The Man Responsible for Spider-Man Doing Whatever a Spider Can
Despite being released a decade ago, Spider-Man 2 is considered by many to be the definitive Spider-Man video game for pretty much one reason, its ridiculously kick-ass web swinging physics. With the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie and video game right around the corner, we got in contact with Jamie Fristrom, the guy who invented the swinging system in the 2004 game to pick his brains about how he invented it, what he thinks of the other Spider-Man games on the market and what he’s up to at the moment.
So why have people got such rampant joy for this game’s web swinging? Well the short answer is that Spidey’s webs actually stick to buildings and parts of the environment in it, if that doesn’t sound like a big deal just remember that in previous Spider-Man games and virtually everyone one released since, Spider-Man’s webs will randomly stick to the sky. Giving the illusion that Spider-Man is being constantly followed around by a friendly, but always hidden from view helicopter. For example, in the 2012 Amazing Spider-Man game, even if you’re 200 feet above the nearest building, your webs will still miraculously stick to the sky like Spidey is swinging from the stringy beard of God himself.
So how is that in almost 10 years games have gotten worse at implementing a feature one guy managed to program on his own for consoles that were half as powerful? What does Fristrom think?
I read somewhere that Activision focus-tested the new swinging mechanics of Amazing Spider-Man, and they preferred the new thing. Sure, an easier mechanic is going to be preferable at first, but if it has less depth it’s going to be less engaging and remarkable in the long run.
That’s not to say he’s critical of the web-swinging found in other Spider-Man games. When we asked for his opinion on why no Spidey game since Spider-Man 2 has managed to capture such an integral part of the Spider-Man character, his response was:
I’m actually much more open-minded about the other interpretations of Spider-Man swinging than other people seem to be. I still like Spider-Man 2 the best because it captures that weight and momentum.”
…indicating that Fristrom is probably both cooler and more modest than we’d ever be if we were in his shoes. To make sure, though, we asked Fristrom if he walked around with a copy of the game on the front of his shirt and introduced himself to people by pointing at it (like we’d totally do) his answer:
I do try to work it into the conversation every chance I get. And then they usually say, “No, sorry, never played Spider-Man 2.” Oh well!”
We were going to ask how Fristrom managed to avoid slapping those people but we were too busy having our minds blown when he casually explained that he actually tried to include the mechanic in an even earlier Spider-Man game, but decided against it when it didn’t immediately cause everyone head’s to explode when he showed it to them.
When I first prototyped it we were actually halfway through Spider-Man 1, and I wanted to do it for Spider-Man 1. It wasn’t really that cool yet – you could only swing from certain points, and you’d stick to the buildings when you hit them, and it was hard to steer… so we agreed to table it until Spider-Man 2.
As for how the swinging works in the first place, when we asked Fristrom about it he directed us to, this post where he’s explained it in detail. Even though he assured us that at its core, the feature is “actually pretty simple,” every portion of it we tried quoting caused our servers to catch fire, strongly supporting our theory that Fristrom typed out all of his replies with his mind.
According to an interview conducted last year with Chris Baker, a spokesperson from Marvel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game is finally going to go back to the kind of web swinging found in Spider-Man 2 and apparently webs are now actually going to stick to walls (you know, like they did 10 years ago). In regards to the new game Fristrom had this to say.
I know very little about the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man game but it says on Wikipedia they’re going back to a more Spider-Man 2 like swinging? I wonder if that’s true. That surprises me, and is kind of bad news for me. I had no competition before.
Competition? Let’s get to that in a second. Now how well the web swinging is going to be implemented isn’t known yet and the recently released gameplay trailer seems to focus more on combat and Spidey’s new ability to track his enemies rather than how bitchingly he can traverse New York. Fristrom noted in our interview that although the getting the swinging mechanic to work is reasonably simple, “Polishing that up to make it feel good most of the time can take forever.”
We’re not going to crap all over a game that hasn’t been released yet, but seeing as virtually every Spidey game released since Spider-Man 2 has never really matched how much that game made you feel like Spider-Man, we’re not going to hold our breath.
Perhaps the most depressing thing of all is that according to Fristrom, he wanted to cram way more stuff into the Spider-Man 2 game, including a Tony Hawk’s style trick system.
I was a Tony Hawk fan even back then, and you can see a bit of that trickle through when you do the midair tricks and see your Spider-Sense meter boost up. I wanted to take that much further.
When we read that line our childhood actually cried, if they’d have released a game where you could do 80 backflips over Central Park before drop-kicking a criminal 80 feet through the air, this site wouldn’t exist because we’d still be playing it. However, all we’ve got to play since is a bunch of decidedly average Spider-Man simulators that occasionally feature Venom.
Luckily for sweet-ass backflip aficionados everywhere, Fristrom is currently working on a game based entirely around the swinging around like a badass based on the swinging system he developed in Spider-Man 2 called Energy Hook. As far as we can see, Energy Hook is basically a combination of Spider-Man, Bionic Commando, Tony Hawk’s and the answered prayers of every gamer whose heart sank when they saw Spider-Man’s webs shoot into the clouds and attach to nothing at all. Fristrom however prefers to describe it thusly:
It’s the extreme sport of the future! With your jetpack, gravity boots, and grapple beam, you can do a lot of the same stunts that Spider-Man can do — and some he can’t.
The game which will be being released simultaneously on PC, PS4 and Vita later this year is pretty much Fristrom’s back-flip loving baby. In fact, in an interview with Polygon he mentioned that to make the game a reality he was spending his own retirement fund.
Just let that soak in for a second, the guy who created one of the most fun and original mechanics in gaming is spending his own money to bring it back just because he thinks it’s awesome. We were honestly hesitant about publishing this interview because we’re positive a sentence that cool is going to cause someone, somwhere to have their laptop freeze solid.
Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.
Karl found a real-life Spider-Man in The Trash-Talking Boxer Who Backflipped to Victory.