Spider-Man 2’s Popular Fast Travel System Was Almost Cut Because It ‘Totally Broke Our Game’

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Spider-Man 2’s fast travel system was one of its most popuar features when Insomniac’s superhero blockbuster launched in late 2023. With a press of a button, players could zip to any part of the map nearly instantaneously, making it one of the best demonstrations of the PlayStation 5’s power to date. But for all of its excellence, it might have missed the cut entirely.

Speaking at GDC 2024, Insomniac design director Josue Benavidez revealed the challenges the studio faced in designing Spider-Man 2’s open world — challenges substantial enough that Insomniac considered scrapping the fast travel system entirely.

Insomniac considered cutting Spider-Man 2's fast travel system
Insomniac considered cutting Spider-Man 2’s fast travel system

“We were working on this new fast travel. It was one of my favorite new features. And it totally broke our game. Because the map was fully revealed, you could go anywhere,” Benavidez explained.

Spider-Man 2 is not the first action-adventure game to have issues with fast travel. Modern games have found various ways to integrate the feature into their gameplay without sacrificing convenience, often by limiting its availability to camps and other safe locations. Jedi: Fallen Order famously omitted fast travel, but fan demand led Respawn to add it in for the sequel.

Spider-Man 2’s problem, Benavidez said, was that players initimidated by its large open world would simply open the map, pick a waypoint, and go straight to their destination. This was frustrating to Insomniac, who wanted players to take the time to explore the environment they had created.

“It was so detrimental that we considered cutting [fast travel] or delaying its unlock until players had finished the game. I eventually decided that, no, the fast travel wasn’t wrong. The game was wrong,” Benavidez said.

Insomniac responded by going back and rebuilding Spider-Man 2’s open world gameplay loop virtually from scratch. Over the course of the session, Benavidez outlined how the development team wanted players to “engage with the gameplay as they encountered it,” likening the challenge to delivering cake — simply going to the bakery and delivering cake is boring, but if players only have a general idea of where to find the cake, they may discover a coffee shop and other locations in the course of looking for it.

I eventually decided that, no, the fast travel wasn’t wrong. The game was wrong

The biggest challenge, Benavidez said, was that Spider-Man could functionally fly, meaning that players could effectively skip encounters. While it was always possible to simply shoot Spider-Man down, Insomniac wanted to use that option sparingly, meaning it had to find ways to incentivize encounters and discovery.

To achieve this goal, Insomniac built up numerous systems, from new currencies, to a greater emphasis on landmarks. The district progression system was introduced in order to tie together all of the activities in a different area and give players a reason to stick around beyond finishing up collections. To keep players focused on the gameplay, Insomniac layered pop-up messages to keep players from checking the meaning of icons on the map.

Benavidez says that Insomniac’s devs knew they were on to something early on during Spider-Man 2’s usability tests. “We had a test where a player never opened their map. They just went to the top of a tall point and look outed,” Benavidez said.

In the end, Insomniac didn’t have to remove Spider-Man 2’s fast travel, though the game does require players to level up a district in order to travel it to immediately. We wrote in our review, “Not making fast travel readily available is smart, and truthfully, I barely used it anyway as swinging and gliding around the city is so much more fun, even though the load times are nonexistent and the speedy, swooping camera effect of switching between Peter and Miles is very cool. Gliding is especially great for crossing long distances thanks to the numerous wind tunnels that carve their way through New York’s seemingly endless grid of streets flanked by art deco architecture and modern mirror-like skyscrapers.”

Spider-Man has since swung past 10 million units sold while earning numerous Game of the Year nominations. For more, check out the rest of the best games of 2023.

Kat Bailey is IGN’s News Director as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.

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