While plenty of characters from the Invincible animated series have emerged as fan favorites, perhaps none is so immediately beloved as the matter-melding teenager Atom Eve. With the first original video game in the Invincible universe, Invincible Presents: Atom Eve, arriving on November 17th, the game’s creators took the stage at last weekend’s New York Comic Con 2023 to discuss its genesis and development. Moderated by Ashley Esqueda, the panel included Skybound Creative Director Mike Rogers, Terrible Posture Games Creative Director Jill Murray, Art Director Rossi Gifford, Animation Director Lauren Lehmann, and writer Mary Arroz. Here’s what they had to say…
On the origins of Invincible Presents: Atom Eve…
Rogers: A long time ago, our distinguished competition, Sean Tilson, who was a mentor for me, who was at Skybound, he had this idea of bringing a comic book to life in video game form. It wasn’t the right time. It wasn’t the right place. And the idea stuck with him.
When we were at Skybound, Invincible was a property that we were circling and wanted to make something out of. We really wanted to place a spotlight on Atom Eve specifically. It happened in a really cool way that there was going to be this Atom Eve special as the show took off and got more and more popular.
Around that time it became clear – “This is the moment to do this. Let’s pitch this, let’s pitch this game, let’s pitch this comic book come to life in visual novel form.” That’s how this project started. Atom Eve just seemed like a perfect character to carry this with. It gave us an opportunity to really explore her character, and origins and some parts of the story that we haven’t seen before.
Pretty early on in the project, we knew we wanted to work with Jill Murray, probably before she knew she was going to work with us. We’ve been a big fan of her work, and approached her because this is a game that has tons of branching, dialogue, content, and paths. No one does that better than Jill. We also knew we wanted to work with Rossi Gifford. We’d seen her work on Instagram, we’d seen her work in comics and had been fans.
We started assembling a dream team. We brought in Terrible Posture Games, which is a rockstar developer. Then things started falling together.
On the kind of comic book video game that Atom Eve is…
Murray: It’s a visual novel that includes combat and some light RPG. So you’re going to be able to customize your character. You’ll be able to play it through a visual novel, which has a lot of animation flourishes thanks to Lauren’s team and the tech art team. You’ll be able to play through combat that helps tell the story. So it’s there to give you a little bit of challenge, but also to help share what the character of the antagonists are, and continue to give you that story experience and share the feeling of what it’s like to have Atom Eve’s powers.
On where this game sits in the Invincible Universe compared to the comics and the animated series…
Rogers: The game loosely sits around the events of Season 1. It focuses on the early days of Atom Eve and her origins. But it doesn’t line up exactly. It’s its own thing, it’s a game, it’s its own mechanic.
Murray: Everything else we’ve seen from Invincible, which is the show or the comics, is essentially being told by Mark’s biographer. In this game, we’re coming from Atom Eve’s perspective, and looking at ourselves as Eve’s biographer. So, of course, we’re going to have a totally different take on where certain events are coming from, because we’re looking at them through her eyes. It’s going to be different, first of all, from that perspective.
You’re automatically opening up different branches of possibility that couldn’t have existed previously. So for that reason we’re setting it in a time frame that’s going to look familiar, but is going to allow you a little bit more flexibility in how you play through and how you make decisions.
We’re also going to look at some things that maybe the player hasn’t had a chance to see yet, in the comics or [the show]. Her relationship with her parents, how they discover her powers. You’re going to get a choice whether you actually want to date Rex Splode or not.
Rogers: Pros and cons.
Murray: Pro – “Very hot.” And then a scroll of cons. [Laughs.]
Rogers: We’re also really fortunate that the TV show came out on Prime Video and already remixed a lot of Invincible elements and took some story arcs that happened later in the comics and put them in the first season. That allowed us to do a similar thing where we had this playground; where we could bring in elements that either were in the comics later or had never been seen in the comics, and probably would never be seen in the comics. And put our own spin on this. It’s been really great working with the Invincible creators. With Robert [Kirkman], Cory [Walker], and Ryan [Ottley], and getting their take and their blessing and excitement on this project. It’s been a delight to have a little bit of free reign.
On what was added to the game that wasn’t in the comics…
Murray: One of the things we noticed early on is that Eve ends up in a lot of situations that are very frustrating. As a result, especially early on in the game, her situation can be very constrained in terms of her relationship with her family and school. Sometimes it’s the amount of agency she has with the Teen Team.
So we’ve given her – and you, the player – the opportunity to scream into the void. [Laughs.] This is a repeatable mechanic that you’ll be able to continue playing if you choose to. It’s not cosmetic, it gives you the advantage of combat if you will. Just for the release of tension so be able to focus better.
On adapting Invincible into an Atom Eve-focused game…
Murray: I watched everything, read everything, saw a lot of color-coded post-its. [Laughs.] I don’t know if anyone else has read both the comics and watched the show, but you’ll notice that the events of both media don’t happen in exactly the same order. So I made this huge murderball kind of spreadsheet. [Laughs.]
On what else players can expect from the game…
Murray: As I mentioned before, we have a new combat system, some RPG, tailored to Eve’s experience. All within the range of what we know her personality to be. She’s always powerful, she’s creative, she’s empathetic, she can be very sarcastic and fiery. You’ll get to choose which direction you want your Eve to go in. That will have an impact on your combat experience as well.
