"You don't go into making a game saying ‘I'm gonna win awards’, you just go into the game to do the best you possibly can," Mary DeMarle, narrative lead on Guardians of the Galaxy tells me ahead of the BAFTAs.
Although DeMarle and the team at Eidos Montreal didn’t go into Guardians of the Galaxy with the aim of being nominated for awards, the heartfelt take on the characters ended up becoming a critical darling, picking up Best Narrative at The Game Awards, even if it eventually came away from the BAFTAs empty-handed.
The success of the story and characters is even more impressive considering some of the challenges the team faced when approaching a team like the Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of characters who were relatively unknown until James Gunn introduced them into the MCU. DeMarle says this wasn’t too much of a concern, though.
"I wouldn't say it was conscious pressure,” she says. “I really enjoyed the first Guardians movie and I went into it not knowing much and remember getting blown away by it. So I could recognise a lot of the heartwarming feelings of the MCU that I wanted to maintain. And I felt like okay, we have to make sure that those people who only know them from the MCU will recognise them. And we have to trust that in the beginning. If we trust that as we bring them on this journey, they will fall in love with our version. That's all we could do."
Thankfully, despite the team having some of the key elements that movie-goers and casual fans will recognise, Eidos Montreal's take has some major differences, with DeMarle specifically making reference to how Drax was handled in the MCU.
"Right from the beginning, Marvel told us that they wanted us to make our version of the Guardians, to stay true to the essence of these characters but to make them ours and make them unique," she tells me. "So we were like, 'okay, well, how do we do that?’, so of course we knew the MCU version. But we even dove into the anime series to see what was going on there. What was interesting to me was reading the comics and to see that, yeah, I can see how the MCU sort of comes from these characters, but I also see there's a lot in these characters that isn't touched upon. For instance, Drax in the comics, he was a very thoughtful tactician, he's very smart. So I was like, 'we need to remember that we need to make sure that Drax is not this dumb guy who's just literal, he is literal, but he is smart, and he will surprise you with that'.
One element from the comics that isn't touched upon within the game is Peter Quill's sexuality. Recent arcs have revealed that Quill is bisexual, something that isn't referenced within the game. I asked DeMarle if this was ever considered.
"Story-wise, we knew that Peter was kidnapped at a young age and grew up in space," DeMarle says. "So we know that his tastes include things like tentacles and that he doesn't have the same boundaries. So we knew that, but we also knew that the focus for this game needed to be on building that relationship with Ko-Rel and that we needed to put the focus on that. So we were never really considering it because I think it would have taken away from the heart of the story and the questioning of 'am I a dad or not' and his relationship with Nikki, so we kept it focused on that."
Another key character that DeMarle wanted to expand upon was Mantis, who is portrayed more humorously in the films than she is in the comics. "When I was reading the comics, I saw that Mantis is this amazing character," DeMarle says. "And so it was like we needed to redefine her and I was really happy with how she came out. The actress who portrays her is phenomenal."
Considering the existence of several other Marvel games made by other studios, such as Insomniac's Spider-Man and Crystal Dynamics' Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy is able to get away with a surprising amount of references and lore-building. Marvel Games was apparently very receptive to the team's requests.
"What was great about working with the team at Marvel games is that they often made suggestions, but they also told us to make suggestions. They always said, 'tell us what you want and we'll see what we can get for you'. One of the things we did is we sent an email to the team and said we wanted a lot of easter eggs in the Collector's Museum and we figured let's ask the team what they want to see. We said let's see what we can get and we passed it onto Marvel and we got almost everything that he wanted."
It wasn't just Marvel easter eggs that were included within Guardians, though. Players were surprised to see the frequent appearances of a Chewbacca toy that ends up playing a role in the story. DeMarle says it took some work to get into the game.
"Chewbacca is all thanks to our game designer, John Francois. He was like 'we're setting his past in the ‘80s and we want iconic things from the ‘80s – it's got to be the Chewbacca figurine because it's iconic. Everyone will know it and we need to get it'. Francois wouldn't let it go because they never said no. And he kept going back like so what about it? I think the people at Marvel we were dealing with were expecting Disney to say no. Because we kept pushing and pushing, they asked and Disney said yes. That was a major achievement."
Although the actors behind Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon seemed ready to commit to a sequel yesterday, DeMarle is a bit more hesitant, or at least hesitant to share any ideas for what the team could face in the future.
“I’m not going to directly answer that, because I'll be truthful about the fact that I don’t want to commit to anything,” DeMarle reveals. “Maybe I’ll like an idea now but I might not like it later. So yeah, I’m not going to comment on that one.”
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