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  1. #1
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    Default Why a Superman Game is so Hard to Make

    I found an interesting video on how its hard to make a good Superman video game:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVQhSStovNw&t=17s

    The best recent superhero video games focused on Batman (Arkham) and Spider-Man (the PS4 game). The difference between them and Superman is a punk with a gun could harm Spidey and Batman, but cannot harm Superman, so the typical cannon fodder enemies will be useless against Superman in a game (unless you count the SNES game where random punks with chainsaws and Molotov cocktails can hurt Superman, which is silly).

    Generally, a video game only works if the player can lose at any time and that is hard to do with Superman. With fighting games, they have to nerf Superman so Joker or Batman can defeat him, at least with some of the Justice League games, he is mainly fighting heavy hitters like Darkseid or Brainiac as bosses and their minions are more powerful than normal goons, so its a little more believable Superman could lose to these guys.

    Would you agree with this video? Is there anything that could be done to make a good Superman game?

    People point to Superman Returns as a game where the city is the health bar and Superman has to protect that rather than himself, but then the game is a giant escort mission and that wouldn't allow for epic boss fights with supervillains, its potentially interesting idea, but not well executed and would need a lot of work to work well. Perhaps a different kind of game would work for Superman, like a Telltale style game that is more like an interactive movie than a game.

  2. #2
    (formerly "Superman") JAK's Avatar
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    SR is probably the best representation so far, but I think there could be two bars: one for the city and one for Superman. Superman's bar doesn't often move. But when it comes to huge boss fights, it does (since they're on his power level). Maybe even have the first boss fights not be threats to Superman himself, so even then, the bar doesn't move.

    It's harder than the average game, yeah.

    A Superman game isn't going to be like Arkham Asylum, and it really shouldn't be. The character isn't the same. There should be enemies that are just fun to mess with (and they should find a way to keep it fun rofl-stomping them), some that are a threat to the city, and some that are a threat to both Superman *and* the city.

    The trick is to how to change things up over time so it doesn't get tedious.
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  3. #3
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    I've always thought the main problem with Superman in a game is that his arsenal is so large. You need to be able to control flight, heat vision, superbreath, super-speed, as well as combat moves. Trying to create an intuitive way to do all of this in one game is more complex that most characters in video games who are reasonably simple concepts that vary more in levels and a single unique attack type. Unless you reduce Superman to a flying brick there are just too many aspects to come up with quick control combinations for. And too many different types of opposition (Luthor, Zod, Kryptonite, …) that would need to also be factored in.

  4. #4
    All-New Member the COMET's Avatar
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    I don't believe managing his Superpowers is such a hard task as some people insist. DCUO fighting mechanics does it brilliantly, tap and hold for combos, holding trigger button and select a super power like a dash attack, heat vision, cold breath, for movement there's regular running, flying, supersonic flight, and could have a faster one like light speed flying. A Superman game should this playability imo.
    The issue is with the story, how to make it interesting, switching from fighting villians and saving people without ruining it

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    This is fun to think about. I always liked the idea of making the city or civilians a big focus, since the real challenge for a Superhero is protecting people, not just punching the bad guy. But there should be plenty of that too to satisfy the power fantasy and not just turn it into a boring supernanny game. There are elements of Arkham, Returns, and DCU Online that could make it work.

    I'd say rich maps are the key here, along with a diverse set of missions and villains. Metropolis (where the game should start) and Kandor should both be maps where you can interact with people and discover cool things RPG style. Clark should have things to do in between action sequences in Metropolis, for example. This makes the world feel real, and gives a more believable Superman experience where you're free to explore. There's also an opportunity to play journalist or detective with Superman. Using his x-ray & microvision to detect evidence, searching landscapes with telescopic vision, decoding details from audio/visual elements, etc.

