We spoke with Steven Thornton from TT Games about the PS Vita version of LEGO Marvel’s Avengers to tell us more about the latest entry in the LEGO series.
What Is LEGO Marvel’s Avengers About?
In many ways LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is a spiritual successor to the original LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, but whereas the first game was based on a madcap comic book story that we wrote internally, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is a celebration of all things Avengers, featuring all of the cool characters, iconic scenes and big action set pieces that audiences know and love from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as classic Avengers content from Marvel Comics, all recreated in LEGO form with that clever, humorous TT Games twist.
During the main game, the handheld version covers the full story from the original Avengers film and Avengers: Age of Ultron, with a flashback to a key scene from Captain America: The First Avenger. Then in Free Play mode, we explore the extended Avengers family and get to delve deeper into the rich comic book back-story on which the MCU is built.
This all said, the big news for many is that we’ve brought a full free roaming open world hub to the LEGO Marvel’s Avengers handheld experience, recreating an expansive New York City environment for both PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS.
What Is Your Job In The Game’s Development?
I am the game director for the handheld version, which will release on PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS. As game director, it’s my job to establish and guide the creative direction of the entire game, deciding on features, reviewing content and managing the development team. My immediate responsibilities evolve a lot throughout the project, but generally it’s a pretty sweet gig! Especially at the start of the project when I was spending most of my days watching action scenes from Marvel movies and picking my favourite Iron Man suits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay that easy, but it’s always fun.
When Have You Started Developing LEGO Marvel’s Avengers?
Game projects have a lot of stages, and we tend to shift resources on and off early in development to establish the game’s core features and design before the majority of the team members come aboard. Generally, we have quite quick turnarounds in the context of the industry, which comes from our structure, as well as our experience with the LEGO formula and tools. In this case, we also had to develop a good portion of the game simultaneously alongside the production of Avengers: Age of Ultron so can make for a tighter timeline.
How Many People Are Working On The PS Vita Version?
TT Games has multiple offices with various teams working on a multitude of projects simultaneously so we tend to have fluid resources at any given time. At its peak, it was probably one of our largest handheld teams, with almost the entire TT Fusion studio touching the game at one point or another.
As LEGO Marvel’s Avengers Is An Open-World Game On Consoles, How Identical Will The PS Vita Version Be?
We know that PS Vita owners are always looking for their games to match up closer and closer to the look and feel of console titles, and we worked extremely closely with the console team to ensure all the major features of LEGO Marvel’s Avengers were present in handheld experience, which includes the full free-roaming open world New York City hub at 1:1 scale with the console version, complete with traffic systems, pedestrians and over 100 Free Play objects connected to 15 exclusive handheld challenges.
A big advantage of having both a console and handheld version is that you can explore different approaches to the same content, and with a universe as rich and diverse as Marvel’s, there is no shortage of material for us to draw on. So although we both have the same playable New York City environment, both versions are filled it with completely unique content.
Did You Experience Any Difficulties In Bringing The Open-World Experience To The PS Vita?
The open world experience on handheld is something that fans have wanted for a long time, and it is obviously a huge technological challenge for a handheld platform. We’ve experimented with bigger and better hubs in the past, introducing third person camera support and streaming content, so this is something we’ve been working towards for almost as long as people have been asking for it. We have an extremely talented and experienced team doing a lot of work behind the scenes to get the open world experience running smoothly on handheld, and I’m extremely impressed with everything they achieved.
We have also really pushed the technology further in levels, whereas before we had a core player accompanied by a single A.I. “buddy,” we now have up to three A.I. characters on-screen and upgraded their combat intelligence, allowing the Avengers to truly fight alongside each other as they do in the movies.
Will There Be Any PS Vita Specific Features?
Rather than being a port of the console experience, the handheld version acts more like a companion to the console game, exploring alternative scenes and different aspects of the Marvel Universe and iconic movie moments. In the main game, both the handheld and console versions cover the same MCU storyline from the films, but there’s so much going on in the film sequences that there are a dozen ways you could approach adapting them into a level, and in many places we have deviated to focus on different characters or set pieces.
For example, on console the assault on Baron Strucker’s fortress in the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron starts out following Black Widow and Hawkeye, but on handheld we instead start with Captain America. There is a ton of handheld exclusive material to support these changes, including character mechanics, such as Iron Man’s multi-targeting “cluster missiles” and a shield charge for Captain America, hub missions to connect the story levels, unique level and hub challenges, including a special side story starring several very popular (very current) comic book favourites uniting against a mysterious enemy, and extra variants of the Manhattan hub, including a night-time version of New York City.
In terms of the PS Vita itself, we offer unique UI and full support for the PS Vita’s touch screen features. We are always careful to ensure that our games are fully compatible (and comfortable) with PlayStation TV. We also use the extra oomph of the system in the open world hub to push back the draw distance and dial up the traffic and pedestrian population.
Can We Expect More LEGO Games For The PS Vita In The Future?
LEGO games have been consistently popular on PS Vita, and I think LEGO Marvel’s Avengers on PS Vita will only help attract more handheld players, expecially those looking for an open world experience that can be played on-the-go!
What’s Your Personal Favourite LEGO Game?
I have a soft spot for all the projects I work on so instead I’ll shine the spotlight on a LEGO game I got to experience as a player rather than a developer—TT Fusion’s mind-bogglingly ambitious free-roaming mega game, LEGO City Undercover. It’s just an incredibly massive, incredibly versatile, incredibly endearing game, with equal buckets of charm and content. We had some of the key team members from LEGO City working on LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, which was definitely a huge source of guidance and inspiration when working on the game’s game’s open world New York City hub.
Is There Anything Else You Would Like To Say To The PS Vita Community?
I’m a big fan of the PS Vita; I think it’s a very slick platform with one of the nicest screens in all the land. On a personal note, I’ve always liked that the LEGO games have provided a regular influx of titles for PS Vita and take the time to support the touch screen and TV features, attention that the platform deserves. If there’s anything that PS Vita fans want to see in future LEGO titles, please do drop us a line. We’re always trying to give our audiences more of what they want. Thanks for playing!
We thank Steven Thornton for taking his time to answer our questions.