SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) Game Designer Tries the PS4 Game for the First Time

SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) Game Designer Tries the PS4 Game for the First Time

So today I’m in Bellevue, Washington, which
is a city I’ve never been to before, and the reason I’m is I’m visiting a game developer
named Jamie Fristrom. And if you haven’t heard of his name, you
probably have heard of what he’s known for. He worked on a game for a little company called
Treyarch called “Spider-Man 2” for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. Specifically, he is the man responsible for
the very, very robust swinging physics in that game. So what I thought I would do is I’ve paid
him a visit here in Washington, which is something I couldn’t have done without my Patreon backers,
and I’m excited to get in there and get his perspective on the new Spider-Man game – because
he has not played it yet. And I’m very excited to see what he thinks,
so I’m gonna hop in. Halfway through Spider-Man 1’s development,
or several months into Spider-Man 1’s development, I wasn’t happy with the swinging in Spider-Man
1. It was kinda like flying, but with cosmetic
webs shooting into the sky. I wanted… I wanted to feel like Spider-Man. To me, that meant, y’know, physics taking
over. A more visceral experience, like being a bob
on a pendulum. But I also kind of figured that’s gonna be
really hard to control, if you’re… y’know, if you just have a gamepad. So that’s when I got the idea of sort of an
artificially-intelligent, assisted thing that’s making choices about where to swing from that
would be smart about saying ‘oh, here’s a building corner, let’s attach to that building
corner and swing around it.’ Jamie took that dissatisfaction with Spider-Man
1’s swinging and his idea for how he thought it ought to work, and he began staying late
at night at Treyarch, where he was working on the first game, working on a very very
rudimentary prototype of this system. All the executives and upper management who
looked at it – at this little prototype that I’d whipped together – said: “We cannot change the direction this game
is going this late into the project when we’ve already made a few levels.” And… I had to agree. It did not show enough promise. But when Spider-Man 2 came around, then I
had the opportunity to say: Hey, can I finish that thing? If you want me to be technical director on
this project, I’d really like the opportunity to do this! So… I did. At that point, Jamie’s prototype became the
skeleton for how swinging worked in Spider-Man 2, and he was able to bring his Treyarch colleagues
on to help him. However, to maximize the chance of this system
being successful – and to try to ensure it actually shipped with this mechanic in place
– Jamie and his team kept the swinging a pretty well-guarded secret inside of Activision up
until the very last second. At the end of this process, we’d try to keep
upper management away from it until it’s ready to show. “No, don’t look at it yet, don’t look at it
yet.” And then, finally… Finally, we got to that point where it was like, yes, it’s ready to show. Now, Jamie’s expertise when it comes to swinging
games doesn’t actually begin and end with the Spider-Man series. I actually first met Jamie back in 2015 when
he was working on this game called Energy Hook, which was this one-man indie game project,
all done by him, that was intended to be the spiritual successor to Spider-Man 2. It’s why, when I played Marvel’s Spider-Man
for the first time, I thought of Jamie immediately – and why, once I found out he did not own a PS4
and had not played the game at all, I packed my PS4 Pro in a suitcase and flew to Washington
to get his thoughts on it. And with the system all set up and ready to
go with a fresh save loaded up, we were almost ready to go, but before we hopped into it,
I had one last pair of questions for Jamie, intended to find out exactly how much he knew
going in about this new Spider-Man game, and also to get his thoughts on what his criteria
are for a good one. What’s your personal criteria for good swinging
in a Spider-Man game? A huge thing for Spider-Man 2 was: you just
wanted your stomach to clench up, right, when you’re at the bottom of the swing. If you’re coming around a building, you wanted
to feel it in your gut. So you haven’t played Spider-Man 2018 — what
have you heard about it, I guess? Um, I haven’t heard anything about the swinging. *Really?* Interesting. I’ll hold my tongue. I saw some screenshots where Spider-Man landed
next to a pride flag, and I thought that was the coolest thing. I started watching a trailer, but it was all
about the boss fights, and I was sort of like ‘Eh, boss fights, whatever. Not interested.’ So that’s about it. Well, cool. I guess we can hop into it. I’ve been thinking about the best way to drop
you into it, and I think the thing is: The game opens with a little swinging tutorial
that I would love to get your perspective on. And then I’ve also got a save state later
in the game where I’ve unlocked some of the more advanced, um… mechanics. I don’t want to say too much, but yeah. Cool! Well, I’ll get the capture set up. At this point, I’m over-the-moon excited about
the fact that he doesn’t even know if there’s a swinging system in it. You can see it in the full interview, but
me and Jamie talked a little bit about other, later Spider-Man games post-Spiderman 2, and
how he was a little bummed to see them revert to a more flying, non-swinging-based system. So, at this point, he has no idea if there’s
even a swinging mechanic in this game, which makes me more excited than ever to get his
thoughts on it, so I instruct him to pick up the controller, and we get going. Uh, you can go down to ‘New Game.’ I was always a fan of the hold down – even
though that wasn’t the way Spider-Man 2 did it – of holding down to swing, and then letting
go to let go. That always felt more… more like my sensation
in the real world kind of matched the sensation on the screen. I noticed that there was what seemed like
a crane that I was sure I was gonna just whack into, and I sort of magically missed it. So I’m wondering – like, we didn’t do it on Spider-Man
2, but there was something like that on [Ultimate Spider-Man], where buildings had this sort
of natural anti-magnetic thing going on. And I was like yeah, that… that felt really
