Dark or Light

Creative Director Jesse Decker On the Future of Marvel Heroes

Michael Bitton Posted:
Interviews 0

We had a chance to chat with Marvel Heroes creative director Jesse Decker on the game's future on both PC & console.


MMORPG.com: Can you give us your take on what the state of Marvel Heroes is at present? What are some of the key pain points you'd like to address in the short and long term?

Jesse Decker: I think Marvel Heroes is a fun button-mashy ARPG with a huge number of characters and build choices. Veteran players are ready for an influx of new content, but there’s already a ton of enemies and game modes. Thinking over the long term, I'd like to increase the quality of the individual gameplay moments, bring in more of the great story threads from the Marvel Universe, and develop a deeper end game while staying true to the fast and fun nature of the game today.

MMORPG.com: The second half of the Biggest Update Ever features were announced to follow shortly after the first, but the current roadmap pegs features such as the Omega items and Omega difficulty as arriving possibly as late as September of this year. What was the reason for this change? And given the reaction from the community to this news, is there any chance players could see these features moved up in the production schedule?

Jesse Decker: The character revision portions of the BUE took far longer than originally anticipated. This had a massive effect on the schedule and we absolutely should have communicated that more clearly. I admit that every time I see a fan asking for a thing sooner than we're planning to deliver it, I take a look and see if we can move it up. In this case, I'd be dishonest if I said I thought there was a real chance to pull these things forward. I'd love to do so, and I'd do it if I could, but September is pretty realistic.

MMORPG.com: How do the console versions of the game fit into the bigger picture for Marvel Heroes and Gazillion? Fans are understandably concerned that the console version will take priority. What can you offer to allay those concerns?

Jesse Decker: We’ve always been candid about putting Marvel Heroes everywhere we could. It’s great for the bigger picture. The console versions let us reach more fans. Some of those fans turn into additional paying players, and that will allows us to do more for every platform. It’s a cycle that helps everyone win – one that other incredibly successful cross-platform F2P games have leveraged. Also, ARPGs feel great on console, and Marvel Heroes Omega holds true to that. I start and end each day as a PC gamer, but the console is a great place to spend a few hours smashing stuff with lightning (I play a lot of Thor and Doctor Strange).

MMORPG.com: Is it the goal to achieve some level of parity between the console and PC versions of the game? We understand that players are concerned the studio will find it hard to balance delivering on both versions of the game if they are significantly different from each other.

Jesse Decker: The games won't become identical, but by the time what we currently call the Omega Patch arrives to PC, the development staff of the studio won't have to do noticeable extra work to maintain both games. As you said, it's understandable that folks are worried about this, but in the long run it won't be a concern.

That precedent describes a release cadence where new things come to both games at about the same time with PC leading the way, which is a fairly standard practice for most F2P games on multiple platforms. Mostly, this means that PC players can look forward to a new character or piece of content a few days or even a few weeks sooner than console players. Occasionally, with things like big movie-inspired costumes and the like, new game elements will debut at the same time.

MMORPG.com: We've recently made the argument for a stronger focus on the strengths of the Danger Room as a feature to keep players engaged with the game due to its potential to offer players a varied experience. Why hasn't Danger Room been made a priority in the past? Will Gazillion's stance towards the mode change at all going forward? We understand a new tileset is coming this year, but we're thinking more along the lines of a commitment to add to the mode on a regular basis, even if these are smaller additions made in between larger updates.

Jesse Decker: Danger Room is definitely both a staff and community favorite, so we're definitely committed to expanding it. The short answer is that yes, community feedback is definitely affecting our prioritization of Danger Room work. Looking at our plans, in the short and medium term, that means a loot refresh and additional tilesets being added to the mode. Like other pieces of new content that we want to add to the game, a steady cadence of enemies and tilesets are planned for the Danger Room.

MMORPG.com: Along the same lines, competitive PvE such as races and leaderboards are incredibly sticky features for other ARPGs. What's your take on putting more of a focus on these sorts of features in Marvel Heroes?

Jesse Decker: Yes, those are amazing features and we definitely want to pursue something like that. That said, I can't really project a timeline for this kind of thing. You're justifiably asking about many of the existing modes and asking when improvements will be delivered. At this point in time, we must remain focused on improvements discussed earlier before we can talk about timelines for huge additions like this to the game. 

MMORPG.com: What are your plans for existing modes such as X-Defense and Holo-Sim? Horde mode content can be incredibly popular if executed well. Proper revamps for these modes could be a real win for Marvel Heroes players.

Jesse Decker: We for sure want to improve those modes, but we aren't going to promise to do everything at once. It's a matter of prioritization, of course. Our first priority is to get some new content into players’ hands. That includes some additions to Danger Room and several new Operations. From there we'll deliver some larger pieces of new content as well as more work on the Danger Room. After those things are in place we can move on to X-Defense and Holo-Sim while keeping the established cadence of new content rolling out.

MMORPG.com: You've noted on the forums that it is your intention to rebuild trust with the player base. What are your plans on reaching out to the community?

Jesse Decker: Well, I'm only one pair of hands, of course; many other staff members also spend significant time interacting with the community. That said, the plan is simple: describe as best I can what we're working on and aiming to deliver for players ahead of time, then deliver on those promises over time. I don't really know how else real trust would get built.

That said, sometimes we'll take something out of a schedule that we've announced. We're always coming up with new ideas, and we're also always hearing great new ideas from the community, so sometimes we'll want to change course a bit. So if we decide to make a change to a plan we've announced, we'll simply let the community know as soon as we can.

MMORPG.com: For players of Marvel Heroes Omega on PS4, can you tell us about some key items you're looking to work on during the closed and open betas?

Jesse Decker: Well the first thing to look for is any issue that affects technical stability. Those problems, if any, have to be ironed out right away or people can't play. So those kinds of issues were our top priority for the first few days of Closed Beta. After that, there are three broad topics for Closed Beta in this order of priority: usability issues, performance, and game balance. The Closed Beta is only a couple of weeks long, but we should make improvements in each of these areas. Moving into Open Beta, we of course keep learning about all of those things, but the adjustments become smaller and smaller over time.

Sorry, that's all pretty vague. We'll learn a lot about how well-geared heroes perform with the new items, and we'll find a small number of enemies that aren't proving out as fun as we'd hoped. Players are good at finding those changes, and we like responding to those because the game becomes more fun with each one we fix.

MMORPG.com: Is any sort of account migration a possibility for PC players looking to jump into the console version of the game?

Jesse Decker: There are no plans for account migration between the two games. We're aware that some players passionately want this kind of migration, but systems like this are quite resource intensive, and it's not an option for us to provide something like this.

MMORPG.com: There are some pretty significant differences in itemization between the Omega and PC version of the game. What was the design intent here and are these changes intended to be merged into the PC version at some point?

Jesse Decker: We had a number of goals with the item changes. The loot game had gotten a little out of control, so we really wanted to drop fewer items but make sure that those items were, on average, a lot more interesting. So after we reduced drop rates, we increased the power of items quite a bit. This means that it feels much better to equip a gear upgrade. It also means that if you find yourself with an enemy that feels a bit too tough, you can find a way to gear better to overcome it.

We also wanted tooltips to get a lot shorter without damaging the coolness of the items, so we really adjusted the effects that items could have, making sure that each effect was meaningful. This has the additional effect of making it easier to compare items. Of course, with fewer, more-powerful item abilities on each item, the decisions of what to equip are more interesting and important.

As a somewhat minor point, we wanted a stronger connection between difficulty level and item rarity, so our rarity colors now sync up with the difficulty slider, and in each difficulty the best rarity of item that can drop shares the same name. For example, Super Heroic items and lower now drop when you're playing Super Heroic difficulty. We're still working on how and when to bring these changes to the PC game, but many of them will be merged into the PC game.


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB