Marvel Heroes: Interview with David Brevik
Hey there, folks! We were lucky enough to get an opportunity to take an interview from David Brevik (aka Xarex on the official forums), CEO of Gazillion Entertainment and the creator of Diablo, Diablo II and Marvel Heroes.
Are you happy with how Marvel Heroes turned out? Were you expecting more or less before the game was released?
I am very proud of the way Marvel Heroes turned out. It was a very rocky path to get to the release of the product. It is incredibly difficult to create and release any game, especially an MMO. Many of them don’t release. We were creating something that had never been done by mixing ARPG with MMO, so there was no blueprint to follow.
On the other hand, I wish we would have launched with a “beta” tag similar to Gmail. Gmail was in beta for years and it was fine. I’m not sure why we were in a rush to remove it. There are many products that spend tons of time in beta. Once you remove that beta tag, then you get review scores. If we would have waited 6 months to lift the beta tag, I’m sure our scores would have been higher.
How much are you actually involved in the development of Marvel Heroes these days?
I am quite involved, but more from a high level. I don’t actually create powers, program or do any art, but I play all the time and give tons of feedback. I’m involved with any major features that go into the game. I suggest quite a few. I help set schedules and priorities.
That said, I am the CEO, so my responsibilities are much greater than just Marvel Heroes. We have another product, I’m also responsible for procuring investment and answering to the board, I am involved in finance, HR, marketing and many other responsibilities that take a bunch of my time.
What can you tell us about the Marvel Heroes anniversary? What sort of things can we expect?
We have a long, long list of incredible and exciting features with this mega-patch: Surtur Raid, Omega system, Secured Trading, Daily Shared Quests, Login Rewards and Achievements. Most of these features will launch on June 4th and a few later in our month-long celebration. We are going to have a ton of events, giveaways and surprises throughout the month.
One surprise: We will be adding a new stash tab and giving it away for free to anyone that logs in the first week of the anniversary.
What do you think are the strongest and the weakest elements of Marvel Heroes? What would you like to improve the most?
I feel the strongest element of Marvel Heroes is the development team. They are really remarkable. They create compelling content faster than anyone else, I believe. Creating a new hero each month, plus new gameplay modes, costumes, reworks and constant general improvements is nearly unimaginable. Hand-in-hand with this is the community. The team loves the community and the strength and support we get from it fuels the fire to create the best ARPG in the world.
The part of the game we have been trying to improve the most has been the end-game and the variety of activities that are associated with an end-game. Most of our efforts and additions have been directed at making that experience deeper and richer.
How close are you working with Marvel Entertainment to promote Marvel Heroes? What kind of things can we expect in future?
We work very closely with Marvel nearly every day. We have done a large variety of events with Marvel directly to promote the game. We have been on Marvel.com and done live interviews with Agent M (Ryan Penagos). We have been in their booth at both SD and NY Comic Cons. They help us tie into the movies with previews of scripts and movie assets. The actual CGI suits of armor used in Iron Man 3 by the FX house were put directly into the game. This year, we will also be tying into the comics and doing an event coordinated with Marvel publishing.
If you were a superhero with the power to rewind time, would you go back to do something different during the early stages of Marvel Heroes development?
I wouldn’t change a thing. We got the game I wanted to make even if it took a bit longer than expected to get there.
When Marvel Heroes was released last year, it received quite a lot of negative feedback because of its pretty unpolished state, but the game has improved drastically since then. Do you plan to do something to interest players and journalists in checking the game out again?
That is our hope. We are updating the identity of the game. Marvel Heroes will now be called Marvel Heroes 2015 moving forward. We hope that press and players will return to give it a fresh look. We feel that we have made tremendous progress in the past year and we have some very exciting features coming up. Just like a new version of a sports title or an updated version of office productivity software, Marvel Heroes deserves a new title because of all the changes we have made.
Has the concept of Marvel Heroes changed much during the development? Was there anything you had to cut because it didn’t work out as you thought it would?
The basic concept of what we were making has never changed. We always set out to make an ARPG combined with an MMO and the Marvel license. However, there were many, many smaller concepts that have changed many times. We are still changing, cutting or reimagining many parts of the game. We changed the way you unlocked heroes, we change end-game activities and many other designs.
Often when you are developing any feature, you end up modifying it several times before it really works. There are constant changes and iteration to any great development. You hope that you continue to make the feature better and better.
I would say that the biggest change we made that had to be cut was legendary sharing. The way we designed it and the way it worked led to way too many exploits and it would have devalued Odin marks. In the end, we had to cut the concept and go in a different direction. We ended up with Daily Shared Quests, which I believe will be much better and more flexible going forward.
It is a well-known fact that Blizzard North has been working on a different Diablo III back in 2003. Can you give us any details about the game you were making? Were there going to be any similarities to what Marvel Heroes is now?
Blizzard North’s design for D3 was an ARPG- MMO. It was different from Marvel Heroes in many ways, but some of the lessons learned from that development, combined with our second attempt at Flagship Studios with Mythos helped shape Marvel Heroes and the underlying technology.
What kind of game would you like to make in future? Would it be another Action RPG or something different? On a side note, are there any unannounced projects at Gazillion?
I love ARPGs and I would love to do another. At the same time, I also enjoy many other types of games and I have other ideas that aren’t ARPGs. Luckily I’m still young enough that I can do both! There are other projects, but they will remain unannounced for now. I have some rough plans for my next ARPG, but that won’t begin anytime soon.
What do you think are the most essential parts of Action RPGs that make them so fun and addictive? What do you think should be the endgame in an Action RPG game?
I believe there are too many essential parts to an ARPG to list here, but the most basic involves randomness. Having randomized loot, levels and enemies help create a game that can be played over and over again. In general, ARPGs are slot machines. Every time you defeat an enemy, you pull the lever and hope you hit the jackpot.
There is always an endgame in any ARPG. Some of them are more complicated than others. Some are just item hunts. Some have very difficult level caps. We have a variety of activities and focus on item hunts right now. We also have PvP and soon we will have Raids. Our endgame is going to be more akin to MMOs than other ARPGs and I think it is an interesting mix.
Have you played the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo III? If yes, what are your thoughts about it?
I have played it a bit. Blizzard was kind enough to send me a team-signed copy of the game. The expansion has incredible atmosphere from a very consistent art-style and sound. I also think they made some really fun gameplay improvements and I liked the new class.
How much are you interested in the Marvel universe? Who are your favorite heroes and villains? Do you have a favorite story arc?
I love the Marvel Universe and have for a long, long time. I wouldn’t have signed up for this project if I wasn’t a fan. My favorite heroes to read are: Hulk, Deadpool, GotG, the new Ms. Marvel and Cable. My favorite villains are Thanos, Galactus, Modok and Red Skull. My top three story arcs: Dark Phoenix, Planet Hulk and Secret Wars.
Have you seen My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? If yes, did you like it?
Yes. I have seen many, many episodes of MLP. I have four daughters, including a six-year-old. I’m a brony.
We hope you enjoyed reading this interview. We also took an interview from Geoff Tuffli (aka Heretic), that you can check out here. See you later!