Justice League Heroes Developer Interview

Game: Justice League Heroes
Company: Snowblind Studios
Randall Ng, animator from Snowblind Studios, recently talked with us about Justice League Heroes. Here’s what he had to say.

GV: First and foremost, who are you and what role do you play in the creation of the Justice League Heroes videogame?

Randall Ng: Randall Ng, Animator for Snowblind Studios.

GV: How did the idea of Justice League Heroes originally come about?

Randall Ng: Originally, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) approached Snowblind to do the game. We were right at the tail end of Champions Return to Arms when this opportunity presented itself. And as fate would have it, the theme and style of gameplay were appealing and a perfect fit for our engine.

GV: Did you look at other superhero-based dungeon hacks (like X-Men Legends) for ideas, or did you decide to take it in a new direction?

Randall Ng: Although there are other games in a similar genre, we really looked at our original action/role-playing games as guides and wanted to take things in our own direction. We wanted the trademark Snowblind style to come through.

GV: Is the plot set in its own little part of the DC Multiverse, or does it tie-in with the comics or cartoon series?

Randall Ng: Justice League Heroes exists in its own timeline, but the game is heavily based on but not limited to the comics’ characters and lore. The game is not based on the animated series.

GV: The Justice League has a big roster. Aside from the “Big Three” (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), how did you go about deciding which members were in the game? Will other members of the JLA make cameos throughout the game?

Randall Ng: You can’t have a Justice League without the “Big Three.” Martian Manhunter is vital as he had been in every incarnation of the Justice League from the beginning. Other “must-have’s” were the Flash and Green Lantern. Zatanna was crucial to Identity Crisis and her magic skills proved to show off very well in our engine. There are several unlockable characters in the game that not only have newly recorded voices, but have unique powers and animations.

GV: Is there any benefit to using certain pairings of members? In other words, do certain hero’s abilities complement others?

Randall Ng: There are definitely power pairings! Batman and Superman, the World’s Finest for one! My favorite is Batman’s Flashbang with Superman’s Super Punch. Batman runs into a crowd of robots, it looks as if he’s in for a world of hurt then “BANG!” he drops a Flashbang, the crowd of robots’ circuits are interrupted, causing them to be stunned. Superman following close behind unleashes his Super Punch – robot carnage. Batman continues to use his critical hits on remaining enemies. Talk about teamwork!

GV: Is Brainiac the only villain in the game, or will we see others?

Randall Ng: There are many villains in the game, some who will finally get their debut for the first time in video game history. They are Killer Frost, the Key, Doomsday, Queen Bee, the White Martians, of course Brainiac, and one big baddie who is behind all of this.

GV: Does DC Comics have a lot of input, or are you left to do your own thing for the most part?

Randall Ng: We worked with DC Comics through WBIE. Snowblind and Dwayne McDuffie created the storyline which WBIE and DC Comics approved. WBIE was very supportive and let us make the game we wanted to make. DC Comics has the final say on things their characters can do. After all, these are awesome characters they created. They were extremely helpful and cooperative with the process. We even got frequent comic book shipments to keep up with the most current DC Universe!

GV: Some of the featured characters, like Superman, are invulnerable. How are you bringing this aspect into a genre that typically has characters chugging health and mana potions every couple of seconds?

Randall Ng: We have a health system which has been nicknamed the “Second Wind.” Very similar to the Halo health meter where the hero only needs to catch their breath in order to heal. Could you imagine Superman walking off to the corner telling Batman to wait as he chugs a healing potion? It doesn’t fit with super heroes, so we didn’t do it in Justice League Heroes. This also changes the gameplay dynamic, as one can’t just go into a boss battle with 7 heal potions in hand. You need to be more strategic and the urgent pacing that naturally comes from that is great fun!

GV: Dungeon hacks have a tendency to become monotonous after a few levels. Is anything being done to help keep JLH from becoming just a series of mazes? Are there alternate paths through levels or do certain levels benefit certain heroes more than others?

Randall Ng: There are pockets off the beaten path for heroes to explore. In many cases, there are Shields, which are currency to buy unlockable costumes and characters, scattered about and opportunities to get more experience points by crushing enemies that lurk there.

GV: How do the flying missions work? Are they laid out like other missions only with a flying animation, or is there more “depth” (meaning, can a character fly under or over an enemy rather than just on its same level)?

Randall Ng: There are two levels of combat. Heroes that are capable of flying can also fight, perform their super powers, and do combos in the air. In flying only missions, heroes square off against their enemies on the same flight plane.

GV: Is there a “loot system” in the game, and if so how does it work within the game’s context? I can’t see Batman arming “Jor-El’s Helm of Robot Smiting +3” or anything like that.

Randall Ng: Heroes will be able to pick up Shields, which are used to buy unlockable content. Heroes will also be able to pickup and combine Boosts, which enhance hero attributes. They are Damage, Luck, Range, Duration, Efficiency, and Speed. Combining different boosts (which is a lot of fun!) and slotting them into your super powers or health can drastically change an awesome move into a devastating move. You choose how you wish to distribute your boosts; gameplay tactics are different for everyone! Want to make Superman a tank? Go for it! Want to make him the long range dealer of heat vision? It’s all good and it’s all in your control!

GV: Do all characters have their full set of powers from the start, or do they have to be unlocked?

Randall Ng: For one thing, if your hero can fly, they don’t need to learn how to fly. Heroes will start out with an arsenal of super powers at their disposal. Enabling their remaining powers comes quickly as your level up. Again, it’s the player’s choice. When you level up, you get Points that you can add to your hero’s powers. You can use those points and enable the remaining powers or use them to increase your current powers’ effectiveness. It’s a very non-restrictive and free system.

GV: Will there be online multiplayer, or is the game limited to “drop-in, drop-out” multiplayer?

Randall Ng: There is no online component, but joining and leaving a game currently in progress is instantaneous. It’s as simple as pressing the Start button to join your friend or going to the Pause menu and removing human player 2. No load times at all. You are in and out of the game instantly.

GV: Any final tidbits to share?

Randall Ng: We, at Snowblind, set out to make a fun action game paying careful attention to the Justice League to give them the uniqueness and coolness that has inspired fans for generations. There are a lot of elements to experiment with, and combinations to discover. I feel we have succeeded in that and the game is truly a lot of fun to play.

Thanks to Randall and the folks at Snowblind for talking with us about Justice League Heroes. Check back shortly for the full review!