Marvel madness is everywhere. Between blockbuster movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming, television shows like Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and upcoming video games such as Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite and the Insomniac-developed Spider-Man game, fans don’t have to look far to see their favorite heroes in action against supervillains. Earlier this week, Oculus and developer Sanzaru Games announced Marvel Powers United VR for the Oculus Rift, which promises to take the superhero experience to an all new level.
Although the game isn’t expected to release until 2018, Oculus and Sanzaru already have a working demo that will be debuting to the public at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) this week. Oculus will be at the Marvel booth with VR stations so that attendees can play a four-player cooperative mission. Players will be able to choose between taking the roles of Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon or The Incredible Hulk. On Wednesday, Deadpool was announced as the fourth playable character and Comic-Con attendees will have a chance to slip into the merc with a mouth’s red and black outfit. More characters are on the way, as Sanzaru plans to launch the game with a 12 character roster with more to follow afterward.
Omar Woodley, development director at Sanzaru Games and designer for Marvel Powers United VR, spoke with AListDaily and described the game as “the ultimate superhero experience. You get to be the hero in pretty much any aspect you can imagine. You physically look like the hero, move as the hero, and wield the hero’s powers.”
When asked what inspired the creation of a Marvel superhero-themed VR game, Woodley spoke about how there were a lot of Marvel Comics fans at Sanzaru Games and Oculus. The development studio, having made two VR games for the Oculus Rift already—VR Sports Challenge and Ripcoil—wanted to grow the platform’s library even further. At the same time, Marvel was exploring new ways to grow its IPs, and it all culminated into this project.
Woodley also described the development of the character roster as “vetting and routing process,” since Marvel has such a long list of characters. “Sanzaru had its wish list of characters, as did Oculus, and they were compiled into one big list that was sent to Marvel—which had its own list of characters they wanted to see in a game,” he explained. “Eventually, it was vetted to the roster that we have, and I think everybody is happy with the final list.”
As for how the four wildly different characters were selected, Woodley explained how “for the demo, the four that were chosen were the ones that we felt established the roadmap for the experience that we want to do for players. You have two very oppositely scaled characters with Rocket and Hulk (one is short while the other is a giant). Meanwhile, Captain Marvel is human-sized but she has some of Hulk’s abilities, like throwing objects around, and can blast things using her powers, like Rocket does with his guns. They gave us a good blueprint for building other characters we plan to release.”
Coincidentally, Rocket is part of a four-person team called The Guardians of the Galaxy, although there might be more characters added since the movie sequel released in May. We asked Woodley if this was a sign that the roster might include full teams for players to bring together.
“I don’t think we specifically targeted that direction,” Woodley replied. “We were just thinking about what would give players the best experience, what cool characters we could have, and what could we do with those characters. A small team on the roster is a possibility, but that’s not our main goal. We’re looking for more breadth and to pull more awesome characters from the comic books that might not have had as much spotlight put on them.”
VR is still a relatively small but growing area of entertainment, and a major brand like Marvel could be crucial to spreading awareness of the technology. “I think Marvel is a key player. They have amazing IPs that they can market and that we can establish VR experiences around. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to play a video game where I was the hero—not with a controller looking up at the TV—I wanted to actually be in the game. That’s what we’ve done. When you play as Rocket, you can look down at your furry body that’s carrying crazy guns and you can see your muzzle [in front of you]. That’s an amazing experience to me,” said Woodley.
Woodley also confirmed that there was a plan to coordinate the game’s content with Marvel as new movies release, but could not provide any details about that partnership. However, he did confirm that the movies were crucial in helping to keep Marvel Powers United VR at the top of mind in the months leading up to the game’s release.
“The Marvel umbrella—with its movies, shows and games—will all work to keep it at the top of mind for fans,” said Woodley. “Other than that, I think participating in more demos and events will help keep people talking about this title.”
Lastly, Woodley shared his thoughts about what’s ahead for VR.
“I would love to see the next version of the Oculus Touch controls,” Woodley explained. “That technology is already amazing, but I would like to see more contextual sensitivity for detecting finger movements. Maybe we’ll see a full suit or sensors that you can attach to your body for the cameras to track, like what they do with motion capture.” A virtual reality suit would certainly fit into the theme of slipping into a costume to become a superhero.