MARVEL VS CAPCOM: INFINITE
“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