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Making MARVEL SNAP’s Battle Mode

January 12, 2023 in Games | 7 min. read
Making MARVEL SNAP’s Battle Mode | Hero image, version 3
Making MARVEL SNAP’s Battle Mode | Hero image, version 3

MARVEL SNAP – winner of the Mobile Game of the Year award at the 2022 Game Awards – will release version 1.0 of its brand-new competitive mode in just a few weeks. As the Second Dinner team puts the final touches on this new feature, the studio’s associate design director Kent-Erik Hagman shares some deeper insights about the new game mode.

Promotional image with character sampling for MARVEL SNAP
Promotional image with character sampling for MARVEL SNAP

Introducing Battle Mode

When designing MARVEL SNAP, it was absolutely critical to us to make the most fun, accessible card battler ever. We wanted a card battler anyone could get into so that more people than ever before could experience just how fun card games are! But that was just the beginning. We also wanted an ultra-competitive way to play against friends – something that takes the gameplay, bluffing, and mind games to the next level.

Enter our newest game mode: Battle Mode. It’s a funner, more competitive way to play MARVEL SNAP.

Great, but what is Battle Mode?

Battle Mode pits two opponents against each other through multiple rounds. Each player starts with 10 health. Instead of Cubes, what’s at stake is the amount of damage the winner will deal to the loser. If you can deplete your opponent’s health to zero, you win!

In Battle Mode, the stakes are front and center. Every SNAP and Retreat takes extra meaning, as every point of health is critical to remaining alive.

Further, each player’s deck is locked for the duration of the battle. This means you’ll quickly learn which cards are in an opponent’s deck, and they might be aware of what sneaky tricks you’re hiding. Keeping track of what cards in your deck haven’t been seen by your opponent can make all the difference in whether you can squeeze out an extra SNAP.

Design philosophy

When coming up with a more competitive, head-to-head format for MARVEL SNAP, it was critical to us that we kept the ability to bluff and tactically retreat. If anything, it was important that we bring those elements to the forefront.

We also knew that over a series of games, the mind games of learning and anticipating what was in your opponent’s deck and their specific play style was something that would add a ton of fun. There’s pure joy in knowing what your opponent wants to do and trying to guess whether they’ll do what you think or feint in another direction.

Finally, it was really important to have a mode where it was clear who the winner and loser was. In a normal match, there’s a lot of wiggle room for just how many Cubes you win or lose by, and we wanted a definitive winner. There are no ties in Battle Mode! Aside from proving who is best among your friends, this will unlock the ability for the community to run MARVEL SNAP tournaments.

Still of Baby Groot from MARVEL SNAP
Still of Baby Groot from MARVEL SNAP

Learning from mistakes along the way

While developing Battle Mode, we tried some things that ended up not quite working. We tried a bunch of different Health values. We tried a mode where the Reality Stone transformed cards in your hand before each game. Developing in Unity, it was super easy to jump in and try out wild new ideas.

Early on, we saw players playing no cards in games 1 and 2 to scout their opponent’s decks, paying a couple of Health to gain critical information. Back then, Heath Pools were much larger, so a couple Health meant very little, and as we lowered total Health, those first couple games could make all the difference.

Battle Mode takes about 20 minutes, but in early playtests between two players who retreat back and forth for a series of one Health games, it took much longer. To keep Battles around 20 minutes, we added “High Stakes Rounds,” which kick in starting on Round 5. High Stakes Rounds start with the stakes at two Damage, so it’s much more deadly.

Another thing we learned was that if players took some early beats and were one game away from running out of Health, they could SNAP with impunity since it doesn’t matter if they end up at zero or negative six; death is death. We wanted to reward players for early victories, so now, you cannot deal more damage than you have Health remaining. It means that coming from behind is possible, but those early victories aren’t irrelevant. And the “bluffing” aspect of the Snap remains intact, since your opponent cannot risk health they do not have.

We’re just getting started

At launch, Battle Mode will only allow players from the same matchmaking region to play against each other. We’re working on global matchmaking, and that will come a bit later.

Wrapping it up

We’re very excited to get Battle Mode out to everyone as soon as we can. This has truly been a labor of love, and we can’t wait to see how players enjoy this first cut of Battle Mode!

A sampling of card designs in MARVEL SNAP
A sampling of card designs in MARVEL SNAP

Second Dinner’s MARVEL SNAP is available now on PC, iOS, and Android. For more inspiration and resources visit Unity’s Create Games hub.

January 12, 2023 in Games | 7 min. read
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