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If They Were As Smart As We Think We Are
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
date posted: 12:20 AM Sat Dec 3rd, 2005
last revision: 12:22 AM Sat Dec 3rd, 2005

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Click to read.Anyone that has grown up playing video games has had a million ideas for games that just need to be made. The conversations range from speculation on the match up of the century to simple whining. You know: \"why don\'t they make more games like this? Why don\'t more games take advantage of that?\" If only there were a way to channel our ideas so that others could participate and real ideas could be generated, like a feature on everyone\'s favorite independent gaming and culture website, Gamesfirst! Here we dare to ask, what if they were as smart as we think we are? (Hey, that would make a good title!)

For the topic of our first article, we thought we would tackle comics and video games. Frankly, there is nothing that we know more about than those two subjects. Does that make us sad and pathetic human beings? No, \'cause we are comfortable with who we are. And Jeremy touched a girl once.

There are comics out there that are begging to be made into games. More specifically, made into the right games. Now that certain developers are actually putting time and, more importantly the love into comic adaptations, here are some of the properties we would like to taken on next.

Matt\'s Mutant Vision

If there is one single franchise, comic book or otherwise, that has ruled my existence it would be the X-Men. I have been reading the adventures of Marvel comics\' misfit mutants almost continually since I was ten years old. At one point, I was probably buying close to ten different X-Men titles a month. I don\'t think a lot of people can come up with things that have followed them through childhood on into adulthood the way the X-Men have stuck with me. Therefore, it is easy to guess that the number one comic property I\'d like to see is the Uncanny X-Men.

Wait a minute, you\'re saying, hasn\'t there been like a hundred? Didn\'t one just come out? This is true, but they aren\'t the X-Men games that I want. Nay, that I deserve.

The X-men: Legends series have many fans and I am not trying to upset them. Those are good games. It\'s is just that they don\'t really give you the feeling of walking around in the X-Men\'s shoes. It is supposed to be a \"role-playing game\". When you play Spider-Man 2 or Ultimate Spider-Man you really get into Spider-Man\'s tights; you can do whatever a spider can. You have to think like Spider-Man, even when you are just web slinging. The X-Men games don\'t have that.

To make a great X-Men game the first thing you have to remember is the X-Men are a team, a family. The game has to reflect that. I don\'t mean that in a have character A stand next to Character B and then press a button so that they interact for a moment, doing a super move, way. It has to be an integral part of the game. The best way to start is by making it co-operative. You should be able to play with two to at least four other people. (There are about a million X-Men characters over the 40 plus years of X-Men so why not more?) It should be locally co-op as well as online. A lot of developers have realized that if it isn\'t online it isn\'t crap but many are starting to neglect the at home, party gamers. If you haven\'t got someone to play with the computer could fill out the ranks of your X-Team or you could go online and hook-up. Either way, teamwork should be important to the gameplay.

Here is a scenario: The first boss is the Unstoppable Juggernaut. He is super strong, nearly invincible, and his helmet protects him from any sort of psychic attack. Arguably, no single X-Man could take him down alone. As players, you would want to set up a diverse team. A powerhouse, to go toe to toe with Juggs, like Colossus. A powerful psychic, in case you do get he helmet off, Like Jean Grey. And Wolverine, cause he\'s Wolverine. Now it is up to the player to figure out the strategy to defeat Juggernaut, using each character\'s unique skills in conjunction with each other. Colossus could stun Juggernaut with his powerful blows (sounds dirty) while Wolvie sneaks up and uses his unbreakable claws to remove the Helmet. Then, when the boss is vulnerable Jean Grey could unleash a mental attack. The unstoppable has been defeated. The player gets an experience that is more than just mashing buttons.

Epic story lines are what the X-Men are all about and the games should be no different. Following the trends set by games like Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Ultimate Spiderman my game would tap the comic book industry\'s talents. Chris Claremont has written more X-Men comics than anyone in history. He would be a natural. Or there is Joss Whedon of Buffy and Angel fame. He has already proven he can write the X-Men as writer on Astonishing X-men. Heck he has written TV, movies, and comics. Why not games?

My one last demand, no mutant power meter. The X-Men mutant powers don\'t deplete with usage, especially Wolverines claws. They are freaking claws. That is like having a power meter for our toes.

Jeremy\'s take: Forget the powerful blows of Colossus, what\'s this about Matt wanting to get into Spider-Man\'s tights?

Super-powered, homoerotic, jailbait fantasies aside, Matt is right. What\'s more, if the X-Men could diversify their franchise in the video game industry as they have in the comic book industry, the possibilities are endless. Along with the Action RPG style of the X-Men Legends series, we could have Matt\'s Rainbow Six style tactical co-op game. We could wield the animalistic abilities of Wolverine in a game reminiscent of Farcry: Instincts. How about a futuristic FPS starring Cable? Or a stealth action-adventure game built around the shape-shifting abilities of Mystique?