    -Metropolis (Daily Planet, Lexcorp, Lois's/Clark's apartment, Jimmy Olsen's house)
    -Smallville (Kent Farm, Luthor's old place, the local school, Lana's House, Pete's House, "Town")
    -The Fortress of Solitude
    -Kandor
    -Maybe even a simulation of Krypton
    -Warworld
    -Brainiac's Ship
    -New Genesis
    -Apokalips

    There's more than enough there to create a challenging Superman game with a healthy combination of beat-em-up villains and big powerful bosses, but also protection missoins. The trick is to keep the methods of victory creative. You have to use all the tricks in the book at a fast pace. Stack things and fuse them with heat vision, prevent falling debris, burrow underground to come up again, escort/infiltrate/attack space-ships, create or alter substances with heat/cold and pressure, etc. Just punching everything would be a disservice.

  6. #6
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Just a random thought, side missions for civilian characters as the people in the video describe could be great, it would be interesting if they expanded beyond regular members. Like kids or people struggling, it would be interesting to have Superman help them in creative ways. It might be hard to translate into gameplay mechanics but I think it would give the player a greater appreciation for what they're doing.

  7. #7
    Legendary Member daBronzeBomma's Avatar
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    The notion that it's impossible to make a good Superman video game because he's too OP is ludicrous ... esp when you consider Goku's success (and he's every bit as OP as Clark) across multiple platforms:

    https://www.facebook.com/GamologyEsp...9979195852778/

    Why is Goku and his franchise so much better than Clark and his???

    EDIT: fixed link
    Last edited by daBronzeBomma; 01-05-2020 at 09:35 PM.

  8. #8
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Goku will fight for 300 pages straight so it's not a surprise when a game asks you to fight the entire time that it gets so close to expectations. That video link is broken, I'm guessing it's Kakarot? Fighterz is already out and a complete success, but it's pretty obvious why Superman doesn't have an equivalent.


    Quote Originally Posted by the COMET View Post
    I don't believe managing his Superpowers is such a hard task as some people insist. DCUO fighting mechanics does it brilliantly, tap and hold for combos, holding trigger button and select a super power like a dash attack, heat vision, cold breath, for movement there's regular running, flying, supersonic flight, and could have a faster one like light speed flying. A Superman game should this playability imo.
    The issue is with the story, how to make it interesting, switching from fighting villians and saving people without ruining it
    I can't judge it just by watching videos, but naybe if they cleaned it up and found ways to sustain the actions of Superman. The problem from where I sit is that most licensed games for soooo long depended on by the numbers mechanics and the stories were cookie cutter as a result. Basically getting you from point A to B in your favorite skin with serviceable cinematics to fill in the gaps. And now license games are pretty much too expensive to crank out .

    Stop doing like... Ultimate Destruction or kid friendly GTA or something. Superman doesn't need to buy or upgrade, that stuff makes no sense. Don't do video game things just because. Focus on unique and intuitive controls and concepts. Let's say a gas tanker is on fire and the game isn't lazy enough to tell you to just pick it up. Or simple as anybody may say, hey, you're called to a scene where goons have their guns pumping inside of a bank. The fun isn't being Superman, it's having super powers and using them.

    The story itself shouldn't be doing the heavy lifting and there are like a thousand consecutive or episodic scenarios.
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  9. #9
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the COMET View Post
    I don't believe managing his Superpowers is such a hard task as some people insist. DCUO fighting mechanics does it brilliantly, tap and hold for combos, holding trigger button and select a super power like a dash attack, heat vision, cold breath, for movement there's regular running, flying, supersonic flight, and could have a faster one like light speed flying. A Superman game should this playability imo.
    The issue is with the story, how to make it interesting, switching from fighting villians and saving people without ruining it
    DCUO ( I *just* logged off, and finally finished that Lobo style!) has a good blueprint, and I'd actually say that Elder Scrolls does as well. At least the regular ES, I haven't tried the MMO version. In Elder Scrolls Skyrim for example, you can have tons of different weapons and spells that all do different things and you can equip them as you see fit, including in the middle of combat, and you can hot-key them so your favorites are easy to switch out without having to open up a menu. In a Superman game the same kind of process could give you access to not just his power set, but specific uses of those abilities. You could have a regular heat vision, a cone version of heat vision, etc. This might even allow you to mix powers, using telescopic vision in one "equip" slot and heat vision in another to snipe a criminal from two miles up.

