On Day Five of the GDC Showcase, Marvel fans were treated to a 30-minute A.M.A. session with Brian Horton, Creative Director on Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, where he described the process of making the game.
Horton started by recapping the story leading up to Miles Morales, including what happened in the original Spider-Man game. From there, he touched on many topics, including the importance of having Miles Morales feel different from Peter Parker, working on the game during the pandemic, the importance of diversity in the game and more.
He also noted how Miles Morales focused on three pillars: having a new Spider-Man, protecting his home from two warring factions, and having a seamless cinematic experience. The first point is self explanatory; Morales is incredibly different from Parker as the former is not as strong or experienced as the latter and has bioelectric powers, which was a way to offset his inexperience.
Additionally, Horton talked about how the various teams at Insomniac Games worked on developing systems that made Morales feel unique, mainly his movement and fighting styles. Horton said that players can “feel” that Morales is just built differently in that he is out of control, but also in style.
Horton also mentioned Morales’ ability to do his own tricks while swinging around New York gives the player a “sense of joy.” Conversely, whenever the player is in combat, there is a sense of “desperation” and “clumsiness” within Morales, to which Horton gives credit to Nadji Jeter, the actor who played Morales. All of these different animation styles give Morales his own personality.
Regarding the second pillar, this was evident with Morales defending his new home in Harlem against The Tinkerer and The Underground as well as Roxxon Forces led by Simon Krieger. The experience toward the end of the game, having to face off against both sides and still trying to keep the denizens of Harlem safe amid the destruction on screen leads to the third pillar: having a seamless cinematic experience.
Along with developing unique movement styles for Morales, the various teams at Insomniac also had to make sure the game’s storyline was up to par. Though some parts of the story were already done, when the pandemic hit, Horton says the animation team assembled scenes that “could not have been done before.”
What’s more, he says the studio tried to keep the amount of quick-time-events down. That way, players can enjoy the game to the fullest, without being bogged down by loading screens or other implementations that could cause them to get sucked out of the experience. Horton says the best example of this is during the bridge sequence, which was featured in the Miles Morales gameplay demo.
Finally, with Miles Morales taking place in a culturally rich and diverse environment like Harlem, Horton notes that authenticity was key when recreating Harlem. He says that Insomniac did an exhaustive amount of research, including speaking with residents of Harlem, making sure the cultures were represented correctly.
In addition, when it came to including communities typically not featured in video games – such as the deaf and LGBTQ+ communities – Horton says that Insomniac made sure everything was authentic. To that end, they researched American Sign Language (ASL), hired actors that knew ASL and brought in consultants to ensure the ASL portrayed was correct.
That said, capturing ASL in the game provided technical challenges as well. In response, Insomniac built brand new technology to make sure the actors’ fingers and finger movements were captured correctly, at which point the consultant would go over the work the team did.
In all, Horton says the technology and innovation they made during the development of Miles Morales is something Insomniac will be “building off” for the future. As the Creative Director at Insomniac, Horton said that they are committed to excellence and making a positive statement in the world.
Considering the lengths Insomniac went in order to make sure Miles Morales was as accurately and culturally diverse as possible, and everything the developer did to ensure they made a great game, they are on the right track. Focusing on excellence and making a positive impact in the world is a goal that all developers should strive for and kudos to Insomniac for being the best example of that so far.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.