The developer of Marvel Snap was inspired by a friend’s accident while playing in the toilet


Ben Broad, co-founder of game development studio Second Dinner, remembers a moment that led him to make a quick Marvel card game: At least six years ago, his friend was playing the mobile game “Hearthstone” on the toilet with a warrior deck controller. He faced another control warrior user, and the game lasted 40 minutes.

“At the end of the game, he stood up and slumbered his legs. And I felt somewhat responsible for that,” Broad said during an interview with The Washington Post in Los Angeles as Second Dinner founder Hamilton Chu chuckled.

Brode, who was a lead designer on ‘Hearthstone’, said that while matches are supposed to be over seven minutes long, they are sometimes delayed. Which is why he and Chu wanted to explore shorter card games, eventually settling on making Marvel Snap. Prude said his control-fighting friend screamed for help on the bathroom floor and ended up on a team.

Last week, “Marvel Snap” won Best Mobile Game at the annual Game Awards, beating out popular titles like “Genshin Impact” and “Apex Legends.” The developers, who were previously at the top leadership at Activision Blizzard, the developer of “Hearthstone,” started their own studio Second Dinner in 2018. “Marvel Snap” is their first game.

The ‘Marvel Snap’ devs first idea was so good they refused to believe it

Chu said the Marvel name lends credibility to a startup like Second Dinner, and makes a card game more exciting for players as the characters are instantly recognizable. A former co-worker at Blizzard who is now a Marvel Games executive helped bring about the collaboration.

Easy for beginners, Marvel Snap takes them through a tutorial where players slap cards from a 12-card deck featuring characters like Iron Man, The Hulk, and Hawkeye.

The developers hope to add the ability to play against friends to the mobile app by next month.

“It’s the most important thing we’re working on right now,” Broad said. “But you know how things go sometimes, last minute mistakes, things slip up.”

When it comes to taking the lead on Marvel’s intellectual property, Chu has spoken of being able to cut through the layers of bureaucracy that come as standard when working for a large company like Blizzard.

“This game couldn’t have been made if we were still inside Blizzard. Blizzard, why would they work with someone else’s intellectual property? That’s just not the right thing strategically for Blizzard,” Chu said. “But we can do it because we don’t have to worry about things like that, and that makes sense to us.”

If he tried to pitch a Marvel Snap to Blizzard, Chu said, he would have had to get clear approval from many people, including a working pitch and months of persuasion.

When to catch a “Marvel Snap”

Broad and Cho left Blizzard in 2018, years before the company was hit by multiple lawsuits over allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and before Microsoft proposed to acquire it for $68.7 billion. When asked how Second Dinner can avoid the same corporate culture issues that Blizzard faces, Brode said, “It’s a really complicated answer.”

“Recruitment is a really big piece. Doing it well and making sure we have opportunities to hire people from a lot of diverse backgrounds to help make sure we’re not homogenous,” Broad said. “Making sure people feel very empowered to come raise their hands when things go wrong. Then set policies and company culture so there are no chances for things to go wrong in the first place.”

Second Dinner is one of several game studios started by former Blizzard employees. There’s also Notorious Studios, started by former “World of Warcraft” developers, making an untitled fantasy game. Created by former StarCraft developers, Frost Giant plans to open a new game “Stormgate” in the testing phase next year.

For Brode and Chu, starting their own company was risky and intimidating, but having a pedigree from Blizzard helped them gain brand name recognition. Choosing a new name for the studio also proved to be an interesting task.

“I have a really weird sleep schedule, and I’m basically a vampire,” said Cho. “And so I eat the second dinner every night. It’s my favorite meal that I eat around 3 a.m. by myself.

And also, as we were thinking about what would become the second dinner, what we would do was we would work all day at Blizzard, and then we would go home, take care of our families and be like ‘Okay, meet us up at 10. ‘ And we would have the second dinner and dream about the future.”

Since the “Marvel Snap” came out in mid-October, players have asked a lot of questions about the game on social media. Some have tweeted that after the 80th rank, Marvel Snap seems to be giving more advantages to players who have spent real money.

“If it’s pay-to-win, then anyone should be able to win. That’s not the case, you have to be very good at the game,” Broad said.

He added that the competition is fierce after the 80th place, and this is “only the nature of the competition.”

He said that the odds of getting a card from the collector’s cache are about one in four, and that other variants and cosmetics that fit into the cache are to “surprise and delight” the player. On the back end, players are matched into duels based on the size of their group, and as they play and the more advanced they become, they will be matched against players of similar skill.

Finally, the developers of “Marvel Snap” responded to a recent The Post article about avoiding bathroom hazards when playing games like Marvel Snap on the toilet.

“Snap-Snap protects you from hemorrhoids,” Cho said. The Washington Post said so.

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