Spider-Man Part 19: Times Square

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 4, 2019

Filed under: Retrospectives 61 comments

After the prison break, Doctor Octopus goes to Times Square and releases Devil’s Breath. It turns into a fine red mist and floats out over the city. The cloud covers the area and Doc puts on a breathing mask. Yes, he waits until he’s enveloped in the cloud before he puts on the mask. No, I have no idea why the animator chose to have him do things in that order. It’s weird.

We do a time-cut to one day later. A lot happens in this missing day. Aunt May gets infected, but keeps tending to the sick and homelessShe wears a mask to avoid spreading the disease. I mean, in most cutscenes, anyway. at FEAST because that’s what saints do. Mary Jane releases a special report that says Devil’s Breath was invented at Oscorp. That’s a huge break for Doctor Octopus, since his plan was to expose Osborn and without this report he had no way of doing that. Then again, this report doesn’t seem to change the way anyone thinks or behaves so…. I dunno.

Yuri fishes Spider-Man out of the river and gets him patched up. After that he returns to duty, even though he still has “14 broken bones”.

Detective Vision

In terms of cinematography, this entire scene is brilliant.
In terms of cinematography, this entire scene is brilliant.

Spider-Man needs to track down Doctor Octopus, so he heads to Times Square. Here the game straight-up swipes the “Detective Vision” of the Arkham games and does the now-familiar “find the bad guy by following the trail of particle effects”. That’s fine, although this system isn’t used elsewhere in the game so it feels sort of random. If nothing else, they could have borrowed this mechanic for those silly-ass science missions. It’s not a deep gameplay mechanic, but it’s better than a few of those side missions and it maps more easily to doing “science things” compared to the mechanic of (for example) not web-swinging.

To explain the next scene, let’s imagine it from our villain’s perspective.

How To Kill Spider-Man

Hello Spider-Man. I'm glad you're here. I've been waiting in this Skype session for hours.
Hello Spider-Man. I'm glad you're here. I've been waiting in this Skype session for hours.

I ambushed my best friend and beat him within an inch of his life before tossing him into the East River. I did that to warn him to stay away from my evil plans, but I’ve suddenly changed my mind and decided to kill him.

I think the best solution is to place a bomb in my staging area over Times Square. I’m sure Spider-Man will find that place. All I need to do is wait for him to show up and have it explode.

I could just set it up so that the bomb will go off when someone tries to enter, but maybe it would be better if I meticulously mapped out my entire scheme for him before I blew him up. I have a bunch of expensive prototypes and equipment that I paid for somehow even though I’m on a shoestring budget, and I think it would be good to make sure all of that stuff gets vaporized in the explosion. I’ll also leave audio recordings for my five colleagues explaining their character concept and backstory and addressing them directly even though I could just talk to them if I wanted.

I’ll leave a detailed map of my plans for Spider-Man to discover. The lynchpin of these plans is to make sure that nobody cures this disease I just released. Sure, the city is sick and Norman Osborn has been exposed as the inventor of the bioweapon, but it’s really important to my plans that all of these innocent people die. So I’m going to have Martin Li (note to self: Can we get this guy a supervillain name? It’s really awkward calling him Martin all the time) go and steal the antiserum that I already know exists somehow. Also I guess I’ll let Martin kill Osborn on his own without me present even though my goal is to make Norman suffer and to make him regret crossing me.

Anyway, I should leave detailed plans explaining all of this to my best friend before I vaporize him in an explosion.

This lair contains all of Ock's plans, AND audiologs of everyone's backstories. I'm thinking maybe we could have given less time to Martin the murderer and a little more time to all these OTHER supervillains.
This lair contains all of Ock's plans, AND audiologs of everyone's backstories. I'm thinking maybe we could have given less time to Martin the murderer and a little more time to all these OTHER supervillains.

Once Spider-Man has read the plans, I’ll trick him into opening a laptop that’s connected to me via videoconferencing. I guess this means I’ll need to personally sit in front of my computer for hours or days until Spider-Man shows up, but it’s really important for me to tell Spider-Man that I’ve decided to kill him before I set off the bomb. I imagine that he’ll just continue to stand there in front of my laptop bomb and make no effort to leave once I activate the bomb’s very loud and alarming wind-up sequence.

