For the art team at Insomniac Games, there’s one job that everyone seems to want: working on Spidey’s suits. Since the first Spider-Man game on the PS4, modeling the in-game suits has been “a hotly contested assignment” among the studio’s character team, according to senior art director Jacinda Chew. Over the course of three games, including the recently launched Spider-Man 2, the team has managed to add a huge number of unlockable suits, covering everything from the Across the Spider-Verse animated film to the internet’s favorite bodega cat. “That’s the treat,” says Chew, “to be able to work on a suit.”
However, that wasn’t something that was obvious to her from the start. Chew says that it wasn’t until the first Spider-Man launched and players started posting photos of their favorite suits that she realized just how important the different versions of Spidey could be to people. “Some people grew up reading a certain comic or watching a certain movie, and now they’re saying, ‘That is my Spider-Man,’” she explains. “That’s the thing that I started to realize, how loyal fans are to that one Spider-Man that defined their childhood or a moment in their life. Because of that, we try to be very respectful about reproducing those suits in the game.”
(She was particularly surprised by the response to Spider-Cat: “Man, people loved that cat. And obviously, we brought it back. Hopefully there will be more cats in the future.”)
Spider-Man 2 features a number of returning suits, along with some brand-new ones. It also covers two different characters, as both Peter Parker and Miles Morales (who had his own spinoff in 2020) are playable. That means there were many more potential suits to choose from when it came to deciding what to feature in the sequel. According to Chew, the main goal is to offer breadth. That includes having suits pulled from different places — she divides them into three categories: comics, movies, and Insomniac originals — but also having a number of different styles.
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment
“Sometimes we’re like, ‘We really want to get a caped one,’” Chew says. “We want to get a variety of materials, silhouettes, even headgear; if he has a hoodie or a helmet or a mask. And just hoping that we’ll get enough of a wide variety that people will find something that they like. Because it is impossible to please everybody.”
“You should be able to look at it and identify the character”
Some of the potential suits are discarded for technical reasons; others have to be adapted or tweaked so that they work in the game. Because you can wear the suits basically any time while playing and they show up in most cutscenes, they all have to support the same array of animations as well as features like Peter’s mechanical arms or the new webwings that let players glide across New York City. Several had to have new features added solely for the game. “There are certain suits — for example, the Agent of Shield suit that Miles wears — that traditionally don’t have a mask at all,” Chew says. “So we had to design a mask for that suit so that it would technically work for us.”
Another challenge was ensuring Peter and Miles remained distinct from each other, no matter what suit they’re in. “Whatever the genre is, you should be able to look at it and identify the character,” explains Bill Rosemann, VP and creative director at Marvel Games. There are some clear physical distinctions between the two — Miles is a little bit thinner than Peter, and his webswinging style is a little more erratic — but, according to Chew, the main difference comes down to their personalities.
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment
“What’s really great about Peter and Miles is they’re at different points in their lives,” she says. “So their points of view are different.” For Miles, that means more youthful suits and several that emphasize his background and love of music. (A personal favorite is the “city sounds” suit that makes Miles look like he’s ripped out of a 1920s jazz concert — complete with a Spider-Man mask under his fedora.) Peter’s looks, meanwhile, often tap into the long history of the comics and films.
This time around, Insomniac also partnered with a number of artists, including Peach Momoko and Taurin Clarke, to craft unique suits just for the game. The ultimate goal, again, is to try to offer something for every type of player. For Chew, though, even with all of the different options available, she mostly uses one particular suit: the “advanced” one introduced in the original game. And it’s because, like many fans, it’s one that’s very personal to her.
“The first time I played the first game, I played in the Advanced Suit,” says Chew. “And I still play in the Advanced Suit because it is literally my suit.”