GREE, Marvel partner to bring X-Men: Battle of the Atom to mobile [Interview]

battle-of-the-atom-magneto-650Image via Marvel, GREE

GREE and Marvel Entertainment have announced a partnership resulting in a new card battle game, X-Men: Battle of the Atom, on iOS and Android. The upcoming mobile game is being developed to tie-in with the narrative in the Battle of the Atom comic book event, with both celebrating the 50-year anniversary of X-Men Comics.

X-Men: Battle of the Atom will see players recruiting teams of mutants throughout a time-twisting tale, giving users the chance to battle against classic enemies from the X-Men lore, as well as never-before-seen enemies from the future. As players collect cards and upgrade their characters, they can form alliances with friends and complete events that will be added to the game on a regular basis after launch.

We had a chance to chat with Chris Baker, Marvel’s Interactive Manager, to learn more about the game, and what makes it stand out from the other card battle games already available on mobile.

Inside Social Games: How will X-Men: Battle of the Atom differ from the wide variety of other mobile card battle games on iOS and Android?

Chris Baker: There are a lot of great card battle games out there, sure, but there are a few things that really stand out to me with Battle of the Atom.

First, as with many competitive products, we’re based around pure fan service regarding one particular intellectual property – but I’d challenge you to find another that goes as far with that fan service as Battle of the Atom will. The objective here was to celebrate 50 years of X-Men, and we’re doing it right, both in terms of characters and popular story arcs. You should see the list of characters we have planned to come out eventually – it’s HUGE. And not only that, we’re also including multiple iterations of many characters throughout the “true” history of X-Men comics as well as alternate timelines. So, in addition to today’s almost fatherly Wolverine who runs the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters, you’ll probably eventually have – maybe several – from his more berserker days, as well as versions from possible futures like Days of Future Past or Old Man Logan.

Sometimes character depictions will be held back from release because we’ve got big plans to adapt popular story arcs, which is another thing I don’t think you’ll find in many competitive titles. We’re actually starting things in the modern X-Men era, with adaptations of big events like 2011’s Schism and the current Hellfire Academy storyline – and of course, the game gets its name from this September’s event in the comic books, which we’ll get to within a few months of launch. We have an actual Marvel X-Men writer named James Asmus who’s working with the developer to plan out and execute everything story related – which is a LOT!

The team is so passionate about X-Men, there are even buffs for individual character relationships: Put Cyclops and Jean Grey together, you’ll get something speaking to their romantic relationship. At the same time, Wolverine with Jubilee will provide a buff based on their friendship. The developers even have these lined up for the most obscure characters, like for the strong friendship between Anole and Rockslide. (It’s okay if you’re never heard of them – I won’t judge you.)

Finally, from a pure gameplay perspective, the 20-on-20 Guild-vs.-Guild battles are also something you won’t find in a lot of other games. And, to the last point, there’s actual story linked to these – you can do a lot when you have the Danger Room at your disposal.

ISG: How are GREE / Marvel prepared to attract players that may appreciate card-battle games, but aren’t huge existing fans of the X-Men comics series?

CB: At Marvel, we have a philosophy with our comics that every comic book is someone’s first comic book. With that in mind, we do everything we can to ease readers into the source material, whether this is their first comic ever or their thousandth. We’re working with GREE with a similar philosophy regarding this game. The key is combining great gameplay with beautiful visuals – which we have, thanks to some awesome art – and also cluing people in to who these characters are and what they’re all about. You’ll get a good taste of that from the story, but at a more individual level, we’ll have brief bios for every character, and in many cases, we’ll actually suggest good reading material for you to check out if you see something that really catches your eye, via the Marvel Digital Comics app.

On a personal level, my love of X-Men actually got rolling with Konami’s 1992 arcade game. Before that, I had heard of them and I knew there was a Wolverine guy with sharp claws, but that was about it. So, I guess I’m saying that I fully expect someone whose primary exposure is through this game to eventually wind up with my job in 20 years…

chimera-card-650Image via Marvel, GREE

ISG: How did the team narrow down the past 50 years of X-Men history into the events featured in the game?

CB: The glory of being part of a live service is that you don’t have to do everything in one shot – we’ve got, well, ideally forever to accomplish all this. It’s going to start off with modern X-Men stories, then thanks to the work James Asmus, transition its way to adapt classic stories dating back to the ‘60s.

Of course, we’re not going to adapt every single X-Men story ever told here…but within the next few years, you’ll definitely see most of the biggest events at least represented in some way, if not full-on adapted as part of the story mode. You’ll even eventually start getting cards based on more obscure things like single issues of What If? and Exiles, which often have really creative alternate-universe takes on characters. We likely won’t dwell on those from a story perspective, but as with the more mainstream elements of the game, we aim to provide the information for you to check them out via the Marvel Digital Comics app, assuming the source material is available there.

ISG: Can you speak more about the game’s Alliances feature? For example, will all cooperative multiplayer features be asynchronous?

CB: We’re not getting into the specifics of the Alliance feature right now, so stay tuned for more details. But for now, we can say that players will be able to form alliances and partake in 20-on-20 team battles to shape the past, present and future of the X-Men universe.

ISG: What’s the timeline for updates? Will these updates be timed events, or will they be evergreen updates that any future players will be able to experience?

CB: We’re not prepared to announce the actual cadence of updates yet, but rest assured, there will be many. Some will be big events, some will be simple new additions of cards, but the current plan has a lot in store.

ISG: Will X-Men: Battle of the Atom support cross-platform multiplayer battles between players on iOS and Android?

CB: Yes, players will be able to play together across platforms.

X-Men: Battle of the Atom is expected to launch this fall on iOS and Android.