If by some miracle he escapes by jumping through the open hatch directly over the bomb, I’ll have Vulture grab him and drag him to the edge of the city where he can kill Spider-Man with the help of Electro. Maybe I should have Rhino and Scorpion help too? Nah. They’re busy enacting my plan to poison the city water supply. I mean, how am I supposed to get revenge on Norman Osborn without poisoning the water?

If Spider-Man somehow defeats Vulture and Electro, then he’ll have to fight Rhino and Scorpion. This is all part of my brilliant plan to team up into an unstoppable group of six and then immediately split up into groups of one or two.

I love these goggles. I look so cool.

The Sinister Sucks

Neither of us can beat Spider-Man alone. Our only chance is to team up and take turns attacking him one at a time!
Neither of us can beat Spider-Man alone. Our only chance is to team up and take turns attacking him one at a time!

This plot needed way more time. I’m totally willing to believe that Doc Ock is sabotaging his own plans because he’s crazy and fighting some inner demons. The problem is that:

  1. We just did that plot.
  2. We never get to explore this idea of Doctor Octopus doing dumb or counterproductive things despite his great intellect.

We spent 75% of the story chasing a different villain with the same motivation and now we’re rushing through this Sinister Six plot. Doc Ock is so much more interesting than Martin Li and it feels really weird to fight one main villain for the first three-quarters of the game and then have that villain return as part of a team of six guys for the last 25%.

We’re giving most of the screen time to the least interesting character and the least screen time to the most interesting character. Martin Li isn’t compelling enough to carry so much of the game on his own, and Doc Ock’s story is so good that he really deserves more screen time. If the Sinister Six came together much sooner in the story then we could give each of them a little arc so their backstories didn’t wind up crammed into stupid audiologs. That way they could seem like a major threat. As a bonus, we could give William Salyers more time to chew the scenery, since he’s so fun to watch.

Instead the Sinister Six are defeated right after being introduced and they only occupy a small part of the story. This is the first game in the series and we took four of Spider-Man’s classic foes and threw them away.

Damnit, game. Save something for the sequels.

Doctor Octopus is Crazy-Pants

Yes, my evil plan is coming together! Someday, all of this mass murder will result in me incidentally killing someone Osborn cares about!
Yes, my evil plan is coming together! Someday, all of this mass murder will result in me incidentally killing someone Osborn cares about!

I doubt you’ll be shocked to hear that Spider-Man escapes the explosion. After he defeats Vulture and Electro, Spider-Man has a radio / phone conversation with the good Doctor:

Doctor Octopus: Spider-Man, I presume. If you REALLY cared about this city, you’d be helping me expose Osborn for the criminal he is!

Spider-Man: By killing innocent people?!

Doctor Octopus: I would’ve restored the power!

That line from Spider-Man is what I’ve been waiting for since Martin Li began his conquest to get revenge on Norman Osborn by murdering all the non-Norman Osborn people he could. Confront the villain with the fact that their goals and their actions are in direct conflict!

It’s not that I expect that Doctor Octopus will repent the moment you confront him. I assume he’s thought this through. I assume he’s got an answer to this question in that crazy mixed-up head of his. It doesn’t need to be a rational answer, it just needs to reveal something about his character.

Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but would a CRAZY MAN build deadly robot arms, release a half dozen supervillains, and unleash a doomsday weapon on the city where he lives?
Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but would a CRAZY MAN build deadly robot arms, release a half dozen supervillains, and unleash a doomsday weapon on the city where he lives?

Otto Octavius has transformed into a different person thanks to this neural interface. Previously he was a humble scientist who spent his own limited resources on developing prosthetics for people in need. He was compassionate, kind, and driven. Now he’s a megalomaniac with the blood of thousands on his hands. I want to know this new version of the character because that’s where the drama comes from.

Here are a few possible answers Doc could give when confronted with his atrocities:

“Their lives are nothing compared to what Norman has done over the years!”

(Not true, but now we understand he’s villainizing Osborn and exaggerating Osborn’s crimes to justify his own.)

“Their blood is on NORMAN’S hands, not mine! Don’t you see? He MADE me do it!”

(The classic abuser blaming the victim from making him abuse them. It’s shifting blame because the abuser doesn’t see themselves as responsible for their own actions.)

“Their lives were a regrettable loss, but I’m willing to make the hard choices to make sure justice is served.”

(The defense that doing bad things is okay as long as you feel bad about them and your end goals are noble.)

“Innocent people, Spider-Man? They elected him. Supported him. Loved him, despite his evil. Being weak does not make you innocent.”

(Ah, he sees the people as DESERVING of the things he’s doing to them.)

Instead Doc’s reply is, “I would’ve restored the power!” That’s a complete non-sequitur. Worse, Spider-Man doesn’t follow up or press the point. Doc’s goals and actions don’t line up, and this was our chance to reconcile that while also characterizing our villain and also explaining what happened to dear Otto Octavius. We just skate right past this, when it might be one of the most important lines of dialog in the game.

Missed Opportunity

Would a CRAZY MAN open a can of deadly murder gas in his own face BEFORE putting on a breathing mask? Huh? WOULD HE?
Would a CRAZY MAN open a can of deadly murder gas in his own face BEFORE putting on a breathing mask? Huh? WOULD HE?

Yes, I realize this is a comic book and if you want to wave your hands and say it doesn’t matter and supervillains don’t need to make sense, then I can’t really prove you wrong. It’s not like villainous plans with questionable rationale is some alien concept to the genre. Doc Ock is a lot of fun either way. I’m not saying this is a plot hole or anything. It’s just that this is a missed opportunity to characterize and deepen our villain.

Also, it feels good when our nagging questions are addressed by the text. It builds that all-important trust in the storyteller and rewards us for thinking about and engaging with the material. But here the writer acknowledged the question but then dodged answering it. That’s better than not acknowledging the question, but not nearly as satisfying as, you know, answering it.



[1] She wears a mask to avoid spreading the disease. I mean, in most cutscenes, anyway.

From The Archives:

61 thoughts on “Spider-Man Part 19: Times Square

  1. BlueHorus says:

    Martin Li (note to self: Can we get this guy a supervillain name? It’s really awkward calling him Martin all the time)

    Evil Martin
    Martin…the Malicious!
    Murderous Martin
    …I’m sure there’s others.

    Doctor Octopus: Spider-Man, I presume. If you REALLY cared about this city, you’d be helping me expose Osborn for the criminal he is!
    Spider-Man: By killing innocent people?!
    Doctor Octopus: I would’ve restored the power!

    It might just be me, but this exchange sounds like Doc Ock was planning to restore electricity to the city once Osborne was gone. Sure, those people will all be dead, but the lights will still work and the trains’ll run on time!

    1. Volvagia says:

      Except what he did didn’t affect the power? It implies what Ock’s plan probably was (shut off the entire city and keep it shut off, until he can enact his terrible vengeance on Norman) in an earlier draft, but it has little to nothing to do with THIS draft.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Spider-Man: *pulls off mask to reveal that he’s actually Deadpool* Shit man, did they forget to give you the new script?

      1. Asdasd says:

        “Mar, from the Latin, for bad.”

    2. Scampi says:

      I imagine the meetings between Doc Ock and Martin must sound a lot like the one Shamus wrote for Dr. Klaus and his henchman in his Champions Online Let’s Play.

    3. The Rocketeer says:

      Is that line supposed to be, “I would have restored their power?” That makes so much more sense, in that villainous sort of way that still makes no sense, since dead people are usually not very powerful. And they don’t vote in New York, either. Illinois, sure, but not New York.

  2. tmtvl says:

    The entire article is on the front page.

    1. Leipävelho says:

      As is tradition

      1. Scampi says:

        Honestly: I have never encountered this problem myself. Is it dependent on the browser or something like that?

        1. John says:

          Shamus usually fixes it after people point it out in the comments. You’re more likely to see it if you check the site early in the morning.

