WithAvengers: Age of Ultron arriving in cinemas with a crash in the past week, Marvel fever is reaching palpable levels. It's no surprise then, that Marvel have teamed up with Kabam! studios in order to release a free to play brawler that gives you the chance to fight as any of your favourite Marvel heroes.
While its free to play and not simply focused on the Avengers, what may surprise you, is that Marvel Contest of Champions is actually a decent brawler, one that I've spent the last few days absolutely hooked on, working my way up the ranks and unlocking as many of Marvels mightiest as possible!
Luckily, we had the chance to catch up with Cuz Parry, the creative director at Kabam! studios, and talk all things Marvel!
Ben Rayner: How did working with Marvel on Contest of Champions come about?
Cuz Parry: I’m not sure who approached who, that’s more the business boss types, but on the creative level we met with some very dedicated and passionate people from Marvel’s game division. Things seemed to click right away. They saw that we had some cool ideas and were huge Marvel fans and we were inspired by their total commitment to making a quality game worthy of the Marvel name.
BR: Did Marvel give you a lot of creative control over the title?
CP: They’re the Marvel experts so we loved having their guidance. It was fun to collaborate on the structure for the story and the cast of heroes we’d start with. I think we earned their trust to move forward with our creative vision once they saw our passion for the game and doing Marvel justice. They’ve been great partners to work with at every level.
BR: Was there always a plan in place to add Ultron themed content at a later date?
CP: We knew their movie schedule and our release dates, so it’s safe to say Ultron was on our roadmap as a major update once we had launched in December.
BR: Did you feel any pressure while producing the game to stay true to the comics vast amount of lore or were you simply excited to play around with the source material?
CP: A bit of both. Of course we want to put our own spin on The Contest of Champions and Marvel was stoked for us to update the original comic event and make it our own thing. Having said that, we have many, many hard-core Marvel fans on the dev team and heated discussions over staying true to the Marvel canon do occur occasionally. Also, we want to make a game that resonates with the phenomenal number of fans globally that have embraced the Marvel cinematic universe. That definitely plays a role in how we choose costumes and characters.
BR: If so, did you always have a brawler in mind?
CP: We knew we wanted a classic fighting game with RPG questing elements that also told a story.
BR: Contest of Champions feels in some ways like Infinity Blade, working as more of a time based fighter as opposed to learning complex combos, was this a conscious design decision to open the game up to perhaps more casual players? Or did the mobile platform necessitate a less complex control scheme?
CP: Absolutely a design decision to open the game up to more players, but also, we feel a smart one given the nature of the mobile platform. We knew from the start that we didn’t want virtual joysticks and tons of buttons. If you want that type of fighter, consoles and PCs are better suited for those control schemes. We wanted something that felt true to the platform.
BR: Were games such as Infinity Blade an inspiration at all?
CP: I guess on some level, but we took our cues largely from the speed and responsiveness of classic Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom games. We then considered how we could get a semblance of that feeling on mobile devices. We’re stoked that the huge numbers of fans playing The Contest think we hit on to something fun.
BR: Do you feel that mobile - iOS and Android - games struggle to be taken seriously with 'hardcore' gamers?
CP: To a degree, probably. I’m a serious console gamer. Always have been. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun when I’m out and about away from my console. There are more and more mobile games out there that are catering to “hardcore” gamers, and with the advancement in technology the games are only getting better.
BR: The free to play or freemium model still has a bit of a stigma attached, have you found this a hurdle when producing games? Perhaps stopping you from reaching as wide an audience as you'd have hoped?
CP: It’s not a hurdle, it’s a model that works. It’s also a model that is constantly evolving. Yes, some people attach a stigma to free to play, but the reality is we reach a far broader audience by being free to play than if we adopted a different model. There’s no barrier to entry, everyone can play and connect with their favourite Marvel heroes.
BR: Final question. If you could have worked on any game, past or present, what would you have loved to have been a part of?
CP: I worked on the EA Skate series for consoles, and as a life-long skater, I can’t imagine anything better. But, coming up with weird weapons and surreal space locations for Ratchet and Clank would have been pretty cool, too.