There are few games that appear they’d be a surefire hit right out of the gates, but Marvel Heroes is pretty hard to bet against at this point. The Diablo-style, Marvel-encased dungeon crawler promises thousands of relevant characters and settings from the popular Marvel universe. It also promises to be free, making it one of the most eagerly awaited PC titles this year.
Thanks to David Brevik, co-founder of Blizzard North and the man behind the first two Diablo games, Marvel Heroes can be depended on for engaging dungeon crawling mechanics and a striking visual style. Against a massive swarm of fans at the Marvel Heroes PAX Prime booth, we were able to borrow a minute of David Brevik’s time, and hear from the man himself what to expect from this highly anticipated title.
How does a game idea this big even start? The Marvel license is huge and the scope of the game looks even bigger.
It all started because I’m a huge Marvel fan [laughs]. This was a project I heard was available, and I went and sought it out because I believed I could add a unique twist to an MMO. I think the Marvel license is perfect with an Action/Role-Playing MMO.
How much do you think it helps that Marvel has been incredibly successful as their own film company? Both The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man were huge hits this summer.
It’s helping us a lot. We even has access to all of the content from the movies; we can even put the movie costumes in the game. This license is super special – we have access to everything. All the heroes, all the costumes, all the stories, all the worlds, it’s pretty crazy. We’re very excited about the possibilities of the license, combined with the gameplay that we have. The endless amounts of content and ideas that come from it is just great.
Obviously Diablo is going to play a huge influence in the way this game is shaped. What are some of the big things working on the Diablo franchise has helped shape Heroes?
It has a lot of impact. This game really wouldn’t have been possible without first making those games. The lessons I’ve learned from making those games in everything from how to make random levels to loot drops, everything applies. As well as a technology standpoint, going from making basically a single-player game with multiplayer servers to a fully-fledged MMO really has allowed the way that we create these games to evolve over time.
This game really is free to play, right? I have to keep double-checking my notes to confirm that. What are some of the ways you guys plan on making an Action/RPG balanced under that payment system?
We are giving it away for free, we are just that free. People are going to buy some stuff, we’ll have microtransactions, but really – you don’t need any of it to play the game. You can play from beginning to end for free, we’re not selling power, we’re only offering content to enhance your experience.
We’ve seen a ton of characters, from staples like The Hulk to the obscurity of Squirrel Girl. We keep hearing more and more playable characters announced – just how big is the scope right now?
A lot [laughs]. There are 8,000 characters in the Marvel universe, and we’ve just started to scratch the surface. We want to get all of the popular characters in the game, obviously, and we want to do plenty of semi-popular characters, like the lesser-known Cable or something like that. And then, we really wanted to dig deep and pull out the obscure ones like Rocket Raccoon and Squirrel Girl. As long as we continue to support the game, we want to get them all.
The first time I played through the demo here, I tore up the city alone as The Hulk and Iron Man. The second time, with all the other stations filled up, I found myself fighting alongside a team of other heroes. How will the multiplayer aspect of this MMO function?
The town areas are like your overworld: a bunch of people are in town and running around. Then, when you jump into a multiplayer area, imagine a Diablo II multiplayer session with fifty people in the same area, rampaging through the zone.
Is there partying for smaller groups that want to stick together?
You can party with friends if you want to, but you don’t have to. In the public areas, it’s a free-for-all: bosses will come down and everyone can participate, and everyone that participates gets loot and experience – and everything you see on the screen is just for you.
More and more often, we see the “free to play” moniker being applied to projects of bigger and bigger scopes. As one of the largest projects we’ve seen wear the free to play title, do you believe this is the future payment model for gaming?
Well, if it wasn’t optimal, people wouldn’t be doing it [laughs]. But seriously, it is [the future]. It definitely is. In many ways it’s like a dream come true for me. As a game designer, I love to entertain people. I make games mainly for myself, but I hope that other people can enjoy them with me. When they do, it makes me really happy; and if I can give that away for free with a business model that supports the game, it’s a beautiful harmony.
So where does Gazillion go from here? Is Heroes your sole focus for the near future, or are there other plans in the future as well?
I’d love to work with Heroes forever – if only we could be so lucky! But absolutely, I have no shortage of game ideas, just a shortage of time. I wont be able to make all the games I want to in my lifetime, but this is something I’ve wanted my whole life. I’d love for Gazillion to start with Heroes and become known as an elite developer like we did with Blizzard and Diablo, and then move on to many other great projects from there.
Here’s the big question that I’m sure you’re tired of answering: When will it launch? Or at least in the short term – when can we expect a Beta?
Closed Beta is soon – October 1st. But after that, we don’t really have an anticipated launch date. We’re hoping to determine the launch after we’ve worked with Beta to determine how much we need to clean and balance.