          1. Scampi says:

            But I already DID check it “in the morning” (well, I’m halfway around the planet, so time of day is kind of relative), way before people pointed it out. There was no issue for me.

        2. Daimbert says:

          If you start from the top of the page and then click to go to the post, you won’t see enough to notice that it doesn’t have a page break. That’s happened to me on a number of occasions.

      2. Decius says:

        As all things should be.

  3. Olivier FAURE says:

    I have to say, I love your list of alternate Dr Octopus motivations!

    Sure, they’re all cliché cop-out villain justifications, but they’re good cliché cop-out justifications!

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I’ll always take a cliche done well over ‘nonsense’.
      Even if what they say is predictable it still makes sense, unlike the alternative.

  4. Dev Null says:

    I love the way you make it sound like there’s this big elaborate soap opera of motivations and cross-motivations going on _between_ the supervillains, and then there’s Spiderman jumping up-and-down over in the corner yelling “Hey! Lookit me! No really guys; this is supposed to be about me?!? Like, it’s _my_ name on the title page…”

    I have no doubt that it doesn’t really play that way, but that’s the way your summary read to me, and I think that could be an immensely fun superhero plot – the one where the superhero themselves was essentially irrelevant to the plot.

    1. Syal says:

      That’s the way a lot of the Netflix superhero shows go*; lots of intervillain drama with the hero mostly following in their wake. I thought it worked for Daredevil Season 1 and then didn’t work for the others.


      1. Volvagia says:

        Daredevil and Luke Cage had the kind of web of villains to pull off the structure Netflix was going for with their shows. Iron Fist sucked too hard to ever get there. Punisher only really committed to one villain (Jigsaw) across two seasons. Jessica Jones never built that kind of web. Also: The final villains of the entire experiment, Foolkiller and Trish Walker (no, I’m not calling her Hellcat), both SUCKED. Foolkiller was basically the guy from Ghostbusters 2016, but with no sense of irony, and Trish was…why was that story worth telling?

  5. Chris says:

    I think the whole thing fell apart on doc oc freeing the other villains. If it was just him and he pretends to be the good guy that just wants to stick it to osman for killing his project (and maybe show off his claws and their power as proof he was doing great). things would go a lot smoother. Kinda like in the spiderman movie where the green goblin is created because he was running out of funding and he decided on an all or nothing gamble.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Right. If anything, they should have left the villains escaping as a cliffhanger. I guess they didn’t have much faith in their story so they decided to cram as many villains as possible from the get-go. I know people are probably sick from comparisons to the Arkham games, but notice how Arkham Asylum didn’t do this even though it was set in, well, Arkham Asylum.

      I mean, sure, the game had its share of villains, but most were either given a proper buildup or just not major players. Most villains from Batman’s gallery were relegated to cameos or mere mentions and properly saved for future games (in which they ended up hijacked by the Joker again, but that’s a whole different issue).

      1. Christopher says:

        Spidey’s just following tradition. Arkham Asylum also has you fighting Bane and his clones for most of the game, and then near the end you move from Scarecrow to Killer Croc to Poison Ivy to Joker just like that.

        Spidey uses more bad guys is ’cause it’s a longer game, and also because Doc Ock is traditionally the Sinister Six mastermind. Structure wise it’s following right in Batman’s footsteps. Only you get to fight some more supervillains and not so many Titan mooks.

        Also Batman didn’t start out with the villain Schmoker only to then have him usurped by Joker for the last third of the game lol

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    Putting the breathing mask way after releasing your toxin is actually a bit of a crazy cliche as well. Ra’s Al Ghul does it in Batman Begins, for instance. I don’t understand why they do it. I assume it’s some insane attempt at looking more dramatic, but I find it puzzling.

    1. Syal says:

      If you don’t breathe the gas first, you won’t know if it’s working. Maybe it does nothing and then you’re wearing a gasmask like a fool.

      1. Hector says:

        Of course, in A’Gul’s case, he probably *is* perfectly fine being exposed to some of the fear gas he uses in training already.

    2. Decius says:

      It’s because you need to talk and emote during the tense moments when the gas is released, and breathing masks eliminate the ability to speak and emote.

      Unless you’re Bane.

