Future Imperfect

Marvel's Avengers devs reveal their apocalyptic plan to save the struggling game

The Kree are coming.

It’s no secret that Marvel’s Avengers did not meet fans' or critics’ expectations.

Despite a shaky start last September, the game’s developers remain keen on course-correcting with updates that expand everything from the roster to the ongoing story arcs. Narrative Director Nicole Martinez points to the impending Kree Invasion teased in Kate Bishop’s Taking AIM story as the Infinity War-tier story Crystal Dynamics is building towards.

“Everything is leading up to that Kree Invasion,” she tells Inverse. “As we get closer to that, you'll see how things evolve and how characters are preparing for that eventuality.”

The stakes are nothing short of apocalyptic, and the major Future Imperfect update coming on March 18 dives deep into this storyline. “The Avengers know what's coming now,” Martinez adds. “They just have to make sure they’re ready for it.”

Martinez also confirmed Square Enix will share plans for Marvel’s Avengers at the Square Enix Presents Showcase on March 18. Those plans will need to be thorough, as the online action-adventure game is still struggling to build a devoted player base.

While it has a solid single-player campaign, a lack of variety bogs down the multiplayer. The game’s player count quickly dropped after launch despite a passionate community and a truly enviable band. The game’s underperformance hampered Square Enix’s earnings last year, too.

Controversy continues to be the greatest adversary to Marvel’s Avengers. Just this month, developers announced the XP level-up curve would change on March 18, leading to an outpouring of complaints. Despite the backlash, Senior Designer Scott Walters defends this decision. “It’s not meant to extend gameplay time at all,” he argues.

Here’s what Martinez and Walters had to say about the current state of Marvel’s Avengers, Hawkeye’s Future Imperfect update, and what’s in store for the game’s future.

The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How did you ensure that Hawkeye and Kate Bishop didn’t feel too similar?

Martinez: We really tried to pull on the established relationship between Kate and Clint in the comics. While they do have similar senses of humor, they're two very different people, and they have very different relationships with all of the Avengers. Clint is more established. He’s got a history with Black Widow, Cap, and the whole team. Kate is more of a newcomer compared to him. She is a little bit closer with Kamala for that reason. So at least in the story space, they feel very different.

Walters: We developed Kate and Clint in parallel. We were looking at ways to emphasize that Kate is a protégé of Clint, but also to draw distinctions between the two. For Kate, many of her abilities are centered around the AIM tech that allows her to teleport and use quantum energy.

For Clint, we weren't interested in making a clone. Teleporting is not really who Clint is. We looked at his arsenal of arrows and how we could push that. He has more variety with the arrows than Kate does. They both use swords and bows, but they have different fighting styles. She's very graceful and acrobatic.

With Clint, we looked to his period as Ronin as inspiration. He has very deliberate, strong attacks, similar to how a ninja or a samurai would use the sword. He's all about arrows, so all of his defensive abilities revolve around parrying and counter-attacking with arrows. His signature and his power attacks are all arrow-based. Even one of his combo finishers uses an arrow.

We can make a hero extremely quickly and then have it be extremely similar to someone else. Or we can take the time to make sure that each character gets their own unique time to stand out.

Kate Bishop and Hawkeye use similar weapons but play very differently. Square Enix

How does the collaboration process with Marvel work?

Martinez: We talk to them a lot about our story plans and what they would like to see from the characters. We get their take on what's important for each character and some key moments from the comics. We’re all comics fans, so it’s fun to talk about what we love and try to make sure we're bringing that to life.

Walters: We have weekly syncs with them. We’re giving them updates on hero progress and how the combat is shaking out. They’re all about the characters, and they're excellent collaborators. They can point to different comic runs or one-shots. We will often take screenshots of iconic poses that we really want to use for animation, and they give us what would really help capture the character with the animations and the combat styling.

Heading into this update, what’s the most significant piece of feedback you've received from the community?

Walters: Campaign replay! It’s not specifically related to Hawkeye, but we've got many people who love our campaign and would love to play through that again. That feature will be out with this patch. You’ll be able to carry over some of your progress that you unlocked in the post-campaign.

How does the game’s multiplayer focus impact your approach to storytelling?

Martinez: The biggest difference is the storytelling canvas you have to work with. There's a lot more player freedom to wander off and explore. We have to take into account that they're not going to be on this very linear path. We focus a lot on the cinematics and making sure that those hit our big character beats.

Throughout the missions themselves, we’re making sure you’re getting important information when you’re not surrounded by enemies and trying not to die.

Would you consider adding more single-player missions post-launch?

Martinez: Everything’s a possibility!

All of Future Imperfect’s campaign missions are playable with friends. Square Enix

How will the recent changes to XP distribution impact players who want to see everything Hawkeye has to offer?

Walters: I think players should realize that what shipped was a very flat XP curve. Level 1 to Level 2 was the same amount of experience you needed from 49 to 50. There wasn't any adjustment like most games have. When you completed a mission, sometimes you would gain two or three levels.

Then you would go to the skill tree and be like, “What will I spend them on?” and then you’d go to the next mission and be like, “Wait a minute, which ones did I unlock?” We wanted to give players some time with each of those skills and figure out how they all fit and work together. We’re adjusting the curve so it's not flat.

It's not like we're doubling the amount of time you need to hit max level. Players will be surprised at how little that turns out to be in terms of additional gameplay that's required. It's just meant to change the loop on that. It was really just trying to give players a little bit more breathing room between each skill purchase. It's not meant to extend gameplay length at all.

What new quality-of-life tweaks can dedicated players expect from this update?

Walters: So we have a new location, The Wastelands. This is our first entry point that we can start adding additional activities to as well. As we go on, this will be a new play space for players to engage with.

Martinez: We also have customizable HARM rooms. We're trying to give players the ability to go in and mess around with their different heroes and their different abilities and see how they want to play in a safe test environment. Hopefully, there’ll be more activities to keep people entertained.

Marvel’s Avengers comes to PS5 and Xbox Series X on March 18, 2021.

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