Last year, Marvel Powers United VR for the Oculus Rift caused massive crowds at the Marvel booth during SDCC. It was the first time the audience which the game was meant for got to virtually step into the shoes and furry feet of Rocket, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, and Hulk. Fast forward, one year later, and the game along with Spider-Man blew away Hall H at SDCC 2018. We got to sit down with Mat Kraemer, Lead Creative Director from the game’s developer Sanzaru Games, to find out how Powers United VR will be a Marvel story like no other.
COMICS BEAT: As we have this conversation, you’ve just exited stage right of Hall H as part of the biggest Marvel Games presentation at SDCC. No game before has ever been the focus of Hall H, not Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, or even Fortnite. You guys along with Insomniac’s Spider-Man were a big part of it. What are your thoughts on that?
Mat Kraemer: Yeah it was crazy. I mean, the best thing is you work on something for so long with so many people at Oculus and Marvel Games working with Sanzaru Games, working long hours bringing this thing into fruition. We brought our launch roster 18 characters, 10 locations, 8 bosses and that amazing story trailer. I hope it conveyed to everyone the feeling the team was going for of finally being able to live out a childhood dream.
COMICS BEAT: VR is such a hard beast to put into words or even videos and I do feel like telling that little story in the trailer was the best messaging for the product.
Mat Kraemer: You know you’re a little kid, you’re imagining, only pretending to be Spiderman or Wolverine. I mean now we get to bring that dream to everybody with the Oculus Rift.
COMICS BEAT: You mentioned the 18 character roster, but Marvel has a considerably bigger library than that. Are there plans for additional characters to be added later?
Mat Kraemer: There will be DLC (downloadable content) and support throughout the game’s life cycle and all of that content is free. We can’t announce those specifics just yet but the team is definitely working on it.
COMICS BEAT: You gotta have something for Hall H next year, right?
Matt Kraemer: [laughs] It’s some pretty good stuff. And I think the fans will like and enjoy. But the best part is it’s free [DLC]. We just want to get people in there to have fun. We just announced the bundle that comes with the Oculus Rift system and the game, which hopefully will make it easier for new people who want to jump on to get in.
COMICS BEAT: Last year we played the Knowhere stage and this year in Hall H you mentioned locations like HalfWorld and Wakanda. Were the locations choices made strictly for story reasons?
Mat Kraemer: So basically the story of the game is Thanos has brought together a new Masters of Evil and he’s crushed a Cosmic Cube to give to the other villains you’ll face in the game. Now when you’re playing the game and you defeat a boss you’ll get a little chunk of Cosmic Cube. You’re rebuilding and repairing the cube to finally be able to battle Thanos one on one, and it’s super cool because when you finally build the thing to get to the final battle with three other people to fight him the stage is completely different. The Fight, the flow of the game is different than anything else that you’ve played before leading up to it.
COMICS BEAT: You’re doing some radical things in terms of enemies and design here, can you tell us a bit more?
Mat Kraemer: We have a dynamic difficulty system. So every time you play every match everything’s different like the location of where things are, what factions you’re battling against. You know you have the Kree, Hydra, Ultron centuries and those are just the minions. We have seven bosses that can randomly appear and some of those bosses are really difficult behaviourally. We have Venom, not flying around but he’s like sinking in the ground and popping up. I mean he’s he’s going to scare some people because he’s just like full on in your face and he’s got all this symbiote stuff coming out that he’s thrown at you which you’ll feel like it hits you right in the face through the Rift. Then you got other heavy hitters like Magneto in there and Dormammu. And so with the difficulty r ramping you could even get it with his two bosses at once. Which you really have to work as a team to survive.
COMICS BEAT: One thing I loved about the announcements today was how much X-Men character you’re bringing into the game. Was that a Sanzaru/Oculus decision or Marvel’s?
Mat Kraemer: It was a group thing across Oculus and marvel and Sanzaru. They are the characters we really like and they’re the ones I want to play as. You only have one first shot to do Marvel Heroes justice in VR and we might as well try to get the best ones that we can get.
Another thing I want to speak to is the characters in general. Each of them is completely built from the ground up. It’s not like you started building the game and were like oh these are the gear characters and these are the power characters and oh we’re going to do another character and they’re just like the other hero. They’re all unique, they have unique abilities and unique traits.
We were working really close with Marvel to make sure that they feel like what you would expect them to feel like in VR. And it’s great to see people’s reaction, especially to Spider-Man.
He’s probably one of the most unique characters in the game because he’s very tactful character. He’s not always all-out offensive. There’s a lot of grabbing things in the environment and using them wrapping up enemies and smashing him into other enemies. And he plays… I mean you could make an entire VR game just based on that single character.
COMICS BEAT: How long is the game?
Mat Kraemer: Like 5 to 6 hours of play time, maybe even a little more to get to Thanos for the first time and then it also depends who you’re playing with. It may take you a little bit longer to kill all the bosses and get all those shards. So it really varies on playstyle. The cool thing is it’s not really the end of the game.
So every single one of the 18 characters has four personal objectives. Those personal objectives have like 4 layers deep and if you finish those objectives you are awarded a cosmic bone. Now that cosmic bone, you can bring back to your ops. A base of operations which is kind of like the social space. You remember last year you saw Lockjaw move around that space branded as Alpha Flight station. We don’t have any Alpha Flight characters in the game so no Sasquatch or Puck yet. So when you give the bone to Lockjaw he drops crates which contain things like different skins for the characters.
They aren’t just color swaps, they’re substantial. I really want you to feel good about what you just earned so one example is our Old Man Logan skin. Each of the skins is a new rig on new models so they interact fluidly with the game. We wanted to pick unique ones as well. so like Star-Lord everyone knows the movie costume but not as many know the Annihilation Star-Lord outfit.
COMICS BEAT: It sounds like the game is really shaping up to be a complete package at launch. That’s rare for games these days.
Mat Kraemer: Oh yeah totally, I mean the retail price of the game is $39.99 so if you have a Rift already it’s an add with a lot of value. Between the stuff in the game’s story and endgame, it’s deep and even some stuff we call Legendary Hero Items. Those you can earn things like Ant-Man’s helmet in the game, even though we don’t have the playable character you can still pick up and interact with his gear in VR.
COMICS BEAT: So it’s almost like a Marvel museum?
Mat Kraemer: Exactly
COMICS BEAT: Now that you’ve done the heroes is there any chance of a Marvel Villains United VR?
Mat Kraemer: You never know. I love the villains and their such iconic characters like Venom, and Magneto, and Ronan The Accuser.
COMICS BEAT: One thing I’ve noticed about the lineup is that while most games boast having the entire GOTG lineup or Avengers lineup, Powers VR took a more mix-and-match direction. What was the reason for that decision?
Mat Kraemer: We picked our lineup for game diversity. You know, we don’t want to have tons of melee characters, we don’t want to have tons of projectile characters, that there’s an unbalance. We want to make sure that there’s a character for everybody because we know everyone has a different way to play the game.
COMICS BEAT: I know since I tried the demo at SDCC last year, and was never invited to try it again after! I’ve been thinking about this game for an entire year now so I’m glad it’s finally here. If you want the experience of cosplaying Rocket Raccoon with a jetpack but no fur mess on your couch, then make the leap into VR when Marvel Powers United VR launches on Oculus Rift, July 26, 2018. Learn more about the game on its website.