Marvel’s Avengers Interview with Scot Amos and Lauryn Ash
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with Crystal Dynamics’ Studio Head Scot Amos and Designer Lauryn Ash about their upcoming game, Marvel’s Avengers. We were joined by other members of the press, taking turns and asking questions round robin style. Because of this, we only had a chance to ask a few questions, but the answers were really insightful, and it shows that the team really has a passion for making this game. You can see them below, so check it out!
David Poole (DP): I noticed in the War Zone and Drop Zone missions, you would often fight against AIM soldiers and Synthoids, and all these different types of enemies. Would friends be able to team up against the actual classic Marvel villains at all?
Scot Amos (SA): So there are villains in there, and yes, there will be opportunities for you. So you get to meet, playing through the beta, there’s Taskmaster as a villain at the front of the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s Abomination through the Olympia Archives as you get through that. That’s great on the campaign side, but I guarantee you those guys are going to show up again, because they’re like that. Villains often show up again and cause trouble, and the idea of being able to have such good juicy villains, and other ones that we haven’t even gone into yet. And post-launch, we’ll be adding villains to the game as well, so there will be new villains showing up, and when we go post-launch, we think of all of that as Avengers Initiative, which means it’s co-op, and designed for co-op from the beginning.
DP: You guys announced Hawkeye at the last War Table, which is awesome. I’ve been looking forward to Hawkeye, and I know you guys also mentioned that you were pulling inspiration from the “My Life as a Weapon” storyline. Were there any other comics that inspired the game? And if so, what comics would you suggest that fans acquaint themselves with before playing the game?
SA: Oh my gosh, there’s so many.
Lauryn Ash (LA): So many.
SA: Lauryn, I think we should put a list up, because we get this a lot from fans, but looking at our War Table one, we had a bunch of comic books we referenced for AIM and for M.O.D.O.K. we did there. Looking at War Table two, but one of the things that we look at is Marvels, if you know this one, Alex Ross and Busiek back in the day, that’s actually where Phil Sheldon made an appearance. We had this reporter kind of deciding are these super heroes good or bad? Are they really uncontrollable? So there’s a lot of inspiration looking back at that storyline, and kind of the intentionality of that storyline saying what do heroes really mean? And when do they cross that line from being good to being reckless?
And so that absolutely informed, at a core story level, a lot of things that we’ve done. If you look at the Ultimates series, there’s things in there that we love a bunch. There’s the technology, we look about how the world was crafted. What that actually meant to be at that level of heroes. You look at fun ideas for some of our costumes, you can start getting an idea of the comics we’ve looked at. When you see Joe Fixit, when you see a gladiator dressed Hulk, you think of what World War Hulk was as a series. We have access to all of that; we have access to all 80 years of Marvel’s history. An so we work with our collaborators.
You know, Bill Rosemann, who’s the head creative at Marvel Games, he actually would bring us stacks of comic books. And he’s bring them with post-it notes on different panels. Like “isn’t this a cool scene? Isn’t this a cool scene? What do you think of this outfit?” And it was one of those things that was never directorial. It was never like “you should do this,” it was more of “aren’t these things cool, what do you guys think?” And we would sit there and pour over these pages and we would actually use them like storyboards. In our conference room, just kind of looking at them like “that would be a cool thing?” and “how could we work that into the story?” And the magic of Marvel that we love as well at Crystal [Dynamics] is that everything we do has a story behind it.
It might feel like “oh, it’s just a random Drop Zone to go grind gear,” but look at the actual details. What is JARVIS saying as I’m going to that Drop Zone? What’s the background inside that Drop Zone? I guarantee you there’s a story behind it. “Oh, they’re actually generating the parts that they’re actually using by AIM and the fact they’re there to make more adaptoids.” It actually does connect, even if it’s kind of you have to look for it blind, but it’s intentionality that it’s all at the core, some narrative basis for us.
So when it comes down to comic series, I honestly, I can’t even imagine how many comics we have both digitally… We have the Marvel Unlimited so all these comics, we can just kind of pull at random. We also have stacks of graphic novels, comics, references from movies, for TV shows. You should see the library we have sitting in our Crystal conference rooms…
LA: That we can’t use right now. (Laughs)
SA: (Laughs). We can’t even get to it. It’s like locked away in a safe.
LA: You’re like “you should see this library” and I’m like “Yes, I too would like to see the library again.” (Laughs)
SA: It is, I don’t know if you can hear it in our voice or not. You saw Jeff Adams blog yesterday for Spider-Man, like that’s a labor of love. We are fans making this for fans, so we will go back to the true source of the comics, and start saying “okay, how do we take this and put it through the Crystal lens in a fresh, yet familiar way for the fans?”
LA: And for those out there that are like “look. I just want a list of comics to read,” we actually give you comics in the game. And a lot of those were ripped right from those repositories. From areas where we were looking at some inspiration, right?
SA: And those comics covers actually add stats.
LA: Yes! And those comic covers also add stats. So you have it within the game itself, right? And also, if you’re like a new Marvel fan, you get something to read. You get those comics, and then you can go and read that. If you’re an old Marvel fan, you’re going to spend hours in this game trying to see just absolutely everything.
SA: That’s probably more of an answer than you wanted there David, so sorry.
DP: No, it’s perfectly fine. Thank you.
DP: One thing I wanted to ask about, obviously we have a fairly decent roster of heroes. Were there any challenges of balancing out the team? Or was there any one Avenger that you felt was essential to be on the team? And also, what are your favorite Avengers to play as now in the game?
