Ben Brode, lead developer on Marvel Snap

Developer Update for the Week of November 15, 2023: Gladiator Edition (35 +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, we get answers to is Drax and Crossbones going to get a buff, are big turn 5 cards problematic, what do the devs mean by “internal metagame”, 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 Gladiator! If you aren’t sure if this card is worth opening a Spotlight Cache for, make sure to check out our weekly Spotlight Cache guide, as well as our Gladiator guide!

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 was America Chavez not buffed to 10 power with the OTA that changed so many cards from 9 to 10 Power?
A: Glenn “People fairly rarely use 6 Energy to play Chavez at all in competitive play–pretty much just Dracula-based Discard. When playing her is a consideration, we felt ducking Shang-Chi would probably be more meaningful than the 10th Power. It’s a close decision, could turn out either way. But either way, I don’t expect a large uptick in ‘Americas played on turn 6.”

Q: We’re there limitations on how many cards you could push from 8 to 9 Power like Jessica Jones? Are Crossbones and Drax the next to get the 9 Power buff?
A: Glenn “We targeted cards we felt confident needed the boost. That’s not to say we won’t buff others, but just that we’re starting in our highest-confidence spot. Both Drax and Crossbones have enjoyed brief moments in the sun in recent months, in contrast to Jessica, and her drawback is often enough more severe.”

Q: Why did Shang-Chi initially get decided to destroy cards at 9 Power?
A: Glenn “My understanding is that Shang-Chi was at 9 Power because at one point Hulk had 9 Power (well before beta) and after a rebalance the number still played well enough.”

Q: I remember that the balancing of the Phoenix Force in its season was to avoid the big risk of Shang-Chi. With the latest balancing, is it possible for PF to regain its 6-power considering it is still an underperforming season card?
A: Glenn “That was a factor, not the only factor, and it was in part a problem because Phoenix cost 5 and was vulnerable—a larger investment to lose. I don’t think Phoenix’s metrics indicate that card needs to be a 4/6.”

Q: After the changes to Wave and Alioth, have you thought about bringing back the old Galactus?
A: Glenn “If you mean the 6/7, sure. If you mean the 6/3 or 6/2, no. That card has fundamental issues with what we want for gameplay and how we balance.”

Q: Does Gladiator shuffle the opponent’s deck when he pulls a card?
A: Glenn “Nope, just pulls.”

Q: Was the decision to have Gladiator activate the On Reveal and use the post Ongoing power of cards he pulls based on balancing him, or purely mechanic/coding wise? And if he needs a future buff, could any of these be turned off? As in he would only activate On Reveals but ignore Ongoings or vice versa.
A: Glenn “It would be difficult to add either functionality, because both merit more words and Gladiator is wordy. I suspect we would rework him before simply tagging those effects onto the existing card, assuming he can’t be adjusted to satisfaction with Cost/Power.”

Q: Why did the team decide for gladiator to have the word “add” as opposed to doc ock having “pull” since they both have the same functionality?
A: Glenn ” ‘Add’ is our default word. Ock has ‘pull’ for flavor and to evoke the right vibe in a physical sense, but Gladiator’s story is a ‘call-out’ which doesn’t suit it. We deviate in small ways from the defaults when we feel the meaning is clear and more enjoyable with a different word, such as Wolverine using ‘regenerate.’ We did debate something like ‘Challenge a card in your opponent’s deck.'”

Q: Can we see a Mr. negative buff since he sees so little competitive play?
A: Glenn “We intend to continue releasing strong cards for Mister Negative–that’s how we prefer to buff decks, when we can, and was a goal for Ravonna Renslayer.

We’re reluctant to buff Mister Negative himself, because a) the deck already mostly revolves around drawing him, so we’re raising the ceiling which doesn’t improve his average efficiently, and b) the deck was a real powerhouse in Series 1-3 play before release, and we don’t want to disrupt that experience for relatively small gains in competitive play.”

Q: If Captain Marvel will move to a location to win you Season Pass xp (even if you don’t win the match), will Martyr move out of a location to lose you Season Pass xp?
A: Glenn “No, Martyr doesn’t have it out for your Season Pass.”

Other Questions

Q: Are there plans to permanently bring back the rewards in the nuverse shop?
A: Stephen “We plan to bring it back in December and will aim to have it for each season going forward after that.”

Q: Have you considered changing Baxter Building to give +4 power to match the Fantastic 4 and give it a nice even number?
A: Glenn “I’ve never really given Baxter Building much thought, but I do agree the number 4 would be nice.”

Q: Can you comment on how you can now make bigger text changes in OTA’s now? Is it by storing old text and bringing it back later?
A: Glenn “We could always make some changes to card behavior, but we couldn’t update their text to reflect those changes. Now we can. We don’t ‘store’cards other than in previous builds of the game.”

