After two years of anticipation, Sony and Insomniac Games' Marvel's Spider-Man has arrived on the PlayStation 4 with an original take on Marvel's fan favorite hero. While several of the previous Spider-Man games have heavily drawn upon the movies or comics, the latest title is largely an original story with aspects from several different iterations of Spidey. The game also goes to great lengths to tell a more personal story with Peter Parker and his expanded supporting cast.
SYFY WIRE recently had a chance to chat with three of the lead writers behind Marvel's Spider-Man: Jon Paquette and Ben Arfmann from Insomniac Games, and Christos Gage, a veteran of Netflix's Daredevil, and several Spider-Man comics as well. Together, they offered us some additional insight into their creative process.
There are some minor spoilers ahead for Marvel's Spider-Man, but the biggest twists have been left for the players to discover for themselves.
"What we all tried to do at the beginning of the game was consume as much Spider-Man as we can," said Paquette. "We wanted to get a sense for what's out there, but then we wanted to forget it all. We didn't want to be too influenced by one specific storyline or one specific take on Peter's character... You're always going to have him juggling his life as Peter and his life as Spider-Man... We did that exercise and we kind of felt like we had that in the back of our head. Then it was easier for us to create our own take on the character."
"It's so important to respect the source material, but also do your own thing," added Gage. "You're not trying to do the best version of a comic book in a video game. You're trying to make the best possible video game that you can."
The game begins with Peter Parker at 23 and in his prime as Spider-Man. But not necessarily in the prime of his life when he's out of costume. Starting with a veteran Spidey and skipping the origin story was a very deliberate choice that was made early in the process, according to Paquette and Cage.
"When we first started talking with Marvel and Sony, everybody in the room said 'we want you guys to create something unique and original. We don't want it based on any specific comic or movie or game,'" recalled Paquette. "We also didn't want to do the origin story, because we felt like everyone kind of knows Spider-Man was bitten by a spider."
"Another thing we often talked about was part of the decision not to do the origin story, not to have him in high school, but to have him fairly experienced around the age of 23," added Gage. "Which is when most people go from, in a very general sense, from childhood to adulthood."
"Another thing that we did is we all talked about that moment in our lives when we were that age and how we felt," noted Paquette. "That process of becoming a man. You go through that moment in your early 20s when you think 'I can handle the world, I know it all. And then the world just crushes you.' We thought would be an interesting period of Peter's life to play through."
Mary Jane Watson is also a playable character during certain portions of the game. For this incarnation, MJ's personality was largely the same, but she has a much bigger role as an investigative journalist for The Daily Bugle. According to Arfmann, that choice was made to make MJ more integral to the plot and a heroine in her own right.
"Right from the beginning, we knew we wanted her to be really active and have a lot of agency," said Arfmann. "We were working with the theme of partnership between her and Peter. What's a way that she can be really contributing to Pete's work on an equal footing? Making her into an investigative reporter, somebody who is trying to air out dirty laundry and show the truth to the world made a lot of sense to us. MJ was probably for me, the most fun to write. In some ways, there's a departure from who she was in the past. In some ways, this is the MJ that has always been in my heart, this really active and involved partner to Peter."
"We talked about different roles that she's had in the comics," added Cage. "For example: model, actress, club owner, and none of those really lent themselves to being an active part of the Peter/Spider-Man story. Whereas making her a reporter for The Daily Bugle definitely did."
"She is just as much of a hero as Peter is in the story, she just has different abilities," offered Paquette.
Perhaps the game's biggest change to canon is the relationship between Peter Parker and Doctor Otto Octavius. When the game begins, Dr. Octavius hasn't become the infamous villain, Doctor Octopus. Instead, Octavius is a respected scientist and Peter's employer.
"When we started talking about whether or not to include Otto Octavius, we wanted to do something different," said Paquette. "And we wanted to have this theme of mentorship in the game. We also wanted to have [the other] part of the hero's life be represented in the game. We wanted you to be able to play as Peter... Then you can have these interactions with Dr. Octavius, so that over the course of the game, you can actually get a sense for how much he and Dr. Octavius are close. Not just as co-workers, but as friends and mentor/mentee, if you will."
