As only one of the few magazines worldwide and even exclusively for the German-speaking area, we were given the opportunity to take a detailed look at the PS5 launch title Spider-Man: Miles Morales before the release on November 19th. The lead developers at Insomniac Games showed us almost an hour of new gameplay and in the days that followed we spoke to them about the new Spidey adventure. We therefore recommend our large preview of the open world game, in which you can read our impressions and many explanations from the developers. Below you will find our conversation with Game Director Cameron Christian and Creative Director Brian Horton, which we have prepared for you as an interview.
PCG: What does it mean to you to bring out one of the launch titles for the PS5?
Brian Horton: It's really an honor for us. In our industry, too, it doesn't often happen that you work in such a talented team on a game for such a huge franchise and then directly usher in a new generation of consoles. Virtually everything came together perfectly.
PCG: How long has Miles Morales been in development and how big is the team that is working on the game?
Brian Horton: We started pre-production before the release of Spider-Man. So at the beginning of September 2018. I can't say exactly how many people are working on the game, but our team was about the same size as the last Spider-Man.
Source: Insomniac Games
PCG: Was it the plan from the beginning to first bring out a game with the classic Spider-Man Peter Parker and then focus on Miles Morales as the protagonist in the second part?
Cameron Christian: No, it just happened naturally. When we were developing the last Spider-Man and including Miles Morales in the story, there came a point where we felt that this character deserved to have its own story. Then we started to think about how Miles would react to certain situations and how his character would develop after he got the superpowers. It went on and on, until at some point we said: "Hey, we should just tell this story!". That was when the production of Spider-Man: Miles Morales began.
PCG: Although Miles Morales has starred in award-winning comics and the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: A New Universe, he's not as well known as Peter Parker. How do you want to change that with your game and what do you think are the big differences between Miles and Peter?
Brian Horton: We know Miles is a relatively new character. It's only been around in comics for almost ten years, but it's already made a big impression during that time. Even before Spider-Man: A New Universe came out. But you're right, he's not as well known as Peter Parker, of course. So our goal was to portray Miles in a recognizably different way from Peter, while at the same time keeping the typical Spider-Man trademarks. Miles Morales has many of the same powers Peter has: he can shoot nets, crawl up walls, is super strong, but he also has his own abilities. Mainly bio-electricity and invisibility. Our game is the first time you can use these skills and you can develop them so that the whole game experience is tailored to Miles' idiosyncrasies. Peter and Miles differ in certain points of the game mechanics. We have also completely reworked the animations when swinging, running or fighting so that Miles' movements are also noticeably different from Peter's. In contrast to Peter, who is more of a nerd, Miles has a sporting background. Miles plays basketball and identifies with the skate culture. This will also have a noticeable effect on his trick system. It was really our goal that the two Spider-Men feel completely different.
Source: Insomniac Games
PCG: In the new gameplay material you showed the Venom powers of Miles. How exactly are the forces integrated into the combat system and how do they work exactly?
Cameron Christian: The Venom Powers are a core element of the combat system, and of the game in general. We invested a lot of time in implementing Miles' powers because we wanted them to feel right and to give the combat system known from the predecessor even more variance. However, we also had to make sure that the usual fights were not pushed too much into the background because the players had fun with them. We had to find the balance here. I think we managed to do that with the Venom Forces as it connects the different elements. When you land punches or dodge enemy attacks, you're building Venom power. You then use this energy for the various Venom moves. One of the main attacks is the Venom punch and you use the Venom button L1 to trigger it. This is where the capabilities of the DualSense come into play. If you hold down L1, not only will you see Miles being charged with bio-electricity, you will also feel it in the controller when it starts to vibrate. If you then press the punch button (square), you give the enemy the Venom punch, which not only electrifies the enemy directly hit, but also their colleagues around them. Venom attacks weaken opponents very much, so that you can then knock them out of the mountain easier. But we have a large selection of Venom moves, each of which is triggered by a combination of L1 and the action buttons. Some of these attacks are unlocked through the progress in the campaign, some through the skill system. You will unlock new skills throughout the game and feel more and more powerful as a result.
PCG: Despite having such powerful attacks, Miles is still a partially clumsy teenager. How do you make sure that you will notice that later in the game?
Cameron Christian: For this we have completely re-animated Spider-Man. His movements are not always as smooth as with Peter Parker and express his uncertainty. Just like the player, Miles is just getting to know his powers and is therefore not always sovereign.
Source: Insomniac Games
Cameron Christian: There is a camouflage bar and when you become invisible this bar empties. If you become visible, it fills up again. Invisibility has two functions. The defensive variant: You are surrounded by enemies, use invisibility and can flee from confused enemies to come up with a new plan. The offensive variant: You sneak up on opponents and eliminate them with a takedown. You can also beat enemies out of sight and completely confuse them, but this also empties the camouflage bar faster. In general, there are simply more possibilities in stealth gameplay. If you screwed up the first part, it was practically impossible to get back into stealth mode. You had to fight. Fortunately, that's different now. We have also added even more takedown options to the game. You can now turn off opponents, for example, while hanging on a wall. But of course we thought about balancing. You get more and more powerful, but you don't become overpowering. Some opponents can see through Miles' camouflage, while others throw grenades, which make Miles visible.
