We know what you're thinking: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the upcoming Raven Software-developed game designed to tie in with the soon to be released Hugh Jackman movie, is going to be crap, as all movie licensed games are. Senior producer Jeff Poffenbarger, however, begs to differ.
VideoGamer.com: Wolverine is much more gory than the film is going to be. How were you able to do that?
Jeff Poffenbarger: Our deal isn't with Fox. The deal we have is with Marvel. They're the ones who signed off on the concept of us doing something a little more intense. They signed off pretty early with that. Fox, certainly would think they would have some concerns because it's not necessarily the same. Fox, releasing a movie, understandably so wants everybody under the sun to be able to see it. When we started this we just wanted to make a great Wolverine game. We weren't trying to make the Fox Wolverine movie game. The fact that we've been able to partner up is really cool, but the important thing for us is actually delivering on who the character is and I think Marvel is definitely behind that. If you read the comics this is who Wolverine is.
VideoGamer.com: That must be great for you you guys.
JP: It's great, but it's not done yet, either. So I don't want to say things are complete, I don't want to say, hey everybody's given this full sign off, because the road to success or the road to a game ending is paved with a lot of decisions and bumps. So we'll see what happens.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned you had the idea to do a Wolverine game before the movie was known about...
JP: We kinda knew that there was a movie thing out there. We knew that that existed, but more importantly we wanted to make a real Wolverine game. We worked on X-Men Legends 1 and 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Wolverine was without a doubt one of the favourite characters we had, from the development team, so actually delivering on Wolverine as a character was really important to us.
VideoGamer.com: When you think of Wolverine what do you think of?
JP: I always think of the same thing, just unstoppable, like the Terminator. He's relentless. He's got so much conflict internally, he has a dark side, he's kind of a loner. I can't say I've read every comic but when I was a kid I had Wolverine number one on my wall.
VideoGamer.com: From what I know of Wolverine he's always been the one who talks back to everyone, the one who won't take any crap, the antithesis of Cyclops. How have you been able to make gamers feel like they're controlling the Wolverine they all know from the comic books?
JP: Every little piece of the game has a hand in that, in delivering what we take as the bad ass attitude of Wolverine. The combat being quick and very visceral is something people are going to be like, oh this is totally Wolverine. The first game where you have claws and you can rip dudes in half. That's what would happen if Wolverine was fighting this guy. He would rip his arms off. Our sounds, he does little quips every once in a while, where it's like, that's totally something Wolverine would say, to the cinematics, to big moments where you're actually playing, you feel like you're a bad ass, you feel like you're the Wolverine that you know from the comic books, and even in some regards the Wolverine from the movies. You touch on that with every little bit in the game. It's amazing how much little bits, from surroundings to how this enemy dies, to what do my claws sound like, to when Wolverine talks in a cinematic, these are the kind of lines, a lot of those things come into play when we're trying to deliver the character.
VideoGamer.com: In the movies, it seemed like Wolverine never cut anyone, and if he did there was no blood. It just seemed a bit lame.
JP: It's the idea that the release is a mass market release. Once they start making the Wolverine who everybody knows from the comic, that's when they start pushing aside some of their audience. I have the same problem. I think in the last one, in X3, he was crying or something at some point. I felt like I was watching Tightrope again when I was a kid and Clint Eastwood's crying. I was like, what is going on? My Dad was disgusted. Clint Eastwood doesn't cry! I'm the same way, I like the comic version. I like the guy that doesn't care about everyone most of the time. The guy that doesn't really cry and he's not really conflicted with too many good thoughts.
VideoGamer.com: In terms of story how do the game and movie compare?
JP: We touch on a lot of the plot line in the movie. We work a lot with that. So you can pretty much play out the entire movie in the game. And then we have our own plot line, probably 35 to 40 per cent of the game is made up of our own levels and our own side story.
VideoGamer.com: So people who watch the movie and then play the game will see stuff they've seen in the cinema?
JP: Yeah, they'll be able to see some stuff from the movie. You know when you start working on a game it takes two and a half years. A movie you can do in nine months. So we already made a lot of decisions before we even knew what stuff looked like. So luckily we were able to work it like, OK we can do this and we can make this look like this, but we can't make this look like this and we can't make this look like this.
VideoGamer.com: Being frank, most people who know about games look at movie licensed titles with scepticism...
JP: Yeah they suck! They do, I've worked on some of them!
VideoGamer.com: Why won't this one?
JP: I'll tell you why. One, as a development team we've had six plus years experience with this kind of character and delivering good games. X-Men Legends 1, 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance are certainly respected by critics and consumers. But you know what? We had the time to do it. If you have two and a half years, when you have that time it allows for that very crucial stage, that's hard to even mark with time, of iteration. Making sure you're getting everything right. That's a big, important thing. Honestly our leadership team is great, we have a great project lead and all the team leads have a ton of experience working together. It's almost like a development family. So having the time to do it, understanding the character and understanding how every team member, from the highest up to the lowest, how they work and what their strengths and weaknesses are, are the ways that you're going to be successful. Now if you were to say to us, you have 11 months to put this game out, would you see that? Would you see 12 to 15 hours of gameplay and would it look that good? Hell no, it'd suck. Most movie games, for whatever reason people make them, don't have the time to be good. Certainly we still see that happen, so I'm assuming that the profits that you get from those are good enough to not worry about how the game actually feels.
VideoGamer.com: Your knowledge of what gamers actually want is important too...
JP: Yeah. Everybody's a gamer too, you know? Everybody goes and gets the latest game and then goes home and plays it and then comes in and writes a huge email, oh we gotta do this, this, this and this! Everybody does that. There's a lot of that in the gaming industry.
Check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Raven Software's Jeff Poffenbarger, where he discusses comparison's with God of War, what game development is really like and ... Britney Spears.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is due out on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, Nintendo DS, PS2 and PSP on May 1 2009 in the US. A UK release date is expected some time in May.