Thursday, August 1, 2013

Designing Suvnica Hiatus, Week 4: You Made the Card

Last week of the Suvnica Hiatus, and I want to keep it short.



The question of the week is this: Is anyone else completely underwhelmed by the result of YMTC4? Maybe it's just that nearly every time I voted I was in the minority, but I can't help but feel that nearly everything about our final product is just dull.


I'm assuming the final CMC will be in the 3-5 range. I do think its a better design than Vanish into Memory, but not nearly as interesting or unique or just flat out cool as Mr. Babycakes or Crucible of Worlds.

I'm wondering if this is a problem of too many cooks in the kitchen. When those last two were designed, Magics audience was significantly smaller than it is now. Both the player base and the amateur designer audience have experienced exponential growth since the time of YMTC2.

So, is this just a consequence of design by committee? Or the mothership being more experimental with the format since YMTC2? Or has the focus moved away from goofy Johnny cards and more towards Spike/Johnny in the YMTCs? How should this impact our outlook on Suvnica design, as well as other group designs on GA? Should it impact our outlook at all? What do you guys think?

15 comments:

  1. You're not the only one.

    Blood in the Watering Can, or whatever it was called, would have been reasonably cool. This is not. The second ability in particular is not well designed. It's like M14's Primeval Bounty-- already a bit of an ugly card-- but narrower and less exciting.

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    1. You thought that was cool? I thought it was really boring...it's just a slightly better variant on Oversold Cemetery in my eyes.

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  2. I think the lesson to take from this is that we, the amateur design community, don't have as good a grasp as we think on what players want. Otherwise, the design that we all panned wouldn't have won the vote.

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    1. "What most players want" and "what most players would design" are not the same thing. I think we can all agree that a set full of Revenge of Necromancy-style cards would not be good at all. Basically, what this YMTC shows is that amateur designers (i.e. people who vote in YMTC polls) tend to prefer Revenge of Necromancy over other types of designs. That doesn't mean the same people will like playing with it. Nor does it mean that we have to give up our judgment of what cards will play well or poorly.

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    2. True, but note that R&D picked it for the top eight. We can't just chalk it up to mothership hordes being undiscriminating.

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  3. I too dislike the card that won. The biggest problem is how narrow it is: you need to be playing a discard deck, and those sorts of decks aren't fun for the opponent and thus are always below competitive strength. This in turn means that this card won't be competitive, and won't be fun in casual (since discard is never fun)

    Really, I think the bigger problem was trying to make a "global" enchantment. That inherently means there won't be interaction between players, which is where the real interesting things come in.

    It seems like an average rare, nothing really special. I think that WotC actually took out all the really special cards because they wouldn't be able to safely balance them, but who really knows?

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    1. I agree this won't be fun, but I think global enchantments that change how things work such as Pandemonium have great potential for interactivity.

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  4. It seems to me the audience chose based on how the card reads rather than on what type of games it creates.

    I'd like to call the card's effect a Bag of Wonder or a Wand of Wonder effect (to use D&D terms). On some cards, it can create fun, whimsical moments. There's a fun moment where you wonder, "what's going to pop out of the bag this time?" But this card is about building a deck that tries to take control of the game by taking away the cards the opponent can cast. In a way, it's "contracting" the game, making it more boring and reducing the chance for an epic game. It's fine to have some of these discard effects (at a weak level) for players who enjoy that kind of control. But I don't see the point of spicing the game with whimsical Wand of Wonder moments here and there while "contracting" the game overall. Most of the players who like establishing control and taking away options from the opponent would be just as happy with a card that grants a Zombie every time. Words on cards are costly, and this word-costing Wand of Wonder mechanic is being misused on this card.

    That said, it's not all bad. You get to watch the opponent squirm, trying to make a choice about what to discard. "Do I discard a land? Would that give the opponent mana to cast another Mind Rot? But what if the opponent doesn't have a Mind Rot? If I discard a spell and let the opponent draw, the opponent might draw into a Mind Rot." Most of the time any of the choices will be bad, and most of the time the opponent won't have enough info to choose anyways, but the opponent still has to try to make a choice as well as possible. Griefer-type players can enjoy watching players make that difficult decision. I prefer cards that give myself interesting choices to make, though.

    This card would also be fun to play with a Wheel of Fortune effect. When this card comes out, I'm going to join a multiplayer game and do that with this card! However, that's the only way I can think of to go big with this card and I wish there was more open-ended fun to be had, like Crucible of Worlds. Overall, the card is about making the opponent go small rather than going big for yourself.

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  5. The YMTC4 reminds me of a textier version of one of the card ideas you proposed Chah, which was something like "Whenever an opponent discards a card, exile it. You may play cards exiled with CARDNAME."

    Regarding the community design projects here, I feel like they work best if there's a single guiding voice in charge of the project. Our community contributions should be more like suggestions and potential ideas, rather than votes.

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    1. When I looked at the final 8 designs, I saw a lot of interesting card text, and I began to think that maybe I was being too conservative in my design. But when I saw the winning card, I felt that it was ok that mine was concise.

      My card has similar flaws in that it make the opponent "go small," which will "contract" the game in a sense. But it also allows you to do something really cool that you don't usually get to do, like casting another player's cards.

      I like my card better because the type of mean satisfaction you get from casting the opponent's cards is like an extension of the type of satisfaction you get from forcing discard.

      With the YMTC4 card, the type of satisfaction you get from the discard decks and the type of satisfaction you get from a random one-of-three bonus doesn't seem to line up. Forcing discard is satisfying in the sense of reducing unpredictability; you get to eliminate the elements of uncertainty that may threaten your control over the game in the future. In contrast, the 3-possible-bonuses part is satisfying in the sense that you get to enjoy randomly occurring things as they happen. Although one could argue that some players like to reduce the unpredictability of the opponent's actions while enjoying unpredictable bonuses on your side of the board, these two types of satisfaction don't seem very congruent to me.

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    2. Revenge of Necromancy could allow you to go all-in on discard. Normally, you need a win condition that your hand disruption protects, but with Revenge, you could play no other creatures and just try to win with what Revenge generates as you strangle your opponent. Howling Mine might even be its best friend. I'm not saying that's any fun to play against, but there's definite Johnny appeal to making that work.

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  6. Concerning the issue of amateur design, one of the things we considered when we started the set design project (which is currently Tesla) was that if we voted on a set theme right away, we might choose a theme that sounds good on paper but is actually very hard to come up with a mechanical identity for. (Like Jon Loucks's Light vs. Dark set, which proved a difficult theme to translate into mechanics.) That's why we had the audience work on pitches, and see whether or not that idea blossoms into actual mechanics that are fun and intriguing. I'm not sure if that worked well or not, although I feel it was better than not doing it. There were several things we could have executed better (especially the long delay I've caused, which I hope to make up for) but we came up with several ideas that can lead to future projects.

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  7. I saw someone comment on this YMTC this way: It's like WOTC allowed us to go to ANY restaurant we wanted, and we picked McDonalds. Yes I am also annoyed at the result.

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  8. We only got a limited snapshot of the total amount of the designs for YMTC. I understand why that's the case though: having thousands of people try to design one card is difficult, let alone an entire set. But that is not the way Suvnica or Tesla is being designed. We aren't choosing from a small number selected from thousands through a filter we didn't design; we are designing as much as we can and looking at all the options.

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