Ben Brode, lead developer on Marvel Snap

Developer Update for the Week of August 2, 2023: Mirage Edition (25+ Questions)!

In this week's edition of Developer Update, we get answers to questions from the team at Second Dinner about Marvel Snap over the past week.

Hello all! Welcome back to this week’s breakdown of what’s happening over on the Marvel Snap official Discord! This week, is a bit lighter on news following our massive edition last week. This week, we get answers to is Jeff performing too well, will the Conquestors Spectrum variant be avaliable for purchase in the future, how do devs test card interactions, and more! If you want to stay up to date with what’s coming and what answers developers have for the community, make sure to check back here each week!

This week’s edition comes after the launch new card Mirage! If you aren’t sure if she is worth opening a Spotlight Cache for this week, make sure to check out our breakdown for the week!

Answers and questions may be slightly rephrased for more clarity and ease of reading. This weeks topics will be divided into Card Specific questions and Other questions.

Remember, you can check out our new Marvel Snap Developer Tracker to see all questions and answers in real time! Topics can also be searched, filtered, and sorted.

Card Specific Questions

Q: Why does Iron Lad copy a card but keep is image, but Phoenix Force revives a card and loses its image?
A: Glenn “Phoenix doesn’t get the ability of a new card any more than Ghost Rider or Hela. It puts the revived card into play, then merges itself. This is different in a few ways, but the biggest is that using the revived card as a base retains its modifiers.

The reason we built Phoenix this way is that it narratively matches the way the Phoenix works—it’s an entity often defined by who hosts it.

Iron Lad’s creative is that he’s a hero who learns what his destiny will be, and has to make choices to fight it or let it happen. The card communicates this creative more softly than Phoenix does, but Iron Lad’s story ultimately stars himself—Phoenix is almost always a duo.”

Q: Is the Jean Grey + Goose interaction intended?
A: Glenn “It is intentional. While impactful in effect, it’s not a very consistent curve and has a number of simple, popular counters, in addition to being a weak amount of Power.”

Q: Why is Legion a 5/8 but Blackbolt is a 5/7, even though Legion has a more powerful effect? Will Blackbolt return to a 5/8?
A: Glenn “No, we haven’t considered buffing Black Bolt back. He actually had the 2nd-highest win percentage a couple weeks ago across a solid sample, that’s not the kind of card we buff. (And no, Legion isn’t doing better than Black Bolt.)

Legion may have a stronger effect—that’s debatable, but possible. Either way, he’s certainly an effect we’re happier seeing people play more often. That’s because he offers the opponent interaction points as well as requiring a lot of context that changes from game to game. Getting your cards discarded too often becomes a bummer.”

Q: Just had a game where I played Shuri mid on T4, and had lost priority going into T5. On T5 my opponent Legion left, & I played Red Skull into Shuri’s lane…. which did not get double power. So I’m wondering if this is the intended interaction, or a bug? If it’s intended, does that mean that my opponent could also negate Shuri’s effect by having prio & playing Storm / Magik into that location?
A: Glenn “The Legion interaction is a bug. I haven’t investigated the others.”

Q: Is it intended that if a card is played via Hela or Jubilee, their Ongoing effect won’t be silenced if played onto Echo’s location?
A: Glenn “Yes. This is the same reason Death’s Domain doesn’t kill those cards, and Bishop doesn’t count them. Echo would need unique words nothing else has to have the functionality you’re describing.”

Q: In the past, during your adjustments to Aero, it was mentioned that the intention was to avoid the dominance of one card over others of the same cost. However, Jeff seems to be following that exact criteria as the most played 2-Cost due to his strength. Is Jeff passing the threshold in your data?
A: Glenn “Jeff isn’t the most-played 2-Cost card–rankings vary, but he was 4th overall last week among S3-complete players. Among the contenders, there’s a fairly healthy competition with several good winrates. None of these things were true for Aero, who was the winningest card and about twice as popular as any contender, more than twice in most cases. If you had Aero, you didn’t necessarily even need to own another 5-Cost card, that’s very unhealthy.

It’s arguable that Jeff is the strongest 2-Cost card–he certainly has been during some weeks–and his Series 5 status does dampen his play rate. But he’s not threatening metagame diversity and his strength stats are otherwise in-bounds, albeit near the top of the range.”

