To accompany our hands on session with Marvel's Spider-Man 2, we were handed the chance to pose some questions to senior game director Ryan Smith at the London event. Below, we get into how the PS5 hardware has accelerated load times in the sequel, how the open world has evolved, and answer one very important question: has Peter Parker lost any more of his backpacks to collectibles in the years since Marvel's Spider-Man on PS4?
Push Square: So, Marvel's Spider-Man and all its DLC in 2018. Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales in 2020. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart in 2022. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is out this year, and you have Marvel's Wolverine coming. My first question is just: how? How has Insomniac Games become so efficient at creating these high-quality, AAA games in such a short space of time?
Ryan Smith: I can't speak too much to it because I've been focused on Spider-Man 2 for quite a while, but I do think we have a tremendous shared tech team that we work with across all those games and we're seeing sort of experience and expertise with the PlayStation 5 build up and so that's been really helping a lot. And we have teams that are dedicated to those projects as well as our shared technologies. I think that all adds up to a whole lot of people focused on making great player experiences and figuring out how to get all the different projects across the line.
And with those projects, you had to take into account PS4 hardware. On PS5, obviously, you can go further. With Ratchet & Clank, there was the PS5 SSD that allowed you to create the rift dimensions and everything. What does that look like for Spider-Man 2?
I mean, I think, hopefully you experienced a bit of that today. It's definitely enabled us; the PlayStation 5 loading speeds have enabled us to go faster as you're swinging and traversing through the city. That's, I think, number one that we can call out. As you're swinging and moving through the city, we're loading everything so fast. And really, we are reaching speeds almost double — I think actually maybe technically double — what we did in the previous games, and that's really a large part due to our focus on the PS5 loading.
And we do that with swinging, where you can build up the speed depending on where you're released and stuff like that. That's really player-driven, but also with the web wings, the wind tunnels really push you along, and that's something that we can offer them and take advantage of, giving the player something new and interesting to scout out in the world and plot their course a little bit.
Yeah, I've tried out the character-switching. It's basically like two seconds in and out, just a black screen, and then you're straight into playing as Miles or Peter.
Yeah, exactly. That's another element that was enabled by the PlayStation 5 is that really seamless character switching across the world. And you know, we have the character-switching animations to pick up wherever they left off, but we're able to do that really quickly. And I think that influences also our mission design, when you see, like in our chase that we had in the gameplay reveal that you hopefully played through today, we're able to do those interior-to-exterior transitions out into the big open world really, really effectively through all the loading technology.
And in terms of the story you're creating, how tough do you find it to keep a Spider-Man story fresh? Because he's a very well-known character, he's got a lot of traits that you kind of have to include in terms of just his location and his story and the characters around him. Where do you draw upon to find originality and keep it fresh for the players?
Yeah, we look at all the Spider-Man material. It can be comics, it can be movies, but then also, you know, our own inspirations and our own lives. I think one of the things that makes all the Spider-Heroes really relatable is that they do have a human behind the mask and human relationships that we also bring to our stories, right? Whether it's MJ and Harry, whether it's Genki and Ryo or Hayley from Wild, all of them are present in the world. And so then we can have both the superhero experience and the human experience. And especially now with two spider heroes, knitting those all together into one really compelling story, it never feels like a constraint to be a Spider-Man-type game.
That's what we're really trying to do: create a great Spider-Man story. And I think working with Marvel now over several games, we have a great relationship. They help us, whether it's with our heroes or whether it's with our villains, understand what is it that makes the DNA of this character, the core of this character that defines them. So there's some flexibility, or if we just have an idea, there's no stress to bounce it off of them, saying: "Hey, we want to go this way. Does that resonate, or is that maybe not going to work? But why do we want to go there?" And we can talk it through. And it's really a great relationship.
I guess this extends to the city as well. Like, Spiderman is New York. How have you expanded the city in terms of taking in Queens and the new districts?
Yeah, I think there's a number of elements there. One is, it's always exciting to build new spaces. It's always exciting to provide those sort of touchstones or landmarks — people that they want to see in Marvel's New York, I mean, you've seen Coney Island. You can go there in the game, and it's really, really cool. And then, when we think about the character side, Miles actually has some side missions that take place around Brooklyn Visions, and so that lets us get that human connection with the characters and that location. And similarly, with Pete, he's living in Aunt May's house in Queens. That can form the mission locations.
And it feels different to fight in amongst the sort of the more residential areas rather than the big skyscrapers. So it's really, I think, an additional element to the feel of the city. And then it complements also the new traversal that we have. So you can glide with the web wings, and that's something you can now do a little bit more effectively. When, oh, there's no buildings, well, I've got a gap I can cross. Instead of some swinging, I've got some other options. So it all sort of works together. The city lets us find lots of new opportunities to work into those missions and make a difference.
I felt like I was encountering more side content in the demo as well, like the photo ops and all the light puzzles and everything. Can you speak to what you've integrated in terms of new side content? And are we collecting more of Peter's backpacks?
*Laughs* So I can talk to you sort of what we showed today a little bit and also our philosophy, which is to make sure that every piece of side content that we introduce has a bit of a story thread through it. And so we found that's something that really helps people latch onto them and sort of love whether it's completing the mission or collecting the next bit of information. And so that story element — adding that to all of our side content — was one of our big goals for this project.
There's also the sense of discovery where you as a player will swing through the city, and once you've revealed something, you'll have options like finding it on the map, finding it in the world. And we have little call-outs for it, so that you can see it and go find out what that is. So those are two of the big elements that we wanted to add to the open world.
It also seems like Spider-Man suits are going to be side content rewards from what I saw in the game. Can you just speak to what the process of picking the suits you'll include in the game looks like? Do you target a few or do you just go through the past history of what's been in there? Is there a design philosophy around them?
There's a little bit of everything. We think about our story suits: what's the progression we're going to go through in the game? Because a lot of times we want our hero's journey to be reflected in the suits that you're wearing or maybe have available. There are classics that players always want to see and we want to get those in there. There are also new suits, whether they're from new Marvel artists or just new elements that we can bring in. So it's a little bit of all of the above in terms of having the stuff that players really love and stuff that supports the story, as well as just new opportunities for creative stuff. I think we have one scene that has its own custom web wings and I think it's another way where we can find opportunities to reflect just creativity in the scenes.
So obviously you can switch between both Spider-Men. You said that co-op isn't going to be a thing; it's going to be single player. Did you ever consider the co-op angle at all during development, or was it always going to be single player?
No, this is a single player game with two spider heroes that have really compelling stories that weave together.
Just one last question. Obviously, the original Marvel's Spider-Man came out with all the City Never Sleeps DLC, and nothing's confirmed for Spider-Man 2 at the moment. Are you looking at that extra content beyond launch?
Nothing to discuss today. Just looking forward to that October 20th launch and getting everyone's hands on our sequel.
Okay, that's awesome. Thank you.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. We would like to thank Ryan Smith for taking the time to talk to us during the Marvel's Spider-Man 2 preview event. What details did you find most interesting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.