Video Games

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics

The idea behind Facebook is to bring people together. But in the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics, the idea is to bring people together…so you can smack them. Though in talking to Disney Interactive’s Gabe Brown, the Executive Producer of Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics, there might be a little more to it.

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Let’s start with the basics: What is Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics?

Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics is a unique combination of the Marvel: Avengers Alliance combat experience fused with an approachable tactics game. You start off on the world map, which takes place in the Savage Land, a lush jungle in the middle of Antarctica. You are a S.H.I.E.L.D. commander assigned with the task of building up the outpost HQ and protecting the world from incursions that threaten your very existence. As the commander, you fly from encounter to encounter, defeating enemies from other dimensions in fierce head to head combat.

You kind of touched on this already, but how is it connected to the previous Marvel: Avengers Alliance game?

Gameplay wise, we leverage the very popular class systems — think “Rock, Papers, Scissors” — and buff/debuff systems that made Marvel: Avengers Alliance really fun and deep at the same time. We’re really excited to evolve the story in both games in similar and different ways so players get a unique perspective and fun experience no matter what title they play.

And so how is Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics different from Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics?

Tactics is really different from Marvel: Avengers Alliance in a few ways. The big one is that this game is full 3D with strategic, turn-based combat that really pushes the boundary of what a Facebook game looks like, while keeping the look and feel of characters from the original.

By introducing movement to combat, we give the game a lot more depth on how to play use characters and create teams. We can leverage the deep back-story and fiction surrounding each character and their abilities. Hulk’s Thunderclap, for instance, will send folks flying into the walls, Iron Man can hit multiple people with his Unibeam Attack, and so on. It’s really amazing to see what our game designers have done with the characters adding little touches that make it really fun.

The last big differentiator is that we center the player in an HQ on the world map and they fly from encounter to encounter that contains other players. It’s really fun to build up your base and defend it from other players who are attacking you.

Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics has both single-player and multiplayer modes. Let’s start with single-player, how does that mode work?

Single player starts off with encounters appearing on the world map for the player to fly to and defeat. For example, in earlier missions, Black Panther will pop in saying they found strange energy readings and the team should check it out. The player then loads up their Quinjet full of heroes to the target. Once in combat, the player is faced with the villains in their lair, labs, or some S.H.I.E.L.D. facility they ransacked, and the player needs to defeat the bad guy. Each encounter is different, with bosses and characters that use the space and buff/debuffs differently.

And how about multiplayer?

Multiplayer mode — or Player Vs. Player, as we call it — centers around protecting your HQ in the Savage Lands from other players on the world map. The other HQs that look like the player’s are actually incursion bases that are from another dimensions. They look like the player’s, but they are out to get you so you better protect your HQ by having your heroes defend it. You can also fly over to other HQs and attack to get resources faster as well.

Are P.V.P. matches played in real-time or asynchronous?

It’s semi-real-time. You can tell when you’re being attacked, and can make changes to your defense, but you won’t be able to interact with combat directly while defending. We went that route due to the simplicity and it makes the game much easier to play. When you are attacking other players, you will have control over your team.

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Is there anything in single-player that impacts multiplayer, or vice versa? Y’know, like how some games will let you unlock things in single-player that you can then use in multiplayer.

The single player and multiplayer experience live on the same screen, so players will likely know when other players are around. And yes, pro-tip: the best gear is in the single player missions, and they’ll make players more powerful in P.V.P.

What are some of the games you think Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics is similar to, and why do you think Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics is different or better?

I think we’re somewhat similar to such classic tactics games as X-COM, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Disgaea. We really chose to focus on making the tactics genre accessible and deep by simplifying some of the very complex systems that are typically seen in these games. That way players who have never played a tactics game before can jump in and have fun.

The most important area we’re different is the Marvel story and characters, nothing compares to the incredible breadth and depth of the Marvel universe and the unique and relatable characters that it has. Working with Marvel this closely over the last four years has really made me love the comics and story more and more each day.

You mentioned X-COM, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Disgaea. Were those games an influence on Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics?

We were definitely influenced by the classic and newer X-COM as we’ve always wanted to make a game that combines X-COM with Marvel. It’s really a nod to all the great work that has been done in the past to make this genre as fun as it is today. We stand on the shoulders of giants and I know we can advance the genre like they have.

The game features a lot of the usual heroes, including Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. Will any characters who haven’t been Avengers be in the game as well?

Yep! We have a whole line up of the characters that players have come to expect and enjoy. We’re introducing recruitable villains at launch, including Loki and Taskmaster, to name a couple. We plan to add other characters from all over the Marvel Universe, much like we did in Marvel: Avengers Alliance.

And will Stan Lee be in the game? Since he might as well be a Marvel character at this point.

Fun idea, but we don’t have any plans to put Stan Lee in the game.

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As a game based on Marvel’s comics and characters, story will be important to the people who play Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics. Is the game based on any existing storyline?

Marvel: Avengers Alliance has its own unique story that has been inspired by the Incursions storyline in The New Avengers. Like the comics, we will continue to evolve and introduce stories as the game progresses.

Why did you decide to go with an adaptation of an existing storyline as opposed to an original story?

We wanted a storyline that gave us the flexibility to take players to distant far off worlds where anything can happen. Having the Incursion storyline really gave us that flexibility.

While some Marvel character haven’t changed their clothes in fifty years, some have had very different looks or different costumes. How did you decide how the characters would look?

We love the many variations of the costumes, and work directly with Marvel to decide which we’re going to include launch and which we’ll introduce as the game expands. The Incursion storyline also really helps to support a good blend of old and new costumes.

Like the previous game, Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics will be playable via Facebook. Will there be any rewards for people who played Marvel: Avengers Alliance?

We don’t have anything announced yet, but it’s definitely something we’re thinking about.

Has there been any thought to bringing Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics to tablets, smart phones, PCs, or game consoles?

We don’t have any plans for a mobile version at the moment. We decided to focus on Facebook first before expanding to other platforms.

So how will people pay for your game? Will it be free-to-play with microtransactions, will you just pay for it outright?

We’re using the same free-to-play with microtransactions plan that we had in Avengers Alliance. It’s a familiar system that people know well.

In recent months, a number of games that are free-to-play with microtransactions have irritated players by being too aggressive about making people pay for stuff. What are you doing to ensure that you’re not annoying your fans?

You should be able to get just about anything in the game without having to pay by grinding. Making a purchase in Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics helps to speed up the grind or gets access to limited edition items.

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Finally — and yes, I am trying to start some shit with this question — why do you think Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics would be a better game than DC Comics: Justice League Alliance Tactics?

Nothing compares to Marvel.


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