Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting to know me, part 2

Last time on "How to Shave your Thoctar", I posted half of my Essay questions from the Great Designer Search 2.

Here's the second part:

6. What do you think design can do to best make the game accessible to newer players?

1.      Continue what it’s doing now. The retooling of the core sets into expansions to be taken as seriously as block expansions was perhaps the best decision made towards Magic in its history. As the core sets function now, they perfectly bridge the gap between the new player and the experienced player. By having cards that everyone can desire and appreciate allows the new player to gain insights from their more experienced counterparts, and by making them annual keeps their freshness intact. I can easily recommend the most recent core set to any new player trying to get into the game with a straight face knowing that the cards are both A) playable and interesting and B) relevant to competitive gameplay. Furthermore, I would try to increase the overall competitiveness of the introduction packs. Whereas some people have found enjoyment from playing the precons against one another, all too often I hear new players asking which precon would be the best to get ultimately coming down to which deck had the best included rares. I realize that not all rares can, much less should be, competitive cards, but the ones that aren’t usually ending up having very affordable second hand prices. To increase the overall demand of the preconstructed decks by including cards that a multitude of player types will enjoy seems to be the best decision. With those recommendations I believe there will be a higher level of interaction among players of varying levels of experience, and given the inherently social aspects of the game, this could only be better in the long run for the game.

7. What do you think design can do to best make the game attractive to experienced players?

1.      Think of cards in terms of how playable they are across a multitude of routinely played competitive formats. I distinctly remember a conversation from an episode of Monday Night Magic. During the most recent changes to the banned and restricted list was released, Conley Woods explained that to Vintage players, a new set didn’t represent a significant change in their format of choice nearly as much as it does to players of formats with smaller cardpool sizes. He went on to say that, on the other hand, cards being banned or unbanned was roughly equivalent to a new set coming out, where unbanned cards could easily breed whole new archetypes of decks or breathe new life into pre-existing or formerly extinct archetypes. Just as much as a card being banned could very well kill any number of archetypes. While I understand the severe differences in card strength and availability, for a recognized competitive format to be so unaffected by the release of new sets seemed so incredibly unbelievable to me. This phenomenon is also present to a much lesser degree in Legacy and in Extended (much more so when Extended represented the most recent seven years of Magic rather than four years.) This sort of thing shouldn’t be forced by any means, but having one or two otherwise ‘junk’ rares per set or even block that were designed with an older format in mind wouldn’t be the death of Magic. Quite the opposite, these larger pooled formats have a significantly slower turn over rate than standard, and while there is a considerable amount of appeal for players of Eternal formats to know that once they’ve made their initial investments towards a reasonable eternal cardpool, that they won’t have to make continued investments every three months, I feel that by bye-and-large ignoring the most recent releases completely only further alienates some of these players from Magic as a whole. Furthermore, having more older format centric cards will create a brigde from Standard players to Extended players or Extended to Legacy players, strengthening what Magic means to them.

8. Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the best designed? Explain why.

1.      Of all of the mechanics occupying the current Extended format, the mechanic that I thing is the best designed is the Evoke mechanic. It comes across as a flawless combination of flavor and gameplay. Consider that the evoke mechanic only shows up on elemental creatures, many of which on Lorwyn are ideas incarnate, representing the hopes and dreams and nightmares of Lorwyn’s residents, and just as easily your own. Just like an idea, depending on how much time and effort (and mana) you invest into an idea, the more you get out of said idea. If you only have a small amount of resources to invest into the idea (early in the game, for example), you can only invest that much into the idea; if you’ve accumulated a fair amount of resources over the course of your duel, you can invest all that much more into the idea, and get the full impact of the idea. Absolutely brilliant. It doesn’t hurt that the vast majority of the evokeable elementals were quite playable. It also doesn’t hurt that the ability was so incredibly variable. In that the creature was sacrificed upon entering the battlefield allows for an incredible amount of interactions with other cards and abilities, often in and of themselves. Some of the evokeable creatures had evoke based upon a ‘when [this card] enters the battlefield’ abilities, and just as many had their evoke status based upon the presence of a ‘when [this card] leaves the battlefield’. This kind of flexibility allows for an incredible amount of design depth, and I would absolutely ecstatic to make more of these in the future.

9. 9. Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the worst designed? Explain why.

1.      This is a question that is nigh impossible for me to answer. There’s a lot of different people who play Magic, and there’s just as many reasons why they play. I’ve always considered myself among the group of players that are, for an appalling lack of better descriptions, ‘easy’. If it’s new, if it’s interesting, it’s good to me. I’m the kind of guy who’ll leave the preconstructed decks unaltered so that I can play them against other preconstructed decks. I’m the kind of guy that defends Serra Angel on Gatherer as, quite literally, not being ‘strictly’ worse than Baneslayer Angel. I’m the kind of guy that defends suboptimal cards for being useful and practical in a limited environment. I’m the kind of guy who will endlessly say “If you don’t like it, it wasn’t made for you.” To people for saying that some Johhny-focused card or the latest awesome but impractical fatty is unplayable. I’ve thought long and hard about this question since it first went up last week, and I, for the life of me, can’t think of any mechanics from Lorwyn on up that I wasn’t happy playing with. And honestly, I think that’s the best answer I could give to this question. It is my understanding that the process for weeding out less than ideal mechanics during design and development is very thorough. If an ability doesn’t ‘feel right’, it isn’t right, and it’s fixed until it does feel right. If it can’t be made to ‘feel right’, they kill it. I hope this answer doesn’t seem a cop out, but I think R&D has been doing an admirable job weeding out the riffraff.

1910. Choose a plane to revisit other than Dominaria or Mirrodin. What is a mechanical twist we could add if we revisit this plane?

1.      Lorwyn/Shadowmoor. I feel that given the events in the storyline could very well lend itself to some very interesting design spaces. With the end of the of the cyclical existence of day and night, I feel that there would be some very interesting visual appeal to having a hodge-podge world that mixes the idyllic fairy tale setting of Lorwyn with the gloomy bleak Brothers Grimm-esque nightmarescape of Shadowmoor. Furthermore, the two settings’ various themes are mirrored versions of each other and could lead to interesting mechanics. For example, cards that will apply +1/+1 counters when used on your creatures or -1/-1 counters on your opponents’. Or given that most of Lorwyn’s eight primary tribes experienced a color shift to a different color which reflected the mirrored reality of Shadowmoor could be reflected in the new mixed setting. Perhaps using Alara Reborn’s ‘gold + hybrid’ cards in a new way, such as an elf with green and white/black hybrid cast cost that would enter the battlefield as its Lorwyn variant if black was used, or its Shadowmoor counterpart if white mana was used. Or tribal cards that abused +1/+1 counters when using their Lorwyn colors, and -1/-1 counters when their Shadowmoor colors were used.

1 comment:

  1. I really thought Reinforce was a turrible mechanic.