good to me when that happened – when I *didn’t* hit the crane. I was like ‘yes, look how awesome I am threading
the needle between the crane and the building, even though the game did it for me.’ I’m finding that it’s either … enough like what I’m used to that it’s just sort of coming naturally to me to swing around… It’s either what I’m used to or it’s just,
you know, intuitive. …oh, that was cool, the web zip that time
did the double… I like the way the field of view changes. That was one of… before I left the Spider-Man
3 team, I was all into more dynamic field of view. Now, Jamie was visibly enjoying himself playing
this game, and already we were getting his very unique insight into how you build the
thousands of small nerdy interconnected physics systems that go into a good swinging game. But I started to wonder whether Jamie truly
realized just what a specific love letter Marvel’s Spider-Man was to the work that he
and the rest of his team back at Treyarch did all the way back in 2004. But! I also didn’t want to push him in any specific
direction, I just wanted to sit back and observe, so I waited… and that’s when this happened. I want… you know what I’m missing, is that
Spider-Man 2 charge jump, where you hold it down and you can go up like 5 stories. That… I want that. Uh… what if I told you that that’s in one
of the skill trees? Ahhhhh…. Yeah. (laughs) Now, the reason I highlight this moment is
because it really illustrates something that struck me right away when swinging around
in Spider-Man 2018, which is that: everything about the swinging – from the webs
attaching to buildings, to moves returning from the old game like the web zip and charge
jump, to the optional trick system that they’ve added – all of these things speak to the fact
that this game was built with a great deal of reverence for the swinging system that
Jamie pioneered for the 2004 game. Spider-Man 2 really is the godfather of good
3D Spider-Man games, and that’s something I suspect Insomniac was hypercognizant of
when building the PS4 iteration. For one example of what I’m talking about,
here is some footage from one of the very first prototypes that they showed during a
livestream promoting the game. “This is a test level that we built. We knew when we were gonna do swinging, we
had to get the size of the world right. We had to get the webs attaching to buildings. And so you start with the simplest world and
the simplest buildings you can make.” To me, the fact that almost 15 years after
Spider-Man 2 came out, one of the first questions people ask about a new Spider-Man game is
whether or not the webs actually attach to the buildings – and the fact that you can
even hear game developers talk about the importance of that specific component to making a good-feeling
Spider-Man game – all that, to me, speaks to the impact that Jamie’s work fifteen years
ago had on the entire landscape of Spider-Man games even in 2018. A lot of things seem – and maybe my memory
is faulty – but a lot of these animations and stuff are triggering Spider-Man 2 nostalgia. Like, when he hit the top of that arc and
sort of did a vault upward off the end of the rope. It’s like, I vaguely remember that’s something
James did for us back in the day. It has the thing that [Spider-Man 2] had where
it’s just sort of like… I’m actually not paying attention to where
I’m going, and I’m not really picking a destination. I’m not saying, aw, I really want to get to
there. I’m just sort of letting the swinging take
me wherever it wants to take me. Yeah, I think that’s
giving me – even though it’s vertical – that’s giving me the sensation of speed that I was
kind of looking for. It’s like you’re using gravity to get some
speed, then it’s channeling you into it. So now that Jamie had gotten a chance to play
a lot of the game, I wanted to sit him down and talk to him once more about what he noticed
about it — About his overall thoughts on how he thought
it related to his work back in the day. And here’s what he told me. I quite liked it. Even though you’d think, after the number
of years I’ve spent swinging around, I’d be kinda done with that. I do kinda want to sort of like explore the
new space and the new technique. I kind of… that was a thing with me. Like, every time a new Spider-Man game came
out, you’d hear the media… just a bunch of people saying ‘Well, it’s not as good as
Spider-Man 2.’ But I think… I think I almost always enjoyed them even
though they were different. Even though Ultimate Spider-Man didn’t have
the sense of momentum, and was more cartoony and jumpy, it was still fun in its own way. The nosedive into the swing is maybe its crowning
achievement. But also, holistically, I just think it felt
good. I think whoever was the swinging engineer
on Spider-Man 2018 would say that they were, in a way, standing on the shoulders of giants,
and on the work you guys did on Spider-Man 2 in particular. Can you sort of detect some of that shared
DNA, that reverence for your game? I definitely felt that these guys sort of
respected the old work, and we’re gonna try to reinvent it, but rather,
improve on it. Now, as for what Jamie’s up to these days,
he’s still doing game development, but he’s turned to a pretty surprising outlet for that: Roblox. Jamie’s already published over half a dozen
games in Roblox, some of which have been hugely successful. And his newest is a game called Dungeon Life,
which is a sort of asymmetrical, randomly generated dungeon crawler where one player
plays the hero, and all the other players build the dungeon and play as the enemies
in that dungeon. Jamie, who is now a father, says that one
of the cool side effects of this is making something that his kids can enjoy. Something that’s kinda gone on my whole life
is, when I tell my friends ‘Hey, I’ve made this game, do you want to play it?’ They’re like ‘That sounds cool, but I’m too
busy.’ So now, and this has been a first for me: Sarah liking Dungeon Life and being willing
to play it with me… It’s like, yay, I finally made a video game
for an audience that I’m connected to. Thank you to Jamie Fristrom for letting me
interview him for this video. If you want to see more of Jamie’s recent
work in Roblox, just go to Roblox and search for Dungeon Life, or for his user profile
Jamie_Fristrom. And, of course, thank you to my Patreon backers,
without whom this video literally could not have gotten made. See you next time!