Q: How do you go about changing a card when the issue stems from popularity rather than power level?
A: Glenn “It varies, but my first approach in that scenario is to examine if we could keep approximately the same strength but reduce the number of decks that can play the card. For example, a hypothetical 3/4 card that’s seeing a big chunk of play in Surfer could perhaps get buffed to a 2/3 and be played less.

I’ll also often consider if there are cards we could buff that are strong against the card. That’s one reason we tried 4/6 Enchantress a while back.

It’s possible we’d nerf a card with a ~51% winrate that’s simply too popular, but it’s a pretty rare kind of card to see widespread play without also being a top performer. One way that could happen is the card being so overwhelmingly popular that a ton of the best decks are playing it while keeping each other in check in an otherwise balance metagame.

In Shang’s case, he could achieve that because his very existence changed the way people built decks, but his impact was also so large that he could make up for the games where he was weak by being irreplaceable in other games.”

Q: Do you think about and consider the play experience when designing cards? Have you discarded any design spaces because of how it feels to play against a card?
A: Glenn “Sure, there are things we avoid, at least for now. One of the things we do like to consider with how the card feels is the alignment of the character. If they’re a villain, we might be willing to move closer to that line with their design.”

Q: Is it intended for ongoing cards to get buffed by Spectrum when played onto Deep Space, but not if deactivated by Sauron?
A: Glenn “Yes, these are different effects. The card on Deep Space still has its ability and is thus an Ongoing card; the ability is just ‘turned off.’ For example, if it was moved, the ability would turn back on. That’s not true for Sauron or Zero, where the ability will remain removed even if the card changes zones completely.”

Q: With Annihilus releasing soon, does the team find it healthy for so many decks to have a big turn 5 set up card that can single-handedly win the game?
A: Glenn “Yes, because it accomplishes a couple things. The first is it helps ‘split’ mechanics into different archetype identities, such as Nimrod-based Destroy and Knull-based Destroy. The second is that a turn 5 card having huge impact for an archetype gives the opponent a chance to evaluate retreating before the final double if they’re too far behind, weakening the cube rate of the given card.”

Q: How long after an OTA change do you wait before changing a card again (if needed)?
A: Glenn “Generally, prefer to give it a couple months—we don’t want a single card to feel overworked. But we’ve made plenty of exceptions to that preference.”

Q: Which card is the hardest to adjust?
A: Glenn “There are a lot of ways to consider hardest, but I guess one answer I’ll give is Colossus. He serves his Series 1 functionality well, but is impossible to position at a competitive rate without landing too far from the vanilla curve. For example, 5/10 now makes sense for him as a theoretically viable Shuri card (would dodge Shadow King and Shang-Chi), but is weirdly strong relative to Abomination. But we didn’t think 5/9 would have been enough even when Shang-Chi was hitting 9 Power.”

Q: Would you ever add a VR mode for Snap?
A: Stephen “When we think about what platforms to put Snap on, we prioritize the amount of players we can reach that may have not played Snap yet.  We may one day go to VR but it is low on our priority list.  Consoles are the next highest priority for us to consider for Snap due to having a much greater reach than VR”

Q: Is Global matchmaking still coming?
A: Stephen “Global matchmaking is still coming.  We have already condensed it down to 3 regions.”

Q: Did Stephen mean the live game matchmakes in 3 regions and will eventually be down to 1, or the eventual goal of global is to condense it down to 3 regions?
A: Glenn “Right now, we are at 3 regions. Eventually we will be down to one, and anyone will then be able to play anyone.”

Q: Would Global matchmaking reduce the number of bots?
A: Stephen “Bots are necessary or the amount of people who could reach high ranks would be extremely small because bots represent almost all of the cube inflation necessary each season.  However, the rate we serve bots is relatively low.”

Q: If I buy gold from the nuverse website, will I miss out on the first time double purchase when it begins on the site eventually?
A: Stephen “If you buy from the webshop now it will not prevent you from taking advantage of the double gold bonus when it is enabled on the webshop in the future”

Q: If you buy the 2x gold on the app, can you also get the 2x gold on the website later?
A: Stephen “If you make a purchase and get the 2x bonus on the app then it will be used by your account already and will not be available on the webshop for any gold purchase amounts you have already purchased.

For example, if you buy the $9.99 Gold price in the app for 2x gold then you will not have 2x gold available on the webshop for $9.99.”

Q: What makes you disable a location like Yashida Base because of glitches, but not disable Daredevil with his glitch?
A: Glenn “Our bar for disabling cards is much higher than for disabling locations, because cards are content our players actively choose to use, enjoy, and have invested resources in vs. locations that happen to them. You can avoid playing with Daredevil, while you couldn’t avoid Yashida Base (especially on its featured day).”

Q: What do you think about when making lobby music? Does it have to be related to the theme?
A: TheChrisAlan “Hello!  Yes, with the seasonal menu music I always draw reference to the theme at hand,  listening and studying different Marvel media that’s speaks to that theme.  The goal is to further immerse you into the vibes of the season!”

Q: Do your metrics show an increase in players during featured / hot locations?
A: Glenn “There are a lot of variables, so no clear indication one way or another. The most meaningful change we consistently see on featured/hot location days is which decks people are playing and which decks are winning, and that supports our goal of keeping the game interesting on a daily basis.”

Q: Can you elaborate on the OTA notes comments that your “internal meta” diverging from the live game and how often they converge?
A: Glenn “We don’t specifically try to predict what the live metagame will be internally–that would be a time-consuming fool’s errand. What we mean when we talk about our internal metagame is more about which cards and decks we think are viable and the ways in which they all interact or can be countered.

For example, we didn’t test Loki with Kitty and Angela much, because Kitty was awkward with Loki–but it turned out this awkwardness was more than compensated for by the strength of the shell when you’re not planning to play your Loki cards. That error was compounded when Elsa was introduced, as we didn’t revisit our flawed assumption.

We do test cards we think go in Lockout decks and make sure the decks feel beatable when a card could improve them, even if the ways you try to beat them might change. When we think we have a deck that’s performing too well, we’ll put some active effort into “cracking” it to figure out if it’s actually too good.

Sometimes, these efforts will mismatch the live experience, though. I think we underestimated Alioth in live in part because the inherent bias of testing impacted our results. Alioth’s way easier to beat when you’re certain he’s in your opponent’s deck, and less frustrating if you’re playing games with that certainty.

As for our vision, we have general balance metrics for a deck’s healthy metagame preference. If a deck’s nature is unhealthy, such as Galactus or Lockout, we adjust those metrics for that accordingly to be more discerning. It’s fair to say we don’t want Professor X to ever be one our most-played cards, for example.”

Q: Is it too much of a broken design space to possibly allow for increased hand sizes one day?
A: Glenn “I don’t think it’s broken, but it’s an accessibility and UI/UX concern. We want a limit so that the hand remains navigable, and we don’t want to worry about designs overwhelming players with too much information to parse.”

Q: Will there ever be cards that impact game speed via the timer or turn skips?
A: Glenn “I expect this is a when, not an if.”

Q: Are there any mechanics off limits for a card to interact with, like snapping or gaining cubes?
A: Glenn “Technically no. The primary limitation for wider mechanical space is how long it might take us to actually implement the card and whether that time is well-spent.”

Q: Do you also plan on implementing a “transmog” mechanic with ultimate cards? For instance, I use my “Hero” invisible woman (or a cool variant releasing down the line) variant with Peach momoko’s ultimate effects?
A: Stephen “We have discussed this!  Our goal in general is to keep giving everyone reasons to want to continue to explore finding new and cooler variants that you like more than what you have or to mix it up.  Locking in the extra capabilities to a single card goes against that goal.  My guess at this point when we add that feature this functionality will not be in place for phase 1 but we will add it quickly afterwards in another phase of development.  We will keep everyone posted on it when this feature is closer to release.”

Q: Can we get an Artgerm shop takeover?
A: Stephen “I’m sure it will happen.  His art is too awesome”

Q: Can Spotlight keys be added in different places like Conquest mode rewards, Season pass, or rank rewards?
A: Chris “We’ll explore different avenues for Spotlight Cache Keys in due time, but engineering-wise, no, keys are not limited to the collection track.”

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: I am curious why almost every other digital Card Games both rolls out balance patches, AND issues refunds for nerfed cards?
A: Simply put, other card games don’t balance cards on a weekly basis and don’t release cards once a week like Snap does. Ben Brode explains in more detail below:

Ben Brode “We want to be fairly aggressive with balance changes which means we are often nerfing the best cards. If we gave refunds, that means often the cards folks are buying end up just being free (they get the card and the 6K back).  This kind of inflation will result in the currency being somewhat useless.

We also want our designers to just nerf cards when it’s the right thing and not to have to worry about what this could do to the in-game economy.

Finally, when we nerf cards we aren’t trying to make them unplayable, just bring them into a fair position.  They should still be useful and you still have the card.”

Q: Are there any updates to new card splits, customization, first edition badges, and other art additions?
A: Stephen “Stay tuned for our next dev roadmap.  We do have a pipeline of art based features on the horizon that we are excited to share with everyone”

Q: What happened to Valkyrie’s Bifrost in Base Card art?
A: It’s a bug, several card arts were messed up after the latest patch. You can see the Bifrost on the card art in the collection, but viewing the card removes the bifrost. No official word yet on the matter though.

Q: Is it intentional that a Negasonic played on Turn 4, destroys a card placed on Turn 3 behind Invisible Woman, when cards are revealed after the game ends?
A: It’s intended. The cards behind Invisible Woman are not considered “played” until they reveal.

Q: Do more random locations differ in Conquest vs Ladder? Does the team consider restrictions on locations for Conquest?
A: Glenn “Currently, it’s the same. We’re interested in developing more granular controls for how locations appear in different game modes.”

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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