PCG: In the last Spider-Man you were inevitably discovered in the side missions at some point. Can you now play these quests completely in stealth mode?
Cameron Christian: Yes absolutely. It was very important to us to give the players even more freedom.
PCG: In the DLC for the first Spider-Man there were two or three places that were a bit annoying due to far too many opponents at the same time. Did you pay more attention to balancing with Miles Morales?
Cameron Christian: Yes, in any case. The fights should have a flow. And the nice thing is, we can still rush a lot of enemies on Miles, because his powers are designed to damage several enemies at the same time.
Source: Insomniac Games
PCG: In addition to being a popular character with comic book fans, Miles is an important symbol for the Hispanic and black community. Do you feel – especially during the current political climate (in the USA) – special pressure to definitely have to live up to the character?
Brian Horton: Insomniac Games is a diverse company. People from many different regions and from many different cultural backgrounds work for us. Thus we were able to process many of our own experiences and perspectives in the game and thus be sure that our game is also authentic. If we had the feeling that we didn't understand something or that we couldn't rely on our own experience, we got help from outside. For example, we brought in Evan Narcisse, who not only wrote the Rise of Black Panther comics, but also works as a journalist in the field of pop culture and writes articles about the representation of blacks. Evan was able to help us make Miles speak and dress authentically. We also consulted an expert on Puerto Rican culture and our Miles actor Nadji Jeter received lessons in Spanish and the very special dialect that Puerto Ricans speak in New York. Everything should be authentic. We even went to Harlem and showed various local families our design of the district and the Morales apartment and asked them if it was working properly. We received a lot of feedback there and adapted our designs accordingly.
PCG: In your presentation yesterday, you said that you wanted to make games that will make a lasting impression on people and influence them. Is your game getting even more important now, because that's when it comes out?
Brian Horton: We knew from the start that it was important to bring Miles Morales into our Spidey universe. We firmly believe that diversity and the portrayal of diversity evolves society, but in the end we wanted to tell a story about how Miles Morales grows in character as he faces the challenge of being a hero. This is our coming-of-age superhero story. Miles is supported on his journey by his cultural background. The superhero story and Miles development as a human go hand in hand. When you walk through Miles's neighborhood and see Puerto Rican flags, you should think, "I recognize the district. That feels right." Our focus has always been authenticity and never having an agenda and expressing it. I think we did really well and we hope all players can recognize themselves in Miles Morales.
PCG: Can you tell us about the side missions? Have you changed anything in terms of structure and process?
Brian Horton: The side missions are now better interwoven with the main story. In the last game, the structure of the sidequests was quite classic: the story starts, you complete the task, the story is over. Now there are smaller quest lines or a side mission changes into another side mission that can be completed directly or selected later. This is of course all optional and you can't miss anything of the main story if you don't do sidequests. However, there you learn a lot of small background details that further decorate the story. We also have various activities and of course random crimes in the game. All of this can be found on the FNSM app, which was programmed by MIles' best friend Ganke.
PCG: What are you particularly proud of in the game?
Cameron Christian: We wanted a cinematic presentation that also captures the new Venom attacks well. The camera zooms in, moves around Miles and the blow is captured perfectly before the fighting continues. Getting it done that way without affecting the flow of the game was a big challenge, but we mastered it. But we also had to try around a bit. Early in the game you had to charge the Venom Punch while holding down the L1 button, but we noticed that doing so slowed down the battle unnecessarily. So we changed the Venom Punch so that it charges super fast, but you can still feel the power flowing through Miles.
Source: Insomniac Games
PCG: Can you tell us something about the PS5 hardware? Was it difficult to develop for the new console or was it easy to switch?
Cameron Christian: The PS4 and PS5 are actually quite similar in terms of hardware architecture. We only started developing the game for the PS4, but then moved to the PS5 when the dev kits came out. It was really very easy to move development to the new console. The new things we worked with now were ray tracing, 3D audio and the haptic feedback from the DualSense controller, but none of that was complicated to implement either. We had to figure out a lot of things for ourselves, of course, as we're among the first to bring a game out on PS5. So, for example, we couldn't ask our friends' studios how they implement the controls for the DualSense, but Sony has connected us to the studios of other launch titles so that we could talk a bit.
PCG: The SSD in the PS5 ensures shorter loading times or, as in your case, nonexistent loading times, but what else will future games benefit from?
Cameron Christian: Above all, the SSD helped us to make the game world even more realistic. In New York, for example, there are now more vehicles on the streets and more people on the sidewalks.
PCG: How many different Spidey Suits will you be able to collect in the game?
Brian Horton: In the first Spider-Man, we aligned the number of suits with the length of the game so that it fit exactly. There were always new suits to unlock by the end of the credits, but not too many either, so you couldn't unlock them all by the end. That is also the benchmark for Miles Morales. I know I avoided the question a bit, but we don't want to reveal everything. (laughs)
PCG: Thank you for the interview!
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