Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is the Magic back?

A reader sent me a mail with some good news, Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers will be released via Steam to the PC. While DOTP is in a way a "Magic light" game, I am nevertheless highly interested in this. The other option to play Magic on the PC, Magic the Gathering Online, did about everything wrong you can imagine, switched developer in mid-game, had huge delays and bugs on version 3.0, and is currently quite hopeful to reintroduce in 2011 features like leagues which were already up and running in version 1.0 in 2002.

I don't mention it very often, but I spent the decade preceding this blog playing Magic the Gathering, first with physical cards, then online. I spent a huge fortune on cards and never recovered the money. And I even got a sort of diploma which certified me as "judge", an expert in the incredibly complex rule system of Magic, and allowed me to participate as judge in a World Championship.

It is this extensive background in Magic the Gathering that led to some of my beliefs about games in general, and are applicable to MMORPGs, contrary to conventional wisdom. While MMORPG players are still discussing RMT and item shops, I already know that if a game is good enough, millions of players are willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on game items that are worth absolutely nothing outside the game. And while some elitist jerks loudly proclaim that mass market games have to cater to the lowest common denominator and be dumb, I know that an extremely complicated game like Magic the Gathering can have millions of players. A Usenet discussion group like regularly had discussions that were so arcane that it would make a MMO theorycrafters head explode. Magic also taught me that randomness is a powerful tool when creating strategy games, because only randomness can make a game unpredictable enough so that people have to think while playing, instead of following a predetermined strategy.

Duels of the Planeswalkers is a simpler, but much cheaper version of Magic the Gathering, which was previously only available on XBOX Live. I'm looking forward to trying this out on Steamworks on the PC.

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