The Challenges Of Creating A Free-Roaming Spider-Man Game

By Ishaan . June 1, 2012 . 12:30pm

The Amazing Spider-Man is Beenox’s third Spider-Man game. As a result, they were afforded a fair few creative liberties, such as being allowed to set the game after the events of the upcoming movie and including characters like the Black Cat. It’s also their first free-roaming Spider-Man game, where you get to swing around Mahattan as you please.


With this knowledge in mind, we asked Beenox Studio Head, Dee Brown, a few quick questions about how they designed the world and missions, and also about the Nintendo 3DS and Wii versions of the game, which won’t be free-roaming like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions.


When you’re designing an open-world Spider-Man game, how is it different from designing an open world game like GTA or Red Dead Redemption? What kinds of details do you need to think about while designing the city?


Dee Brown, Studio Head, Beenox: Throughout free-roaming experience in The Amazing Spider-Man, Beenox has worked super-hard to bring the city of Manhattan to life. There will be similarities and differences to all other games out there, but two of the biggest differences are the amount of interior missions that we use to help tell the story, and the outdoor world where Spider-Man’s powers, speed and agility can really shine.


When we designed the objectives throughout the game, the key was to always focus on Spider-Man’s unique powers. As a character, Spider-Man is all about agility, balance, coordination and what we call “go anywhere” gameplay that is different from almost any other game out there. This gives players the ability to literally go anywhere they want to, at any time, making the process of creating environments much more complicated than if there was just a ground-plane and a couple pre-specified overhead observation points. It also creates unique challenges for things like cameras, etc.


In Manhattan this posed a unique challenge since the city needed to look beautiful at any level, whether it be on the ground fighting thugs, on the roof-tops engaging snipers, or base-jumping from the top of Oscorp Tower. We constantly had to be sensitive to the limitations of the hardware which would have been much simpler to manage if we could keep the player within 1-2 stories of the street.


Web Rush ability aside, how is the regular web-swinging in The Amazing Spider-Man different from past open-world Spider-Man games like, say, Web of Shadows? What sorts of tweaks do you make while designing and animating that part of the game?


One of the key pillars in The Amazing Spider-Man game was the notion of making the player feel like they really are Spider-Man. That means that we wanted to offer a much closer perspective on the main character. When you look at games like Web of Shadows or even other Spider-Man games, the experience felt more like you were controlling Spider-Man from afar. That’s something that we focused a lot on with the web swing in particular, and it translates really well into the game.


When you get your hands on the controller, it’s immediately obvious just by looking at how we designed the camera perspective. Instead of the camera being really far away from the main character, it is actually much closer. Especially when you are web swinging, you are much closer to the character which makes you feel the vertigo effect as you’re swigging through the streets of Manhattan. It’s a significant improvement from past Spider-Man games and something unique for the license.


We also use several different web swing systems depending on the types of environment that you are playing in. Each has different strengths, and it transitions seamlessly in the background so that the player never realizes that the mechanic has totally changed out from under them. The transitions are truly seamless, and the end-result is a completely refreshed web-swing experience.


How closely do you collaborate with Sony Pictures or Marvel staff that are working on the movie? How much access do you have to the film itself, and what kinds of dos and don’ts do you have to adhere to while adding new characters like the Black Cat?


Right from the start, it was very important to us to have our game stand out on its own and not rely too much on the movie. At the same time, we still wanted to be true to the movie universe. In the beginning of the production we met with the staff from Sony Pictures and Marvel quite frequently, including Mark Webb and several key production staff members at Sony. The goal of our time together was to have a better understanding of how they were going to handle the Spider-Man universe in the new movie.


It was at that moment that we understood that they were going to take a much more grounded approach to Spider-Man as a Super Hero. As we progressed through the production and the scripts for the movie and the game grew ever closer to being finalized, we were able to become more independent and develop our unique contributions to the game. Every time we introduced a new character like Felicia Hardy or Rhino to this Marvel / Sony universe, we worked with both of them very closely to craft a new origin story for each character. The Amazing Spider-Man is our third game with Marvel, so we have developed a great working relationship with them along the way.


Car chases and bank robberies are two kinds of side missions in the game that you can encounter while swinging around. What others can you tell us about?


There is one particular character that is really cool! He’s kind of an extreme reporter who is flying all over Manhattan in a blimp. This character will give you all sorts of cool crazy extreme sport moves, stunts and races to perform as Spider-Man, which is really fun and it will test your web-swinging and Web Rush abilities and showcase how good you are at getting around the city.


Another one that we can tell you about is that even though this character is not a reporter in this new rebooted universe, a series of events will end up with Peter getting his hands on a journalist’s camera. With great photography comes great responsibility, and Peter finds himself tasked with a bunch of photo missions and objectives, both indoors and out, where Peter will feed reporters with images for various stories and conspiracies throughout the game.


What is the Nintendo 3DS version of The Amazing Spider-Man like? Retailer descriptions say that only the HD versions are open-world. Will the 3DS version be close to the console versions at all?


The Amazing Spider-Man for the Wii and for the 3DS is actually based of the same code base and game assets which means that they share the same gameplay.


All players will get to experience the story, and of course, Spidey’s iconic web-swinging. We’ve optimized the experience on the Wii and 3DS to take advantage of their unique platform differences and motion controls, which means that players will have a different experience with the game on those platforms.


While the Wii and 3DS versions won’t have Spidey “roaming” between story missions, there are still plenty of collectibles, unlockables, and in-game challenges awaiting the wall-crawler, on top of large areas to sling through and intense combat with numerous enemy types. The Wii takes combat and web-slinging to new levels of immersion thanks to its motion controls, and the 3DS version will also have several unique mini-games that use its touch-screen.  The NDS version follows the same storyline, but is an entirely different game with platforming elements.


