Sperling and Reitzl Ask: What was Your Breaking Point?

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Matt Sperling and Paul Reitzl recently teamed up on Sperling's blog to discuss the state of the two major digital products associated with Magic: Daily MTG and MTGO.

If you're paying attention at all, you already know these products are painfully unusable. Like Sperling and Reitzl, I simply don't visit Daily MTG anymore, instead only reading articles that show up in my Twitter feed. As Sperling put it, "For those of us who use the site often, unless we're looking for a giant picture of Garruk against a black background, we end up very frustrated."


As for MTGO, I haven't opened the program since July 16, the first day of the mandatory switchover to version 4. I drafted a reasonable Cube deck that day, but in-game lag was so bad that I had to drop by turn four. But to answer the question posed in the blog post's title, my breaking point wasn't the gameplay, it was this:

IMG_2609 (1)

It's one thing for the Elvish Mystic art to not load, but it's quite another for the basic land art to not show up. This was just too tilting, and I haven't attempted to play MTGO in the nearly two months since. So that was my breaking point.

I want to play MTGO again, and I'm sure someday I will. But the overwhelming message on Twitter is that in many ways, v4 is getting worse. I've resigned myself to cashing out shortly after Khans of Tarkir's release (the historical high point for the previous year's set), and refuse to put money back into the system until it's an experience worth paying for.

Hearthstone is not even close to as good a game as Magic. In my opinion, Magic is the best game ever designed. But Hearthstone is what I've been playing at home lately, and Sperling eloquently explains why:

The best thing about Leeroy Jenkins is that you can use him for a 10 minute game without setting aside 3 hours or waiting between games. You can use Leeroy Jenkins on a Mac or an iPad. You can learn how to attack with Leeroy Jenkins in a built-in tutorial mode. You can convert your extra Leeroy Jenkinses into other cards without dealing with robots or having to manually sort to find all your extra copies. You can use Leeroy Jenkins on a computer or tablet that doesn't have gigabytes of RAM waiting to be burned. When your friend sees you play a Leeroy Jenkins he or she is unlikely to ask why the game looks like it's from 1998. People are enabled and supported as they try to show Leeroy Jenkins to their friends and fans on Leeroy Jenkins, when he does appear on, has animation and sound that add to the viewing experience. You can get Leeroy Jenkins for free if you're willing to play enough and wait.
Most of those things could and/or should apply to Chandra or Jace, not just Leeroy or Ragnaros. But if Wizards keeps dropping the ball, you can be damn sure someone will eventually pick it up and run with it.
You would think that in game design, the only thing that matters is how fun your game is, but the Wizards of the Coast digital team is proving that this is not the case. There's no game more fun than Magic: The Gathering, but more and more players are switching to other games because the experience of MTGO is not acceptable. With Hearthstone and SolForge and maybe Hex: Shards of Fate competing for gamers' time and money, let's hope that someone in charge at WOTC figures out that major overhauls are needed, and soon.

Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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6 thoughts on “Sperling and Reitzl Ask: What was Your Breaking Point?

  1. One of my biggest pet peeves in MTGO writing and streaming is ranting on the new client. I don’t sense that you’re ranting, just expressing frustration about how things aren’t perfect.

    The client is good enough for me to do everything I want: play, trade, draft, build decks, etc. It took a lot of trial and error to get to that point, and many things are counterintuitive, but I experimented with right clicks, left clicks, changing settings, and now I am very comfortable with it.

    Maybe you can give it a month of experimentation and then get back to us with your likes and dislikes. One day of playing is not enough in my opinion to make a credible critique.

    Whether you play or not is not up to me, but let us know how it goes after you give it the ol’ post grad try.

    MTG daily is terrible, I agree…

    1. I gave it more than a month try and it’s still painful to me because I’m constantly reminded of the many ways v3 was better in important ways and rarely do I see evidence of v4 being better in any way I care about.

    2. Having to give a client a month to figure it out and appreciate it blows any positive user experience design out the window.
      If you can pickup any of the competitors and start playing straight away, through the tutorials at least, why spend the investment of time working with MTGO?

  2. I have played around 10 drafts since the new client was released. I used to play around 25 drafts per week. In the 10 drafts I have played, bugs have cost me 2 drafts, both in the finals where I was denied reimbursement because I “won” packs, meaning I got screwed out of the opportunity to win 4 additional packs. Once, one of my opponents had the client break on him, costing him the match.

    I simply cannot justify wasting time on a broken program when their support team will not even reimburse me properly when the program breaks.

  3. Another digital product that seems to be suffering is Gatherer. I used to love to read the card discussion comments. It seems that since M15 was released, no one is posting comments any more. Take Goblin Rabblemaster for example – 6 votes, 0 comments. Really? Where did everyone go? Sure all of the card discussions on older cards are still there, but it’s not very useful if no one is going to comment on newer cards going forward. I miss the old Gatherer.

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