  7. Asdasd says:

    “Also, it feels good when our nagging questions are addressed by the text. It builds that all-important trust in the storyteller and rewards us for thinking about and engaging with the material. ”

    Shamus, I really love your narrative analyses because you really put a finger on the most important points that I can never articulate to my own satisfaction. I often wonder why some two seemingly similar stories can evoke strongly divergent reactions in me, and it’s these small but crucial things; storytellers anticipating what’s on the audience’s mind and actually addressing the implications of plot developments on characters (and vice versa) instead of just hand-waving or hurrying things along so we can get to the next set piece.

  8. Joshua says:

    This reminds me of the weirdly specific villain plans in The Dark Knight Rises. Let’s let Gotham slide into anarchy to stick it to those elites. Except we’re going to eventually blow it all up anyway, with a bomb that’s on one of three trucks that drive endlessly around a city day after day. We’ll do it so a guy that irritated us can watch the whole thing crippled in a cell halfway across the world.

    Our plan will also result in the explosive death of every one of our members, because even though our society has existed for millennia, our organizational goal has shifted to doing whatever we can to stick it to one guy who dumped us. I guess we’re just a really jealous Ex.

    1. Guest says:

      I think that’s the point though of that one. I agree it’s muddled, basically it makes a whole mess of the themes in the story. You’ve got Catwoman talking about how some people can live so large for so long while others have nothing, and that ties into the theme of anarchy, and the idea that the rot of Gotham is structural, like a lot of people have joked-Batman would be better giving people money, restructuring the city so that people had greater ownership and opportunity.

      That’s sort of an interesting theme, and they explore it often. And then at the end, it turns out that it’s all a lie-but also, they were sort of right, because Anarchy sort of worked for them, but Batman’s still going to Batman, Bane has been lying the whole time, cause he’s not the new Ra’as al Ghul, he’s just a henchman, and the new leader of the league of shadows really doesn’t care that much about the philosophy, she’s just out for revenge and destroying what Batman loves, and she’s willing, no, she’s premeditated, throwing the philosophical debate out the window just to get revenge.

      I think the plan works better than you made out, on a logical level, because I can totally see how the return of the league would bring Bruce back, and that they have to act like the League to do that. But revenge is just such a weak motive, and it doesn’t address any of the questions raised thematically elsewhere, nor does it address the lingering theme from the end of the Dark Knight that drove Batman into retirement. Like you said, the organisational goal has shifted, which leaves the movie talking about a lot, and saying very little.

  9. Crimson Dragoon says:

    I know this is off topic, but looking through William Salyers IMDB page is a bit of a trip. He was Mordin in Mass Effect AND Rigby in Regular Show?

    1. Christopher says:

      William Salyers is so good. I had no idea who he was and then it turned out he’d done all these great performances I never knew was the same guy.

  10. Ancillary says:

    Sounds like these villains went to the Daenerys Targaryen School of Sticking It to Your Hated Enemies.

    1. Joshua says:

      Well, according to D&D anyway. One presumes there will be more logical motivations from GRRM.

  11. ccesarano says:

    Between this and your Mass Effect series, and my own project through Final Fantasy 9, I’m getting the feeling that a lot of video game writers just don’t know how to write good villains.

    Though in Final Fantasy 9’s favor, they at least ask these questions and the villains give their answers. You understand the logic. It’s just that the villains have awful personalities or their plan is completely trash compared to the tone of the rest of the game.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      a lot of video game writers just don’t know how to write good villains.

      Fixed that for you.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      From what I remember of the plots of Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9, they all followed a similar pattern: start off with a normal villain (a country, a corporation) that has a simple, clear motivation to get the plot going. Great.
      Then, suddenly, about halfway through, the nice clear villain is usurped/upstaged by another bad guy, who has some mysterious plan that is slowly revealed to be…’something something end world because reasons’. Now I think about it, that’s probably why I’ve never completed any of those games.

      Just…what was wrong with the first story you had?

      1. John says:

        I dunno. Probably not dramatic enough. It’s not real art without a plot twist, I guess.

