Wolverine's the best he is at what he does and he'll be back in movie theaters on Friday, May 1 in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"!
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So sharpen your claws and dig in,
By Rob Bricken
Even a dedicated loner like Wolverine recognizes the need for a strong leader now and then—and even he'd have to appreciate the monumental task facing Raven Software project lead Dan Vondrak in making the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie video game, due out on May 1. In this five-part interview series, the developers at Raven discuss making the ultimate Wolverine video game; in this fourth installment, Vondrak discusses how Wolverine's mutant powers are featured in the game, his favorite Wolverine comics and why quick-time events are for lesser mutants.
Marvel.com: How much of the game is directly tied to the events of the movie?
Dan Vondrak: The game has a lot of the movie's story in it—but we added another 30-40% of our own content on top of the movie story. Since we were making our script as we kept getting revisions of the movie script, it was really easy to make our story weave in back and forth to the main story. If someone's never seen the movie, they are going to get almost the full movie story, plus all our extra stuff and they won't be able to tell it wasn't always written as one main story. I'm really happy with the little plot twists and story arcs we've got in that work so well with the movie stuff.
Marvel.com: What are some of the foes and battles Wolverine faces in the game that aren't in the movie?
Dan Vondrak: One of the first battles we listed on the "Best Wolverine Game" whiteboard was the Sentinel. We had to get the 200-foot mutant-hunting robot against this little 6-foot Wolverine. That's a big departure from the movie and it's great that it got in. As you're escaping the Weapon X facility, Wolverine has to fight through a couple W.E.N.D.I.G.0 prototypes that the scientists were developing. You'll understand the need for the abbreviation once you've played the game.
Marvel.com: Wolverine's healing factor makes him almost invincible. How do you make that work in the game and still let the game be a challenge for players?
Dan Vondrak: Ha ha, many people have wondered about this. It's important to understand how the healing factor works. Wolverine is invincible, he can't die, but we see him fall unconscious or become disabled all the time in the comics—it's part of what makes Wolverine such a powerful character. He feels pain and is vulnerable, but he always comes back! So we created a two-part health system to emulate what we see in the comics that we call "Health and Vitals."
As Wolverine's takes damage and you see his flesh and muscle layer being blown away, his main "Health" goes down. Once Wolverine has taken enough damage his "Vitals" are exposed—his organs, heart, etc. If Wolverine's "Vitals" take enough damage then he will fall unconscious as you'd expect him to. So the balance in the game is to go ahead and let Wolverine get ripped apart as he's slicing and dicing, but once you see that adamantium skeleton shining through, [you better] find a way to stop taking damage for a bit and allow the healing factor to grow back that protective layer of muscle and skin, which is your main "Health." It allows for a good balance of feeling unstoppable with Wolverine and then playing more defensive with counters, blocks, dodges to protect those "Vitals."
Marvel.com: What other powers will Wolverine have in the game?
Dan Vondrak: Of course Wolverine's unique ability to channel his inner rage made it into the game as "Berserker Rage." This is pretty powerful and we gave it a bunch of upgrades to choose from as you level up Wolverine—it of course does extra damage and pulls some new moves in, but if upgraded properly can enhance healing while in rage mode and even scare off a few guys when you activate it. Wolverine's enhanced senses are in the game as "Feral Sense"—this became more and more useful as the game was being developed. It highlights enemies and shows weak spots on some enemies, so it's useful in combat. But for level traversal it's really nice, showing you all the interactive objects in the world and when you first turn it on, it gives you a nudge in the right direction if you're not sure where to go.
Marvel.com: How did you guys decide to add "the lunge" to the combat?
Dan Vondrak: Ahh yes, "the lunge" is an awesome addition to the game. While in pre-production for the game, we opened up comic after comic and identified what we thought was a signature Wolverine moment—an image from the comic you could see and instantly know it was Wolverine. One image we kept seeing over and over was Wolverine pouncing on guys, leaping at them from 20 feet away, jumping down off a building, or from a moving car—his arms back in that classic Wolverine pose. We knew we had to get it in. We actually had a Wolverine power we created back in "X-Men Legends 2" called "pounce" that was a similar idea, but nowhere near as fun.
Marvel.com: In the game, Wolverine's claws leave marks in the environment (and enemies), and bullets actually leave holes in his shirt. How much time and effort was spent on this mechanic?
Dan Vondrak: A ton! Again, when we first started work on the game, in the starting days, I had an image from a Wolverine comic where he had a blast going through his torso and his clothes and skin and muscle ripped away, all the way down to his adamantium skeleton. And I told the crew we have to be able to see through Wolverine's ribcage and then see it heal in real time! Well—this team is awesome because tech, programming, animation, FX, art—they all jumped onboard and got it cranking. This never stopped being tweaked and worked on for the entire 2.5-plus years we worked on the game.
Marvel.com: That recent video with the helicopter is insane. It has to be a quick-time event, right?
Dan Vondrak: Aaggh! No—there are no quick-time events! We had some in originally and took them all out, they just didn't feel right—doing all this awesome, free-flowing combat then it's like hitting a brick wall by just sitting and watching and pressing a button. The helicopter is gameplay. You "lunge" to it and then have control of Wolverine on the helicopter. There's some timing gameplay, by dodging the shotgun blasts; if you get hit you've got to pull yourself back up or fall off. Then once you're in position on the hood, you've got to attack the pilots or they will shoot you off. There are several sequences in the game where we mix in some animated transitions to get back and forth into gameplay. But it was really important for us that the player was in the moment, doing all the cool stuff themselves.
Marvel.com: You're a huge Wolverine fan—what are some of your favorite stories?
Dan Vondrak: The obvious choice is the original Barry Windsor-Smith "Weapon X," "Days of Future Past" and the "Civil War: Wolverine" spinoff. The recent WOLVERINE issues with Mystique—[those were] really well done. [Frank] Miller and [Chris] Claremont's WOLVERINE. There was a story that I can't remember the name of, but Wolverine was protecting this little girl and at one point he turns and says "Close your eyes and don't open them no matter what you hear"—and of course Wolverine had to take down some bad guys and then he comes back and gets her covered in blood. It's such an awesome Wolverine moment.
Marvel.com: What's your favorite moment in both the game and the movie?
Dan Vondrak: For the game it's the Sentinel boss fight; it feels really cool running around in a totally open space fighting the 200-foot Sentinel. And in general, I love the combat in the game, because it flows so well from move to move and you can finish guys off in some spectacular ways—it really keeps your blood pumping. For the movie, it's a tough call because we haven't seen the whole thing completed yet, but it comes down to a scene that we actually were in Australia to see as it was getting filmed, and that's the Gambit fight. It's like a comic dream seeing those guys fight it out. I think the dude that plays Gambit, Taylor Kitsch, did a fantastic job.
Come back tomorrow for our final behind-the-scenes Q&A.
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For more Wolverine, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited and our "Wolverine: Required Reading" list. Like gaming? The official "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" video game hits stores May 1! And remember: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" comes to a theater near you on May 1 visit the official "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie site!Check out the official Marvel Shop for everything X-Men!Download episodes of X-Men: Evolution now on iTunes!