Ben Brode, who is well-known as the creator of Hearthstone, has released his first game since leaving Blizzard and establishing Second Dinner. It’s a game utilizing Marvel IP: Marvel Snap.
It’s been four years since he left Blizzard and established a new company, and COVID-19 struck the world shortly after the establishment. The pandemic had much effect on a lot of game developers, and most of the games got delayed.
Still, Marvel Snap overcame the difficult situation and had its official launch. Since the game is known to have been developed by the main developers of Hearthstone, and since they have to satisfy Marvel fans as well, there would have been much pressure on their shoulders.
Celebrating the launch, Inven had a chance to have a written interview with Ben Brode. Although we weren’t able to hear his voice, his writing showed his bright and delightful atmosphere.
It's my first interview since you have joined the second dinner. There are still many Korean fans who wonder how you have been doing. Of course, you must have been busy developing Marvel Snap, but can you tell me how you've been doing?
I’ve been great! It’s been so rewarding to help start a new game studio and work with some of the best game developers in the industry. And I love working on games that I think will have a massive impact – Hearthstone really changed collectible card games, and I’m SO EXCITED to do it again with MARVEL SNAP!
The Pandemic started out a bit rough for me, I gained a lot of weight and almost hit 300 pounds. That motivated me to start a diet and exercise program, and since then I’ve been really enjoying getting healthy! Overall it’s been a really wild and fun 4.5 years, and I’m really looking forward to being out in the public again and interacting with players!
Since 2019 even before the pandemic had begun, I heard that you would develop a game using Marvel IP. When did the idea of "Marvel Snap" become concrete? Were there any difficulties due to the sudden pandemic?
We landed on the original idea for Marvel Snap really soon after starting the company. We tried a few different game ideas but couldn’t stop playing the one that eventually became Snap.
The pandemic was certainly a huge wrench for us (as it was for everyone), but the studio was already fully cloud-based, and so we found there was not much disruption to game development. We had to figure out what remote work would look like for us, but eventually, we emerged much stronger for it.
In the trailer video, you explained that it's an easier game than Solitaire, so can you briefly explain the basic gameplay of Marvel Snap?
There are 3 locations, and you need to win 2 out of 3 to win the game. Each card has “Power”, and if the cards on your side of a location have more Power than the cards on the other side, you’ll win that location at the end of the game.
In the process of collaborating with Marvel, I wonder if there were any elements of the game that had to be included in Marvel Snap. What was the most important part of the game for Marvel, the IP holder?
Marvel has been so much fun to work with! Because we’re working within a multiverse, there is so much freedom! Summer Vacation Doc Oc? No problem! DJ Kang the Conqueror? Yes! Marvel helps us make sure that when we want to create an authentic experience that it ends up very authentic, but they also love to have fun and explore the crazy things that can happen in a multiverse!
The know-how you had gained from serving Hearthstone over the years must have helped you develop Marvel Snap. To what did you pay the most attention in this work?
Card games can be a tricky genre! It’s easy to add depth by adding a ton of complicated rules, but difficult to create a set or rules that are simple and ALSO have a ton of depth. This was one of the things we worked on most at the beginning of development. Once we had gameplay that we loved, we spent a lot of time on finding a way to make collecting cards really fun, and also working on making the game look and feel great. We spent a huge amount of time working on splashy and quick visual effects.
I could see how much effort you guys put into the cards. Just looking at it makes me want to collect them — how can I collect cards from Marvel Snap? Can you briefly explain the business model?
Unlike other card games, we don’t sell “booster packs”. You have to earn the cards by playing games and earning currencies that help you upgrade the visuals of your cards (not their power-level, just a cosmetic upgrade). When you do that, you gain “Collection Level”, and there are a ton of rewards you get for having a higher collection level – including all the cards in the game. So: Play with Cards -> Upgrade Your Cards -> Unlock New Cards.
You can spend money to get currency faster, but there’s a limit on how much you can spend each day. We don’t want you to skip to the end but rather to enjoy the journey of unlocking new cards. Also, everyone unlocks cards in a different order, so everyone will have a slightly different collection and be able to build different decks!
I wonder what the Cosmic Cube is used for in the game, which is gained or lost through every round. Can you tell me in more detail?
What’s better than one Cosmic Cube? EVERY Cosmic Cube from every dimension in the multiverse! At stake in each battle is some number of Cosmic Cubes, and the more you have, the higher your Rank.
Now, unlike in other games, where you win or lose a single Star or Mark or piece of a rank per game, in MARVEL SNAP, you can double down by SNAPPING your opponent. If you do, the Cubes at stake double next turn, so your opponent has to decide to either bail out and lose just the 1 Cube, or stay in and play for 2. It’s a big moment in the game and creates the opportunity to bluff your opponent by encouraging them to concede when maybe your hand is actually very bad.
The game itself seems to have endless possibilities as it is set in Marvel’s multiverse. How many cards can we expect at the launch, and what concept are you planning to continue with the updates in the future?
We have over 150 cards available at launch and over 1000 Variants to collect. Variants are cosmetic-only alternate cards that feature different art. These feature unique art styles, different costumes, or other really cool versions of the characters you love.
Expressing one's personality is just as important as collecting cards. In Hearthstone, for example, players were able to change the shapes of the back of the cards. What do you have in Marvel Snap that can expose the player's unique personality?
We have Avatars, Card Backs, and Alternate-Art Variants right now (so you can customize both sides of the card), but we’re already working on a new Titles system that will let you display a Title under your name. We have big ideas for other cool cosmetic systems that will let you continue to personalize your experience.