Ben Brode worked for Blizzard for 15 years, working his way up from a low-level position to become one of the lead designers of the monstrously successful game Hearthstone. He is now the Chief Creative Officer at his own game studio called Second Dinner, which created the digital collectible card game for Marvel called Marvel Snap. This episode was super-fun to record, with some great stories and many great lessons about creating some of the biggest digital card games on the planet!

“Someone would say, ‘we could do that, but someone would have to manually enter all that data.’ And I would be like, ‘Yo, I’ll do it!’”

Ben begins by talking about getting his job at Blizzard after routinely delivering late-night pizzas to the office. He started working as a quality assurance tester (QA). He talked about what that job entails and how he eventually worked his way up to a creative position on the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game and, eventually, the lead designer of Hearth Stone. We discuss his work ethic regarding the grind of moving up from a low-level position at a big game company, and he tells a ton of great stories.

“It’s not about the number of decisions per game; it’s the density of decisions and how fun they are to make.”

Here we discuss the creation of Hearthstone. We discuss all the methods they used to develop everything that went into the legendary digital card game. Ben talks about how they developed the drafting system, card play, and decision-making.

“We had a relationship built on trust over a long time of working together, and they said, you can run the company the way you want to run it, and gave us a ton of freedom, and said ‘here’s an investment of 30 million bucks for a minority stake.’”

Ben is the Chief Creative Officer at his company, Second Dinner. They got an early investment of 30 million dollars from NetEase. This is a fantastic lesson about building great relationships as you move through the industry. 

We go on to talk about the development of Marvel Snap and how it uses “meta-progression,” which means the cards don’t power up in the way many other card games work; instead, they’re more collectible but still affect the gameplay. In addition to designing a fun game, free to play digital games live or die based on the “out of game loops” and how much fun it is to collect cards and come back to play on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. Ben has a ton of incredible insights on this subject. We go on to discuss the design process for the currencies in the game and a variety of the game’s unique aspects.