LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is out now and the latest brick-based title is based around Marvel’s Avengers characters; and especially the movie series from Joss Whedon. We caught up with TT Fusion’s Game Director, Steve Thornton, ahead of the release to find out more.
Hello Steve! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Can you explain a little about TT Fusion?
Hi! Thanks for having me. Something that not everyone knows about TT Games is that we actually have two offices, one in Knutsford, and another office just down the road in a town called Wilmslow. TT Fusion is what we call the Wilmslow office, where I work. Although TT Fusion was originally created to help bring the early LEGO console games to handheld players, our role expanded massively as LEGO became more popular (if that’s possible!) and the two offices now share the projects, with TT Fusion teams leading both the console and handheld versions of LEGO City Undercover, The LEGO Movie Videogame and most recently LEGO Jurassic World; along with Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita exclusives like LEGO Chima: Laval’s Journey and LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin. Although we have a separate office and name, we act like one large development studio, sharing ideas, technology and resources, always working together to push the LEGO games forward.
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is out now and is exciting a lot of people, especially since it will be the first PS Vita title to have a fully open world environment. Can you explain a little more about how you managed to fit that in?
We try to read every review, user comment, email and tweet we can get our hands on before, during and after development of a game … so we know something people have wanted on handheld for a while now is a true open world experience that they can keep in their pocket and play anytime, anywhere. It’s something we’ve been building up to, and if I was to name the three ways that we achieved it with this game, it would be the combination of an extremely clever and experienced tech and code team, an incredibly ambitious and tech-savvy art team, and a very well-organised and stubborn design team. I am incredibly impressed with what the team has accomplished with LEGO Marvel’s Avengers’ open world Manhattan hub. It’s a living, breathing city that is a 1:1 scale to the console environment, full of content that you can fly, drive and leap through without cuts, breaks or loading screens.
Previous PS Vita versions of LEGO titles have been much more condensed versions of the home console editions. What changes can we expect between the two this time around, or are they much closer?
We know that audiences are interested in the console and handheld games becoming ever closer in terms of feel and features, so we worked closer with the console team than ever before on this project, ensuring that all the key defining features (teamwork mechanics, Iron Man suit wheel, Hulk super jump abilities, Quicksilver super speed, etc.) were present in both versions. This said, when you sit down to design a game like LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, you immediately start making choices about what content to include and how to translate it into the game, including what characters to focus on, what levels to have, what events to cover, what environments to build, character mechanics and how they’ll work, etc. An advantage of doing both a handheld and console version is being able to try different things and explore different aspects of the Marvel Universe. So although we share a lot of our core content and tell the same central MCU story, our levels often deviate in flow and style, our characters sometimes have new or different mechanics and our Free Play content is completely exclusive. We also try to make choices that are right for the handheld audience and on-the-go gaming.
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is based more around the MCU as opposed to the content in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Which of the two is your favourite?
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. Although the main story of the game is focused on the MCU, in Free Play mode we find every opportunity to explore the extended Avengers family and delve into the rich and diverse comic book back-story behind the MCU. It’s really the best of both worlds!
How big is the roster in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers? Do you have a favourite character to play as?
I don’t think we have nailed down an exact number yet, but we have over 100 characters in the handheld version, and I’m fairly sure it is the biggest character roster we’ve ever had on PS Vita or 3DS. As for my favourite character to play, Iron Man and Hulk both offer their own way of getting around the open world city. Iron Man can jet, boost and barrel his way through the skies, while Hulk can perform huge leaping jumps and smash his way up the side of buildings with his super jump abilities. It makes it hard to choose between them! Luckily there are a few characters in the game that offer BOTH traversal abilities, able to activate jet flight out of a hyper jump and then cut their boosters to grab the nearest surface. So for my favourite character to play, look no further than Detroit Steel, a ridiculous mountain of starry stripey metal armed with a rocket launcher and chainsaw. In the main story mode, I have a real soft spot for Captain America’s shield mechanics and combat animations.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to enter Phase Three; do you anticipate that we will see a LEGO Marvel’s Avengers 2 as we approach Infinity War?
When we work on a game, I try not to imagine any potential sequels or look ahead to the next license, as it can make you hold something back or think “we’ll save that for the next one.” On every project I want to push the features and content as far as I can so I don’t dwell too much on what’s coming next! I will say though that in many ways, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is a celebration of the MCU’s Phase 1 and 2 so it’s quite fitting that it releases as Phase 3 is beginning.
The PSVita LEGO titles have improved in quality and content as they have been released, with the Legends of Chima titles and LEGO Jurassic World series high points. Does LEGO Marvel’s Avengers eclipse those, in your opinion?
Well firstly, thank you! I was deeply involved with LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey and am always excited to hear from people who played and enjoyed it. Although people have a tendency to lump the LEGO games together, it’s incredibly important to us that we respect the spirit of our source material with each game, since different licenses change the kind of experience we want to provide. Whereas Laval’s Journey was very much designed to feel like a light and cartoony old-school platformer, and LEGO Jurassic World was about adrenaline and atmosphere, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is an explosive action adventure game with big set pieces, numerous characters and innovative features. The continuing trend with all of our projects is to listen to what fans want, and that is what drives the focus of our core features. The things I heard people asking for after our most recent handheld titles were clear: more types of gameplay, more variety, more characters, more fan service and of course, an open world. We’ve gone down the full checklist this time, and more than any game before, I think LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is giving the fans exactly what they want.
The PSVita’s struggles have been well documented, yet we continue to see LEGO titles arrive and also with a retail presence. Where do you see your support for the Vita, going forward? Is it on a title by title basis?
I am personally a big fan of PSVita; I think it’s a lovely platform with an even lovelier screen, and I’m proud that the LEGO games continue to support the PSVita audience with regular releases. I think the audience for LEGO titles on PSVita is only expanding, and hopefully now that we’re bringing open world New York City to LEGO Marvel’s Avengers on handheld for the first time, it will continue to attract more gamers to the platform.
Are there any games that you enjoy on the PSVita?
I suppose it would be cheating to name a bunch of LEGO games! I absolutely loved Tearaway, an extremely imaginative and elegant game from the reliably lovely Media Molecule. I doubt I can find better adjectives than you’ll find in the hundreds of glowing reviews. I also liked Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Killzone: Mercenary, all of which did a great job of emulating the look and feel of their console versions on the small screen. I really need to try Gravity Rush, I hear that’s a must play.
We would like to thank Steve for his time with this interview! Make sure you follow Steve and TT Games on Twitter for their latest updates. LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers is available now! Stay tuned to The Vita Lounge for a review soon!
This interview first appeared in our January issue of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to our magazine for more exclusive and magazine first content soon!