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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Developers on Tackling Space's Most Dangerous Misfits

In case you missed it, Square Enix and Eidos-Montreal officially announced Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy today as part of its E3 2021 games showcase. It’s set to release for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC later this year on October 26th. Prior to the official reveal, ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy senior producer Olivier Proulx and executive narrative director Mary DeMarle all about the video game, how the developer came to be working with space’s most dangerous misfits, and more.

It’s worth noting that the whole video game is about managing your team as Peter Quill (Star-Lord) rather than playing as one of the various characters. Also, it is confirmed to be a single-player only experience. And while the team at Eidos-Montreal wasn’t involved with Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn. From the look of the first trailer and gameplay, however, it seems like the developer has a strong grasp on what fans want to see out of a Guardians of the Galaxy video game.

As noted above, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is set to release for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC later this year on October 26th. It is available to pre-order now wherever such things are sold, and pre-ordering the title gets an outfit pack full of throwback outfits for the Guardians. You can check out all of our previous coverage of E3 2021 and all its announcements right here.

What do you think about what we have seen of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy so far? How do you feel about the story and gameplay that’s been show off? Let us know in the comments, or feel free to reach out and hit me up directly over on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk about all things gaming! And keep reading to check out our full interview with Proulx and DeMarle!

On Why This Game

ComicBook.com: Why Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy? Why this game?

Olivier Proulx: Why not? Well, the opportunity came about, of course, a few years ago. David, our head of studio, started to have different exploratory discussions with Disney and Marvel, and like the planets aligned, like we say. And that came across. And for us, it was just a great opportunity to dive into this amazing universe and dive into those characters. And Eidos-Montreal, we’ve always loved to build really strong narrative experiences with great characters. And for us, it was kind of a really good fit, I would say, to be able to dive into this universe and these characters.

Mary DeMarle: Actually, I would add to that. Marvel has such a great wealth of characters and a universe, and it was really interesting when we first met with them to see how much they were going to allow us the creative freedom to put our own stamp on it. And we very quickly realized that we all were coming together in this collaboration from the standpoint of we all want to make really great video games and we want them to appeal to Marvel fans and gamers alike. And with our expertise as video game developers, and the stories and the worlds that we build, and their years and years of developing these characters and stuff, it really was a fun collaboration to do together.

(Photo: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal)

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On Whether It’s An Adaptation

Now, to be clear here, this is an all-new story. You’re using the characters of the Marvel universe, but not adapting comics or something like that.

MD: Yes, that’s correct. Because Marvel was really, really clear that they wanted us to bring our own stamp to this universe and create something unique in it. Because when you really look at it, it’s like when you look at the comic books and you look at the movies, they’re all putting in a different representation of these characters. They’re creating their own worlds in this. And Marvel was very clear and we were very clear that we wanted to make the Eidos-Montreal version of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

So we went to the drawing board, and as long as we stay true to the essence of who these characters work, we were able to create our own backstory, our own universe in it, pull in the characters from Marvel lore that really fit our narrative, and build something that I hope you will find to be truly epic and exciting and fun.

OP: And funny.

MD: And funny.

OP: Like Mary said, the challenge for us was to find that balance of these are familiar characters, you know about them at different levels. We have comic book fans, we have more casual fans with just the movies, but you recognize them. But at the same time, you’ve never seen these Guardians before. You’ve never seen that story before. So it was just finding that balance of fresh, new, but at the same time, familiar for us in this process.

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On How the Story Came Together

Speaking of story, obviously, Dan Abnett is in the video. Was he involved with the story on the game?

MD: No, not actually at all. Well, he’s actually working on something related to it that appears in the game. But I can’t really say much about that.

But, no, this was basically created by myself, JF Dugas, and Casper Hartman’s one of our lead writers. We created the story together and then brought in the writing team within Eidos. All internal writers who work in the studio. And, of course, everything that we were writing was going through Marvel to make sure that we’re staying on point with it and that we were capturing the essence of these characters in a unique but fun and memorable way.

OP: Of course, from the narrative point of view, which is extremely important, but you saw it in the art direction, the design of the characters. We want to have that cool mix of they’re rock and roll, but it’s scifi at the same time. At Eidos, we’ve always prided ourselves with flavorful and strong art direction, right? And that was another thing for us to do is just find that balance visually of how these characters look and feel.

