Bill Rosemann, Vice President and Creative Director of Marvel Games, wants that to change. He thinks “Marvel Snap,” an upcoming free-to-play mobile and PC title releasing October 18, is a step in the right direction.
“We don’t just want to make a great Marvel game. We don’t just want to make a great Marvel card game. We want to make a great game,” Rosemann said in a recent video interview with The Washington Post.
And to whom does Marvel Games entrust the development of said title? The entertainment titan has teamed up with Ben Brode, former game director for Blizzard Entertainment’s “Hearthstone,” one of the most successful online collectible card games in history. Brode and his new team at Second Dinner – many of whom are former Blizzard talent – wanted to create a game that would resonate with fans of the superhero genre and video games.
“We saw the team that Ben was putting together and we had no doubts from the start [Second Dinner] were going to make the best card battler in the world,” Rosemann said.
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The game is relatively easy to pick up and understand. Players create a deck of 12 cards featuring heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe. They go back and forth playing cards in different locations across the Marvel Universe, with an energy allocation determining how much they can play each turn. Whoever has the highest power in two of the three places after the last round wins. Games only last a few minutes and are easy to fit into free time on the go.
The barrier to entry is low, by design. However, the intricacies of the title lie in the progression system and the ranked ladder experience.
In “Marvel Snap”‘s single game mode (for now), players rank up by the number of cubes in their name. Cubes are won and lost in matches and the numbers vary depending on the length of each fight and the use of the “Snap” mechanic. Games usually last a maximum of six rounds. At any time, a player can Snap to put more cubes into play. If a person Snaps, it suggests to the opponent that they are confident they are going to win, thus making risking the cubes a calculated bet. The opponent can play the game, go back to raise the stakes even further, or escape and leave the game early, losing fewer cubes than they would have had they played the game and lost.
The game’s unique Marvel-themed cosmetics and art were designed to be compelling on their own, but it’s the mind games that Rosemann says will keep players coming back for more.
“There’s the bluffing part which is new and innovative and really fun and makes it very strategic,” Rosemann said. “I think you’ll find it’s a game where you can jump very quickly, play very quickly, but then find out, ‘Oh, there are some real [strategic depth] here.’ And then it’s infused from scratch with Marvel.
Brode, whose history includes working on the (now out of print) World of Warcraft trading card game before being an early member of the original ‘Hearthstone’ design team, knows a thing or two. on what makes a card game fun. In 2018, four years after its launch, Blizzard announced that its trading card game had reached over 100 million downloads. In the eight years since its release, “Hearthstone” has continued to release content and entertain millions.
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In 2018, Brode, whose colorful personality and trademark cackling laughter has become synonymous with the multi-billion dollar company, announced he was leaving Blizzard Entertainment to start a games company with a few of his friends and former colleagues. The decision was difficult, with a lot of risk, but Brode wanted to return to his roots.
“I was getting very involved in leadership and management in the last two years of my job,” Brode told The Washington Post. “I really enjoyed doing it, but it was itching to get back into programming and design and get my hands dirty right there.”
Along with co-founder Hamilton Chu, the pair agreed on the name Second Dinner for their business as a tribute to the late nights they had spent together brainstorming ideas. With a name decided on, it was time to get the team together and start working on creating… something.
“We had no game idea when we left, but we knew we wanted to do a mix of really heartbreaking gameplay and a really high business opportunity. And I think there’s kind of a connection,” said Embroider.
Despite his roots in designing games from desktop computers, Brode found another medium that was more immediately appealing.
“Mobile is a great place to have a successful game. At the heart of it all, what I wanted to do was create a game that I really wanted to play,” Brode said. “I had just become a father. son was born basically the day Hearthstone was released, and I found it much easier for me to play mobile games, so I wanted to build something that I could play more often.
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With no intellectual property to base their game on, the Second Dinner team began to prototype mobile games until a familiar face offered them the opportunity. Jay Ong, executive vice president and head of Marvel Games, worked at Blizzard with Brode in the early 2000s before leaving for his current company in 2014. When word got wind that the Second Dinner team was looking for a partner for a mobile game, an appointment has been set.
“We had a meal, we sat down and the confidence that they could bring Marvel to life and would do [the game] as authentically and thrillingly Marvel as possible, was obvious,” said Rosemann, who attended the reunion. “We just discovered our collective Marvel history.”
There was a shared interest in trading cards from the ’90s Marvel Universe, and attendees gushed about the comics and the role the characters had played in their lives. It was a perfect fit, Rosemann said.
“[Second Dinner is] like Wolverine: They’re the best at what they do,” Rosemann said with a laugh. “Except what they’re doing is very nice.”
The Second Dinner team had experience channeling the vast universe of World of Warcraft into a card game. But there were stark differences between this property and the Marvel Universe.
“I just worked on the Warcraft IP where there are tons of creatures and enemies to slaughter in the hundreds, and it’s just not Marvel,” Brode said. “Marvel is much more focused on heroes fighting a single villain.”
It wasn’t long before the team at Second Dinner struck creative gold.
“We had the idea for ‘Marvel Snap’ pretty quickly. In fact, it was so much fun so quickly, we paused it and said, ‘Look, we need to explore other things. We don’t can’t come up with such a great idea so quickly,” Brode said, reminiscing. “Like the first idea is never the best. But after a bunch of iterations, all we could think about was playing this game, so we ended up going back to it and fleshing it out. It’s been fun ever since.
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And while player enjoyment is the goal of any game for long-term success, many find deeper meaning in the titles they dive into. Given life’s hardships in recent years, an escape from reality is also important, according to Rosemann.
Before ending the conversation with The Washington Post, Rosemann’s demeanor suddenly changed, as did his tone.
“It’s a difficult world that we live in for many reasons and what has helped us all collectively over the past few years is this opportunity,” Rosemann said. “We can make a game that we know is going to entertain people and, man, people need it. … The power of games, now that we’re all isolated, for many reasons, is being able to play a game that connects you to people around the world and makes you feel good and gives you some hope. We know this is so important.
Tim Rizzo is a freelance journalist with over a decade of experience in the news industry. It can be found at @TimRizzo on Twitter.
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