If held side-by-side, all of the “level based” missions are very similar to what will ship on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms, just optimized to fit the Nintendo platforms’ unique capabilities.

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  • Solomon_Kano

    Interesting stuff. It’s looking like Beenox is gonna deliver here, so I can’t wait to play this.

  • digitaldevil0

    What I want to know is will Spider-man be voiced by Garfield or Christopher Daniel Barnes. I’m hopeful that Barnes will voice Spidey, since this team’s previous games (Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time) had Barnes. He’ s still the voice I identify Spider-man with. Not that huge of a marvel fan, so I didn’t play SR or EoT, but I’m going to give this one a try, seeing as it seems to blend Arkham City’s gameplay with Spider-man 2.

    Edit. Or atleast he voiced Spider-man noir and Miguel O’Hara a.k.a Spider-man 2099.

  • theoriginaled

    I have a couple of problems with the points he makes. 
    1)Honestly I thought Prototype, and Infamous both handled a 3d free roaming world pretty well. Sure GTA and RDR are pretty ground based, but in Infamous and Prototype they are literally letting you run up walls and fly off into space at a moments notice… so its not like theyre doing anything HUGELY revolutionary in allowing you Spiderman’s free access to the city top.
    2)”When you get your hands on the controller, it’s immediately obvious just by looking at how we designed the camera perspective. Instead of the camera being really far away from the main character, it is actually much closer. Especially when you are web swinging, you are much closer to the character which makes you feel the vertigo effect as you’re swigging through the streets of Manhattan.”This actually is one of the things that bothers me with console gaming these days in general the FOV is skewed so freaking tight that the character youre controlling takes up half the screen at any given time. I understand that they do that because the average console gamer is sitting across the room instead of right in front of the monitor and they need to see what theyre doing, but here he is, telling me that its somehow more immersive if spiderman’s ass is blocking half the screen while Im swinging through the city? Im sorry that just doesnt jive for me.

    • Guest

      1. They have to talk like that because: A. They have to hype their game. B. It is the first time they are tackling free roam. 
      And its not like Spider-Man 3 didnt have to deal with these issues either.

      2.I’m fine with it. I actually agree with them and can see this working. I dont like distant cameras in video games. Also your ‘ass blocking half the screen’ is a bit exxagerated..

  • Xapth

    Web-swinging was one of the features I enjoyed the most about these games in the past.

    I would get sidetracked from the main story / missions because I just wanted to swing around everywhere.

    I’m really interested in seeing the new closer perspective they mention, so I can experience the web-swinging vertigo effect for myself!

  • heartless141

    I’m pleased so far with all the showing. This might as well topple spidey 2 on ps2 as the best spiderman game ever.

    Sounds like they got the spider part perfected. Now I shall hope the battle system ain’t so shabby. Web of shadow was pretty awesome on that asPect

  • I’m not really digging the Spider-belt.

    • Guest

      I barely notice it. I notice more the way the red parts of his outfit look like its made out of a basketball!  And when has Spider-Man ever had gold eyes? Also his feet look like track shoes..

  • So u cant swing around town with the 3ds.NOT COOL. I was looking forward into buying the game. SHOULD I BUY IT??????????????

  • You don’t get stan lee but you also don’t get to free roam??? A BUNCH of 3ds people would like to buy this game. Untill they find out that they can’t free roam.

    • And I’m one of those people! Real shame, too. I was really looking forward to a free-roaming Spider-Man 3DS game!

  • Guest

    I can understand 3DS, but NDS? Why bother? Seems they are stretching themselves too thin to develop all those games on different platforms. Even Wii. 

    I’d rather they’d have just made this for PS3/360 and for once, give us a NYC thats actually populated instead of a ghost town. THAT’s the hardest thing to do in a sandbox game imo

    • The DS games are usually side-scrolling Metroid-style affairs. They’ve been pretty good so far! Heck, sometimes they’re the safer bet when the console versions go wrong (like with Spider-Man 3).

      • Guest

        Well thats true (I hated Spider-Man 3 but liked Web of Shadows for DS) but I figured at this point since most other developers have moved onto the 3DS, Vita and the consoles and havent been making games for the DS/Wii.

        • Well, the Wii is still a current system (despite popular belief, lol), so I can understand developing for Wii. But why NDS?

  •  “With great photography comes great responsibility, and Peter finds himself tasked with a bunch of photo missions and objectives, both indoors and out, where Peter will feed reporters with images for various stories and conspiracies throughout the game.” Why do I feel like this will take up a large part of the game? Hopefully the plot doesn’t rely heavily on this. 

  • Learii

    can you thorw cars or attack random people? lol

  • Deku-Johnny

     Thank you for this article, you have made up my mind not to waste my money. If there’s any plans for a Wii U Spidey game in the near future then I’ll be ready with cash in hand but until then I’ll pass thanks.

  • WTF? esto me ha decepsionado nomas a las consolas qe tienen mejores graficos le ponen el balanceo libre esto es muy decepcionate por Benox y Activision tan bien qe iban a canselar el balanceo libre para wii y 3ds por favor no lo hechen a perder todos los fans de spiderman qe tienen 3ds o wii qe ya no qieren revivir los tiempos o qe? Activision y Benox estaba asiendo un buen trabajo se qe el wii no tiene mejores graficos pero esto nose puede aser espero qe no hagan esto en serio porqe ban bajar las ventas mi ultimo favor pongan en todas las consolas el balaceo libre 

  • Shame… I was really looking forward to an open world Spider-Man game for 3DS. Oh well. Debating whether I’ll get the 3DS or 360 version (or none at all)… Guess I’ll just wait for the reviews after the game comes out.

  • Jon ‘Jonny’ Preece

    sucky. id rather use the pro controller on wii and have free roam instead of motion controls

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