So, again, with Marvel, it was a great collaboration. When we started the project, we really pushed to test different things with the characters, and they came to Montreal in one of our first meetings, and we just showed them really out there designs, and they just kind of just sat there for a minute. And we’re like …

MD: Because we pushed it to them.

OP: Yeah, and they’re like, “Okay, that’s cool. But let’s come back and think about what the essence of the characters is.” Which is it’s not negative. It’s something that’s really healthy in the creative process. And they were just great collaborators there.

And, personally, I think we found the right balance there. Hopefully, you thought the same, the fans will feel the same, but that’s what we tried to do with this one.

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(Photo: Square Enix)

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On Character Designs

Speaking of taking these characters and putting your own spin on it, was there any concern about approaching some of these relatively iconic designs? Obviously, some of them look a little bit closer to different counterparts. But as you approach designing what Star-Lord looks like in this video game, is there ever that, “Oh, it’s not quite close enough to the MCU,” or “It’s too far away from the MCU.” What’s the thought process there?

OP: There was a lot of discussions around that. We did some focus testing. Even when the game wasn’t a game yet, but we have concept art and we had different art direction pieces, we could go to fans and just poll and hear what they say. Or we’d even do quantitative and have more data to help us and guide us along the way. Get Marvel’s feedback.

So that’s something that was on top of our minds for many, many months, and I would say even a couple of years. And once we started to build a game and have it come alive on screen, when we do play tests and we test the game with our players, that’s something we polled them every time. Like, “How do you feel about the characters and for each character?”

So we went through our own designs and some iterations to get to the final product that you saw today.

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On the Music

Speaking of art direction, with Guardians of the Galaxy, art direction is also the music, the sound after James Gunn’s movie–

OP: Oh, absolutely.

That’s a part of it. How did you go about figuring out the soundtrack for this?

MD: I think for us, and this was true for the art direction as well. Once we realized that Peter Quill is stuck in the ‘80s, he’s, he’s a child of the ‘80s. He was kidnapped when the ‘80s and he’s kind of stuck there. And once we realized that, we started to realize, well, of course, we want to bring in all this influence from his childhood into it. Everything from the coat and the various pins that he wears on his lapel to the music itself.

And then our audio director, just dove right in with finding the best-licensed ‘80s music that he could find. A wide range of all of it, and I think it’s so much fun to hear all those songs in it.

OP: And we have quite the soundtrack here. If you build a playlist with this, you’re going to have fun with it. We have Iron Maiden, but we have Rick Astley at the same time. We have KISS and New Kids on the Block. We have some pop stuff, we have some rock stuff. And the cool thing is that the songs, like in any good movie, a good track will come at the right moment to convey the right message. And we definitely have that as we go through the story and the narrative and some cut scenes, or even some gameplay element that’s a little bit more authored and directed.

But also we have a fun feature called a “Huddle,” and you could see it briefly at the demo. So it’s a wild card that the player can use while in combat, and you just bring the Guardians to you. You pop the Walkman out, and you motivate your Guardians with a speech that’s inspired by a song. And then when you go back in gameplay, you play to a song that’s from our soundtrack, which is a pretty awesome experience to be able to get that as well. So music is actually a big pillar for us for all these reasons.

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(Photo: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal)

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On RPG Elements

Speaking of the gameplay that we saw, it looked like after every encounter, there was some sort of experience being gathered. Can we expect some light RPG elements? We talking skill trees? What does that look like?

OP: Well, many action-adventure games today, they have those light RPG elements, and that’s something that we wanted to explore as well being that you have all those Guardians, and you have different abilities. So it’s pretty simple. After a combat encounter, depending on how well you played, and how stylish you were, and how creative you were in using your Guardians, you get bonus points. And when you build that gauge, then you get ability points, and you can invest them in unlocking different abilities for Peter and the Guardians.

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On Lady Hellbender

Now, talking about the cast of characters that we saw, there are some well-known, some lesser known. Lady Hellbender is kind of an out there choice for this. Why Lady Hellbender of all people?

