Thursday, January 4, 2018

GDS3 Prep: Essay Question 1

The first stage of the Great Designer Search 3 will be an essay test: "Contestants will have one week to answer ten essay questions. Answers must be no less than 250 words and no more than 300 words in length."

Now, it'll be pretty hard to get eliminated at this stage, because they won't actually read the essays until after the multiple choice test has eliminated most of the contestants. However, the essays will definitely play an important role in selecting the finalists, so we should be prepared to put our best ideas forward!

For reference, here are the essay questions from GDS1 and GDS2. (Note that the maximum word count was 350 then.)

Here's your first sample essay question.

1. In the past few years, we've stopped using some mechanics such as Regenerate and Protection. In the future, what would you remove from Magic: the Gathering, and why?

33 comments:

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    1. Hexproof makes dreams come true. Why do you hate freedom?

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    2. (I know this sounded troll-y, but I'm actually very interested to hear your arguments for getting rid of Hexproof.)

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    3. I'm not Wobbles, but I'm pretty sure the short answer is "No one likes playing against Bogles/True-Name Nemesis/Stalker-Cleaver."

      More specifically, hexproof is conceptually "more interactive" than shroud, in that it doesn't stop players from using targeted effects on their own permanents, but in practice those effects tend toward the player with the hexproof creature playing a linear strategy that interacts with the opponent as little as possible, especially in Limited formats where ways to remove creatures outside of "combat" and "targeted spell" are severely constricted at lower rarities.

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  2. Can I suggest that an interesting question might be:

    Given the very high bar that rules must surpass to justify their existence, what new game rule should we *add* to Magic?

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    1. Wow. Have they ever straight up added a rule to the game? Off the top of my head, I can only think of altered rules (mulligans, legendary).

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    2. Every new mechanic is a new rule in a way.

      Some even come with rules which function independent of the ability (e.g. legend rule, e.g. "lose at 10 poison counters" is a rule even if no-one controls a creature that grants poison counters.)

      There's also the big rules updates, which they did things like introduce the stack, and mulligans, and sideboards, etc, etc! And rules clarifying various interactions are common all the time: looking at Ixalan: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/ixalan-comprehensive-rules-changes-2017-09-28 you see quite a few of those.

      I'm blanking on any, like, genuine *new* rules though, allowing or forbidding something previous unconsidered (at least more recent than the big rules updates) that are unrelated to new cards.

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    3. An addition to the sideboard rule that I'd love to see: Beyond the current 15, players can have any amount of basic lands in their sideboard. Cards could be designed to greatly reduce shuffling, as we could just get them from 'outside the game'

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  3. I don't personally buy it, but a shoo-in for passing muster here would probably be "the 7-card hand limit". Something like:

    "While the hand limit allows for combo decks in a variety of formats to skip their first turn in order to "draw to eight" and discard particular cards into the graveyard, this added opportunity helps more entrenched players at the cost of the experience of new players and the overall complexity of the game."

    (Personally: the hand limit does help push newer players into actually casting cards and not just holding onto them. I imagine you could find R&D quotes for both sides as well.)

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    1. Yup, apparently this was a very popular answer in the GDS2 essay test. I can see arguments both ways as well.

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    2. Honestly I am kinda miffed because 7 years later its still the best answer. The main issue is how little it comes up, its very akin to "mana burn for the hand"

      I suppose the main issue would be making mass draw cards a bit too good (but lets be real, if you are drawinf that much you've already cleared a power level hurdle) and also how it makes Gin-Jitaxis not work.

      Does "removing add cards that dont have tokens on them" count?

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    3. Well, yes and no! Yes, because the question is open-ended so that it needn't be about removing a rule or mechanic. However, I suspect Design has little influence over that decision.

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  4. Magic has done a good job simplifying away rules and mechanics that didn't add enough, allowing for new rules without complexity creep. Mana burn and the old legendary rule were traditional but added little gameplayer. Landwalk and intimidate were overly broad and insufficiently strong to be good answer cards. Protection was used less and regenerate replaced. Now there are few rules and keywords that present significant problems. Although I would like a replacement of the hand size rule, and to replace permanent hexproof and possibly intimidate with activated or conditional versions only.

    But consider a larger concept like exile. It's much clearer than removed-from-the-game, but it doesn't add significantly much gameplay in exchange for the mental overhead, and physical overhead of tracking a separate pile of cards, and needs to be restrained from being a second graveyard.

    Its main functions could be fulfilled in other ways. Exile as an answer to recurring or indestructible creatures could be replaced by "put on the bottom of it's owner's library". The reduced use of shuffling means that those cards are less likely to appear again. The main concern is if players will feel unwilling to use it.

    Cards that exile themselves to avoid being infinitely recurred could instead have text saying they can't be cast or removed from the graveyard which more clearly shows what they forbid. That way players only need to worry about the restriction when it might matter, not every time they cast the spell.

    Blink could be removed, or its component effects used separately. Or retemplated as "Remove X from the battlefield and return it to the battlefield" if the comprehensive rules are updated, as exile needs to be in the rules for older cards like regenerate.

