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Paul Benjamin talks writing X-Men Origins Wolverine for Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm •  Published: May 20, 2009
X-Men Origins: Wolverine for the Nintendo Wii
X-Men Origins: Wolverine for the Nintendo Wii

Writer Paul Benjamin, a Putnam City North graduate who now lives in Austin, Texas, is a writer of comic books and video games.  He was able to merge knowledge from both worlds recently, as the writer of the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii version of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”  Benjamin recently talked to The

Oklahoman about the experience.  Look for more from Benjamin in Friday’s Weekend LOOK section of The Oklahoman.

Matt Price: What kind of research did you have to do to write the game?

Paul Benjamin: Yeah, this is the worst part of my job. I had to read A LOT of comics. When people hear that I write comics and video games, they generally assume that I just sit around reading comics and playing video games all day. Mostly that’s not true, but when starting a new project I do have to do some initial research. I am, of course, very familiar with Wolverine, but before I got started on the game I had to make sure I really had his voice down. I read some of Marc Guggenheim’s Wolverine comics because all of the Wii/PS2 in-game movies (aka Cinematics) came from the version of the game that Marc had written. I also spent time with classic Wolverine comics, like the first Wolverine mini-series, his early X-Men appearances and Origin, the tale of Wolverine as a boy that is the basis of the beginning of the film. I also got to read a synopsis of

the movie, though there wasn’t enough time for me to fly out to Los Angeles to read the actual script. It’s not unusual for film scripts to be held so tightly under wraps that you have to go to the studio to read it to prevent leaks.

MP: What types of changes have to be made when creating the Wii/PS2 version of a game?

PB: This can vary greatly depending on the project. In this case, the Wii/PS2 version was being developed by a different studio from the Xbox 360/PS3/PC version. Though both versions shared cinematics and followed similar storylines, many other elements of the game were taken in different directions. For example, because the Wii tends to be owned by more casual gamers and has a large family following, the Wii version is much more family-friendly. Where the Uncaged Edition on the other consoles embraces the extreme violence of the Wolverine character, the Wii/PS2 version adopts a feel that is more in line with Wolverine from the three X-Men movies. There’s still plenty of fighting, but there’s almost no actual bloodshed portrayed in the combat.

Also, the Wii team took the unique motion sensitive Wii controls into account when making the game. You

use the Wii controller in a very kinetic fashion to throw doors open, for example, and to lunge across the room at an opponent in a way that is unique to the Wii. Because this version was developed separately with these considerations in mind, many of the story details end up being different as well. The game has to be fun first and foremost, so the story was tweaked and revised to fit the gameplay involved. Overall things are the same, but one console’s version may have more levels set in one location than on another console, creating differences in where the story goes and how much we see of one character or another.

MP: What’s a typical day of writing for a video game project entail?

PB: Writing video games is a very different exercise from writing for other mediums. For example, when I

write a comic book or graphic novel, I’m creating a narrative that goes from beginning to end. When writing a video game based on a movie (and on another video game), much of the story is predetermined. In addition, the gameplay drives the story to a great extent. Some days I spent all my time writing contextual action sequences. Those are situations where a series of events happens and you press certain buttons to change the course of the action. For example, Sabretooth might be trying to throw Wolverine off a truck and a series of button presses will either allow Wolverine to toss Sabretooth overboard or result in Logan going under the wheels. It’s my job to write dialogue for both scenarios. Ideally, voice over is recorded for several different versions of the scenario in case the designers end up using the same set up more than once.

On other days, I spent all my time just writing lines of dialogue for various characters. For example, I might write ten different lines that a specific group of bad guys will say when they engage Wolverine, ten

more for when Wolverine hits them, etc. This is a real challenge because you’re writing these lines in a vacuum. You never know how they will be applied. Those enemies could end up cut from the game entirely or they could end up being used far more than originally expected because they are fun to fight. You have to try to cover all bases. Ultimately, the fun of writing for games is seeing how the gameplay designers apply your words to the game. The coolest part of writing for this game was hearing Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber delivering my dialogue as Wolverine versus Sabretooth. That’s something you can’t get from writing comics!

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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