MD: Well, a large part comes with just being able to access in Marvel’s library of characters. And as we were building the story, it was really great because as we build the story, we would kind of say, “Hey, we need a character who fulfills this kind of role. So who could it be”? And sometimes it’s a character we’ve made up, but other times it was more fun to go to Marvel and say, “This is the kind of character. Can you give us a suggestion?” And Marvel would come back and potentially say, “Well, why don’t you look at this character or this one and see which one fits best.”

And so I think Lady Hellbender was actually a suggestion from Marvel to fit what we were looking for, and then once we dove into getting to know that character, we’re just like, “Oh, yeah, this is the perfect character for this.”

OP: Yeah. And then Marvel has so many great characters. So in the trailer, you’ve seen a few of them. In the demo, Lady Hellbender was present. But in the game, we have more characters that we haven’t revealed yet.

And just a quick, funny story about Lady Hellbender. This is a pretty recent character for Marvel. When we started to animate her and actually have the voiceover performances and all of that coming alive, we showed it to Marvel, and Bill Roseman at Marvel, and some of Marvel crew. They were freaking out because it’s the first time they could hear her speak. And they were so stoked about it. So that’s one of the characters we had a lot of fun working with.

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(Photo: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal)

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On Other Characters

Some of the other characters we see are some familiar Guardians’ faces. Mantis; I believe Cosmo the dog is in there; and then the gameplay we saw, obviously these characters, Drax, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket all participate in combat. And as Star-Lord, you’re giving them commands. Is this a hint at what is potentially to come, or is Mantis a side character?

MD: Well, I don’t want to spoil anything. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to go to the movies and know what I’m seeing before I go. But I will say that Mantis is my favorite character in this entire game. You know Mantis from the movies, but then if you dive into the comic books, you’ll see a completely different interpretation of Mantis. And we’ve found our spin on her that I think is unique. So that’s all we’ll really say there, and I’ll leave you with that.

OP: No spoilers today.

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On Choices and Repercussions

Talking about the repercussions of decisions, we saw a little bit of that about Rocket being mad. How meaningful are these going to be? Is it going to change the story significantly? Are people going to be shunted down a different path, or is it more of how your crew responds to you?

MD: Oh, well, with Eidos-Montreal, choice of consequences, it’s part of our DNA. We wouldn’t want to make a game without choice and consequence. And, of course, because as gamers ourselves, we want to see our decisions reflected back to us, whether it be through the reactions of our teammates … And these teammates are very unique, strong-willed individuals who may react in very unexpected ways, and you then have to deal with that repercussion.

It could also be things like choices that you make in gameplay, they may open or close pathways to your objective. And even to the point that maybe the secret weapons that you have in your arsenal as you go into that final climactic battle are different based on your decisions.

But at the same time, we’re building a linear story. So the storyline, the beginning and the ending of the story, will be the same for everyone because we want to build a very strong, emotionally driven character arc that leads to that amazing Marvel superhero climax. But the way that you get there and the reactions along the way, like with the Rocket throw, they do make changes and they do make changes on your path to get that ending.

OP: Yeah, for sure. What we had, and the team called it “The Tree of Life,” which is basically tracking all those decisions you make and how they impact how things play out as you played that linear story that has the same in and out basically. And of course, the big narrative beats are the same. But what they say or how things play out or with little tweaks in gameplay, depending on your choices, you feel that agency and you feel that you had an impact on how things play out, which is I think really cool.

And there’s different levels of choice and consequences. Like in the demo, throwing Rocket. In the same level, later, you’ll feel the impact right away. And it’s a smaller thing, but it’s still fun to live and to feel that as a player. But in the demo as well, earlier, oftentimes in the action adventure game, when it’s a cut scene, you put the controller down. You have nothing to do. In our case, many times, you have to pitch in because the Guardians are bantering and you have to decide on the spot. And actually Mary’s team had to write a lot of dialogue because we have all those branching things going on in our cut scene.

But coming back to the demo, you can choose to sell Rocket or Groot to con Lady Hellbender, and that’s actually a bigger impact in the game because a later level is very, very different based on that choice. So that’s one of the deeper exploration we do with choice and consequence.

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(Photo: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal)

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On the Voice Cast

Now, in what we saw, it looked like the voice actors for the Guardians were also doing the mocap. Will you be announcing the voice cast now?

