The history of video game is littered with the corpses of awful titles based on DC Comic's best known super hero Superman. Electronic Arts via their Tiburon studio hope to change that with Superman Returs, their upcoming open world PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360 game that's based on the recent movie but plans to add a lot more for gamers. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's supervisory producer Jeff Peters to find out more about their plans for Superman Returns.
FiringSquad: First, the Superman Returns game was originally going to be released around the time of the movie's release in theaters. What happened that caused the game's delay?
Jeff Peters: Through a series of internal reviews and external playtests, we gradually came to the conclusion that a few more months of development could push our game from 'good' to 'very good' or 'great'. Playtesters really liked what they saw, but they wanted more - more stuff to do, more variety in the buildings, etc. The delay allowed us to spend the summer addressing the feedback received, resulting in a more polished and cohesive gaming experience. Our focus with this product was to always to create the best game possible, and this was a collective decision to allow us to do that.
FiringSquad: This will be EA Tiburon's first non-sports game in quite a while. Was it intimitating for the studio to work on an action game rather than a football title?
Jeff Peters: Think of it as expanding a successful portfolio. It was more a creative challenge than anything else with our goal to take the successful lessons learned while building Madden over the years and branch out into more action-oriented fare. The team was mostly assembled from the ground up by bringing together seasoned action-game developers from within and outside of EA. Most of our designers, for example, had previous action game experience, so these learnings allowed us to overcome the hurdles you face when developing in a particular genre for the first time.
FiringSquad: Superman video games in the past have had a reputation for not reaching their high expectations. Was the team conscious of the history of the previous Superman games to avoid the mistakes of the past?
Jeff Peters: Everyone was very conscious of the history of the previous Superman titles, almost to the point of excluding anything that had a remote association with a previous title! Anyone who brought up the word 'ring' or 'kryptonite gun' risked a possible cube ransack. Inevitably, we did have to include some elements from Superman's gaming past (melee combat, rescuing citizens, etc), but for the most part we stayed away from the clichés that sunk the earlier titles. The main problem with Superman as a video game character is that he's three-games-in-one-guy: flight sim, fighting game, and projectile-based action game. All of these play mechanics are part of Superman at any time (based on who the chararacter is) and creates some design difficulties with making sure none of these areas is more powerful than another, and, on the most simplistic level, you inadvertantly run out of buttons to make all this work together well. He's probably one of the hardest characters to translate successfully to a video game, but I think we found a good mix.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline of the game and how it differs from the movie version?
Jeff Peters: The core storyline mirrors that seen in the film. However, there are several sequences added to the story, which fill in gaps in the film's timeline (for example, what was Superman up to during his time away from Earth?). There are also additional story threads which parallel the movie plot, specifically the introduction of various Supervillains attacking Metropolis. In the end, we finished with about a 50/50 split of movie content and original content, which felt about right.