Marvel’s Avengers Game Director Reflects on Character Design Backlash

The creative director of Marvel's Avengers talks us through his pre-release experiences, including fan backlash over the character designs.

Shaun Escayg is the creative director and writer for the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers, which is being developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montréal with Square Enix serving as the title’s publisher. And at a special Marvel’s Avengers event that was hosted by Virgin Media in London, Den of Geek was lucky enough to sit down with Escayg for a quick chat about his game’s journey so far.

One of the biggest steps in the game’s pre-release marketing campaign came in June 2019, with the reveal of the first trailer at E3 2019, as fans around the globe tuned in online to see what this Avengers experience was all about. There were plenty of positive reactions, but there was also a vocal section of fans who expressed their concern that Earth’s mightiest heroes didn’t look right in the game footage, despite this being a brand new continuity that isn’t related in any way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Escayg explained during our chat that he saw this reaction coming: “Well, we anticipated that that would be our first hurdle, right? First [we had] to get our original story out there, and educate the fans. You know, a lot of people came in, and the movies were their first introduction to the Avengers. But there’s been 80 years of Marvel history, and a lot of people forget, but the first movie, there was a lot of backlash with the movie – like, ‘That’s not Iron Man, and that’s not Thor.’ So [we knew] we would face the same things.”

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The game’s second major trailer, which revealed the teen superhero Ms. Marvel (aka Kamala Khan) as a key playable character, was another major point in the marketing machinations. 

“I think, as soon as we started to reveal more of our story, and Kamala Khan being sort of the center of it and that driving force, people started to realize, ‘Oh, this is something different.’ And that’s when, you know, we’re starting to reach our audience now. So, we’re pretty excited.”

Gradually trickling out information, way ahead of the game’s release, was always part of the plan.

“Yeah, it was part of the strategy to slowly, you know, get fans of the franchise in our court to see the stories we’re telling, and that it’s bigger than the movies – it’s drawing from history of, you know, 80 years of Marvel Comics history.”

Elaborating on that point, Escayg referenced specific comics and creators that have inspired the game: “I mean, a lot of the stuff, we went right back to its roots – the old [Jack] Kirby days, and even some of our designs, and even our storytelling is… I mean, personally, I’m pretty influenced by the Marvels series [of comics from 1994, which was written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Alex Ross], and the Phil Sheldon character that sees these adventures of these dangerous beings and this conflict. So that was part of the inspiration for this particular story.”

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How does Escayg feel about that expectation and pressure? He thinks the big challenge is living up to not only the recent movies but also all of Marvel Comics history.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” he admits. “And you know, I think we’re up to the challenge. We’re certainly going to double down on it, for sure.”

As far as keeping fans excited for the game goes, Escayg teases that there are more reveals coming leading up to the release of the game. 

“I’m sure there’s gonna be more stuff,” Escayg says. “And there’s a lot that we haven’t revealed that you will experience on the stick when you get the game in your hands. This is literally just the tip of the iceberg. The story’s way more in-depth than I think people are aware of, and Kamala’s role in the Avengers has way more effect than I think people are aware of, as well.”

Marvel’s Avengers will launch on May 15 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia. We also talked to Escayg about the game’s version of Captain Marvel and Ant-Man. Give it a read here!