    The biggest problem is making a game that is challenging but still provides the Superman experience. In DCUO you can be killed by a random thug and we can handwave that off because we're not actually Superman and people have exobytes (Brainiac nano-tech that gave countless random people powers, so maybe that random thug actually had "super gun" powers), but for a straight up Superman game that isnt gonna work. You can do stuff like have Intergang members using advanced weapons, but if every smuck can defeat you then you're not gonna feel like Superman. You could always set the game on Apokolips or War World, where every smuck is actually a crazy powerful alien who could actually hurt you, but a Superman game without Metropolis or the other staples of the character's world....that sounds like a gamble. If you want to feel like Superman, his city, friends, and villains have to be a part of that and you won't get it doing a "Superman lost on Apokolips" game. Maybe for a sequel, but for a first outing I don't think you've got that kind of allowance.

    And the Superman Returns game had a life meter for Metropolis, which was a great idea but ultimately pushed the game play away from the fun fights and made it all about containment. I think SR had the right direction, but the execution wasn't what it should've been and that kind of approach becomes real old real fast.

    I think you need a mix. Some missions should be about saving the people/city and the challenge is how you do that, not whether you die trying. Some missions should be about winning the fight with little or no concern about damaging the city or bystanders and your life is very much endangered. Some missions should be based on stealth and investigation, perhaps where you play as Clark and either can't access your powers at all or have to be super careful to not get caught doing so.

    The problems with a Superman game used to be based on the technological limitations. You couldn't build a world big enough, you couldn't get all the powers programmed in, whatever. Now we can have a game that gives you a whole planet to explore (check out Megaton Rainfall, where you can explore the entire universe) and all the powers you like, including the power to completely wreck everything around you in satisfyingly destructive ways. Now the challenge is hitting the balance where you still face the threat of failure but still feel like the gods damn Superman.
    Last edited by Ascended; 01-05-2020 at 07:23 PM.
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  10. #10
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    I was just thinking about this and I have a pitch. The Superman video game should be his origin, a Coming Of Age story.

    Two big reasons why.

    1) It's new territory in video games. Spider-Man told the best superhero story in a game, and the Arkham games were very good stories too. But they were both mid-career peak status. That's tough to do with Superman who has so many abilities that you want to introduce each new power in the way that you gain abilities in a Zelda game.

    And more importantly:

    2) You will gain your powers over the course of the adventure, building up to the full-powered demi-god Superman by the midpoint of the campaign. By that time, the game would be supported by DLC and an "open world city" MMO of the Bottled City of Kandor where everyone is a custom-outfit version of Superman (race/gender also adjustable). It's like Fortnite except not a battle to the death.

    Part one of the game is in Smallville, where you learn the basic core powers — strength, speed, and leaping. Then Metropolis, which unlocks as you progress. The whole city is available all at once on foot, but what unlocks are the interiors, underground, and sky spaces.

    As you gain X-Ray vision, Heat vision, Freeze breath, these places unlock. Flying is one of the last powers you gain.

    Once you're powered up with flight, I think you are 50% of the way through the main campaign. The back half tests all of the powers used in different combinations to thwart whatever villains are part of the main story, or rescue somebody from a car crash or something. The DLC continues with new episodes that continue the mission formats from the back half of the game.

    Edit: Also the DLC allows the possibility of more powers to add new game dynamics. Could be small things like a mission based around super hearing / radar. You could add a Telephone Booth to be able to change into Clark Kent, maybe have a fetch quest of trying to gather the right sources for a Daily Planet story.

    I would really build "continuing DLC" into the overall promise of the game. Maybe call it "The Continuing Adventures of Superman." This is what I wanted more than anything from the Spider-Man game was to just have more to do once the character was fully leveled up.
    Last edited by gregpersons; 01-05-2020 at 10:52 PM.

  11. #11
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    Is there a reason why enemies in a Superman game just can't be metahumans, robots or other aliens? In Devil May Cry, for instance, the enemies are other demons and the main character is a half-demon.
    Last edited by Agent Z; 01-06-2020 at 04:33 AM.

  12. #12
    Incredible Member Superbat's Avatar
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    I have an idea.

