Marvel: Avengers Alliance just did the near-unthinkable for a facebook and mobile-powered game: celebrated its fourth anniversary. The game, which pits Marvel Comics heroes in role-playing game-style turn based combat, has been boosted by one thing other persistent online games of its type often never bothered with: story.
From the first time you create your agent to fight alongside your favorite heroes (and a handful of villains) in the Marvel Universe, Avengers Alliance gives you reasons for everything. It tells you why you're being called into action, it introduces the conflict and the characters involved. The story has driven the game's longevity, as well, even tying into stories going on at Marvel Comics at the same time.
Now, the game's sequel, Avengers Alliance 2 is on the horizon. To help catch fans up, introduce new fans to the story, and bridge the gap between the two games, Disney Interactive and Marvel Comics teamed up on a custom digital comic by Marvel veterans Fabian Nicieza and Paco Diaz with colors by Chris Sotomayor, showing how a new generation of Marvel Heroes will step into the fight and lead the way as things continue.
"We design all of our games to reward longtime Marvel Comics fans, but at the same time we want each game to be very accessible," Marvel Games creative director Bill Rosemann told ComicBook.com. "Whatever Marvel game you play, you'll see a consistency to the characters. Whether you're coming to our game from film or tv or the comics, the characters will be familiar to you."
Once they know how the characters are being presented, the next step was the story. Marvel Games knew from the beginning that the company's reputation for telling a good story had to be represented.
"When we first stared on MAA, we knew it would be an opportunity to build a platform for narrative," Producer Justin Woods explained. "There's a ton of Marvel Comics fans at our studio, and with the ever-evolving universe, we look at our game as an opportunity to have an ever-evolving universe, mixing and matching in so many permutations that we'll never run out of story to tell."
The new game will be available only on mobile devices this time around, and with the development side focused only on that platform, it allows them to focus even more on the story by writer Josh Fine, a veteran of Marvel Animation, Woods said.
"We look at Marvel Games as another pillar of our storytelling, it's in our DNA, we are story tellers," Rosemann said. "Our characters don't collide for no reason. If they don't come together for a reason that you as a player, or reader, connect with, it all falls apart. I don't know if we could approach anything without story."
Well, the story for the comic book helps show that "even though there's a number 2 attached to this game, we want to be accessible to every player. We don't want to assume that every player who comes into this game was already playing Avengers Alliance," Rosemann said. "In order to make the invitation as wide as possible, we wanted to catch everyone up on what has gone on before." The digital comic introduces fans to the main players, why they collide, and "some of the things you may experience in the game."
Rosemann also noted that the game and comic connect in fun ways just for die-hard fans; the cover (seen above) is by Sam Wood, one of the artists on Avengers Alliance and Avengers Alliance 2, just one of the Easter Eggs fans of the game will find in the story.
The comic shows a few of the classic "team leaders" like Iron Man and Captain America, but quickly hands the story off to a younger generation of heroes, with Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Squirrel Girl taking the reins. Rosemann said they chose those characters to drive the story largely because they're simply fans, "Especially of Ms. Marvel, who a lot of us see as a symbol representing the new generation of Marvel. She's a classic Peter Parker-style character, but presenting it in a very fresh new version."
Of course, it's not just new heroes joining the fray, there'll be new villains, too. Woods explained that there's a balance they need to reach, bringing in the characters that fans of all stripes expect to see. "People expect to see Hydra, they expect to see AIM, and we want to meet those expectations, but also take those in new directions and introduce things that are less familiar." So while MAA 2 will start off revolving around Hydra, Woods promises it will "continue to branch into interesting, less-known territories." That includes going to Nowhere, the severed Celestial head that serves as an intergalactic trading post (and occasional homebase of the Guardians of the Galaxy) and fighting aliens that only comic book readers will recognize at first. "We mix and match when it's appropriate to the narrative," Woods assured, emphasizing that the story comes first. Rosemann also teased the Black Order and Incursions, both relatively new concepts at Marvel Comics, will be coming to the game.
The digital comic will be made available online for free, but fans heading to Silicon Valley Comic Con this weekend can get a print copy made just for the Disney Interactive panel at the convention. You can read the entire first chapter for free right here in the gallery below, and stay tuned for the official release date of Marvel: Avengers Alliance 2, coming soon to Android and iOS.