OP: No, we’re going to wait a little bit for this. It’s going to be coming a bit later in the media campaign.

One thing I can say though that you picked up on, that we did, of course, all the mocap. And one thing that was very important for us is that the people work together in our studio to record. So we had that great chemistry between the actors and between our directors here to make sure that this came alive on screen. So that was a big factor for us. They were recorded together.

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On How the Pandemic Affected Production

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect production?

OP: Like everyone, I think it had definitely an effect on — we had to adapt. We had to adapt how we work just from how we communicate and how we go around our daily tasks. That was a big challenge for us. But the studio, we pivoted very, very quickly from a technology point of view, making sure everyone’s set up at the home and could work. It took just a few days and people were up and running. And then from a team point of view and a human point of view, we made sure everyone was okay. We were very careful with the schedule of everyone, and listening to them, doing wellness surveys to the studio. Just making sure that everyone’s doing fine. And we wanted to make sure we had the right schedule to finish this under the right conditions.

One thing that helped is that we’re a team that we’ve worked together for many, many years. In some cases, over a decade, we’ve been working together. So we knew each other even working at a distance with the Zoom and the cameras. We could still have those honest conversations and keep going. So we adapted to it pretty well, I think.

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(Photo: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal)

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On How the Reception to Marvel’s Avengers Affected the Game

This is a big Marvel game, and it’s the first one after Marvel’s Avengers with that big triple-A title. How does the — I think we can all say the rocky reception to Marvel’s Avengers — how did that influence the team, if at all? Did you take that into consideration?

OP: Yes and no. We’re doing our game, and that’s a separate project by a separate studio.

Right. Not involved, but at the same time, I have to ask.

OP: No, it’s a really good question. Absolutely. But at the same time, when things don’t go as well as planned, it’s a great opportunity to learn and to take lessons. And, of course, we, we looked at how things went there and we took some essence to heart. But I would say it’s a different project and a different team. So not many relations there.

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On What Most Excites Them for Players to See

What are you most excited for people to see?

MD: Me, personally, I can’t wait for them to see that trailer because I love it. In fact, I think the first time I saw it, I was saying, “Again. Again. Play it again.” So I’m very, very excited to see that and to see how it feels.

I think what’s really fascinating for me is this game, it’s fun. And it’s funny. And I’m really curious. I know when I started working on it, I was a little intimidated because humor is incredibly hard to write, and I was a bit worried, could we pull it off? But I have this amazing team of very, very funny writers who just bounce back and forth and back and forth. And now people are finally going to see that and start laughing, and hopefully be really excited to see that. So that’s one of the things I’m really curious about.

OP: Yeah. I’m with Mary on this one. I think, of course, just seeing the reaction to the work and the passion that all the teams put in for the last few years is always something special on any project, but I think this one, like Mary said, the tone of the game, it’s it’s fun. It’s lighthearted, even though there’s depth to our story. But video games, oftentimes, it’s dark. Even though the colors are more like in different tones. But us, it’s colorful, it’s fun, it’s lighthearted. And with everything we all went through in the last few months and even over a year, just to have people react to something fresh and exciting and fun like this, I can’t wait to see people’s reaction.

MD: Yeah. It’s lighthearted, as Olivier said, but it definitely does have a lot of emotional depth to it at the same time. Because we’re dealing with very big themes here. We’re dealing with faith and family and loss, and all of that wrapped up into this humorous tone that can suddenly go really like, oh my God, I’m going to cry now. I’m super excited by this story. And I hope people will really love it.

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(Photo: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal)

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On Post-Launch Content

October, not that far away, development timelines being what they are. And even though it’s single player, are you looking at post-launch content and what that looks like for the game?

OP: We’re really focused on that October 26th date right now. It’s debugging the game, making sure we’re running smoothly on all consoles. The game’s going to come out on PS4, PS5, Xbox One and then the Xbox Series X and S, and of course PC. So just making sure that everyone has a smooth experience and a good-looking game, and just debugging the game. At this point, this, this is what it is for the team.

But, again, we wanted to announce the game when the team felt it was in good shape. So we’re in the right conditions to bring it home and really focus on that October 26th date.

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