If you’ve spent any time reading comics in the past few decades then the name “Joe Madureira” should sound at least remotely familiar to you. The man behind reviving the X-Men has been one of the driving creative forces for one of THQ’s most anticipated sequels, Darksiders II. Having dabbled in both the comics and video game industries, Joe Mad has a unique perspective on both, as well as the creative process that drives each of them. We recently had a chance to get his thoughts on comics and games, as well as a look behind the curtain of Darksiders II.
MTV Multiplayer: What are some of the most recognizable similarities between the video game and comic book industries?
Joe Madureira: I don’t think there are that many similarities, but I do think there’s a lot of crossover between comics, films, and games. If you’ve been to Comic-Con in the last couple years, you’ll see exactly what I mean. The industries are very different, but we have a lot of the same fans.
Multiplayer: How does creating characters and a unique world like Darksiders differ from having creative control over a long-standing property like X-Men?
Madureira: Having a blank slate is sometimes as daunting as it is exciting. But in both cases, we do have limitations. On a book like X-Men, you have to stay true to the established fiction, working with editors to ensure continuity, sometimes across multiple titles. We had a completely blank slate when we started Darksiders, but it’s funny how quickly we found ourselves struggling to maintain continuity in the sequel since we were doing a concurrent story.
Multiplayer: Was Darksiders originally conceived to be complemented by a parallel sequel that told Death’s story instead of a more traditional one?
Madureira: It wasn’t, honestly. It was just one of those things that happens sometimes in development — we started talking about it toward the end of the first project and the idea ‘stuck.’ Nothing we talked about for the sequel excited us as much as changing perspectives and playing Death.
Multiplayer: What was the thinking behind taking the main character in a distinctly different direction in Darksiders II?
Madureira: A lot of the decisions we make boil down to gameplay choices. Aside from the shock and ‘cool factor’ of switching things up and introducing a whole different character, the fact that the game plays differently was another reason we did it. We could have given War a bunch of new abilities, but that just wasn’t as exciting for us as playing Death. Plus, Darksiders was never about War — it’s about the Horsemen, and the struggle between Heaven and Hell. And we felt that having Death pick up where War left off would be a great way to reveal more of the Darksiders universe that we didn’t cover the first time out.
Multiplayer: Death and War are inherently dark characters – how do you go about giving them characteristics that players can relate to?
Madureira: We definitely had to ‘humanize’ them. It’s hard not to think of the Horsemen as badass forces of nature — but unfortunately, without the human component and some level of morality, it would be very hard to relate to them (and the game wouldn’t be as fun). War has a strong sense of honor and justice, he’s dark, but he’s clearly a hero — Death is a little more irreverent and abrasive, but his wit and sarcasm make him likeable. I think any time you have characters that aren’t relatable, your story (or game) falls flat.
Multiplayer: Who do you think players will relate more to, Death or War?
Madureira: I personally relate to Death more, and I think people in general will find him a more entertaining character. War was very stoic, and a little passive. Death is much more aggressive, he doesn’t wait around for his enemies to taunt him—he’s usually the one doing the taunting. Some of the dialogue is hilarious.
Multiplayer: Where did the inspiration for Death’s unique look come from?
Madureira: It’s so hard to say. Usually when you’re doing concepts for a character you just try a couple different things to see what sticks. In this case, I conceived all four Horsemen at the same time. War was the first, and then I tried to give each of the other three their own personality that fit a certain character archetype. Death was sort of a ‘Necromancer’ archetype at the time, so the bones and the mask seemed to fit. He later evolved slightly to be more of an agile killer, or assassin—but the mask and the scythes remained.
Multiplayer: If the roles were reversed – would War would be so loyal to Death?
Madureira: Absolutely. War is probably the most loyal of all, with the greatest sense of compassion and kinship.
Multiplayer: What makes a great character compelling in a video game, and does that differ in comic books?
Madureira: I think that in general, whether you are creating characters for games, comics, films or novels, the components that make up compelling and memorable characters are the same. Everyone loves characters that are relatable, or who have unique quirks or tragic flaws. And of course, how they play against other characters in their world is what really makes them interesting. I will say, however, in games there is the added challenge of making them FUN to play if they are heroes, and fun to battle against if they are enemies. Gameplay is often the biggest limiting factor (unfortunately) because often times, what would make the story great won’t necessarily make the game more fun.
Multiplayer: How has the game evolved from the original Darksiders?
Madureira: For one thing, the game is much larger. The structure of the game has changed substantially as well. Death gains levels and has customizable skill trees. Monsters drop loot. There are towns, NPCs, conversation trees, side quests and optional dungeons. On top of that, Death has a slew of new traversal moves that allow him to move around the environment much differently than War. I think people will be shocked by how much it’s evolved, even though at its core it will still feel like a Darksiders game.
Multiplayer: How can we expect to see the Darksiders’ world expanded?
Madureira: The first game took place mainly on Earth, whereas in Darksiders II you will travel to several different realms: Realms of the Undead, Angels and Demons, among others. We are also introducing to the near extinct race of the Nephilim, which is what race the Four Horsemen are in our fiction. There are tons of new characters, and a couple old favorites who turn up as well.
Multiplayer: How would Death and War feel about Dec. 21, 2012 on the Mayan calendar?
Madureira: They would be pissed that everyone’s going to die before we get to make a Darksiders III!!!
Multiplayer: Darksiders has come a long way from its conception to now, where can we see it going from here?
Madureira: Right now, the team has a laser focus on completing Darksiders II and then working on DLC. After that, we have a couple things in mind… ;)
Although it was recently delayed, Darksiders II is nearing its final stages of development and should be on store shelves this August.