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    1. I hadn't been going to answer the essay questions, but then a controversial opinion occurred to me :)

      This was actually tricky, as I think a lot of the more obviously useless rules are already gone, even though there's always more around somewhere.

      If I was more confident in my knowledge of mechanics I might have been able to suggest mechanics which could be used less, but that didn't correspond to a particular keyword, which I feel would have been a good thing to show, but nothing sprang to mind.

      I suspect the downsides of removing exile are more than I present here, the mental overhead of thinking whether "on the bottom" is sufficient is a real overhead. As is the fiddliness of some of the alternative templating. But I felt like a large and mostly-justified answer would be a good one.

      FWIW, when answering an essay question, I made sure to: write reasonably correct english; double check the word count both minimum and maximum, leave a small margin; avoid rambling; rephrase anything that seemed clunky. I also did my best to pull in various relevant bits of knowledge without going too far off point, and to think through the most obvious concerns that a designer would ask that needed to be addressed.

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    2. Solid essay, and very good points! There are a few cases this doesn't address: Banisher Priest, Imprint-like mechanics, etc. Also, I wonder about the competitive implications of manipulating the bottom of the library: see Zac Hill's feedback on Now and Then. Overall, though, great job.

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  5. The fizzle rule remains the biggest gotcha for new players and the hardest rule to justify. The number of cards it makes impossible and the number for which we must add awkward wording to word around it is far greater than the number it makes possible.

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    1. Oh yes, good point. How does that still exist? If they mean "If you do," they can write "If you do", right?

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    2. I guess one point against it is having to add "if you do" to so many cards.

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    3. Assuming we're not changing every card this affects, just the ones explicitly designed around the fizzle rule, the scale we're talking about is single digits.

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    4. What's an example of a card specifically designed around the fizzle rule? The only ones I can think of are Buyback.

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    5. It would have to be something where the non-targeted portion is more significant than the targeted portion. Blast of Genius? Cantrips like Bandage? While I expect spells are designed with the fizzle rules in mind, I'm not entirely certain any depend on it so much that they change significantly without it.

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    6. A question, if you remove fizzling what happenes to a spell or ability that loses its target?

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    7. You resolve as much of it as possible. If it only had that one targeted effect, it resolves but does nothing. If it had other targeted effects, they resolve (as is currently the case). If it has other effects that aren't targeted, those resolve (that's the new part).

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    8. I agree that this is something which is worth removing in paper and as a player.

      But as a programmer I worry for digital space and online Magic as it is harder to force a spell to resolve all actions even when one is invalid.

      From my meager experience I would wager that MTGO is programmed in a way in which the base code will 'clean-up' anything which doesn't have a target without warning. It would require a major rewriting of that software in an integral way. As much as I would like it gone I don't see it happening soon.

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    9. Yeah, if they did it well, it's one global change, but everything we've seen suggests they always program for expediency rather than vision, so it's entirely possible such a change would require many hundreds of manual changes.

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  6. The templating required to make a game as complex as Magic results in many curious artifacts. To speak of "the beginning of the end step" would be gibberish to an outside observer, but within the confines of the game, its meaning (as a necessary trigger dictating timing in gameplay) is made clear. However, one continued use of templating unneccessarily turns away players and should be removed: the use of "his or her" as pronouns when referring to in-game objects. While the inclusion of "his or her" over a presumptive and exclusionary "his" is worthwhile, and laudable on its own, in the modern era we can move past outdated constructions and toward the simple, concise, and inclusive inclusions. I would for this matter recommend the use of the singular "they" and "their".

    For instance:
    "Then that player shuffles his or her library" becomes "Then that player shuffles their library".
    "...deals damage to each player equal to the number of lands he or she controls." yields "...deals damage to each player equal to the number of lands they control".
    And "If a player would draw a card, he or she reveals it instead" simplifies to "If a player would draw a card, they reveal it instead."

    Each reads clearly, saves valuable space on the card, and allows for more inclusive language. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, recently printed in Hour of Devastation, would have its card text size increase significantly by making this painless switch. It does behoove us as designers to develop the game to be as inviting as possible, especially in a case as this one where it comes at no cost.

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    1. I strongly agree. Rosewater has said that they'd make this change if not for clarity, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a case where they/there actually causes ambiguity.

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    2. More recently: http://markrosewater.tumblr.com/post/134345644573/i-know-youre-not-a-developer-but-this-is-a

      "losing “she” would be us taking away one of our strongest indicators in text on the cards themselves that we want women to feel welcome playing Magic."

      It's not exactly the most progressive stance, but I can understand the logic of "We care more about explicitly including women than about excluding enby people."

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    3. I wonder how many women wouldn't recognize singular 'they' as inclusive to them...

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    4. This also removes gender-neutral people from feeling 'in-the-loop' so to speak.

      The only place that I can see some ambiguity potentially cropping up is in multiplayer magic, where the 'they' could be singular and plural.

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