Exclusive: Raven’s Vondrak on the Wolverine Game

Superhero Hype! got a chance to talk exclusively to Dan Vondrak, Project Lead at Raven Software, about the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine video game. To be released in stores by Activision, the game will be available for the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and Sony PSP system.

Superhero Hype!: Past “Wolverine” games haven’t exactly lived up to fan expectations. What’s changed this time? Can Raven reverse this sentiment?

Dan Vondrak: This game was built by fans of Wolverine and from day one, our goal was to make the best Wolverine game ever – and we’ve done that. We know “Wolverine” games in the past have missed the mark and we begged to get the opportunity to make this game. We had just got done making “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance” and although it was tough to give up making “MUA2” – we saw the “Wolverine” game as a chance to redefine him in video games. This isn’t some one-shot movie game, we see it as a franchise. The “Wolverine” you’re going to see is gritty and brutal – true to character. Being a Wolverine fan it has sucked seeing this hero of mine nerfed so badly from what he is in the comics when he gets translated into a video game. Trust me, after you see just a few of the things Wolverine can do to enemies in this game, you will realize this is the Wolverine fans have been begging for.

SHH!: How closely does the game follow the film? How much will be different?

Vondrak: The game was a passion project from the start and we rolled into production before it was tied to the movie. We had plans to tell his origin story and throw a whole bunch of extra classic comic moments into the game. Once the movie came into the picture we went back and forth with Fox on the script. In the end we’ve got 90% of the movie story in our game and an additional 30-40% content that’s not in the movie that we as fans wanted to see in the game. We wanted to deliver the movie experience but also go beyond it.

SHH!: Recent film trailers have featured characters like Sabretooth, Gambit, Emma Frost, Blob and Agent Zero. Can we expect to find these characters in the game as well?

Vondrak: We have all the major characters from the movie in our game, absolutely. We even do a little extra with some of the characters and bring our own characters you don’t see in the movie into our story. We also got the actors to help out with the game. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Liev Schreiber (Victor Creed) and Will.i.am (John Wraith) all play the characters in our game, doing the voices and we got full body scans as well.

SHH!: One complaint with past “Wolverine” games has been that fighting would just turn into button mashing and would quickly get repetitive. How has Raven tackled making Wolverine combat more fun?

Vondrak: Wolverine’s combat was the focus from day one. The team is huge fans of action games and fighting games, so we pulled all that knowledge together to create Wolverine’s combat system. The system we’ve built allows Wolverine to automatically change his moves based on the situation he’s in, it keeps it fresh and allows you to combine lots of different moves. Is the enemy on the ground, in the air, laying at your feet, being grabbed, near an “environmental kill,” is Wolverine in the air, etc – all of these different situations change up your moves, so you get this really satisfying flow to the combat. And just wait until you get your hands on the “Lunge” feature – it is awesome, just pouncing on guys from 30 feet away. There are so many little things you have to get right to make a great fighting game. It’s not just speed of animations, but when you’re allowed to chain out of moves, how early does this hit happen in an attack, what’s the recovery time. There’s tons of stuff I think people can miss, when trying to rush a game. We’ve had a ton of time to develop “Wolverine” and we’ve drilled down on all those pieces and just polished, polished, polished.

SHH!: We’ve heard bits and pieces about real time regeneration on Wolverine’s character model throughout the game. This sounds cool, though strangely we haven’t seen footage of this yet. Could you tell us more about this? Also, when might we expect to see this in more detail?

Vondrak: I’d love for you guys to see more footage of the regeneration, but like I was saying earlier, the game we’ve made is like nothing you’ve seen before. And I think it can be a bit scary for some people. I’ll leave it at that, but trust me there is a ton more to this game than what you guys have seen. The way the regeneration works is pretty bad ass. There are actually 3 models running around when you see Wolverine in the game – skin, muscle layer (the meat), and his skeleton. When you take damage, whereever you get hit we tear away those layers, the bigger the hit or different type of damage, the deeper the wound is. And there’s different damage types for swords, bullets, grenades, etc. Then asyou heal, the layers regenerate real time – they even leave behind bruises that eventually heal.

