If you haven't heard, there is an MTGO satisfaction survey in yesterday's MTGO blog post. If you play any amount of Magic Online, this is your chance to voice your concerns—and I know you have many. Whether or not this amounts to anything changing, at the very least, it's therapeutic to have the opportunity to give specific feedback. On the other hand, taking this survey can really shine a light on how unacceptable the MTGO experience really is. Ultimately, I want to give good feedback: I want to be harsh where it's deserved, but also give credit where credit is due. Let's see where I can do that.
After confirming I have indeed played Magic Online in the last three months, I am asked to rate the following facets of the program on a five-point scale. My comments and ratings follow.
- Ease of use—No tutorial, no manual, unintuitive layout for new players. 1
- Game play—Playing is not a smooth experience, but it works. 3
- Graphics—Have you seen the cards on this client? 1!
- Community—What community is that, exactly? The overall MTG community is great, but MTGO contributes nothing to that. 1
- Value—We pay paper prices for packs despite cards being worth significantly less. 1
- Store—Does not save credit card or PayPal information. You had one job, store. 1
- Fun—MTG as a game is a 5, but the tilt caused by MTGO bugs is a 1. We'll average it out. 3
- Program stability—I wish I could give a 0 here. 1
- Overall Magic Online experience—I mean, it lets me play Magic on the internet, but at what cost? 2
The survey goes on to ask how likely I am to recommend Magic Online to a friend. Let me be explicit here: if you are not already addicted to this client, don't try it. Don't put a single dollar into it. Wait until it is acceptably stable before even downloading it. Some people depend on MTGO for their income, ability to play Magic at all, or to feed their hopeless addiction (most MTGO players fall into this third category). If you're not in one of these camps, do something else with your time.
Another five-point rating scale follows:
- Event entry options—The client lets me pack in to drafts, so I don't have any real complaints here. 4
- Magic Online Player Rewards Program—These promo cards are almost always monetarily worthless, even if their non-promo counterparts are worth money. They are also completely useless to Limited-only players. 1
- Trading—Has never been particularly user-friendly, but the introduction of version 4 led to stability issues that cause all kinds of crashes. 1
- Clans—Other than the fact that they exist, what support is given to clans? 1
- Tournament variety—I mostly play draft queues, so I'm not sure this question completely applies to my interests. N/A
- Format variety—I would like Cube or flashback drafts to be available more often and in greater numbers, but other than that, I guess it's fine? 3
- General chat—You can chat with people, but why would you want to? People can troll you relentlessly and you'll be forced to jump through hoops to report it, then nothing will ever happen in response. 2
- Magic Online Championship Series—I earned 11 QPs one season, but I am not willing to grind enough to bother qualifying for the MOCS. N/A
- Multiplayer—Have never used. N/A
- MTGO.com—This used to be a solid 3, maybe even a 4. Then they updated Daily MTG. 1
- Magic Online newsletter—Nothing special, but not broken or anything. Took me forever to realize you had to opt in. 3
- Digital set redemption—I redeemed a few sets when it cost $5, but haven't even considered it after the cost was upped to $25 with the release of Gatecrash. This has been horrible for the MTGO economony, crashing pack and singles prices in one swift cash-grab. -1,000,000
- Deck building—As a drafter, I think deck building is improved since you can do it during the draft. Downsides compared to version 3: it's annoyingly difficult to select multiple cards, sometimes cards refuse to move into the piles where you drag them, deck submission errors can ruin whole events. 3
Finishing with that page, we move to another page...with another five-point rating scale. This time we're rating phrases as they apply to Magic Online.
- Has exciting special events—The crashes are certainly exciting! I guess some of the random weird Sealed events (like APRILFOOLS) are okay, though I usually just play real formats. 2
- Is competitive—Here, finally, I can in good conscience give a 5 to something. If you want to improve as a player, the right queues on MTGO will give you the skilled opponents you need to get there. 5
- Is social—Ha. 1
- Fun to collect—Given that cards tend to crash in value after rotating out of Standard and the redemption period, the last thing I want to do is collect MTGO cards. I sell as soon as I can get a good price. 1
- Can easily navigate through the game—Once you're used to the client, this is mostly true, but new players are generally completely lost. 2
- Lets you use your imagination—What kind of question is this? 1
- Has exciting large-scale events—Again, this only gets better than a 1 if you find crashes exciting (and I have to admit, they kind of are). 2
- Easy to find opponents—It's not hard to fill up a draft queue, but when I tried to jam some Pauper games a while back, I was unable to do so. 3
- Has appealing graphics—Nope. 1
- Lets me play how I want to play—I want to play on demand without having to commit a minimum of two to three hours, so absolutely not. Also, Cube is not available 365 days a year. 1
- Can play when it fits my schedule—See above. This is honestly one of the worst parts of MTGO, and it could be so much better, as Matt Sperling covered quite a while ago. More often than not, I want to play Magic but can't commit so much time, so I end up playing Hearthstone despite wanting to play Magic instead. 1
- Captures the excitement of the paper-based card game—Besides bugs, crashes, the impersonal nature of online play, and getting to play in one's skivvies, this really is a pretty decent analog. 4
- Can be played anywhere—My first instinct was to give this a high rating, but then I realized there is not a tablet or smartphone version of MTGO. 2
- Has an ample variety of formats—I guess this is fine? I only play Limited. 4
There are some demographic questions that follow that are mostly uninteresting, but one of them was pretty hard to answer: "How much do you spend on Magic Online in a typical week?" I imagine the vast majority of players would have a very hard time quantifying this answer, since so much of the MTGO economy is based on selling cards for tickets and using those tickets for currency. I imagine Wizards of the Coast will not get a very satisfactory or accurate answer to this question.
The survey next asks a telling question: "In the past two weeks when playing Magic Online, how often has your experience ended with a crash or with the client becoming unresponsive?" A question like this is only asked if there's a problem, but we already know that's the case.
Next, the survey moves on to ask some questions about their customer service team, the ORCs. Despite a name conjuring such unpleasant images in one's mind, this is one area where I think MTGO is strong. The ORC team doesn't always have the power to help you out, but they are always responsive, friendly, and as helpful as WOTC allows them to be. Good on you, ORCs.
The survey closes with a very interesting set of questions, given that Hasbro reportedly doesn't see Hearthstone as competition to MTGO:
- Have you played Hearthstone within the past three months?
- How often have you played Hearthstone during the past three months?
- On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Hearthstone to a friend?
What I wouldn't give to compare these answers to the analog questions for MTGO.
As for the last question there, this is such an interesting dichotomy. Whereas I think MTG is the greatest game ever made, I would strongly advise against playing MTGO due to its numerous flaws. On the other hand, Hearthstone is a vastly inferior game, but due to being easy-to-use and free-to-play, I would absolutely recommend giving it a shot. If you don't like it, it doesn't cost you anything—if only the same could be said about MTGO.
Besides a few more demographic questions, that's the complete survey. Like I said, filling something out like this is therapeutic (as is writing about the experience here on Quiet Speculation). But it also shines a light on the stark reality that very few aspects of this client are anywhere close to acceptable. If you play MTGO, be sure to fill out this survey. If we voice our dissatisfaction in sufficient numbers, maybe, just maybe, we might be able to effect some change at MTGO headquarters.