Certainly, the games wouldn\'t have to be as derivative as that; I\'m just throwing out some ideas. It\'s all in how the games would be handled. Considering the bloated budgets of the comic book and film franchises, I am sure Marvel could afford to hire top shelf talent to spin the kind of tales that would glue gamer\'s butts to their seats.

Jeremy\'s Dark Side

One of this year\'s best fan indulgences came in the form of the Ultimate Spider-Man video game. It just was like playing the comic book. It had an original story by series writer Brian Michael Bendis, it captured the best of Mark Bagely\'s artistic style, and the action of the game literally leapt from the comic panels depicted in the cut scenes.

I want to see the dark side of this. I want Sin City. And I want it done with the kind of the devotion to the source material that made Robert Rodriguez\'s film a gritty, bone-crunching nightmare come true. Truth be told, this could be an even more faithful translation of Frank Miller\'s dynamic black and white visuals. The comic book could come to life right from the page, right in front of you. It would be drastically different than anything gamers have seen before.

Of course, Frank Miller would write it, and it would have to carry a hard Mature rating. The game, like the comic, would be a bleak and unforgiving tale of sex and violence.

The game itself would have to be non-linear to suit Frank Miller\'s storytelling. Like the Spider-Man games, it could springboard from the GTA model of a fully realized, open-ended environment and take on a life of its own. You could do a bit of dirty work, dump the bodies in the river, then get a drink at Kadie\'s and watch Nancy dance. Afterward, you could take a stroll to Old Town to satisfy a need. But you wouldn\'t be satisfied for long. You know how it goes-there are no happy endings in Sin City. The only ones with a smile on their faces would be the gamers.

On that same note, if there is one other city I want to see fully realized in the current trend of streaming environments, it\'s Gotham City. Gotham is the most palpable city in all of comics lore. It lives. It breathes. It towers above you and crawls beneath your feet.

I want to dwell there a while. I want to take on the role of the dark, angry, scary Batman we saw in Batman Begins, in a story driven by his entire rogues gallery-The Joker, The Riddler, Two-Face, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Mr. Zsasz, et all. The game would feature all of the toys in Batman\'s arsenal, including the utility belt, the Batmobile, and the Bat Plane, available to you as you wish to use them. Prowl the streets, seek out criminals, answer the Bat Signal, and quietly, to yourself, proclaim: \"I\'m Batman.\"

Matt\'s take: Quietly, to yourself, proclaim: \"I\'m Batman\" like Jeremy does every night in his Underoos, before hopping in the tub to play with his Bat Boat, Bat Sub, and Bat Shark Repellent. Stop. Don\'t even try to imagine what he substitutes for a Bat Shark.

I gotta say that I am jealous I didn\'t think of Sin City first. This could be the first game where voiceovers are cool instead of annoying. I\'m sure you could get Mickey Rourke to lend his voice, it\'s not like he has much of a career these days and Marv would have to be my choice for lead.

The menu screen for the DVD would be the perfect template for the comic come to life look the game should implement.

Like the X-men, I am a huge Batman fan. I loved Batman Begins. If they made this game I would like to see them add something that plays up Batman\'s detective skills a little bit. Batman Begins was great, and now we have a detailed account of how he learned to kick ass, but how did Batman become the world\'s greatest detective? This would take the game to a level beyond being a simple action game.

Matt\'s Big Brawler

The screenshots for Dead Or Alive 4 on the Xbox 360 look pretty darn shiny. I\'d like to see my favorite comic book characters that well rendered. All of them. Years ago Marvel and DC put their differences aside and came up with a scam for some quick cash: Marvel Versus DC. Finally all the fan boys got answers to their very most important questions. Like who would win between Flash and Quicksilver? OK, so the event was kinda lame but it would make a wonderful game. As much fun as it has been to pit Marvel\'s Characters against Street Fighter characters, it was far from the perfect match. Also, for me the 2D fighter is pretty much dead. Imagine if the folks behind DOA got their hands on both Marvel and DC\'s line up of Characters.

Online play is a must. But that goes for just about any game. Of course a local two-player mode would be included. A story mode could be excellent. Convince a comic legend like Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid to write up an epic story explaining why these universes are thrown together and what these heroes will have to do to set things right. Since the resolution will have to involve heroes battling one another there is an opportunity to inject the story with some real emotion and conflict.

There would have to be weight classes. It wouldn\'t be much fun to battle Superman if you were the Punisher, though it may be funny. In story mode it wouldn\'t make sense and online it would give one player too huge an advantage. You could put them into two categories. A street-level category that would include the likes of Batman, Captain America, Wolverine, and Green Arrow. Then you\'d have a category for the big guns like Wonder Woman, Thor, the Green Lantern, and Hulk. This would be the best way to make things fair. Not that you shouldn\'t be able to set up lop sided battles in the local two-player mode, just for fun.

Many fighters these days have huge casts of characters. There should be plenty of characters for all sorts of comic fans as well as special unlockable characters. It would be fun to unlock some of the less obvious characters like Morpheus (Sandman), Jessie Custer (Preacher), Moon Knight, or Deathlocke. You\'d have to have a good line up though, because that is what would really make this game.

Jeremy\'s take: Morpheus? The guy won a battle with Lucifer himself, but I\'m not sure watching him talk She-Hulk into defeating herself is going to get a gamer\'s blood pumping. But an all-out brawl ending with a red-eyed, word-of-God-spouting Jesse Custer commanding Iron Man to eat his suit? Oh yeah.

Let\'s face it, Marvel Vs. Capcom is played out, and Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects didn\'t cut it. I say why not? I mean, does Joe Quesada\'s (Marvel\'s Editor In Chief) nose-thumbing attitude toward DC have to sink our gaming dreams as well? It doesn\'t take much to get excited about a title like this: just imagine a fighting field with no ceiling, an epic match between Superman and The Sentry that plays out like the final Neo vs. Smith duel in Matrix: Revolutions. That would sell games.

And I say why stop there? How about Image vs. Oni Press? Better yet: one big Dark Horse free for all? Hellboy vs. Darth Vader! Ash vs. Conan the Barbarian! Harvey Pekar vs. the dudes from Penny Arcade! (Damn I\'m a geek.)

Jeremy\'s Rated E Dreams and Nightmares

It looks like we are finally getting an RPG based on Jeff Smith\'s Bone. Man, no matter how you say that, it sounds wrong. Bone is the nine-time Eisner Award-winning, family friendly story of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, and their adventures with Princess Thorn, the dragon, and the stupid, stupid rat creatures. Anyway, it\'s one of the best comics out there, period, and it\'s about time the property got some attention from the gaming industry. I would love to see the same kind of love shown to other deserving all-ages titles.

Let\'s start with an adventure game based on Mike Crilley\'s Akiko. This title has it all: top notch storytelling, a grand sense of escapism and adventure, an offbeat sense of humor, and a robust cast of characters. The game would take us on a larger than life quest. It would be played using each of the characters, and their particular set of skills, to full advantage. For the portions of the game that require a logical mind and puzzle-solving skills, players would choose Mr. Beeba, the academic. Spuckler would be the resident swash-buckler and all around action guy. When you needed tools, you would call on Gax. And Poog, I guess, would provide the answers, in its own peculiar nonsensical dialect. All of this would be told through the eyes of the upbeat, amiable Akiko.

The game would employ the quirky artistic style of Mark Crilley. The simple, expressionate characters and the awe-inspiring depth of background would provide a unique visual range of gorgeous animation.

All of this would culminate in a beautifully rendered, multifaceted game that tells a character-building story that speaks to people of all ages.

On the flipside, nothing would make me happier than to play a twisted little game based on the misadventures of Squee. Based on Jhonen Vasquez\'s (Invader ZIM, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac) sinister tale of the world\'s most tortured child, players would have to navigate a nightmare landscape where parents are truly evil, your toys want to kill you, and everything is scary.

The game wouldn\'t be Mature rated, as the story unfolds with a sort of devilish glee. The little guy\'s so cute you have to feel for him, but it is all so darn funny you can\'t help but laugh. A niche game for sure, there would certainly be an audience willing to subject themselves to a 3D adventure through the macabre cuteness that is Squee.

Matt\'s Take: Dude, when you first told me you wanted to play with Spuckler, Gax, and Poog I thought you were talking about another mature game. Akiko is a great comic that more people need to check out. You are totally right on the money as far as visual style. Crilley\'s backgrounds would make any penciler cry, with the huge amounts of details. Yet the characters are so simple, it\'s just perfect. If this game were done correctly it would be one of the most awe inspiring games ever and something the whole family would love.

American McGee\'s Alice fans would flip for a Squee game. The concept is great. It is terrifying yet hilarious. Kind of like my childhood. It could become the first official video game for Hot Topic. But now that you mention it I almost want to see an Invader Zim game more. Who hasn\'t dreamed of taking over the world with Gir by your side?

I think we can all agree that it is a good time to be a fan of comic books and video games. Both formats are growing in their diversity, their mainstream acceptance, as well as their cinematic and story telling virtues. It is only natural that they should converge into greatness. These are just some of the ideas we had as we mulled over the titles, big and small, and the genres, both old and new, that make up the culture of two of our favorite entertainment mediums. Certainly, there are other ideas, bigger and better ideas, out there. We\'d love to hear them. Share your ideas and opinions with us by writing to mailbag[AT]gamesfirst.com

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