Marvel Heroes launched to a rocky start, but after numerous patches, including the recently deployed Game Update 1.1, things are starting to look up. We joined the Gazillion crew, including CEO David Brevik, for a roundtable discussion on what the team has done to address issues since launch, how they’ve updated the game with new content and characters, and what awesome new goodies players can expect over the next few weeks.
The first topic on the agenda was the recent addition of Johnny ‘Human Torch’ Storm to the Marvel Heroes roster. Originally slated as a launch character, Torch didn’t end up making the cut, but as of last Friday’s deployment of Game Update 1.1, players have been flying around blowing stuff up with everyone’s Fantastic hothead.
From what Gazillion tells us and from personal experience, the team put a lot of extra work into Torch to make him worth the wait. Everything from the fact he has more powers than any other character currently in the game, to simpler touches such as the fact he’s always flying and his ‘flame’ effect increases or decreases in proportion to the amount of Spirit (mana) he currently has. Torch doesn’t currently have a chase (loot exclusive) costume, but he did launch with simple red and blue outfits available in the store. However, Gazillion is working on Torch’s 2099 look along with my personal favorite, the Light Brigade (Annihilus) outfit. One of the costumes will launch this month, while the other is slated for September.
Torch also launched embodying Gazillion’s new design philosophy for the game’s characters. The team has been aggressively reviewing each and every character in the game, evaluating them for balance and fun issues, and more particularly, the available build variety. They want every character to have a couple of build options similar to the way players could take Diablo II characters and go for specific builds (such as the ‘Hammerdin’ Paladin). Many characters have received a number of passes prior to Update 1.1 and even more balance and kit tweaks were made across the board for many characters with the update. Gazillion intends to continue evaluating and making changes to characters on a weekly basis. As for Torch, he can be played as a keep-away ranged nuker or completely flip the script and dive into melee headfirst and hang with the best of ‘em, for example. Items can be leveraged to create even more builds, such as full crit builds or on-hit builds.
One of the more frustrating aspects of the launch version of Marvel Heroes was the RNG plagued system of finding heroes as loot. Some players played for hundreds of hours and never found a single hero while others found as many as seven in a 50 hour period. This wild level of variance understandably irked many players and Gazillion hopes to rectify this with the recent introduction of Eternity Splinters. Eternity Splinters can drop from any mob at any time and they drop far more frequently and more predictably than hero tokens and other special items (such as Retcon Devices) would. Players can collect these Splinters and turn them in to the vendor Adam Warlock to unlock new heroes, Retcon Devices (respecs), Ultimate Power upgrade tokens, and more.
Players have full control in this iteration, too. The Splinter cost ranges anywhere from 200-600 per hero, so players can save up for the specific hero of their choice, or they can buy a random hero box for 175 tokens that could contain any of the game’s existing roster of characters. It’s up to you. Gazillion likes to compare this system to League of Legends’ IP (Influence Points) system. Basically, you play the game, you earn points (Splinters) and you then spend those points on unlocking characters or other items.
Once players complete the main story, Marvel Heroes offered up a number of endgame activities, ranging from formalized boss runs, to survival challenges, to the much maligned, but optimal, Limbo. Limbo was a map that players could queue up for and join with a bunch of other players to kill a whole host of trash and some bosses. It ‘worked’ to an extent, but it wasn’t altogether interesting or intuitive for most players.
Gazillion recently tossed Limbo out with Game Update 1.1 and replaced it with Midtown Patrol. Midtown Patrol is a mode that takes place in midtown Manhattan and features massive packs of mob ambushes (A.I.M Agents, Hand Ninjas, Spider Slayers, Hydra, etc.), dynamic events, and grouped supervillain attacks. Unlike Limbo, Midtown Patrol is available in all level brackets, so players can take part in the fun extremely early. If you’ve run through the story a bunch of times already, it’s a pretty efficient way of leveling up a new character. There are a ridiculous amount of mobs to farm and the supervillain fights can be quite challenging at times as they often show up in groups of three or even more. Having played through Midtown myself, I did notice that it seemed more efficient to farm trash and mentioned this during the call. It sounds like Gazillion has heard feedback along these lines as well, as the team has plans to buff experience rewards for supervillain kills by something like 600% and also include unique loot drops in their loot tables.
Difficulty Modes: Similar to Nightmare and Hell in Diablo, with a couple of twists. Players will be able to take individual characters through the story in new Heroic and Superheroic difficulty modes. These modes will feature new ambushes, buffed up bosses with new affixes and unique powers, and more.
Competitive PvP Mode: Internally called “Fire & Ice”, Gazillion intends to launch a new 5v5, somewhat structured, competitive PvP map where the ultimate goal is to destroy the enemy team’s base. Players will be able to use all their existing gear and powers and queue up to fight others in their level range. A new vendor, Valkyrie, will sell PvP oriented rings for special currency earned through PvP.
New “First Hour” Experience: Gazillion feels the “first hour” of your play experience in Marvel Heroes is crucial, and The Raft being a single player experience (among other things) just wasn’t cutting it. New players will instead jump right into the action alongside other players (you know, that whole MMO thing) with the intention of giving them a feel for what the game is really like right from the get-go.
Emma Frost: The White Queen will be the first (of four) announced post-launch characters to debut in Marvel Heroes. Builds include a tanky Diamond form build. Emma’s kit will feature a Diablo Barbarian Whirlwind-inspired ability, as well as the requisite suite of mental abilities, including the unique capability to mind control enemies in the game to summon as her pets. Internally, Emma has been able to mind control and summon T-Rex’s from the game’s Savage Land area. Not sure if this will stay in, but it’s clear there will be some interesting possibilities for players.
Relics: Describe to us as similar to Borderlands 2’s Badass Ranks, Relics are a new stackable item that can be used to pump up a certain character stat. For example, you may find a Relic of Pain that increases your critical chance. Stacking additional Relics of Pain will increase your critical chance (with diminishing returns).
Uniques: Uniques are, well, unique items designed for specific characters. Gazillion didn’t want to spoil too many of these, but they just couldn’t contain their excitement. A couple of examples include Captain America’s Uru enhanced shield, Ms. Marvel’s flightsuit, Wolverine’s bone claws (massive crit chance, but hurt you as you use them), and probably the most amusing example we were given: the Deadpool Daddy Device. The item will grant Deadpool additional move speed (daddies need to run around a lot), spirit and health regeneration, and a 1/20 scale baby Deadpool that fights alongside you.
Aside from the press coverage you’re seeing today, Gazillion has no plans to announce the new Unique items coming to the game. These won’t even be mentioned in patch notes. The intention is to have players be surprised to find these awesome new items, but who are they kidding? It’s 2013, baby. You’re about to post this on Reddit or on the Marvel Heroes forums right now.
X-Mansion Attack: Inspired by Star Trek’s unwinnable “Kobayashi Maru” scenario, the X-Mansion Attack features never ending waves of enemies, supervillains, and even super sentinels attacking it and the goal is to survive for as long as possible. Each wave will get increasingly tougher and more powerful with rewards commensurate for the increased difficulty. More experience, more and better quality gear, and even Uniques can be earned via this new mode.
Aside from the aforementioned competitive PvP mode, all of the above will hit live servers this month. The new PvP mode will arrive on the Marvel Heroes test server within about a week-and-a-half, but Gazillion won’t be releasing it to live servers until confident in its level of polish.