NYCC 2022: Video Game Designer Ben Brode Talks Marvel Snap
by Brendan M. Allen
I got to hang out for a while at Marvel Snap’s New York Comic Con Booth this last Saturday. They let me play the game, and chat with game creator Ben Brode.
Marvel Snap is an adrenaline-pumping, superpowered card battler game for mobile and PC that lets fans assemble their Marvel dream team of heroes and villains and battle their way through the multiverse to glory, all in just three minute play sessions. Marvel Snap is super easy to learn, but will take a lifetime for players to master.
Brendan Allen: All right. We all know why we’re here, so let’s jump right in. I got to play the game. It’s super easy to learn. It’s free to play. What are you most excited about?
Ben Brode: I’m most excited about seeing players who were never willing to try card games that will try this game. It’s so easy to learn. Super fast.
Allen: I was just saying to the gentleman that walked me through the first game out there. My nine year old really wants to get into Dungeons and Dragons, but I don’t know a Dungeon Master who is willing to run a campaign with my kid, who’s nine, and a beginner. (Locally anyway.) But he’d rock this game, and I think even my seven year old would have a blast with it too.
What’s the target age group?
Brode: Honestly, anybody! It’s super easy to learn, but it has incredible depth. It’s fun for people who have been playing card games for years, and for people who it’s their first game. It’s so easy to learn, anybody could do it.
Allen: And you guys are doing skins, so it’s free play, but you can pay to customize the look of your game to make it your own thing. How often will skins be coming out, and what’s going to be the pricing schedule for those?
Brode: We’re launching with a thousand variants. And we’re going to release almost twenty new ones every month.
Allen: So, you’re starting small, then?
Brode: (laughs) They’re going to range from chibi to pixel… We got a bunch of the most creative artists in the world to do art in their own styles.
Allen: How much will skins cost?
Brode: You can earn them just by playing the game, with in game gold, but you can also buy them with real world money.
Allen: Tell me about locations.
Brode: Locations are one of the really interesting things about the game. There are three locations in your game, and the ones that show up are random. You don’t ever know what you’re going to see. Each time is totally different.
And when you’re playing the game, there’s always new problems to solve, because you can play the same decks over and over again, but at the Baxter Building, the Sewer System, it’s really different how I’m playing my deck. You have to kind of respond on the fly to figure out how you’ll play your deck in this situation.
Every game has a surprise, and the game feels really different every time.
Allen: How many different locations does the game start with?
Brode: There are eighty different locations. It’s random which three you’re going to get. We’ll also be launching a new location every single week. When we launch a new one, it’ll be more common for a day or two, so you’ll want to edit your deck to take advantage of that new location.
It’s also important to note that both players are playing at the same time. You’re both playing actively.As things are going on, you’re making decisions, and if you feel like you’re about to win, you do your magic Snap, and the screen changes colors, everything gets exciting, and the stakes are raised.
Allen: Ha! I noticed that Snap button, and obviously it’s a key part of the game. I played Backgammon a bunch as a kid. It’s a doubling cube.
Allen: So I played just the one round. Is a typical game over after one round, or is there a mode where two opponents would play more than a single round to determine the winner?
Brode: There are two ways to play. One is the version we have right now. It’s a ranked battle. The cubes represent your rank. The more cubes you have, the higher your rank. Winner gains rank, loser obviously loses rank.
The Snap mechanic puts more cubes on the line. You can say I’m going to snap, and the loser can just say no, I’m out, take the cubes. There’s another mode we’re working on that will be coming soon called Battle Mode.
In Battle Mode, we’ll play a series of games. We’ll each start with ten health, and the winner deals damage to the loser equal to what’s on the cube. So we’ll play back and forth until one player deals ten damage to the other player, and then that player loses.
Allen: Some of the other ranked games that I play, they don’t stack someone up who has a ton of rank against someone who is just starting to build rank. So, the number of cubes you have, that determines who your opponent will be?
Brode: There are a number of things that will determine your opponent. One is your rank. Another is your collection. If you’re brand new to the game, you won’t be matched with someone who’s been playing for a month. They’ll be playing against someone with a similar amount of cards.
Allen: Not everyone starts with the same cards then? You have to build your own deck to start?
Brode: You start with the same cards, but every player will unlock different cards, in a different order. As you play the game, you visually upgrade your cards, and as you do that, you unlock new cards.
The cards you unlock will be different than the ones I unlock. Everybody you meet will have a little bit of a different collection. You’ll be able to compare, like what do you have? Oh! I don’t have that one.
Allen: Can you trade cards?
Brode: You can’t trade, no. You can pay a little bit of money to build a little faster, though.
Allen: Is there a social aspect to the game? A chat room or anything like that? Can you chirp at your opponents to get in their heads?
Brode: We eventually want to do clans, or guilds, but currently during the game, you can emote at your opponent. It’s a different context than other games, because you can bluff your opponent. When you do a Snap, it might be because you’re winning, or… it might be because you’re losing, and you want to bluff your opponent into thinking you’re winning.
So there are emotes like ‘I’m confident,’ or ‘You’ve got me,’ or ‘Hey, you want to snap?” It creates situations where sometimes you can get your opponent to Snap, and you get the stakes even higher.
Allen: I love it. You grabbed the doubling cube from Backgammon, and there’s kind of a pTexas Holdem thing going with the bluffing, but there’s also kind of a Pai-Gow element with almost a high hand/low hand situation, where you can bolster two of your locations and plan to lose the third, knowing you only need two to win.
Brode: We play A LOT of board games, and we drew inspiration from a lot of places.
Allen: It’s great, too, because while I got spanked on my first match out there, I was invested enough after one round to want to get back in and play another.
I love the play length too. My youngest does a bunch of medical treatments, and this seems like a game he can pick up during a treatment, or transitioning between schedules, and either just get that quick match in, or stick around for a whole 40 minute treatment, and it works for all those situations.
Brode: Exactly. The average game is three minutes long, and the longest a round can go is five minutes, so you can really make it fit your schedule.
Allen: What platforms will the game be available on?
Brode: We’ll be launching on Android and iOS, and Steam.
Allen: Oh, cool. So you can play the game from a PC. And will the one account work across platforms? Can I play on my iPad and my Android tablet without multiple accounts?
Brode: As long as you have an account, you can play from all your devices.
Allen: Back to the skins for a second, do the skins themselves imbue any special powers to your decks?
Brode: No. The skins are purely cosmetic. We have to keep the integrity of the game. Keep it fair.
Allen: That’s a great thing to hear. There are loads of games that really come down to who has the most expendable income to boost their abilities.
Brode: It’s more important to us that people want to play for a long time. Whether you’re brand new, or you’ve been playing for years, you should be at a disadvantage being new. Even the starter deck is powerful. What matters more than the deck you’re playing is the skill of the pilot.
Allen: It does seem like this is a model that has potential for a lot of longevity. Your initial launch is clean. Even if you were just releasing new skins, people would stick around for that. Even if there weren’t new content constantly released, people would stick around for the skins.
Brode: There will be new content every week. There will be new cards and locations every week.
Allen: That is really ambitious. I sincerely hope you’re able to keep up that pace.
Brode: I think we’ll be able to. We’re committed to keeping it fresh and exciting. That’s what the players want.
Allen: Right on. Thank you so much for your time.
Marvel Snap is scheduled to drop on October 18, 2022.