On how combat works in the game…
Arroz: As Jill was saying, Eve has different tracks that she can go on – the empath track, the creative track, and the firebrand track.
So as the player goes through the story, Eve grows as a person and grows as a hero; and as a result, the player can allocate different skill points to different parts of the skill tree. So in that way, Eve is going to have exclusive combat abilities and perks. Depending on where the player is investing their points.
This is something that actually affects Eve, both in and out of combat. For example, an Eve that is more fiery can talk back to characters in a way that an empathetic Eve could not. In conjunction with that, she’s also someone who can fight in a way that is more aggressive than her counterparts. So it’s really exciting to see how the player can grow Eve into different directions.
Murray: Combat is a place where we had a lot of fun injecting storytelling. The beautiful thing about the superhero genre as a whole is that fighting isn’t just a place for spectacle. It’s a place for character emotions and relationships to develop. So as Eve goes throughout the story, it’s interesting to explore how her relationship would change between her adversaries. That’s really cool.
On other characters in the game…
Arroz: As for who Eve is fighting throughout the game, there’s going to be some familiar faces. The team worked really hard to capture the spirit of those characters in terms of their playstyle. You might have glimpsed the Mauler [Twins] in the trailer. Their way of fighting is going to be different. So the way that the player strategizes against those characters is going to be different depending on how Eve is built.
One of the characters that kind of came naturally to me in writing for this game was Dupli-Kate. It was really interesting to take a character who had a few lines like in a TV show and explore who she is a little bit like more in depth, pulling in different aspects from the comic as well. She was a really fun character and I’m very interested to see how people react to her in the game.
On the look of the game…
Gifford: It was just taking things that I love, like European comics, like manga, anime, a lot of that stuff. And also fashion, that’s great to do too. But it was also really exploring Eve. I wanted to give her attitude… I was kind of nervous, I was always like, “Okay, what are the critics going to say?” Robert, Ryan, Cory [were] just like, “It looks pretty, just keep going.” I’m like, “Okay,” and just kept going and going with it. You’re just trying to experiment with different styles. It evolves itself. I’m a huge Chuck Jones fan, and I just wanted to embed that into the world, having different kinds of characters. I wanted all my artists and myself to explore the world. Again, it would just keep adapting each time. The process was quite natural and easy, but it just takes a lot of time to do.
On the game’s animation…
Lehmann: That’s the aspect of my job that was very daunting – seeing Rossi and the team’s amazing art, and seeing how animated it already is. Even though it’s not even moving. I’m like, “How can I make that even better? I don’t know, but I’ll give it a shot.” I just thought, “Okay, let me take a moment to understand the art.”
Because there’s so many different layers and elements to it that it could be very easy to muddle the animation and make it look worse. That’s the last thing I wanted to do, was make [their] amazing art look worse. I was just trying to keep it as clear as possible and read it the way that [they] made it.
But it was a beautiful, natural process. The art team, I just trusted their process and judgment.
On their favorite things in the game…
Gifford: Just getting to design Universa was pretty dope. I just wanted to draw a very muscly, strong green lady. It was super fun, just playing with the costume… This is my first art directing role in games, so I was going in like, “I’m winning this, hopefully it works out.” It truly did, and I couldn’t have done that without my art team here.
Arroz: Honestly, working with such a talented group of people who really put a lot of love into visual novels was incredible. I love digital novels, grew up with them, have a super soft spot in my heart for them. To see so much investment in the art, in the writing, in the combat system was incredible. In terms of writing, I had a blast writing Eve’s conversations with William and Amber. There were just so [many] fun prompts you could get into. We’ve seen a little bit of interaction with them through the end of Season 1. It was something we got to spend a lot of time with. From Eve’s point of view, how she sees these other teenagers that aren’t part of the Teen Team. It was really rewarding writing those aspects of the game.
Lehmann: Of course working with the team. It’s worth being a broken record over that, because our team is amazing. And one aspect I want to point out is the fact that a lot of the leaders of this team were strong, awesome women. Working on an Atom Eve game, it’s just a dream come true, and it’s been so fun.
And a lot of the story panels…we’re such a blast to animate. The combat’s great too. I love the effects that my team was able to pull off in the combat. It’s fun to punch certain people. [Laughs.]
Rogers: My favorite part was just seeing it all come together. I think I’ve played 250 hours’ worth of this game at this point, because I’ve played it so many times. And every time, getting to read Jill’s writing and Mary’s writing, is incredible and really rewarding for me. That’s been my favorite part of the project.
Murray: Man, it’s hard to follow all of those up. I gotta say, I agree with each and every one of you, and it’s been wonderful to work with all of you… My favorite part is just that, from the very beginning, this is a character that I identify with so strongly, because I, too, can change matter with my mind. [Laughs.] On the page… It’s just been such a privilege to be able to inhabit her world and carry her voice around in my head for the time of the production. I probably continue to carry it around with me uselessly for months after. You never know when it’s going to be useful. [Laughs.]
You know, I spent all those years as a kid growing up reading Invincible comics and remembering every single detail. Now I get paid to do that! [Laughs.]