Other Questions

Q: Do you plan on adding cards that “attack” other lanes, like Killmonger, Hazmat, or Gambit?
A: Glenn “Some, but they’ll always be a slow drip and usually narrow. Cards that don’t care which location they’re at make the decisions of which location to play at less interesting the more there are.”

Q: When Legion is played on turn 5 at the Project Pegasus location, not only do you get the bonus 10 energy that turn (which is unusable outside of Sunspot and HE buffed cards), but also you get that bonus 10 energy (plus the normal 6) on turn 6. Is this working as intended?
A: Glenn “Yeah, Project Pegasus uses some unique behavior since it needs to work the turn it’s revealed and also the next turn if it was created by something like Scarlet Witch. We may refine it a bit, but for now that’s the functionality. Energy modification is weird.”

Q: Why don’t we have more MCU/ movie variants in the game?
A: Stephen “Likenesses for actors requires additional contracts so we cannot do it.  We do however already have and will continue to add MCU variants in costume when we can”

Q: Will the Spectrum Variant from the Conquerors event be avaliable for purchase after the event is over?
A: Ultra-Skye (Community Manager) “Yes, the Spectrum Variant will later become available outside of Conquerors, but during the course of the event (and for the foreseeable future) it will be exclusive to Conquerors!”

Q: Will we ever see Hercules as a card added?
A: Glenn “Herc’s a when, not an if.”

Q: Will we ever see Snap come to PS5 or Xbox?
A: Stephen “We hope to one day get the game on all major consoles”

Q: How often per year do you plan to have Roadmaps released?
A: Stephen “We release it roughly once per quarter.  Next one is coming soon!”

Q: At what point do you consider a card problematic or restricting when designing new cards?
A: Glenn “We have several thresholds internally for both individual cards and groups of cards, which form archetypes. When either approaches the danger zones, we flag them to check closely on future weeks and may start testing potential adjustments. Generally, something needs to exceed two or more thresholds to merit action. Lots of decks can exceed one for a week or two and then regress.”

Q: Will you add more cards that activate when players play cards, like Titania or Silk?
A: Glenn “We want a mix, and how we implement it depends on the role and effect of the card.”

Q: Are blocking (lockdown) decks intended to be a dominant deck in the meta?
A: Glenn “Some “blocking” has a healthy impact on the metagame. These decks existing make decks that commit more Power sooner stronger choices, which helps keep the metagame diverse. We want to avoid making the metagame revolve completely around concealing your big move(s) until turn 6, because that’s a strong approach that shrinks the pool of viable decks.

That said, a little lockdown goes a long way, and we don’t want that to be the best deck for long, if ever. So if lockdown becomes too strong, we will take balance action.”

Q: Since devs answer questions with their spare time, does that mean Glenn has the most spare time since he answers the most?
A: Glenn “Actually, it just means I spend far too much of my personal time on work-related activities. For example, I’ve been on vacation since last Tuesday.

I’ll often browse Discord or Twitter while traveling, standing in line, waiting for Unity to load, that sort of thing.”

Q: A lot of variants I see look exactly like comic book covers. Do you intentionally design art to mimic covers?
A: Nicki Broderick “We often use covers for our variants! We have a great partnership with Marvel and there’s already so much incredible art out there that we’re excited to highlight in Marvel Snap. 🙂”

Q: Do cards have equal weights to being drawn, or are their hidden weights to balance cards?
A: Glenn “Cards have equal chances, ignoring ones like Quicksilver. I have considered using similar strategies in other games, and know a few where it works out, but our small deck size makes that level of fine balance unnecessary and would homogenize games in negative ways.”

Q: Would you add a chess style clock in the game to be used in Conquest? It could solve issues of roping in Conquest.
A: Glenn “We already have an approximation of this functionality in the game that maintains a much more consistent game length. Functionally matching chess clocks would make games much longer unless we also shortened the amount of time players currently have by a meaningful amount.”

Q: Why isn’t deck shuffling inspired by IRL deck shuffling techniques like the Riffle Shuffle, i.e. the bottom card (Chavez) stays at the bottom?
A: Glenn “It does mimic IRL shuffling, which is a randomization of all the cards in the deck. Any shuffle that purposefully doesn’t do that used in the real world would by definition be cheating, or a magician’s performance.”

Q: How do you guys test card-card interactions or card-location interactions as part of your development/bug fixing processes? I’m assuming you have a way to “turn off” or wrangle the RNG so you cam test certain sequences of cards/interactions with locations without having to wait for the perfect storm?
A: Addison “We definitely have a fairly robust suite of tools for testing different interactions!

We can spawn specifics cards to hand/deck/field, we can force things into the hand/deck of the CPU opponent, we can set locations to whatever combo we’re needing (or clear them entirely by setting them all to Ruins!), we can grant ourselves energy, we can destroy cards, etc…

Generally speaking, if trying to test something individually we have a command to wipe the slate clean which does a lot of those things all at once. It forces all locations to ruins, discards all hands/decks, and stops the in-game timer. This allows us to set up whatever situation or combination we’re trying to test without having to worry about the CPU doing stuff that interferes or getting weird RNG from locations in the middle of a test.

For more complicated interactions or setups, we might use two clients and remove the CPU entirely. This allows us to stage cards from our opponent like a normal player which is sometimes required depending on the interaction (there are some cards in this department who are the biggest jerks and I bet some players can probably guess who!). While we have ways to forcibly match ourselves, using Friendly Battle is typically easier for these test needs.

With all of those tools in place, a lot of the testing comes down to trying to think of new test cases for new cards/locations while reaching into our bag of existing known problem areas from previous ones. It’s not an exact science, it’s a lot of going down the list of and trying to determine whether or not each card/location will directly interact with the new one. We generally try to go at least a couple layers deep (and this is an area we’re trying to improve on) and test around 2-3 step setups, so instead of Card+Card we’ll check Card+Card+Opposing Card, or Card+Location+Card.

Obviously it gets REALLY hard the deeper you go with combinations and so that brings us to Playtesting. Every week there are a number of playtests that various departments take part in and as new cards move down the pipeline eventually they become playable in a wider range of those playtests. While in a playtest, those of us in QA will usually monitor our exceptions tracking tool to see if any card-specific exceptions occur over the course of that session for any of the games played. When you ‘report a bug’ in the game, that taps into the same tracking tool (which is why it’s helpful for us to have when an issue occurs)!

One thing that we don’t have easily available on the QA side is the ability to manipulate or force RNG so things like Wandavision or X-Mansion can be quite rude to test. In this situation, especially if we’re investigating user reports, our devs can manipulate their environments to force the behavior if we’re trying to track something down.

I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff I didn’t touch on, but that’s it in a nutshell at the moment (though all of this is constantly changing and evolving). Thanks for the question!”

Questions From You!

Each week, I ask readers of the weekly dev update to leave their questions down in the comment section. That way we can ask those questions on your behalf, or let you know the answers if those questions have been asked before! I read each comment you leave, so I will be adding this section at the end of each week’s edition to highlight your questions that you asked last week!

Q: Where artists can submit their work if they want to be a part of Marvel Snap?
A: Stephen “Hit up impulse139 on Twitter.”

Q: Have you ever thought of adding credits to the end of game rewards in the same way we get boosters?
A: While I can’t find the exact quote for you where it was mentioned, devs have mentioned in the past they don’t want to have a feature like this as it incentivizes Bot farming.

Q: The last S4 card I got was Negasonic at CL 1482. If my understanding is correct you should receive a S4 card as a guarantee at least every 80 Collectors Reserves however I’ve not had another S4 since this and am now CL 2470. If you use Spotlight Caches to pick up S4/5 cards does the game recognise this and then wait up to another 80 reserves to guarantee the S4/5, or, is my understanding of the mechanic incorrect?
A: The old system used to award a S4 card every 40 caches at a minimum (shuffled, not exactly at 40). The new Spotlight caches removed this system, so you can no longer get a free S4/5 card without opening a Spotlight cache.

Q: Can we know what series each new card will be released into, costing 3k or 6k tokens, so that we can plan ahead in deciding if we want to spend our tokens or use our spotlight caches?
A: At the start of each season, the devs release a season preview article that goes over everything that will release that season. The new cards shown in that list will have their Series 4/5 categories shown there. They do not show data mined card Series as they do not acknowledge data mines typically.

Keep Your Questions and Feedback Coming!

That’s all for this week’s update! Be sure to check back here at Marvel Snap Zone for next week’s update! If you enjoyed the amount of content in this edition, make sure to keep asking your questions to the developers by submitting it in their official Discord in the “#ask-the-team” channel. If you have questions and don’t use Discord, leave your questions for the developers in the comment section here, and I will make sure your question has been answered by the devs!

If you have feedback or changes you would like to see with these weekly updates, also let us know in the comment section!

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