game?) if they stick around long enough for the Nova Corp to show up, so the player is building the bosses as they go, using a version of the nemesis system and Skrulls they can’t finish off in time to escape.

    Story mode Co-op is baked in, if the budget and release schedule have room – play as another member of the team, potentially up to five players. Also a DLC option, perhaps per character.

    Multi-player pits the team against Skrulls instead of zombies in Left 4 Dead style chaos.

    [OR depending on budget and schedule, opposing teams could be: five hard to kill guardians (must be respawned by another Guardian?) vs. many easy to kill, quickly respawning skrulls, with mutually opposing goals such as the moving carts in TF2 or the bomb placement in Counterstrike.]

    • mechaninja says:

      DLC ideas:
      – different color tats for Drax
      – outfits for Rocket, Star Lord, Gamorra
      – different skins and appearance features for Groot
      – different weapon skins for everyone
      – different weapon functions for everyone? e.g. machine gun (low damage, fast hits) vs. rifle (higher damage, slower firing) if possible to balance properly
      – helmets for Star Lord
      – “hair” styles for Gamorra, Groot, and Rocket;

      DLC/Expansion ideas:
      – play through the mission with Rhomann Dey, John C. Reilly’s Nova Corp character, joining the Guardians – as a full expansion, play through aftermath/investigation/crossing paths with the Guardians a la Half Life: Opposing Force or Blue Shift.
      – play through as Yondu (similar to Rhomann Dey)

  59. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Avengers:Zero dawn

    Justice league:Catalyst

    Superman:Revengance

    Iron man:Horizons

    The hulk awakens

    Batman:Into darkness

  60. tweell says:

    Super Smash Bros: Marvel.

  61. Cinebeast says:

    I’m genuinely surprised no one’s already mentioned this?

    Marvel is getting into the videogame business — but through Telltale. Whatever the game is, it’s scheduled for 2017.

  62. Jsor says:

    The Flash

    A slow paced point-and-click adventure game that occasionally has no-warning single-frame-tolerance QTEs to drive home the “speed” aspect.

  63. Jonathan says:

    A team-based tactical game in a blended pause/real-time environment (like Fallout 1/2 or Baldur’s Gate), where you control the Avengers (or a subset of them). Each character has a certain number of action points per turn, and different sets of actions they can take plus stances they can be in (giving passive actions/stats).

    The world has to be 3D on an invisible grid, but you get to give orders to your entire team. The Hulk runs around the building on the left to flank the enemy tanks, Iron Man gets set to “strafe” mode where he makes multiple passes to attack the enemy from above; Hawkeye is in “stealth” mode (moving slower, actively avoiding enemy sight lines) as he climbs the building on the right to get to a sniping position. Captain America is in “tank” stance as he fights defensively to draw the enemy’s attention while Thor throws his hammer.

    If you go with a comic-book style art (think TF2 but 8 years newer) instead of realism, your art budget isn’t too bad. The UI and AI would be the “make or break” items.

    Single player would have a campaign where you are a SHIELD operative assigned to work with the Avengers, and help guide them through a series of missions (with varying team sizes, down to solo missions) to track down an evil conspiracy masterminded by Some Villain to Do Something Bad.

    The game could be expanded by adding other hero teams (X-men, Thunderbolts, etc), either as microtransactions or as DLC with their own single-player campaigns. You could either do Vs. matches or Co-op challenges of varying and customizable difficulty, with a leaderboard for different co-op scores. Teams could even be mixed and matched (DLC!) for competitive tactical play.

    If you take the same engine and assign each player a single hero in PvP, it’s also a MOBA.

  64. ngthagg says:

    Mystique in a Hitman style game. Mission goals could feature theft (stealing physical objects as well as information), assassination, kidnapping, etc., but the mission you show off at e3 is a mission where you frame someone by impersonating someone while committing a crime. Lots of options for setting, but Xavier’s mansion is going to be the coolest.

    Plenty of options for the plot of the game. I would focus on Mystique during “Days of Future Past”, when she doesn’t trust Professor X or Magneto. Although that would leave her without a supporting character to have conversations with. Does anyone have a suggestion of a neutral mutant who could fill that kind of role?

    • Steve C says:

      Rogue? Rogue was Mystique’s adopted daughter and apprentice. There is also an arc there. Rogue eventually rejects Mystique. Not technically “neutral” but a villain that eventually turns into a hero.

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