      2. Syal says:

        That’s almost a staple of the series, really. It started at least in 4, and 1, 2 or 3 could each count if you want them to.

        1. Joshua says:

          Back in the early 90s, before I realized there were missing games, I always figured that Kefka in Final Fantasy III (VI) was a response to the “villain comes out of nowhere near the end of the game” issue that was in II (IV).

          “See, here’s the villain! Here’s the villain some more. Still the villain. Oh, it looks like he was taken out….Psych! He’s still the villain after all. Here’s some more of his villainizing, and….you beat him and the game is over.”

        2. Asdasd says:

          It also happens in 6, although I think most people would argue that it was handled much better in that game (the twist being much more obviously set up, and the motivations of the new villain being, if not especially interesting, at least clearer).

          1. ccesarano says:

            I’d say Final Fantasy VI is probably the most straight-forward plot of the entire franchise, which is kind of funny considering it involves the end of the world halfway through. Now that everyone knows Kefka is a villain, people forget that he just seemed like a comedic sidekick henchman when the game released in the 90’s. Like Darth Vader if he were The Joker, with Emperor Ghestal being the major villain role. Only, really, Kefka turned out to be the villain, and not because of some master plan. The dude just got angry after Celes stabbed him and, being the unstable sociopath he is, usurped the power of the Gods for his revenge.

            Shameless plug: did a video on the game a few months ago. So if you got 30 minutes to spare and want to listen to a dopey voice drone on about a retro game, I got you covered.

      3. Decius says:

        It’s pretty much a staple of fantasy plot: Start with something personal to the characters, then the act 3 reveal is that there was a bigger, badder guy with bigger, badder plans and your incitement to action was simply collateral damage.

        Because if a regular Joe gets hurt in Act 1 by Gorash the Eater of Worlds, he is going to curl up in the fetal position and die- the Act 1 villain needs to be something that the protagonist can plausibly fight against, so that they become powerful enough to fight the real baddie when their nature is revealed.

        1. Joshua says:

          Had a DM try that with a D&D 3.5 game a dozen or so years ago. Our characters came back to their village to find it destroyed, and the perpetrators were an entire army of Kobolds, Dragonkin, and a few Red Dragons to boot. The opposition was so overwhelming, that our characters couldn’t go into revenge mode as much as “This was an act of God” mode, like coming home and finding out that your house was destroyed in a tornado.

      4. ccesarano says:

        It’s a good thing I checked back because my comments are starting to explode now, evidently.

        Final Fantasy 7 actually does an interesting job of setting up Sephiroth. I think the largest problem with 7’s story is that it was post-Evangelion, which just seemed to be an era in Japan (that may have been too close to Eva’s release for that to have been a direct influence, so it may have been various creators influenced by the same thing) where stories got convoluted. See also: Xenogears which would release shortly after. We also have never gotten a good translation of FF7, which is all I ever wanted. So just like the SNES FFVI had a lot of errors, FFVII also had a lot of errors that made the story confusing in ways it shouldn’t have been.

        Anyway, back to the point, Final Fantasy VII did an interesting job in building Sephiroth up, and actually revealed his general plan pretty early. However, they do a great job of making you believe Shinra is the big bad. Sephiroth is mentioned, but largely as some sort of legendary figure. There’s nothing to indicate he’s an actual bad guy, even when you find his sword stuck right through the President of Shinra. It’s not until you reach Nibelheim that you get a more clear understanding, and that’s right after. So basically, the first 3-5 hours of the game it’s all about Shinra, then it’s about Sephiroth. However, Shinra is always an antagonist themselves, and the game builds all of this up throughout the course of it.

        Final Fantasy IX… I’m editing my thoughts on this part in my video now, really. Basically, for HOURS it’s a storybook adventure that’s effectively about Princess Garnet and her mom. While they hint at it throughout, it’s only the last 3-4 hours of the game that are suddenly about this alien race trying to dispose of all the planet’s souls so their own souls can come in and take over. It’s nothing but exposition, the villains speak in awful monologues, and it makes me wonder where all the joy and storybook adventure of the past 30 hours had gone.

        So, yeah, FFVII had a bit of crazy go nuts, but FFIX was particularly bad at it.

