Interviewee(s): Chris Busse
We thank Chris Busse for making time to answer some questions on Activision and Treyarch's upcoming Ultimate Spider-man!
Hi -- please introduce yourself to our readers!
Chris Busse: My name is Chris Busse. I am the Creative Director on Ultimate Spider-Man.
How long has Activision and Treyarch been working on Ultimate Spider-Man?
CB: Initial plans began a little over two years ago, but this was really just the concept phase. Work in earnest started just about two years ago.
When and how did you guys decide that you'd opt for the "comic feel" as opposed to the realistic approach of the previous two titles?
CB: Pretty much from day one. As soon as we realized that we were going to base this title on the Ultimate Spider-Man line of comic books, we knew we had to have a look that emulated them. This was basically the first thing we tackled, truly capturing the look of the books, and I think we succeeded.
Is the city as sprawling and dynamic as it was in last year's Spider-Man 2? Likewise, can the player engage in missions and other little bonus games on a whim?
CB: Though the square mileage isn't quite as large as it was in the previous title, it is much more densely populated. There are city events for the player to engage in during their tours through the city, though it is not the main focus of the game. The storyline that we developed with Brian Michael Bendis, in which the player gets to experience from both the Spider-Man and Venom's perspectives, is the centerpiece of the game.
Does the fact that a slightly younger Spider-Man is the star affect the game play in any way?
CB: Spider-Man in the Ultimate line is a different character than in the Amazing line. He's still a kid in high school who JUST got his powers and isn't really all that good of a fighter. This helped us to key in the basis for our combat, a frenetic combat with Spider-Man doing his best work when he is punching, kicking, and flipping about the area, just like he does in the comics. Toe-to-toe brawling will work; it's just only about a third as effective as mixing it up.
Organic or mechanical web shooters?
CB: Mechanical in the Ultimate universe, and we play with that here and there in the storyline (though the player, when playing as Spider-Man will always have unlimited webbing).
How does Ultimate Spider-Man relate to the comic book of the same name, in terms of continuity? Does it take place between existing issues, or fit in to a storyline that is upcoming?
CB: That's one of the great pleasures of working with Brian Michael Bendis, is that we were able to work to keep the game story within canon of the Ultimate universe. The game centers around the birth of Venom and the impact this has on the Ultimate universe. It launches off from the Venom arc of the books and goes from there.
Now that we're four years into this generation of consoles, developers are more familiar with the hardware. So, what was it like working on the three machines; GameCube in particular?
CB: The nice thing about being on your 2nd, 3rd or even 4th title into a generation of consoles is that you usually aren't taken by surprise anymore. Also, our tech wizards have had more time to squeeze more out of each box. The GameCube has always been a nice set of hardware to deal with, it rarely keeps us up all hours of the night; and that's something all developers appreciate: sleep.
Is Venom completely evil, or is he an anti-hero?
CB: I'm going to steal a quote directly from Bendis on this one, "All will be revealed!"
Does the game debut any new Ultimate villains?
CB: Yes! Again, this was one of the great things about having Bendis and Bagley (Mark Bagley, the artist on Ultimate Spider-Man); we were able to debut a couple of characters that haven't appeared in the Ultimate universe before the game. Working with Bagley on this was a real treat: his speed, creativity, and professionalism are a sight to behold. A few simple words here or there and you'd get a sketch in your email an hour or two later that blew away any notions you had going into it. Great stuff!
What type of "extras" or "bonuses" were added to the game to extend replay value? Anything you can share?
CB: We have a whole slew of unlockable content in the game. A host of additional playable costumes; a complete collection of the comic covers; and pages and pages of artwork: including most all of the sketches done by Bagley for all of the characters in the game.
This is the first Spider-Man title for this generation of consoles not based on one of the movies, which probably gave you a bit more creative freedom. Is this true, and if so, what was it like adding your own extra touches to the license?
CB: While it is not based on the movies, this game was based on the comics, and we wanted to be authentic to that body of work. That's not to say we didn't have creative freedoms though. I believe even in heavily defined licenses there is plenty of opportunity to be creative. Probably the greatest joy for me on this title was working collaboratively with Marvel and the creative team of the comics to generate new storylines, new characters, and growth for already established characters and relationships that people are familiar with from the comic books.
Thank you for your time!
CB: Thank you!
Nintendojo is excited about Ultimate Spider-man's release on GameCube, which is only about a week away! The game will hit the U.S. on September 22, 2005.