Greetings! Today I’m going to write a bit about the creation and implementation of Colossus in Marvel Puzzle Quest. Characters can be complex - they need to tell their own story through their abilities, in a resonant way that the player can connect with. Colossus had a very interesting journey from conception to execution, one paved with too many cool ideas and the harsh light of practical reality.
As Colossus’s designer, I did a bunch of research on his personality and abilities before meeting up with other MPQ designers and engineers to talk through ideas. Here were the three characteristics that I felt best represented him --
- Protecting his friends and allies
- Transformation between flesh and nearly-indestructible metal
- Punching really hard
At the start of our Colossus meeting, I asked everyone to talk about his color themes. Color themes, you say? We have a good set of guidelines that help us assign abilities to colors.. So for example, Red is good at brute force (direct damage) and Purple is tricksy (manipulation of AP and tiles). Talking through the philosophical color themes often helps us arrive at specific mechanics for abilities, and prevents too many abilities in different colors from feeling too similar (because they inhabit different thematic space).
Everyone agreed with Yellow for Colossus - he places the good of his friends and the world above his own safety, and is the very definition of “immovable object.” That concept really clicked when we combined it with the iconic first image of Colossus - he stands in front of a runaway tractor to protect his sister, and it breaks itself on his metallic form.
There were a lot of ways to go with the rest of Colossus’s colors, though. We spent a while brainstorming ideas about flesh-to-metal transformation (ideas I eventually headed off after talking with artists and realizing it would be better to just represent Colossus in awesome metal form all the time). Then my fellow designer Casey recommended we look into using Colossus’s famous Fastball Special move, wherein he pitches Wolverine into the fray (and Wolverine’s healing factor helps him absorb the negative consequences of the impact).
The Fastball Special solved a bunch of problems at once --
- It was unique. It’s always important to have an ability with “wow!” factor on a new character to get people excited.
- It was something that would add fun gameplay. Choosing who is on your team with Colossus and his Fastball Special is a mini-game in itself.
- It gave us something more on the thinky side, rather than the punchy side, which I was particularly worried about because punchy side stuff is easy and boring and we could easily go too far down that route with Colossus.
We ran into a snag when there was some concern over fictional issues with Colossus tossing the Hulk or Doctor Doom (who I’m sure would refuse to entertain the notion of being tossed), but in the end, I argued strongly that it’s fun to let players create their own stories using our characters. Just as you can create a crazy team that’s a fun story for you, so too can Colossus create crazy moments with his Fastball Special, throwing characters and triggering abilities you would never expect.
Colossus was difficult to implement, especially because of the corner cases involved with his Immovable Object and Fastball Special abilities. (Our character engineer Tim created the crack squad of Invisible Woman, Deadpool and Colossus just to see what would happen with all of the layered effects!)
In the end, I’m really happy to where we got with Colossus and his abilities, creating a package that both represents him as a person and his powers in fun and new ways. I hope you like him!
Links to high-res assets: