Interview: Uncanny X-Men Days of Future Past lead developer Eric Dalrymple

screen568x568With today’s highly anticipated release of X-Men: ays of Future Past, the X-Men craze has reached a fever pitch! Along with the highly anticipated movie, Marvel and Ottawa’s very own Glitchsoft have released a mobile game that will have fans clawing for more!

We sat down with Glitchsoft Co-Founder and Uncanny X-Men Days of Future Past lead developer Eric Dalrymple and asked him about working with Marvel, the plight of the “movie-game” tie-in, and what fans can expect from his company’s title. Check out our Ottawa Comiccon interview below!

Nerd Reactor: Eric, take us through this X-Men: Days of Future Past game.

Eric Dalrymple: As a lot of people know there is a Days of Future Past Marvel movie that’s coming out, and at Glitchsoft we were looking for another [intellectual property] that we could make a game out of coming out from He-Man that we did in collaboration with Mattel. We had some X-Men fans at the office and X-Men is a very good property; it’s exciting to work with and has a very good fan base. Days of Future Past is one of the most beloved timelines or universes, I should say, in the X-Men franchise, and it hasn’t been touched that much in recent days, which is probably why they decided to make the movie. As a lot of people know, the movie does depart a little bit from the official storyline where Wolverine goes back in time instead of Kitty Pryde. We approached Marvel and said “Can we make a Days of Future Past game?” and things just went on from there. Our game is based more on the comic as opposed to this alternate storyline that the movie uses.

KittyandWolverine

NR: What kind of game can fans expect?

Eric D: I think what best describes the genre really quickly is kind of a 2D beat ’em up. So you have the choice of selecting any number of heroes. We’re starting out with five of them so there are Wolverine and Shadowcat. We’ll have Scarlet Witch, Cyclops and Colossus. Colossus is the third main one with additional characters being provided in updates. It’s a level-based format and you can swap characters in and out mid-level and there are grunt enemies, bosses, various abilities that you can unlock by gathering XP. You can also upgrade abilities after you’ve unlocked them to make them more powerful or to use them in a different way like “Okay now this attack works in the air” and stuff like that. There’s a lot of platforming involved as well. It’s not just a horizontal plane that you walk across, it’s not like Double Dragon or the classic X-Men arcade game. You get to jump around, platform, and deal with obstacles to get to a place. There are lots of discovery involved, there are hidden lore pieces that you can unlock across all the levels. You get a completion percentage and you have a different set of screens where you can see the lore that you’ve gotten so comic book covers, concept art for the game, character bios, etc.

NR: It must be really interesting working alongside Marvel; not many game studios get to do that. What were some of the bigger challenges when you were adapting that intellectual property or translating it from a comic book into a game?

Eric D: Well obviously there are many concerns. First off we don’t want to disappoint the fans. Marvel doesn’t want to disappoint the fans either, right? So we really had to work closely with Marvel making sure that everything we put in the game is brand approved. Obviously sometimes there are minor concessions that have to be made.

*Interview interrupted by Dalek cosplayers walking by*

NR: Our interview is being invaded by Daleks.

Eric D: I think I fear for my life.

NR: We’ll just get the X-Men to help us. I’m sure Colossus can take on a Dalek right?

Eric D: [Laughs] That being said, working with Marvel I don’t think was that difficult, we both understood what needed to be done.

ColossusNR: How long has this project been ongoing and has everything been pretty much on schedule or have their been some hiccups here and there?

Eric D: We started working full board in the fall, I think either October or November? It’s all a blur now, we’ve been so busy. Whenever we start any project we have very big ambitions, X-Men was no exception. No development process is entirely smooth so obviously some features had to be dropped that we couldn’t put in. It’s very disappointing on our side but people don’t play your broken dreams, they play the game they’re buying. I think there’s a lot there to enjoy and you know we’ve had very great feedback [at Comic-Con]. Really happy to hear it because we’ve been working really hard on it so it’s nice and stuff.

NR: You touched on it a bit earlier, that the game is going to tie into a movie release. The movie video game genre is not necessarily successful. You look at a lot of video games in the past that have been released with a movie, and people think they’re rushed. How do you get people over that kind of mindset?

