An Open Letter to Silicon Knights

by Karl Castaneda - October 16, 2010, 12:46 pm PDT
Total comments: 14

Karl throws in his two cents about the upcoming X-Men Destiny from Activision and Silicon Knights.

Dear Silicon Knights,

In the realm of comicdom, there's no team quite as hopelessly, endlessly and shamelessly convoluted as the X-Men. I mean, really, can you even tell me what Cable's powers are without using words like "techno-organic" or "Psi-Matar?"

No, you can't. Nobody can.

With this in mind, even though you've got veteran X-scribe Mike Carey writing the script, I thought you might want a few tips from someone who's been following the rag-tag team of mutants for some time now.

1. Use secondary mutations as a way to level your character up. When Grant Morrison began his run on New X-Men in 2001, one of the best ideas he brought to the mutant table was the idea of secondary mutations, which basically allowed a mutant to take on new powers or a new appearance later on in life. You'd probably recognize it best with a character like Beast (Hank McCoy) who was originally a man with ape-like features and enhanced reflexes and strength, but eventually took on his trademark blue fur and claws after imbibing an experimental solution. He'd change further, however, after sustaining a critical injury - with a little help from fellow mutant Sage, our good buddy Hank went from a big blue gorilla to a bigger, bluer cat. This phenomena has occurred with varying frequency among mutants, with the most recognizable being Emma Frost (who can turn her skin into malleable diamond), Angel (whose blood carries a healing factor) and Iceman (who can actually live as any phase of water, from solid ice to ambient moisture in the air).

Mostly, though, Beast evolved himself some pants

So how can you take advantage of this in the game, you're wondering? Well, if we're to believe the buzz coming out of this past week's New York Comic Con, you're working on an action/RPG in the style of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and its spiritual predecessor series X-Men: Legends. If that's the case, leveling up is obviously going to be a big design focus, so why not incentivize progress with the promise of changing a character's physical form/power set as players make their way through the game.

The trailer and other promotional material makes it clear that we'll be playing as original characters (or "ourselves"), so there isn't even a problem with making it work with continuity. It would even tie in with choosing a path (which I imagine will mirror Ultimate Alliance 2's choice of supporting or fighting against the Superhero Registration Act) - depending on your choice your powers would develop one way or the other. It encourages repeat play-throughs and stresses diverse gameplay.

Speaking of diversity…

2. Be original. Don't pit the forces of Professor Xavier against Magneto and his Brotherhood of (Occasionally) Evil Mutants. I can't really stress enough how played out Professor X vs. Magneto is. The movies have done it, the comic books have done it, changed their mind and then done it again. The X-Men have since welcomed him into their fold (again), but the point is this: the X-Men have a diverse catalogue of rogues to pick and choose from. The conflict with the Master of Magnetism is just kind of boring at this point.

Please don't do this...

There's plenty to mine from. Why not tackle the classic Dark Phoenix Saga? In it, the X-Men find that Jean Grey's become linked to the Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity of immense power, which of course catches the eye of the diabolical Hellfire Club. The player would have to choose early on in the game whether they'd want to help the X-Men keep Jean under control or join up with the HC and manipulate the Phoenix's vast energy reserve.

Later on in the story, it takes a cosmic turn (and the Hellfire Club's presence takes a bit of a dive), but by taking a few liberties, you could re-insert them as allying with the alien Shi'Ar race, who want to kill Grey after she becomes too wild to control. It's a really iconic X-Men story, and it's one that hasn't been explored too much in video games.

3. Lastly, instead of giving our Create-A-Mutant a hodgepodge of established mutant abilities, give us one or two that really matter. What I'd absolutely hate to see in X-Men Destiny is a character who flies, can shoot optic blasts and sprout metal claws from their forearm. What made the early X-books so interesting was seeing how each character learned to develop their one ability into a combat style. And don't be afraid to get weird with it. Take a look at Beak, who before being depowered by the events of M-Day had the features and comparative abilities of a chicken. You might not think much of him at first, but since he had hollow bones, he was able to glide and float over small distances, not to mention he had greatly enhanced agility and endurance. Given the chance, I'd love to imbue my own character with something similarly goofy that ultimately becomes an asset. What I'm getting at here is that I want to see the opposite of this:

You'd think the power of teleportation would make the oversized and easily-shootable wings irrelevant, but here we are...

As I mentioned above, creating a game around the X-Men can be difficult - there's decades of continuity, roster changes and character motivations to wade through, and finding the good stuff can be hard when there's so much undesirable baggage to be found. But if you think outside the box a little and get away from the tropes that've held previous releases back, you might just find yourselves some dynamite material.

