My name is Nathan Elliott, and I am an administrator here at the Marvel Database.
I am a big fan of the Marvel: Avengers Alliance flash game (MAA) and at SDCC 2013, I was able to catch up with the game's producer, Justin Woods after his Marvel Video Games panel.
I knew this might be a possibility, so I asked the MAA Wiki admins (or at least one of them) for some questions to pose to him (though I already had many of my own). So here's a listing of the questions I talked with him about and some of his answers:
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance (MAA)'s sister game, Avengers Initiative has had a somewhat questionable status for quite awhile now. Even the website interlinking both games, Marvel XP seemed to have taken a hiatus. What is the status of these products, and what is planned for them in the future? -- Mckrongs (paraphrased)
- This question was actually asked and answered in the Marvel Video Games panel. Avengers Initiative was well liked at Marvel, but wasn't financially pulling in enough funding to keep it viable. It is discontinued and Marvel XP is in transition. It was suggested that the Thor 2 game whose trailer was shown in the panel would make a perfect replacement for any desire to play Thor content.
- As a follow-up to this, I suggested to Mr Woods that he recommend someone put out an 'officially cancelled' memo explaining that these things will no longer be supported and what the conclusion(s) to the story(ies) would have been.
- In order to better explain who I was and who I was speaking for, I inquired to Mr. Woods if he and his team were aware of this wiki's existence and what their view of the site was. It was also asked if there were plans on creating something like this site officially by PD. -- Mckrongs (paraphrased)
- Mr. Woods was very happy to say that his entire team uses the Wiki on a fairly routine basis, and are thrilled that a community of fans enjoy their work to this extent. They have no plans to attempt to re-create the hard work and dedication this site has devoted to their content.
- The MAA Wikians are avid collectors of Artworks and sprites from the game and are interested in a partnership with Playdom (PD) where some or all of the images could be provided to the wiki while giving credit back to PD for the images that are used. -- Mckrongs (paraphrased)
- As stated before, Mr. Woods is a big fan of the wiki himself and liked the idea very much. He will be taking it back to his team to see if or how it could be implemented.
- What is the situation with Angel? -- Peteparker (me)
- There is a team working on specifically working on how to resolve this issue. We wouldn't feel right about taking this character away from anyone who had spent actual money fast-training or adding iso to this character, so we'll be looking for another way to give the adamantium winners the reward they deserve.
- What kinds of things are changing in Season 2? -- Peteparker (me)
- Almost everything is changing, except for the underlying battle sequences. We wanted to make the game new again for players who have been with us for a long time now, and adding new and interesting facets to the game like relationships is going to do exactly that. One feature that I am particularly excited about is being able to fight without your agent. Individual, hero-on-villain showdowns will finally be a real possibility.
The following questions were submitted too late to be asked directly, but I will do my best to answer with what I personally know based on the long conversation I had with him. If more clarity is needed on any of the answers, please let me know and I'll do my best to get a better answer directly from the source.
- How are you getting on with the bug fixes that I assume are on their way? -- Shadowhopeful
- MAA staff are working daily on bug fixes to both existing problems as well as problems with future content. In most cases, reasons for delays associated with content releases have to do with ironing out the bugs caught at the last minute.
- How much direction do you get from Marvel/Disney on what content to add? How much is left up to you? -- Potkettleblack
- The MAA staff has a very close partnership with Marvel and every decision regarding future content is green-lit by them or it doesn't happen.
- What factors go into picking a new character to add to the game? Hero or villain. Or even goons/redshirts/thugs. -- Potkettleblack
- Many factors go into picking characters for the game. One of the most common question Mr. Woods gets is, "Why isn't ______ in the game yet, he's a MAJOR character!" The answer there is that they don't want to bring out all of the major players right from the get-go, but want to have a long and happy story to tell for all of their players. So all of those major characters that are missing will eventually be in the game, but some B and C list ones have to fill the gaps to continue to make the content interesting.
- How much testing goes into various features before implementation? There are too many hero combos to test every one, much less agent gear/hero combos, obviously, but what do you do to keep new additions from breaking the game. -- Potkettleblack
- Several steps are taken to make every effort to find and remove bugs prior to the release of new content. However, since the programming team are human and can't catch everything, unexpected results sometimes make their way through the cracks. The code is run through line by line several times before release, the game is played by members of the PD team as often as possible, and metrics are analyzed regarding the use of each character, weapon, or character combination, among other things. When a problem arises, the fix is prioritized into a deep list of goals for the programming team. If it is severe enough, it will rise to the top of that list quickly.
- What's the typical day like for you? Meetings? Programming? Drinking? -- Potkettleblack
- It all depends on the day, but much of his time is used strategist. As there are many timing issues associated with developing new content, often one team encountering delays can lead to several other teams not having enough to do while waiting and then getting slammed to get their piece out the door. Between Story, Artwork, and Programming alone, weeks of work can go into each piece, and if it's not all timed correctly, the game will stop progressing. There's much more fun aspects of his job, including pitching story and character ideas and working with Marvel/Disney directly, but both he and his team are completely committed to delivering new content to the players.
The following questions will be posed to Mr. Woods at a later date. As answers come back to me, I'll report them to the Wiki:
- When adding a new character, how do you determine which aspects of the character to build in? A character like Spiderman seems pretty straight forward, but balancing someone like Fantomex, who in the comics has some level of psychic immunity, might be unbalancing, but, in light of Magneto and Juggernaut, isn't completely off the reservation. How do you weigh the powers described in the comics against the balance of the game? -- Potkettleblack
- If you could undo one decision you made during the first 16 months of the game, what would it be? -- Potkettleblack
- What do you consider the greatest success from the first year? How do you plan on building on that success, if it's not obvious by now (for instance, PVP tournaments)? -- Potkettleblack
- How do you monitor the various websites and forums and groups that discuss the game? Do you mine them for ideas? Do you monitor them as a way of taking the pulse of the game? Personally? -- Potkettleblack
- How cool is it that the game has been the massive success that it's been? Sorry, I had to dork out, but really, did you ever imagine it could be this big? -- Potkettleblack
- With the announced return of Marvel UK heroes, can we possibly expect to see heroes such as Death's Head, Dark Angel, Motormouth, Killpower, and their enemies in the future? And if so, which version of Death's Head would you be inclined towards using, classic, Death's Head II, Death's Head 3.0, or the way he appeared in the Iron Man Godkiller arc recently? --Eganthevile1
Finally, I was able to talk at length with Mr. Woods regarding Season 2. His excitement regarding what they have planned could hardly be contained. There are hopes it will be released before the end of the month, but the team is working as hard as possible to ensure that these major game changes don't break the existing experience.
If you have further questions for him or the PD team regarding this game, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I don't know how many will be able to be answered, but I'll do my best to make sure the most popular ones are asked.
Thank you all, I'm a big fan of your work here as well.