Eric D: I think, and again I don’t know for sure, but I think the amount of publicity and stuff that comes with the movie will make people search for that just intrinsically. Like “Oh, what more can I get? “[X-Men: Days of Future Past] and we’re going to come up. Whether they buy it or not is a different story, but I think when they do discover us, it’s going to be like “Oh wow, this is actually based on the comic” and they’re going to try it out. The barrier to entry is pretty low, you know for the price of a coffee, you get the game so they might try it out. Also what you say about movie games and their reputation are very true, but if you look in the case of, you know, Batman: Arkham Asylum, hugely successful. Again not based on any movie, just going back to the roots of the franchise and it’s an excellent product and a lot of fans appreciate it, so I’m really hoping that’s going to be the case for our game as well.

NR: So it’s going to be released for iOS and eventually on Android. Do you have preference of whether you like to play on your tablet or on your cell phone? Is it optimized for one or the other? Was that a challenge, trying to get it to work for both? Sometimes with some games on your phone you’re trying to push a button and they’re right next to each other.

Eric D: My personal preference — I like to play it on the tablet just because it’s a bigger screen; you get the ‘Wow’ factor. That being said, the control schemes that we’ve chosen are kind of optimized to work on both. Performance wise, it’s hardware based so if the phone or the tablet are as powerful, you won’t see a difference. It hasn’t been particularly optimized to play better on a tablet or a phone, but we did make a few adjustments so that the button is more reachable on the tablet. Obviously you know you need a bit more space on the phone screen if it’s like, “Oh this button’s too close to that other button” and you press it by mistake, but then when you go to the tablet then it’s like “Okay, well we scaled it but then the button is too far,” so we have to compensate for that scaling. That being said, people should have a great experience on either type of device.

scarletNR: Now without giving too much away, is there a specific moment in the game or a specific moment you had when making the game you consider your favourite? Whether it’s a character feature, their design, the way they look, the way they fight. Anything like that?

Eric D: My favourite moments in the game, and this might be a bit vague, but when you’re developing the game you tend to ‘know it’ quite a bit. You’re like “Oh I know what happens when I’m going to do this or whatever,” but there were a lot of times when I’m playing through a level with a character and I was like, “Oh I can chain these moves like this and it feels fantastic!” I can jump and down stomp and go to the other guy and do like a down smash and just pummel him. Or it’s like when you figure out a trick to beat a boss particularly efficiently and you’re like, “Oh man, I owned that guy!” It’s just like all these moments that are kind of unplanned but feel really great and there are a lot of those. That’s my favourite part of it, the customization of your actions: How you combo, what order you do things. Exploration is also up there. I designed only a few levels, we had a level designer do most of them and he put some clever trickery in there and sometimes you just discover something and you feel so special and that’s definitely one of my favourite things in the game.

NR: So obviously one of the biggest challenges especially with a mobile games is that the game says “Free to Play,” but once you get in you can’t really advance in the story or game without either tediously playing the game over and over again or making in-app purchases. I understand that’s not the case with your game?

magnetoEric D: That’s right. Our game is a one time purchase. You’ll pay for the download and then once you install it everything is good to go. There are no in-app purchases. I think there’s a certain frustration that comes sometimes with all these games on the marketplace where people have this certain expectation of what they’re going to be able to do in the game and they get in there and hit a pay-wall. Either they have to grind it for hours or they have to pay the extra dough to get at the things and then it ends up costing  more than actually downloading game. So we really wanted to give people a break. We’re going to go for volume, the more installs we get the better. There might be in-apps in the future, that’s undetermined but for now everything is accessible.

NR: In terms of updates, is there anything you can let us know about ahead of time?

Eric D: I can tell you that the first update for people who have purchased the game, we don’t expect that there will be in-apps in that one either but you’ll get bonus characters that’s a guarantee. Some of them are visible through the character selection screen and you can get a little preview of those. We’re not a hundred percent sure how we will be introducing them yet. So maybe there can be an expectation of more levels as well. Probably additional bosses and that’s the scope of what we have planned at the moment for the first update anyways. After that we can see how fans respond and see how we can please everyone better.

NR: It sounds like Marvel and X-Men fans have a lot to look forward to. I wish you all the success in the world. Hopefully it’s a very successful launch!

Uncanny X-Men Days of Future Past is available for purchase in the app store, with an Android version coming out soon! You can check out the awesome trailer below!

Photo credit: iTunes

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