J. Jonah Jameson was also given a modern update for the game, which recasts him as the host of a podcast/radio show that allows him to continuously push his anti-Spider-Man agenda. Cage wrote most of Jameson's rants in the game, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
"We were talking about the best way for [Jameson] to be in the game, and we thought it would be fun for him to essentially be the Greek chorus commenting on the events of the game in his own inimitable way," said Gage. "So I ended up writing a lot of his podcast dialogue because I guess I have a special insight into the voice of a grouchy middle-aged man. And it was so much fun. I just love writing him because he is so completely conspiratorial and everything is Spider-Man's fault."
"But at the same time, we wanted to make sure that he is revealing the voice of New York," continued Gage. "Whether it's what he's saying or his callers are saying. It gives the player some insight into what the city is thinking about both Spider-Man and the state of affairs. As things get more dire, we hopefully see that reflected in Jonah's segments."
Mister Negative is one of the more recent comic book villains included in the game, and his alter ego, Martin Li, also plays a major role in Peter's story as well. That duality furthered the team's goal of making Peter's worlds collide throughout the game.
"Martin Li was super, super fun to work with," noted Arfmann. "Having Martin Li be somebody who knows Aunt May, who knows Peter, and has a personal connection to both of them, was done to really put stress on Peter from both directions. But then as you go on through the game, you have the opportunity to see more of Martin Li's backstory and understand some of his motivation for why he's doing things. That was also a huge pleasure. Part of the fun of collaborating with Marvel is they really push not just for the heroes to be fully fleshed out people, but the antagonists as well. And really trying to not necessarily sympathize with Martin Li, but understand why he's doing what he's doing."
Long time Spidey supporting character Silver Sable was also brought to the forefront in this story, in part to increase the tension.
"[Silver Sable] emerged as a character because we wanted to have a presence in the game city once, as Christos said, the events in the city became dire," said Paquette. "We needed a force in the city to ratchet up the stakes, so to speak, and Silver Sable and Sable International allowed us to do that."
Fortunately, Mary Jane isn't the only one in Spidey's corner. Miles Morales also has a supporting role as one of Spider-Man's allies, as a nod to his stint as the Ultimate Spider-Man in Marvel's comic book universe. This version of Miles is a few years older than his counterpart in the comics, and he also has a different relationship with this Peter Parker.
"When I came on to the project two years ago, [Miles] was one of the aspects I was most excited about," shared Arfmann. "And I am super thrilled that Miles was going to be coming up in a world with not just the legacy of Spider-Man, but with flesh and blood Spider-Man to look up to. Without spoiling some of the late stage story turns, he functions in a similar way to MJ, but revealing a different side of Peter's character. [It's] underscoring the theme of partnership, and how important it is for Pete to not just be relying on himself to solve a problem."
"Another fun aspect of Miles is that he is a fan of Spider-Man," added Gage. "In a way, he often acted as the voice of us, the ones who grew up as fans of Spider-Man. It was cool because we not only got to be Spider-Man and hopefully let the player feel like they are Spider-Man, but also give voice to the person who is a fan of Spider-Man."
Speaking of giving a voice to the fans, Arfmann told us that he was particularly proud of the game's in-universe social media feed.
"Keeping in that theme of the whole studio that was so passionate about this project. The social media posts that you see there are all written by Insomniac [and] people from Sony's QA department," shared Arfmann. "So it's kind of the voice of the studio expressed in the game. That's one of the things that gives me the most joy when I see fans online reacting positively to that. It's cool because it really does represent that everyone at Insomniac had a voice in this project."
The Spider-Man writing team confirmed that they also handled the scripts for the upcoming three-part DLC expansion, "The City That Never Sleeps." While they weren't able to share any story details for that, Paquette expressed his enthusiasm for returning to Spidey's world in the future.
"If we're lucky enough to make [a sequel], I can't wait to start working on it," said Paquette. "But my biggest excitement is just getting the game out to the fans... It's great to have something you worked so hard on enjoyed by so many people."
Marvel's Spider-Man is available now for the PlayStation 4. If you've played the game, share your favorite moments in the comment section below!