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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Interview

Interview with Brad Lansford About Shattered Dimensions DS

by Neal Ronaghan - September 3, 2010, 11:34 am EDT
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Read about how the DS version of Shattered Dimensions will rock your comic book-loving and Metroid-adoring face off.

Griptonite Games managed to make a surprisingly excellent Metroid-esque adventure title in 2008 when Spider-Man: Web of Shadows for DS came out. The game was well-loved by us when we reviewed it, and a few eyes have been on the upcoming DS version of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which comes out September 7.

Brad Lansford, senior designer at Griptonite, is here to tell us all how Shattered Dimensions DS brings about the same style of gameplay as Web of Shadows, but improves on it in a variety of ways. You might be shocked to find out that despite the game's similarities, they are actually running on completely different engines.

Nintendo World Report (NWR): Does this game follow the exploration-based structure last used in Web of Shadows? If so, do the maps for each dimension connect to each other somehow? Was it a challenge to design separate and distinct maps for each dimension?

Brad Lansford (BL): Yes, we were very pleased with how the exploration-based gameplay worked for Web of Shadows, so the team was excited to apply that approach again for Shattered Dimensions. For the new DS game, we have multiple dimensions and new super heroes: Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099, each with new powers that were not available in the last game. All dimensions are still connected in a similar fashion to Web of Shadows, but you’ll need to locate dimensional portals to access to the other dimensions.

We were tremendously excited at the opportunity to design maps for the unique powers of each super hero. For example, the maps in 2099 take advantage of Spider-Man 2099’s glide ability with wide exterior spaces, while the maps in Spider-Man Noir’s dimension utilize winding interiors that require wall-jumping and web-zipping to get around. Lastly, the Amazing Spider-Man’s dimension is focused on web-swinging, but with the added challenge of traversing electrical hazards and classic conveyer belts. We had a lot of fun building the world for Shattered Dimensions DS.

NWR: How does this game differ from previous Spider-Man DS games?

BL: We have three heroes this time around, two of which haven’t been featured in any DS title before: Noir and 2099. With the new super heroes, you’ll immediately see the visual differences between previous DS games.

We added two difficulty options that can be set when you create a new game: Exploration and Combat. Each setting can be set to either Friendly (Easy), Hero (Medium), or Super Hero (Hard) if you want a seriously old-school challenge. So if you aren’t very good at combat, but want to take the hardcore exploration path without much help from the mini-map, you can play it that way by setting Exploration to Super Hero and Combat to Friendly.

We also added awards that can be earned by completing in-game objectives and other requirements. Earning awards unlocks challenge maps, alternate costumes, and new gameplay modes, including Time Trail, Boss Rush, Arcade Mode, Full Arsenal, and Unstoppable Mode. The Bombastic Bag Man alternate costume is awesome. He has glide wings made from paper bags!

We eliminated the experience system this time around, so you won’t feel the need to return into rooms and re-fight enemies to squeeze every last drop of experience out of them. Instead, all upgrades are objective and exploration-based, more like a classic Metroidvania game, so you’ll want to make full use of the new mini-map.

Speaking of which, this time around the mini-map is grid-based, instead of room-based. You’ll find the new mini-map to be indispensible when you’re trying to track down 100 percent of the hidden items or making your way to your next objective.

NWR: How does this game differ from the home console versions?

BL: Quite a bit! The gameplay, maps, music, and the dialogue are all exclusive to the DS version of Shattered Dimensions. In terms of characters, other than Mysterio, we have exclusive super villains. We spent a lot of time digging through Spider-Man’s back catalog of baddies to select a mix of quintessential fan favorites and villains that have been under-represented in video games. Much like Beenox, we also had the opportunity to work with Marvel to create alternates of villains that haven’t yet existed in Noir and 2099. We have a couple surprises in there.

As for the super heroes, the DS version features three heroes instead of four. We put our efforts towards providing unique gameplay experiences for Noir, 2099, and Amazing, rather than include Ultimate Spider-Man. While we’re all fans of the Ultimate Spider-Man, the Black Suit was featured in Web of Shadows, and reducing our super heroes to three gave us a greater opportunity to provide the highest quality experience possible. Black Suit fans will be pleased to hear that you can still unlock the Black Suit for Amazing Spider-Man when you earn the Award for Alternate Costume mode.

NWR: Has the combat system changed? Are there still "kill rooms" and if so, what benefit does that bring to the game design?

BL: The combat system definitely has changed! It has undergone a lot of improvements. Weapons are awesome. Enemies will attack you with ranged weapons, melee weapons, and even thrown weapons that include explosives. All of these can be used against your enemies with Spider-Man’s web. You can web-grab the weapons right out of your enemies' hands and send them flying back! We also added numbers that appear when a character gets hit so you can see immediately how your upgrades and new attacks have improved your damage.

In Shattered Dimensions, you’ll find far fewer rooms where you need to eliminate all of the enemies before you can move on. You’ll encounter a couple combat scenarios related to objectives that require completion, but there are only a few. I could count them on my fingers. We also have special rooms that we call “Conduits” that let you transfer one super hero’s power to another after completing a challenging combat encounter. Not all of the conduits are required, so you get to make the choice when you find them. Do you take on the combat challenge to obtain a power from another super hero? That’s up to you! If you do, you’ll gain access to hidden items that would otherwise be impossible to pick up. Towards the end of the game, your combat skills will be tested against a few challenging enemy combinations that become significantly easier depending on how many hidden items you’ve picked up. Half the fun of playing as Spider-Man is beating up the baddies, so there’s no shortage of minions for you to smack around.

NWR: How did you approach the presentation of each dimension with the limited graphical resources of the DS?

BL: Sure, the DS does have its technical limitations, but it’s all about how you use the resources available. For Shattered Dimensions, we put our early environment concepts towards capturing the look and feel of each era by making conscious choices on the color palettes, lighting, and even our approach to map design. All of these factors aid each dimension in feeling distinct from the previous when you move through a portal. You’ll see this when changing from the dark and subdued colors of the Noir dimension to the 1990s era hues in the 2099 dimension.

NWR: Which dimension was the most fun to work with? Most challenging?

BL: Honestly, there was something fun about all of the dimensions. The 2099 dimension keeps the early 90’s take on near-future sci-fi that we’re fans of, and we love the visual style and super villain minions of the Noir dimension. The conveyer belts, electricity, and robots in the Amazing dimension were an instantly fun way to mix up the classic Spider-Man gameplay from Web of Shadows.

As for the most challenging, that would have to be Noir. We decided to build the Noir dimension first, as the color scheme was an experiment for us. We had to carefully craft the iconic Noir visual style without compromising any of the gameplay.

NWR: What challenges arose with the new game and how did you overcome them?

BL: Our greatest challenge was building a larger game with more features, more heroes, and more gameplay modes without having Web of Shadows to build upon. When we started on Shattered Dimensions, the tech from Web of Shadows had become so out-dated that our additions would’ve been limited if we had built on the old engine. Everything in Shattered Dimensions is brand new, including the character model for Spider-Man and all of his animations! We had a lot of work in front of us, but we remained dedicated to recreating what worked with Web of Shadows while expanding the features and content for Shattered Dimensions. We hope you enjoy it!


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