Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tesla: Grand Unifying Queries

Hello everyone! Last time, we began refining the candidate mechanics for Tesla. This is an important part of the design process, and it deserves a lot of constant attention. We're going to be spending the rest of design polishing up these candidate mechanics to be the best they can be, so we're going to be using 'Our Refinery', last week's article, as the place for all this discussion. For this reason, this week's article will have its comments closed, and I'd like you all to comment on Our Refinery's comments please.

Now I'd like to shine the spotlight on what I think are currently the most important questions about Tesla's candidate mechanics.

Advance, Reuben's Revolution, or something else?
A lot of people have been fans of 'Access the Machine' (originally inspired by Tommy's Revolution), and its variants as possible mechanics to represent the theme of progress and change. We've seen many a variant, and each have their pros and cons. Currently, it seems like two are in in the lead - Advance and Reuben's Revolution. Both are great mechanics, but for very different reasons. Advance is a perfect flavor-fit - since your artifacts, creatures, and lands can contribute equally - but its gameplay might not compare favorably to Reuben's Revolution, which boasts engaging interaction. On the other hand, Reuben's Revolution suffers in the flavor department, as it can't appear on artifacts as it currently stands.

Is there a third option - a version of Reuben's Revolution that works on artifacts as well as creatures? (Indeed, could we find one that works on any cardtype?) If we put the mechanic on artifacts, and change the reminder text to "{T}, Tap two untapped creatures you control: Transform all permanents you control with revolution", we have two problems. One, this has one less tapped creature than usual, which means the shields-down moment is lessened. Two, artifacts are far harder to kill than creatures, so the 'kill all revolutionaries to stop the revolution' mini-game becomes much more difficult to balance. Of course, these are still improvements over Advance, which features no way for your opponent to 'turn back the clock' at all... but still, it's not quite good enough.

I know I said this was a 'small issue', but the more I think about it, the more I think our flagship progress mechanic should appear on more than just creatures.

The Combine Question
Combine is an old, old mechanic. We've had it in Tesla for almost as long as I can remember, and it's been loved by most people. Combining permanents seems to strike a chord with both designers and the audience though, as the huge popularity of BFM, and combining cards in other CCGs (Duel Masters, Pokemon, etc.) show. 

 In early playtests, Combine ended up working pretty well with the Core/Chassis model. It had some implementation questions, but overall, it made sense and played well. The problem is that Combine required colored Core and Chassis cards, to ensure the archetype worked in Limited... and we've decided that Tesla is avoiding straight-up colored artifacts, since those are too tied to Esper. In addition, 'sorta-colored' artifacts are very similar to New Phyrexia, where Phyrexian mana only appeared on artifacts, so we might be avoiding those too. The question is: how do we pull off Combine if the cards can't be colored?

Monohybrid - as seen on Sarcomite Myr - was the original 'Phyrexian mana'. It's still a possibility for our set, and it could potentially solve our issues. (But it might be too 'flexible'.)

We also discussed replacing Cores with 'Pilots', colored non-artifact creatures. This is an interesting idea, but it loses out on a lot of the fun flavor of robots that merge together, a la the Combiners from Transformers. 

Another idea was to replace Combining cards with another mechanical implementation which produces similar gameplay and captures the same flavor.

Inspired by another proposal, and extending the idea behind monohybrid a bit, we could have Combine cards work best with certain colors, and be inefficient (but doable!) otherwise. I brought up a similar idea, where Combine is an archetype encouraged in two colors, but possible in any color.

I really think we want Combine in the set, so I'd like to solve this problem. If not, I'd like for us to pursue ideas along the lines of Jay's, where we capture the same flavor but in a much simpler mechanical fashion. 

Contraption Fit
"Assemble a Contraption" are words that haunt every Magic designer. It's a troublesome mechanic with a lot of issues and some really weird cases to account for, but I'm also convinced that if Magic is to properly do a 'steampunk' set, the mechanic "Assemble a Contraption" has to show up. It would just be such a disappointment if it didn't. There are many weird ways to do the mechanic, but the key is finding one that simultaneously hits our requirements and feels like it really belongs in Tesla.

While we should totally be setting our sights on more doable and 'realistic' mechanics for now, I don't want us to forget that Assembling Contraptions is a thing. We have a lot of clever and ingenious designers in our community, and we also have a good knowledge of the game and its rules, and what Assembling a Contraption requires. If our noggins come together on this problem, I think we might make some real headway!

The Consul and the Natural
I think Justice has been pretty thoroughly figured out, and all it needs now is some playtesting (a topic we'll be discussing soon!), which is quite exciting. Justice is a mechanic that looks fun and innovative, and as long as we design the cards well, it shouldn't have too much board complexity to be an issue. So I'm excited to try it out. I'd like everyone to start generating as many good commons as they can. One question I'd like to resolve is whether we should limit how many unique 'Laws' there are at common. For example, should every card at common have its own Law? Or should there be a few Laws that appear on more than one card? The former is more 'fun' - the latter reduces board complexity. Let's hash this out.

The "natural mage" mechanic is considerably more problematic, since we need to represent 'natural magic' in a world where that's rare - which is difficult when the entire game of Magic usually represents 'natural magic'. So far, it seems like we've tended towards rewarding activated abilitiesthe expenditure of mana in many fashions, and even weird interactions with mana. I think we're on the right track here, and I'd like a few more minds on this problem to figure it out. 

The Last Few Notes
I'd like some more discussion about Charge. It's been a promising mechanic since its inception, and I think it has a lot of design space. I'd like us all to talk about what colors it can appear in, and how we can use it in interesting ways. Regarding colors, it untaps creatures (white and green and blue), untaps artifacts (blue), and untaps lands (blue and green), so those are probably the best colors for it. But it's also one-time ramp (red), and since it ramps, it really doesn't feel white. 

Regarding interesting ways to use Charge, the biggest point of comparison for the mechanic are Eldrazi Spawn / Scions. They have the bonus of being creatures, which makes them very interesting. Charge doesn't have that helpful bonus, so we have to work hard to make sure it's fun, and worthy of existing alongside Eldrazi Spawn / Scions.I made a cycle with the intent of being 'interesting' but I'm not sure if I succeeded. Do you guys see any more design space along these lines?

I'd like to hear your opinions on which Vehicle mechanic is the most promising. Board, Crew,
"Operate", or something else?

We've been having a good discussion about the trackability of Advancement, and what kind of effects we can use it for that are sufficient to differentiate it from Theros' Devotion. What do you guys think about the mechanic? Any ideas?

Overall, even if you don't have many ideas coming to mind, you all still have your own opinions. Please, share your opinions with us - tell us what mechanics you like or dislike, and why!