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This is why Spider-Man’s swinging feels so great

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A conversation with the developers of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2

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We knew right away that the swinging in Spider-Man was something special. The game launches you into it with little pretext and it feels natural right from the start.

So, what separates a game with good swinging from a game with bad swinging? Totally independently, several people at Polygon compared Spider-Man to a roller coaster. And you know what? They’re right.

In this video, we talk to the director of Spider-Man about how the team nailed the swing.

We also spoke to Jamie Fristrom, the technical director of Spider-Man 2. This rare good movie-tie in had great movement, and Fristrom was very candid about what made it work.

Any game is a team effort though, and there were some things that Fristrom would have done differently. So he did them: in a 2016 game called Energy Hook.

“So you can sort of say, well, gee, if Jamie was totally in control of it, maybe I wouldn’t have liked it so much,” he joked. “I always think it’s important to remember ... I’m not really the Spider-Man 2 guy. It really was a team of awesome people who did a lot of awesome work together.”

At least one of Energy Hook’s changes was prescient though: Fristrom objected to the controls for swinging from two webs, which involved clicking twice and then holding down the button.

“Eliminating that feature and just having it be — you hold down the button to hold onto your web, and let go of the button to let go of your web — would have been much more accessible,” he said.

It’s a control scheme that made it into Energy Hook — and into Insomniac’s Spider-Man.

“Sometimes the way your hands feel on the controller feels more like you are there, you are the character,” said Fristrom. “Matching the shooting the web and letting it go would have been a cooler way to do it.”

With Energy Hook two years behind him, and Spider-Man 2 a mind-boggling fourteen years in the past, Fristrom is clear-headed about the pros and cons of each game.

Energy Hook [...] could not begin to compete with Spider-Man 2 in the way the animations harmonize with the movement,” he said.

For the development of Spider-Man 2, chief engineer Jason Bare and chief animator James Zachary were, as Fristrom put it, “put in a room next to each other.” Fristrom says that their ability to toss ideas back and forth is part of what made Spider-Man 2’s movement so magical.

Having exorcised Energy Hook from his system, Fristrom has happily turned toward designing strategy games. His latest project, Dungeon Life, is in early access in Roblox right now.

If you like this video and want to see more, make sure you subscribe to Polygon’s channel. Also check out the rest of our series on game mechanics done well: