We recently spoke with Zak Krefting, Creative Director at Shaba Games, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows." Bonus: Check out two new "Web of Shadows" screenshots you won't see anywhere else!
MARVEL.COM: To what extent will the choices the player makes in the game affect the abilities Spider-Man has and how he controls? What about the status of the game's environment, characters and such?
Web of Shadows"
: "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" gives the player control over the alien symbiote that is used by Venom in a way never before seen in a Spider-Man game.
In Black Suit you can upgrade your suit's ichor, turning your fists and webs into 30 foot tentacles with hatchet-like teeth on the end. The more enemies you hit, the more XP you get, the more you pour it into your Black Suit. The cycle continues until you are one bad-ass Spider-Man Venom Hybrid. When you utilize these attacks on the street, anything around you gets destroyed in the process, causing panic and fear.
If this offends purists, then great! That's why we made Red Suit classic, with fast, agile and precise moves that you've seen in the comics. Instead of smashing everything with brute force, you can pluck an enemy off the ground, punch him, web him back to you, punch him again then wind him up like a yo-yo and pin him to the wall with webs. A lot of red suit's moves reflect his sense of humor in the face of adversity, while Black Suit just smashes adversity to bits.
MARVEL.COM: Will this game take on more of an RPG-style structure in the character malleability area? If so, what are the reasons for this shift in game design?
Web of Shadows"
: As the player defeats enemies and explores the city, he or she earns experience which can be spent on suit-specific upgrades. Each suit has special mechanics that feel different from each other. It is up to the player how he wants to build up Spider-Man.
Even within the suit choices, the player gets to pick what he likes the most and build it up. Certain upgrades allow extra hits if the player can combo around the controls fast enough, other abilities are more timing driven, providing a more powerful, crushing feeling of play.
This is a story driven game at the end of the day, but players don't like to be told what to do any more than they have to. We teach the player what's available, but let him decide what he really wants to build up, so he can fight the way he wants to.
MARVEL.COM: It looks like this game targets more of a hardcore gaming audience, following a trend of giving players more customization and freedom with their characters. How do you think that will play out on, for example, the Wii version of the game, given that the console targets the casual gaming crowd?
: I don't think customization is limited to a hardcore audience. Both suits have upper-end moves that won't be immediately accessible to a casual audience, but they are not required. Hardcore gamers will find their own ways to max-out the character and exploit both suits abilities and move out of the boundaries we've set.
The player can also choose to have his abilities automatically bought for him.
MARVEL.COM: This Spider-Man game looks to combine the combat and swinging mechanisms more closely than ever. How is this going to work? How steep will the learning curve be for this? This is an area where motion control would be a big asset. Will this game take advantage of that with the Wii and PS3 versions?
: One of our goals was to bridge Spider-Man's web swinging with traditional ground combat. The player can swing in at full speed at an enemy and punt him a block or two away. With Web Strike, the player shoots a web to enemy, then pulls himself in like a homing missile.
In the beginning of the project, we wrongfully pushed the player into the new stuff too quickly. We brought a ton of hardcore and beginner players to test the game out, and we found to our surprise that the ground combat was fun as hell on it's own, and satisfying [to] different players. We had too much to throw at the player at once. Fortunately, this let us find sweet spots to unlock new mechanics just when the player is looking for something new to add to his arsenal.
Another goal was to take the player up onto the buildings themselves. We carefully mapped the controls so that no matter where the player is fighting, on the ground, on a skyscraper or in an air brawl with Vulture, the moves and controls are intuitive between the modes.
a new look
Does the player have to juggle enemies across the city, onto walls and over buildings to beat the game? No, but he won't unlock everything nor master being Spider-Man.
MARVEL.COM: Even in the advertising campaign for the game, you're trying to give the player as many options as possible for how the game will be marketed/packaged. It's fair to say the main theme of the entire game is control. Why such a decisive shift from previous Spider-Man games which followed relatively linear paths?
: We don't have a movie license to adhere to, which allows us to play with the characters and abilities in such a way that would never make sense if it was linear.
MARVEL.COM: How interactive/destructible are the environments?
: New York's streets provide an unending stream of heavy ordinance, in the form of cars that explode on impact. Enemies can utilize this ability as well, even "sucking" objects with anti gravity weapons. The majority of street-level building fronts crumble if they are hit, neon lights explode and fall.
Spider-Man can crawl and swing on anything, of course. If the player is going fast he can literally slide up buildings, perform a, uh, Spider-Plant, then slide down the building. It has to be seen and felt to be appreciated.
MARVEL.COM: Will there be alternate game endings depending on the choices the player makes? What's the replay value going to be like?
: This game is huge. We've been playing [for thousands] of hours, and still come up with new strategies to use. Yesterday I finally learned how to counter-attack and now that's all I'm doing.
There are also a few surprises at the end of the game based on your choices, that you'd have to play twice to see.
MARVEL.COM: What, if any, continuity does this game line up with? Does it eschew more towards the comics, previous games, movies, a mix, its own thing?
: "Web of Shadows" has very realistic environments and settings, with all the effects of an over the top fighting game, and a roster that could never be contained in a 2 hour movie. Having made a few, we borrowed heavily from extreme sports games for upgrades, combo style moves speed and controls. You can push yourself or relax and just have fun.
MARVEL.COM: Does the storyline have any specific influences from comic story arcs or other sources?
: There were several early concepts that we played around with, but we chose the one that would best reflect the new combat mechanics we were going for.
side by side
What is the point of wall combat if you can only fight enemies on the ground? We needed enemies that could do everything Spider-Man could do. We needed thousands of them all over the city so the player can link them together. All this meant we needed thousand "Venoms" to fight.
A symbiote invasion was the only answer. Zombies just aren't fast enough, and a Ninja invasion was just plain stupid.
MARVEL.COM: The game looks really fast-paced and the camera angles are always changing.The camera is going to be very important. How much control will the player have over the camera angles? Will there be options for perspective changes (first- or third-person)?
: There is a powerful locking mechanism that allows the player to focus on a single enemy, even if that enemy is in a crowd. This allows the player to do incredibly acrobatic maneuvers during a fight. If targeting is turned off, the player can move the camera around freely.
If an enemy is sneaking up on the player, and is about to pounce, Spider-Man's sense goes off, giving the player time to evade, block or counter attack.
"Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" swings onto consoles in October. Stay glued to Marvel.com for more news, videos and screenshots. And be sure to visit the official "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" site