    3. Guest says:

      I think something that needs more acknowledgement is how video game stories come together. There is a lot of production stuff that gets in the way of the story, and changes to the gameplay, or the aesthetic, or just the events, based on what works better for a game, all take precedence.

      I’d bet there were some rewrites there, many have pointed out how the power line makes no sense-I’d guess that it’s related to a previous version of the story.

      A lot of video game writing goes: We want to do these things, have some of these locations, these set pieces, string them together somehow. And when something changes, something doesn’t look right, something gets removed, the pacing is bad, gameplay is changed first. They might reorder events, they might remove things, change things, and you can end up in a situation where you’re trying to put together a coherent enough narrative to follow-though it might make less sense on a thematic or character level, with what you have because you may not be able to get more mo-cap and voice recording.

      I think it’s fine to criticise the end product, but we should bear in mind that there are a lot of externalities writers are up against and very rarely are they the top priority of development. I don’t think we should put it that they don’t know how.

      1. ccesarano says:

        You do bring up a good point, and I do often try to avoid being so shallow in my assessment of development. Your thoughts remind me of the recent news on Anthem, and how there’s dialogue that makes no sense because they changed the mission without changing the dialogue, or being able to adjust the dialogue.

        Yet I still think to games whose stories have a far more complete feel, like the recently released Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry 5. Perhaps part of it is project management, I dunno. DMC5 in particular manages to tell a thematically coherent story that delivers precisely on what its fans want, and while there are moments that have me wondering if the development team had to take certain kinds of shortcuts to meet deadlines, the story largely feels well and appropriately told.

        Of course, those are both more linear games, so maybe some of it is also the difficulty of planning an open-world game. I mean, in that case, look at Final Fantasy XV (I am on a real Final Fantasy kick lately, evidently). Everything about that game feels incomplete.

  12. Syal says:

    Being weak does not make you innocent.

    …this is a really good line. I’m probably going to steal it; it applies to way more situations than one would hope.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Reminds me of Jordan Peterson. something along the lines of “You can’t be good if you’re harmless. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.” Works well with the spider-man mantra.

      1. Guest says:

        Might be worth rethinking your personal philosophy if a line designed to justify a vengeful villain teetering on the edge of sanity and attempting to commit mass murder sounds like your personal philosophy.

        Also: It’s the antithesis of the Spider-man mantra. Not it’s compliment.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I’ve found the argument of “Your argument sounds like that made by someone bad, so maybe you should think that it’s wrong” annoyingly weak. Bad people and bad arguments often include things that are entirely correct. So if you think something is true but find that it’s used in cases of bad morality or bad reasoning, why should that make you think that it isn’t true? There are all SORTS of mistakes that can be made between a totally true fact/statement/philosophy and the outcomes that are immoral or irrational.

          I’m also not sure it’s that much of an anti-thesis to Spider-Man. Ultimately, it expresses the idea, following on from the “Weak is not innocent” line, that being good is more than simply not doing bad or harmful things, but that being good requires taking actions as well, which directly ties into Spider-Man’s origin, where not taking action causes a very bad consequence. While I’m not in favour of the “dangerous” line being attached to “voluntary control” as it seems to muddle the issue, both good and bad people are willing to do what they need to do in order to achieve their goals. The difference is that good people have selfless goals, and bad people have selfish goals. To return to this story, good people turning into bad people can happen for two main reasons. First, they confuse selfish goals for selfless ones. Second, they take actions that they don’t really need to do to achieve their selfless goals, either due to selfish reasons, or expedience, or any number of other rationalizations that let them justify doing really bad things in the name of being good.

          From the description here, it looks like they were trying to make Doc Ock fit into one of those, but weren’t clear — even to themselves, it seems — on which one of those he was supposed be doing.

  13. Christopher says:

    They messed this motivation part up a bit. It made sense when Doc Ock was dying in the comics and wanted to harm everyone just to take them down with him, him just being an absolutely miserable jerk who didn’t want to leave before he had left a scar on the world. Trying to destroy New York because he hates Norman Osborn doesn’t work the same way, and feels like it’s just a way to… I dunno, have plot happen? Searching for Devil’s Breath, infecting the innocents for those story spoiler reasons, setting up Osborn as a bad guy for the next game. It is a little unsatisfying. Martin Li was the same deal, you don’t start a big drug gang or whatever and start with terrorist attacks just to get back at this one dude.

