Publisher/developer Gazillion Entertainment Format PC Release 2013
“I knew I wanted to make a Diablolike game again. But I didn’t want to do fantasy; I wanted to do something different that would stretch my limits. I’d been a big Marvel fan for a long time, and I always wanted to make a Marvel Diablo. We’d been working on a design for Diablo III and an MMOG project called Mythos at Flagship Studios, which never saw the light of day. The original design for Diablo II was massively multiplayer, too. I love massively multiplayer games in all different forms, from Ultima Online to EverQuest, and here was an opportunity to combine all the things I love. It was just something I couldn’t pass up, since I was too excited about it, and that’s what I’m working on today.
I joined Gazillion as creative director on the project, and at the time it was running into a similar situation to Hellgate. Gazillion was a big company,
“THE PROCESS OPENED MY EYES TO THE WAY GAMES ARE MADE NOW, AND HOW IMPORTANT COMMUNITY IS”
it had like 450 to 500 people, and it had a lot of different projects going on – seven or eight. Then it all started to kind of fall apart. They’d raised a ton of money from investors, games were coming out and not making any money, and other projects were getting delayed.
So they kicked out the CEO, brought in another one and made me president and COO. So myself and the other CEO reduced the company down to a few projects, but nothing was really working.
Marvel Heroes looked like it had a lot of potential, but it was hard for me to pay attention to it because I was so focused on the corporate stuff – board and investor politics, all of these other things that I was kind of new to. I’d never worked with investors before; mostly we’d just do publisher-developer deals, and at Blizzard we’d always made enough revenue to fund our own things. Investors that deal with games alongside investing in, say, medical equipment or some Internet startup or whatever, they don’t know all that much about videogames. They just know about Marvel and so they think, ‘Oh, Marvel. A licence. That should be a good investment.’
So we made that game. About six months before finishing, the CEO left, so they made me CEO. We were running out of cash and the investors weren’t going to give us any more – the company had been around for seven or eight years by that point, and they’d put a lot of money in and not seen much return. They weren’t going to put more in before we’d released something. So we released Marvel Heroes before it was ready.
It came out, and it was not well received. It got a Metacritic of 58. And it was like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe I’ve gone through this yet again.’ I didn’t want to be the business man. I wanted to be the guy who was focused on making games again, not having to deal with that stuff. But the only way to have that project see the light of day was to become more and more involved with the business side of things. But the investors were happy that we released something, and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to support you a little bit more. We’ll give you guys the leg room to make this thing grow.’
So they put a little bit more capital in and with that we were able to start working on the project, making it better and better. We worked on it very hard, lots of crunching hours, although the crunch was a lot better this time, because we were using a Scrum development system where people were estimating their time. These games as a service are a marathon, not a sprint, and I didn’t want people burnt out the entire time. It’s OK to crunch for short periods of time, but you can’t crunch for a year and expect that to keep going for another year.
We brought a couple of key people on and really turned it around. We added more features, finished the game – it took maybe nine months or so to make it the game that we really wanted it to be at release. And that process opened my eyes to the way games are made now, and how important community is. Interaction with the community in today’s day and age is very different to 25 years ago when I started in the industry – back then, there weren’t even message boards for a lot of games. Your communication was picking up Nintendo Power and talking among your friends. Today, there are forums, there’s Twitter, there’s Twitch: all these different communities that it’s important for a developer, especially of an online service game, to be interacting with.
Its an amazing transformation. Going from this standoffish developer separate from the community and not really interacting with them to opening up and fully embracing them. Everybody in the entire company can post on the forums – I don’t care what position you have, you can chat with the customers. People are answering questions on Twitter at any given moment. I personally stream the game three or four nights a week with my own account. I listen to and answer questions. I go out and onto other people’s streams to chat and play with them. This new way of developing a live product is the most fun I’ve ever had.
I’ve enjoyed making Marvel Heroes almost more than any other game ever, simply because of the post-release [process] and the improvements we’ve made. It took two years to make Diablo II great, and I think it’s taken a couple of years to make Marvel Heroes great, and I really enjoy that interaction with the community. I know this is the way I want to make games in the future.”
ABOVE CENTRE MarvelSuper Heroes is, like Diablo, an isometric action-RPG, but Brevik has shifted focus to an MMO F2P structure.
ABOVE Despite painful past experience with licensing, Brevik couldn’t turn down Marvel Comics characters