Good luck,

An optimistic X-fan.


NWR_KarlKarl Castaneda, Contributing EditorOctober 16, 2010

Hope you guys enjoy possibly the nerdiest thing I've ever written for NWR.

StratosOctober 16, 2010

After reading that I wish you were involved with this project.

Hmm, I guess that the second game in the Too Human trilogy is on hold then.

NWR_KarlKarl Castaneda, Contributing EditorOctober 17, 2010

X-Men Destiny is likely an effort to scrounge up capital for SK's next game. After Too Human, I doubt publishers are lining up to give them a huge advance on their next release. Destiny's a safe bet with fast turnaround. From a business point of view, it's really sound.

Seriously, if you want a new Eternal Darkness/Too Human, this is the best thing you could hope for at this point. This game's going to have a really nice built-in audience, so it's almost a forgone conclusion that it'll sell well. It'll put SK back towards the black, and it'll give them a lot more leverage when they're negotiating their next deal with a publisher.

TJ SpykeOctober 18, 2010

Maybe it's because I don't read comics, but what did they do to Beast? Turning him into a cat is stupid.

With the flop that was Too Human, I guess financially they had to do this game for Activision Blizzard.

Nice read, and a good example of why comics are so conmplicated (i guess after 40+ years they are like soap operas in that it's hard to think of storylines that haven't already been done before).

NWR_KarlKarl Castaneda, Contributing EditorOctober 18, 2010

Ehhh, the X-Men aren't really indicative of comics as a whole - it really doesn't get any more complicated than it does in the various X-books. Comics as a whole are a lot easier to get into than people usually give them credit for.

As for the same things over and over again, I'd disagree with that, too. I read between 10 and 20 issues a week, and I see new and interesting stories all the time.

Oh, and as for Beast, they sort of justify it by saying that his mutation is causing him to become more and more feral. The idea is that he'll just keep getting more and more beastly (no pun intended) until he doesn't even have human features anymore.

TJ SpykeOctober 20, 2010

Quote from: NWR_Karl

As for the same things over and over again, I'd disagree with that, too. I read between 10 and 20 issues a week, and I see new and interesting stories all the time.

I meant in a particular series. For example, it can't be easy to coming up with a new story for Superman after being around for 78 years.

MarioIsFrenchOctober 21, 2010

karl, you drew that picture of the mutant chick? bad ass man!

NWR_KarlKarl Castaneda, Contributing EditorOctober 22, 2010

Wha? No way, man. I have zero artistic talent. That's actually a real cover that David Finch drew during a recent crossover event. Rogue had to absorb the powers of a bunch of different mutants and ended up looking like... well, that.

Karl used to do these really impressive comics on the Game Informer forms (BACK in the day). I always looked forward to reading them. Karl has a great sense of storytelling and his strategic use of specific imagery was always really great in those comics.

Do you still have those, Karl? I'd like to read them again, and they don't exist on the GI forums anymore, or at least, I'm not willing to slog through their new settup.

NWR_KarlKarl Castaneda, Contributing EditorOctober 22, 2010

Sadly, they're all lost to the void. The Photobucket account that they were all hosted on lapsed, so there's no way to retrieve them, unfortunately. This past Christmas I thought about doing a new one (a Very Game Informer Christmas, where I'd re-tell A Christmas Carol with forum members), but I lost interest after doing like 10 pages. That's pretty much all I have left, in addition to some other half-started projects (like Adventures of the Masked Moderator, etc etc).

It's kind of a shame, because I can turn an issue into a .CBR and make it readable like a real comic book now.

Kytim89October 22, 2010

I will e keeping an eye on this game because I want to see Silicon Kinights rise from the ashes and be a top tiered developer(for Nintendo) once again after their fal from grace with Too Human.

ArbokOctober 24, 2010

God I miss Ape beast...

In respects to #2, I'm fully anticipating this will be the X-Men versus the Brotherhood. The trailer already shows Magneto and a bridge being destroyed ala X-Men Last Stand.

That said, it would be cool if they added in the current state of the X-Men, and made the choice of "which side" more engaging. Right now, the X-Men have three view points:

- Professor X's more pacifist view
- Cyclops' middle of the road view, where he's not afraid to kill (ala X-Force)
- Magento's more extremist view

All are X-Men right now, and it would be neat if one gets to inadvertently pick which is leader based on their actions to see which view point best fits your character actions

chabNovember 29, 2010

:)Karl,you got it right.:):)

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