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).
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.
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:
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.
An optimistic X-fan.