100 thoughts on “SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) Game Designer Tries the PS4 Game for the First Time

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  2. I have a major issue with Spidey PS4. The webslinging is good but it is no where NEAR as good as the 2004 game. Sorry but BOTH triggers should have been used like it was on the original Xbox in 2004.

    Not just 1 button. They messed up on this one.

  3. Maybe they should’ve had the higher jump unlocked from the start, or maybe a charged jump that’s in the middle (somewhat high) and an upgrade for the super high jump.

  4. It's too bad you didn't show him actually 'threading the needle' where you can fly through under water tanks and stuff.

  5. You can really tell how heavily inspired Insomniac was from this guy. I've played spider man alot and when I saw the swinging in spiderman 2 i thought it was almost the same

  6. I think i learned about the swining in the game is, keep pushing r2 is bad. Just push the r2 some time release and press again the r2
    This is how your swing with 2 arms alternating like in the real movies. Well the game has some learning curve. It took some days to realise quick push r2 and l2 automatically webs you to the nearest etc point then press X to quick launch. Amazing game. Was always a spiderman fan. The game i was playing in the 2000s had no real swing mechanics. It would swing to the air lol

  7. It’s sad to think about how I’m probably ganna die before technology is advanced enough to let us swing around like that

  8. Spider-Man 2 game designer after playing the new ps4 Spider-Man game: ⢀⣠⣾⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⣿⠀⠀⠀⠀⣠⣤⣶⣶

  9. I’m an Xbox gamer my self and the last Spider-Man I played was amazing Spider-Man 2 before that the last Spider-Man I played was Spider-Man 3 and Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation I really wanna get a PS4 just for this game cause it looks amazing

  10. I just have an Xbox 360. Back when my GameCube worked I spent hundreds of hours playing Spider-Man 2. It was so fun! Does anybody know what the best Spider-Man game I can get for Xbox 360 is? Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man 1 or 2?

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