As the man who co-created Diablo, David Brevik is one of the hottest properties in the games industry. But thanks to comments made by the Diablo III team earlier this month, Brevik was propelled back into the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Here, he talks to VideoGamer.com about his upcoming free-to-play action MMO Marvel Heroes, how he would have designed Diablo III, and what his thoughts are on that abusive message.
Q: Marvel Heroes will be your third free-to-play game. What did the previous two games teach you about the market?
David Brevik: Well, in a lot of ways, they taught us many valuable lessons and allowed us to create and refine our use of metrics. At the same time, they has taught us almost nothing because this game is fundamentally different. We are going after a hardcore gaming audience and that means we will have new challenges to face. I think we have a great plan and some of the data from our previous efforts will help shape the plan for this game.
Q: How has the F2P market evolved over the course of the last few years?
DB: I think the biggest way the F2P market has evolved in the last few years is just simply by becoming a mainstream idea. With Social games using the model, many millions of people were educated on the concept of a F2P game. This has helped us because people understand it, but it has also hurt us a bit because we are going to be creating a high-quality AAA product and we are going to much more generous than a social game. I think many people jump to "social game" when you mention F2P so educating them on the differences has been a major messaging mission for us.
Q: Do you believe major publishers taking key franchises into F2P - EA with Command & Conquer Generals 2, for example - is a positive move for the industry, or do you think the F2P market should encourage new ideas, rather than shoehorning in existing ones?
DB: Using key franchises doesn't mean that there can't be a perfectly smart F2P game created using the IP. I am always open and interested in new ideas, but many gamers love these popular franchises. I can't blame companies for using those. But what you can blame them for is making the same game and just slapping F2P on it. One of the most interesting parts of the F2P market is that what you sell should largely integrate with the game design. This means, for new types of designs, what you sell will differ. You can't exactly copy every F2P catalogue. If it doesn't match your design, it won't make sense or have value for the gamer. If they support each other, the items have value for the gamers.
Q: How are you monetising Marvel Heroes? Will players be able to buy upgrades or pay for access to new areas, like in Dungeons and Dragons Online?
DB: There are a few rules that we are following in Marvel Heroes. First, you will be able to play the entire experience from beginning to end completely free. This is not fake F2P. Many companies shout F2P and then quietly whisper "up to level whatever". Or they let you play some areas for free, but the best loot and experiences are in paid zones. None of this is true for us. You get to go everywhere and experience everything for free, all the way to the level-cap and beyond! Secondly, we won't be selling power. If we had +5 swords, we wouldn't sell them. The most powerful items in the game must be obtained by playing.
Q: What are the reasons for Marvel Heroes' lengthy development time? Have you been watching the F2P market and reacting to trends that will be implemented in the game?
'This is not your typical F2P game. We are creating a AAA product that competes with any MMO or any action RPG out there and we are doing it incredibly quickly.'
DB: Marvel Heroes development time has not been lengthy. It took 7 years to make WoW. It took over 10 to make Diablo 3 and that isn't an MMO. We have developed Marvel Heroes from the ground up without any MMO technology in about 3 years time so far. We developed tools, a platform, metrics, business models, created a team and built the game in that time. This is not your typical F2P game. We are creating a AAA product that competes with any MMO or any action RPG out there and we are doing it incredibly quickly.
Q: Is there potential to follow up Marvel Heroes with a Marvel Villains?
DB: That sounds like fun!
Q: Is a free-to-play experience like Marvel Heroes possible on consoles? If not, would you like to see an infrastructure in place for the next-generation of consoles that would allow for such a thing?
DB: Free-to-play is a brand-new model for consoles. I think that the console manufacturers are always looking for ways to bring more products to their audiences and I would not be surprised if we see a lot of support for it in the next-gen hardware. They have talked about using the model with the current-gen of hardware, but I am not really aware of any titles that use this currently. About the closest concept are songs in the music games, so I don't think it will be hard for console gamers to understand the business model. The only thing that consoles would need would be policies, storage or cloud space, and internet. I think they will all have these.
Q: You said recently that Diablo III was a "very different experience" to the one you would have created. What would you have done differently?
DB: When I was still working at Blizzard North, we started on the design for Diablo 3. It was going to be an ARPG-MMO somewhat like Marvel Heroes. A very different type of MMO than WoW. I thought it would build upon what we had started after going to client-server with Diablo II. We had a concept for battle.net "town" in Diablo II that was never completed. It was going to be a graphic chat-room that looked like a town and allowed you to wander around an instance with the others in the chat channel. You could chat, trade, etc right in town. In the end, it proved to be too much technology and risk and would be better suited if we started with that concept from the very beginning. That was the initial seed for Diablo III. As you can tell, it would have been a very different game.
Q: What were your thoughts on seeing Jay Wilson's comments?
DB: Well they were a little surprising sure, but we’re all so passionate about what we do.
Q: Do you accept Wilson's apology?
DB: Of course.
Marvel Heroes is due to launch on PC. A release date is still to be announced.