Stephane Gravel interview: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

As Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions nears release, we spoke to producer Stephane Gravel to find out what we can expect from the finished game...

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a game we’ve covered in some detail in recent months here on Den Of Geek, with our very own Michael Leader providing some in-depth interviews with the some of the game’s producers in June and April.

After numerous so-so attempts to create a videogame starring the web-slinging superhero, Canadian developer Beenox is attempting to create a game that truly captures the magic of Marvel’s comic books. Shattered Dimensions takes place across four different dimensions, each based on a particular comic book iteration of Spider-Man – Amazing, Noir, Marvel 2099, and Ultimate universes – each with its own unique visual style.

Even in our all-too-brief hands-on with the Noir and Ultimate universes, we got a fair impression of just how contrasting each dimension will be. The Noir universe offers a stark, almost MadWorld-like black-and-white aesthetic, and the sequence we played involved Depression-era Spider-Man stealthily taking down enemies in what appeared to be a dilapidated rail yard, rescuing civilians imprisoned in train carriages and rushing them back to a checkpoint.

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The Ultimate universe, meanwhile, is awash with primary colours, and revels in combo-based combat along the lines of God Of War. Where the first section required a modicum of patience and strategy, this dimension is gleefully violent, as the notably more athletic Ultimate Spider-Man cuts a swathe through an army of giant robots and zombie soldiers, before the preview ended with a fleeting, in-your-face glimpse of self-regenerating villain, Carnage.

So, while our hands-on with Shattered Dimensions was a short one, it gave us real taste of the huge array of characters the game will feature, which include no fewer than sixteen villains, including Scorpion, Juggernaut, Sandman and Goblin, as well as the varied styles of gameplay we can expect.

And in our interview with Shattered Dimensions producer, Stephane Gravel, we got a further taste of what Spider-Man fans can look forward to in the finished game…

It’s really cool that you’ve got these four Spider-Man universes all packed into one game. Is there a kind of narrative thread that ties them all together?

Yes. We just revealed it at the San Diego Comic Con. At the beginning of the game, Mysterio, a well-known Spider-Man foe, is trying to steal an artifact called the Tablet of Order and Chaos. But during their tussle, Spider-Man basically ends up shattering that artifact into multiple pieces, and those pieces get scattered in different dimensions.

Then you have Madame Web, another well-known supporting character, explain to Spider-Man that he has to team up with other versions of himself in order to pick up those pieces to make sure that they restore order in those four universes.

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And did you have to consult Marvel? Did you work closely with them when working on the story?

Yeah. In fact, we had the idea about the four different worlds really early on, but what we were missing was how we would tie those up. And then we approached Marvel and showed them the concept, and they were really enthusiastic about it. They put us in contact with Dan Slott, who is one of the current writers on The Amazing Spider-Man.

So, from the very beginning, Slott was involved with the process of creating the story, and designing the powers for the villains, because when a villain gets a piece of the tablet, he gets new powers as well.

And those new powers were designed with the help of Dan Slott and Marvel in order to make sure that, even though they have some powers that they don’t have in the comic books, they still feel like something that’s coming from the Marvel Universe. So, it stays authentic to the spirit of the character.

From a technical standpoint, what game engine does Shattered Dimensions use? Is it your own?

We have our own engine, which we’ve been working on for a long time. We published the Bee Movie gameand also Monsters Vs. Aliens, so we’ve been iterating on that engine for a long time now. With that engine we’re able to do all those different render styles, and we have rigid boy physics and a lot of other stuff.

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That was our freedom, that if we wanted to make a change in the game we can just change the code ourselves.

We’ve seen the Xbox 360 version here today. What differences are there likely to be between the versions? Is the Wii version going to be very different because of its hardware?

The Wii version will offer the same experience – the same levels, the same gameplay. There are a few gameplay [elements] exclusive to the Wii because of the Wii remote and the nunchuck, but otherwise you get to play the same game. Of course, because of the less powerful hardware, the visuals are different. It’s still the same essence, in that you get four different art styles. It’s not a cheap version of Shattered Dimensions. It’s exactly the same.

With those four different styles, were you influenced by any specific Marvel artists for each one?

There was no specific artist, but we did buy a lot of comic books, and we used those as reference material. So, early on when we were working on those art styles, we really wanted to make sure that it would look like a comic book specific to that universe. So, Spidey Noir does look like the comic books he’s based on – same thing for Ultimate and Amazing.

The 2099 section respects the essence [of the comic] but we wanted a futuristic look, but the comics of the 90s didn’t have the same vision of the future we have now. So, basically, we pushed that even further, so we respected the concept, we respected the essence, but we just made it, basically, more futuristic looking.

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Is this the final build of the game, or the preview build?

It’s not the final build, but it’s toward the end, so some small bugs may remain, but most of the polish is done, though.

So, what can we expect from the fourth universe, which we’ve not seen yet today?

For each universe, we have the same essence, but you have different objectives and locations. You don’t play the same location twice in the game. You’ll have to rescue civilians and collect stuff. There’ll be a lot of variety.

Stephane Gravel, thank you very much!

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is due for release on 7 September for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and DS, with a PC version to be announced.

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