    What if the whole game happens in a virtual world that Lex Luthor has trapped Superman's friends in.
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  13. #13
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    I don't think Superman as a character lends himself well to an open-world game. At least not at the current graphical levels. Because as a character he's too big for any open world.

    Imagine you do a Superman game with Metropolis as a city and the map is as big as Los Santos in GTA-V. Now to do justice to Superman you would need every NPC in the game to be audible to his superhearing at all times except for those blocked by special areas, and so on. You would need his X-Ray vision to be able to see through every house and building, except for parts covered with lead. I say Los Santos in GTA V because you need an open-world map with a big airspace and a deep underwater. So thatk itself is a huge, huge ask. And since each NPC is going to be voiced, you need to hire a lot of voice actors to convey that and record lines so that raises the budget. A map where every building is see-through on a huge scale is also going to need a lot of animators and art people for that much detail. So it's a hugely expensive undertaking, prohibitively expensive, a game that would take five years to produce at a minimum and five years is a console lifetime so if you start this year (when PS5 is coming out), you need to make the game for a PS6 launch. And that's a huge gamble.

    The better alternative by far is a game like DISHONORED, an Immersive Sim which has characters who have superpowers that they can unleash on the world around them and which include stuff like teleportation, stopping time and so on. The game is structured on a series of levels that are multi-tiered and multi-layered with different side-quests and objectives dotted around. Each level is more or less a small open-world map which you can complete anyway you want using all the powers you have, and your actions and how you use it ultimately affect the world around you. So a Superman game can be done like that. You have a series of levels, and each one has Superman covering that level in every which fashion. At the end of which, he goes to the Fortress of Solitude or Daily Planet which acts like a Hub Level. You can use all of Superman's powers...you can complete a game using just Superman's super-speed and leaping tall buildings at a single bound, you can fly around, you can use X-Ray and all that stuff and Heat Vision. It's just that there are consequences for doing so. Like if you fly around too much, maybe guards and others go underground and avoid heights. Likewise, Superman's actions and choices affect the outcome of each mission and add up to the end. At the end of every DISHONORED level there's a stats page that jots out how many people you killed and what special actions you did, with Superman it can be how many people you saved and so on.

    A Superman Immersive Sim that's level based allows for a thematic approach where each level allows you to focus on different aspects of the character and mythos, and different villains and supporting cast. You can even flirt with AU such as if you have Superman use his powers for evil he ends up becoming a dictator and gets stabbed by Kryptonite, whereas a good Superman gets a classic ending.


    To be honest, a Superman game seems more doable to me than say, The Flash game (anyone who thinks doing super-speed in 3D can work should look at the Sonic games and gape in Lovecraftian awe at the horror and waste of it all), or Green Lantern (it's only recently that interplanetary open-worlds like No Man's Sky and Outer Wilds are a thing, and even then that's quite apart from Green Lantern having a do-anything ring that makes any construct). Of DC properties, you can make a Wonder Woman game well enough (think God of War meets Tomb Raider), you can also do Swamp Thing and John Constantine (Constantine absolutely can work as a Witcher III Action RPG). Oh and Mr. Miracle would be totally cool since it's basically a puzzle-action game since you will constantly have to escape out of situations.

  14. #14
    Moderator Frontier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    To be honest, a Superman game seems more doable to me than say, The Flash game (anyone who thinks doing super-speed in 3D can work should look at the Sonic games and gape in Lovecraftian awe at the horror and waste of it all), or Green Lantern (it's only recently that interplanetary open-worlds like No Man's Sky and Outer Wilds are a thing, and even then that's quite apart from Green Lantern having a do-anything ring that makes any construct). Of DC properties, you can make a Wonder Woman game well enough (think God of War meets Tomb Raider), you can also do Swamp Thing and John Constantine (Constantine absolutely can work as a Witcher III Action RPG). Oh and Mr. Miracle would be totally cool since it's basically a puzzle-action game since you will constantly have to escape out of situations.
    These developers seemed to have come pretty close to realizing The Flash in a video game:


  15. #15
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    A lot of the mechanics for that Flash game look a bit like what we have in DCU Online.
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