SHH!: What’s up with the “Uncaged Edition?” Is Wolverine locked in a cage for the other versions? What really are the differences between the “Uncaged” games and the other ones without that?

Vondrak: Ha ha, you’ve guessed the secret! The Uncaged Edition (Xbox 360, PS3) are the ones being developed by Raven Software. This is the defining version of the game, the most pure vision of Wolverine translated from the comics to the video game. If you want to see Wolverine being a total bad ass–visceral, gritty–the way he was meant to be seen. It’s in the Uncaged Editions. The other platforms are being developed by other developers and don’t follow the same path we took 🙂

SHH!: What sorts of hidden things can we expect to uncover throughout the game? Will we see Logan in any of his classic outfits?

Vondrak: We couldn’t call ourselves fans if we didn’t include some of his classic outfits! We’ve got this cool system of action figures in the game – once you’ve found enough action figures with the same outfit on, you unlock a challenge room. In this room you must fight a Wolverine dressed in the outfit you are trying to unlock. If you beat him, you can then freely switch to the outfit for any mission. And just to tease you, one of the outfits (my personal favorite) is the classic yellow and blue. Playing the game in that outfit makes you feel so f’ing cool. We also have a bunch of “worklogs” in the game, audio recordings that give a ton of back story. The worklogs really let us work out our inner geek and put all kinds of fun comic history stuff into the game. It’s a lot of fun finding them.

SHH!: Is it a struggle to make a challenging game out of a character that can’t be killed?

Vondrak: It’s really important to remember that although Wolverine can never be killed, he’s not like Superman where the dude is just invincible (except for magic and kryptonite of course). Wolverine can take enough damage to where he’s incapacitated, whether that’s fall unconscious, immobilized, whatever. We went through a LOT of iterations on Wolverine’s health system. We tried to allow him to get back up after falling, do a regen mini-game, have him captured and then you must break your way out, etc… They all had issues. We finally found a system that makes you feel unstoppable, but also penalizes you to give you that intensity from combat – it’s a system of “Health” and “Vitals.”. As you see Wolverine’s skin and muscle layer ripped away in the game, his main “Health” goes down – once enough of that skin and muscle is ripped away and your main health is depleted, your “Vitals” are exposed. If Wolverine’s vitals (his organs) take enough damage he will fall unconscious and it will be a game over. So the strategy is once you’re vitals are exposed, try to avoid taking damage to allow that defensive shell (muscle and skin layer) to regrow.

SHH!: We’ve heard that at GameStop, the game comes with an additional level? What can you tell us about that?

Vondrak: The “Weapon X Arena” turned into something much bigger than we originally planned, just because we had so much fun making it. The level started as a look behind the scenes for people where they could see how we actually would test and develop the game. It’s got 4 main areas that show off different parts of the game. “Combat Simulator” – we had a level where you could spawn any enemies in any combination you wanted and fight them. We polished it up, added some features and now every time you meet a new enemy type in the game, it gets unlocked and you can spawn it in. “Ladder Challenge” – this is our challenge to the hardcore players to see if they can make it through the 50 waves of enemies we’ve set up. You fight wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemy types and combinations. “Environmental Kill” room – this is a level where we could test all the different kind of environmental kills in the game – spike a guy on a tree branch, forklift – smash an enemies head into a computer console – stuff someone into a cement mixer. All kinds of crazy stuff and you see them through out the game but they are all in this one room for the Weapon X Arena. And finally the “Dismemberment Room” – this is an actual test room the guys used to make sure all the dismemberment looked right. You can cycle through the different dismemberment points on a soldier and then press the button and see several soldiers spawn and get that piece dismembered showing all the various blood fx and animations that are randomized with it. 🙂 Totally normal right?

SHH!: When can we expect to see the game in stores?

Vondrak: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” will be in stores May 1st along with the movie opening. Fans are going to love it, finally it’s Wolverine done right – and even non fans will appreciate how satisfying the combat is. It’s an amazing action game that could stand on it’s own, we just have the bonus of using the most bad ass character in the Marvel Universe 🙂

Visit the game’s official website for more info and media! A full gallery of screenshots can be viewed here.

Source: Superhero Hype!