    Maybe this is just a case of trying to apply more “depth” where none is needed. I think Doc Ock and Mr. Negative should be criminal masterminds because they’re selfish, arrogant and cruel people who use others for their personal benefit, Kingpin-style. Not because Norman Osborn was mean to them, you know. It works in the sense that it raises the stakes for the third act and all, I can see the practical benefits of the plot, but it’s a lot of weird stuff to do just to get back at one dude.

    1. Syal says:

      I want to see a story where someone with mind-control powers uses them on an artificial intelligence and it results in some ludicrous wonk.

      …no real point, just thought it would have been cool if Mr. Negative brainwashed Doc Ock’s arms and that’s what caused the third act.

      1. Decius says:

        Professor X vs Vision?

  14. Esteban says:

    We all know that Norman is really the biggest villain in town… so Doc Octopus and Martin have a really bad case of “senpai notice me!”

  15. The Rocketeer says:

    Rule of Threes dictates that we need a third villain to appear after Docterpus, who also wants to use the Orchid from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to get revenge on Norman Osborn while struggling against an ambiguous inner good/evil, sane/insane duality triggered by some cataclysmic transformation. It’s just good writing practice.

    It’s also obvious that this third villain should be Norman Osborn. It’s efficient, and it concludes the narrative with the villain they’ve been foreshadowing from the start. We call this “closure,” folks. The preceding narrative crises force Osborn to eat the goblin jerky (that’s how it happens in the comics?) and becomes the Green Goblin. He immediately hatches a plan to, uh, load the Orchid Breath into the hyper bioweapon disperser built into the Pinnacle of Oscorp Tower. Wait, didn’t this happen in one of the movies? Whatever. Spider-Man shows up and argues for one line with Goblin, who wants to over correct for Norman not going too far enough, even though we can still tell Norman’s still in there holding GG back. Even though Norman’s still kind of an asshole, I guess? Eh, he’s no John Lindsay. So this moment of doubt gives Spider-Man the chance to beat Goblin and sabotage the sprayer, depleting the entire setting of villains just in time for Miles Morales, who is there for some reason, to take up the suit.

    We could easily knock all this out in 10 minutes, which is lucky because we only have six minutes of cutscene left in the budget and only about four minutes of this is gonna be playable, which is the journey to OsCorp tower while having a headset conversation with Mary James and then the boss fight proceeding the in-cutscene loss and turnaround via QuickTime event.

    Writing games is so easy I’m honestly shocked some developers can be as bad as they are at it.

    1. Guest says:

      Oof. I’m shocked at the lack of self-awareness.

  16. Daniil says:

    (note to self: Can we get this guy a supervillain name? It’s really awkward calling him Martin all the time)

    Martin is a kind of bird, so it’s a perfectly legitimate supervillain name.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Fun trivia, the collective noun for a flock of Purple Martins is a “richness”. Would have been a fun nod if “the demons” were “the richness” instead.

  17. Wow! Shamus, when you break things down (or apart in this case?) the story and plot of Andromeda actually sounds “okay” in comparison (if Mass Effect Andromeda had been a comic book).

  18. Redrock says:

    I thought the implication was that the neural interface didn’t really turn Otto into a different person, but rather removed most inhibitions and amplified all the bad urges and frustrations he had before. I also kinda figured that Otto is mad not just at Osborne, but also at the world in general which he feels has been unfair to him, what with his business failures and illness. So I thought that his evil plan was him lashing out at the world in general as well as at Osborne personally. Whether the seeds for that reading are actually in the script or pure headcanon, I honestly can’t recall.

  19. Jamey says:

    So one of your headers you went with a pun, “The Sinister Sucks,” which I always appreciate. But you had a wonderful opportunity two sections later, the header immediately above the screen shot of the gas release was a “Mist Opportunity.”

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