SA: That’s a nice, tricky way to get three questions in there David. I commend you on that one.
LA: Yea. (Laughs)
SA: So I guess I’ll take a couple pieces of that, and then I’m sure Lauryn will have her thoughts on this as well, because we have very much agreements on certain things with heroes. Um…the roster. There’s core heroes that when you think of Avengers, you just can’t live without. Like you gotta think, there’s been, I think we counted, and there’s over, there’s almost 10,000 heroes inside of Marvel’s 80 years of history. It’s nonsense right? Just a crazy number of heroes that I couldn’t even begin to recount them all for you.
When you think of Avengers, something that’s brilliant in these last ten years with the MCU, really brought in millions of fans that didn’t know what a Hulk was ten years ago. They didn’t know what Iron Man—what does it mean? So that’s actually helped broaden the amount of humans that can conceive of “what’s an Avenger? I know what this is,” but there’s 80 years of history. There’s all of us who grew up on comics, who grew up with these characters and looked to that and said “I have my favorites. I have characters that have come into the Avengers, and have left the Avengers.”
And so we set the way this game is built, you start with this reassemble campaign with Kamala. The freshness of having Kamala in there was an imperative to get players to synchronize with a new character in a new way that feels fresh, that feels unique. But she’s just becoming an Avenger. She’s brand new to this world. But also, so are our fans, because it’s not the Avengers that they just saw in the last ten years. It’s the Avengers over the last 80 years, including the last ten. And we’re kind of cherry picking and putting it through our lens. We want to have that fresh element, but we also have that familiar.
We also had to have, you see it on the Golden Gate Bridge, you immediately run into Thor, very iconic, you get who that is. Iron Man, very iconic, you get who that is. Captain America, you fight on the bridge there before we lose him in the Helicarrier incident. You start looking through that and you’re like “oh my gosh.” These are characters that when you think Avengers, they’re the poster children for what this world is. So we had to have some of those iconic characters as the core, but we also wanted to inject that new element like Kamala as something fresh and new, and learn and be able to grow and actually speak to an audience that’s like “hey, what is this? This is different.” Exactly, it is different.
It’s not the game of the movie or the game of the show. It is the game of 80 years of history of Marvel, and saying how to we wrap that together. And then we get to favorite heroes. The way Lauryn and I talk about this, I will let you take your answer. I won’t steal your answer, but certainly, if you look at the number of hours of who I put the most time in on? I’ve put the most time in on Iron Man. And I think it’s just because of the flexibility of Iron Man.
I just, I like Tony Stark, I liked him in the comics, I’ve liked him in the movies. I think just as a character there’s something so fun about having this genius, this tech, being able to fly. Being able to control in the game in the battlefield from either in the middle of it, causing trouble with great combat moves, or at a very far back managing the battlefield for everyone else so I can dive in and help someone who’s gone down but not out. Or I can pull back and do sniper shots, or I can go on and gear up my tech and start throwing Pym particle lasers as I fly through the middle of a combat area, shrinking guys all around me and then just watch Hulk come in a crush them.
Like there’s just something magical about what you can do with Iron Man. But I can tell you stories about all of the heroes this way. Like this is how I feel the system is so flexible, that each of them have their amazing intrinsic abilities, but hour to hour, I’ve put more hours on Iron Man, even though I have favorite parts of Widow, of Kamala, of other characters, but I will let Lauryn take the reigns on that one.
LA: Yes, I will take the reigns on Widow because the way he talks about playing Iron Man is I think the way I talk about playing Widow. She is a ranged and a melee character. When you play Black Widow, you can get directly to the heart of a combat fight and them immediately get right back out to support your team from range. You can do just head shot after head shot, you can do the Pym particle head shots and then suddenly, everyone’s just really, really tiny and then Hulk comes in and smashes them all.
Another favorite story I have in co-op is when Hulk is laying on a juggernaut and then suddenly Kamala could just kick it off with a giant right foot. All the way down the battlefield. There’s all of these incredible moments from playing these heroes that comes from the fact that we have that 80 years of history. And for me, when you look at the game and you look at from its inception, Kamala Khan has been there from the beginning. When she—I know that you remember the trailer, the very first one. There was just the gauntlet on the ground, and the shield, the cracked lightning, and there was a voice. And that was the voice of Kamala Khan. That was a unique perspective that this game wants to drive forward.
These are about our unique, original Crystal story and take on these heroes. On the Avengers. And Kamala Khan gives us that perspective, that super fan. She’s us. We get to look at them and tell them why they’re special, why they matter, why they’re our heroes. Because in this world, the Avengers failed. They feel like they failed. Especially they feel like they failed Cap, especially Black Widow. So you play that, even in her movesets, all the way down into her combat. It’s all about “I’m not failing you Cap. Not this time. Not again.”
And it’s all a part of playing that Avengers fantasy. And then finally getting that right emotional storytelling like you saw in the beta, which we, Kamala Khan, and Bruce Banner, you see that emotional moment between the two of them, and you’re going to get that with all of the heroes. Seeing all of your heroes as the heroes that you knew and loved, and now as heroes that you’re going to love even more after playing this game.
DP: Thank you.
And that is the end of our interview. I’d like to thank both Scot and Lauryn for their time and their incredible responses. We learned a lot about the game and the passion driving the development, and it shows. We can’t wait for the full game. Marvel’s Avengers will launch on September 4th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia. You can check out our early impressions from the beta here. It’s our Month of Marvel and we’re covering Marvel’s Avengers and more all month long. Stay tuned, as we’ll have even more information to share about Marvel’s Avengers!