“Char­ac­ters are free to tag in at any mo­ment in a far more freeform way than be­fore”

Marvel Vs Cap­com should, in the­ory, be the Ja­panese fight­ing-game doyen’s flag­ship se­ries, the megawatt ap­peal of Marvel’s loan char­ac­ters yank­ing the game out of its genre’s niche. How­ever, while the se­ries cer­tainly has its staunch fans – it has long been a fix­ture on the com­pet­i­tive scene – its sales have never ri­valled those of Street Fighter. This is surely part of the rea­son for why there’s been a sixyear hia­tus for the se­ries; an op­por­tu­nity not only for ab­sence to make fans’ hearts grow fonder, but also for Cap­com to re­assess its ap­proach be­hind closed doors.

“We looked at the choke­points with this se­ries and found that the big­gest is­sue was ac­ces­si­bil­ity,” Cap­com’s Peter Rosas ex­plains. The vast range of op­tions fac­ing play­ers when as­sem­bling their teams – three char­ac­ters, each with a choice from three as­sist moves – in pre­vi­ous games proved daunt­ing. “Play­ers had to make about six de­ci­sions be­fore they got to a bat­tle,” Rosas notes. “Peo­ple would pick two char­ac­ters they felt an affin­ity for, but the third choice would in­evitably be picked for his or her func­tion. Per­haps they had a strong anti-air [move], or some­thing. It felt like a re­dun­dant choice.”

To sim­plify all the pre-match de­ci­sion­mak­ing, Marvel Vs Cap­com: In­fi­nite is played with teams of two, a re­turn to the setup of

X-Men Vs Street Fighter, which Rosas says lets Cap­com “em­pha­sise the sense of part­ner­ship and bond”. The sim­pli­fi­ca­tion has also al­lowed the de­vel­op­ment team, which is led by No­rio Hirose – whose prior cred­its in­clude Cap­com

Vs SNK, Ri­val Schools and Street Fighter Al­pha 3 – to al­low for more free­dom and con­trol in the arena. “Char­ac­ters are free to tag in at any mo­ment and fin­ish each other’s com­bos in a far more freeform way than be­fore,” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Mike Jones tells us. “You can cre­ate your sce­nar­ios with as­sists and coun­ters, and care­fully choose the or­der in which you ex­e­cute your at­tacks. In this way you cre­ate your own as­sists and set­ups.” All the func­tion­al­ity that play­ers have come to know and love is present, Jones is quick to as­sure, but it’s per­formed in dif­fer­ent ways.

That Marvel Vs Cap­com: In­fi­nite is a fresh start is ev­i­denced in its non-se­quen­tial ti­tle. The sub­ti­tle refers to the In­fin­ity Stones, six di­vine, abil­ity-warp­ing orbs that have been im­ported from Marvel’s labyrinthine fic­tion. Nar­ra­tively, they’ll tie the Marvel and Cap­com uni­verses to­gether; in me­chan­i­cal terms, they re­place the third char­ac­ter, aug­ment­ing your team with one newly ex­e­cutable move (a dash or pro­jec­tile, for ex­am­ple) and a screen-fill­ing su­per. “You might pick the speed stone to help com­pen­sate for a slow char­ac­ter’s weak­ness,” Rosas says, “or to fur­ther press an ad­van­tage in a quick char­ac­ter.”

“We looked at the his­tory of th­ese games and found that typ­i­cally only five or six char­ac­ters end up be­ing truly com­pet­i­tive,” Jones ex­plains. “What the stones do is to take team cre­ation to a sys­tem level.” While the de­sign seems sim­plis­tic, it has made bal­anc­ing com­plex: char­ac­ters de­signed to be played with­out pro­jec­tile moves sud­denly gain them, while slow, pow­er­ful fight­ers can ac­quire a flighty dash. In prac­ti­cal terms, the stones add 12 new moves to ev­ery char­ac­ter in the ros­ter.

The ten­sion at the heart of Cap­com’s task is clear: how to make a game with a broad enough ap­peal to cap­i­talise on Marvel’s still-grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity, while de­liv­er­ing a propo­si­tion that is deep and in­ter­est­ing enough for the com­pet­i­tive com­mu­nity, on whose opin­ion and sup­port the game’s ul­ti­mate fate de­pends. Di­rec­tor of pro­duc­tion

Michael Evans be­lieves – pos­si­bly against the odds – that Cap­com can suc­ceed in meet­ing the needs and ex­pec­ta­tions of both groups. “On the ca­sual side, with those play­ers who don’t have thou­sand of hours to spend in train­ing mode, we are go­ing to have a story mode, easy-to-use pad con­trols and var­i­ous kinds of op­ti­mi­sa­tion,” he ex­plains. “We don’t want to over­whelm the player. But for play­ers who want to get into the lab, I want to make sure peo­ple who are in­vest­ing time are re­warded. I don’t think any­body has to get shut out.”

Peter Rosas, co-pro­ducer

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