Tuesday, January 31, 2012

what developers do, by fake zac hill

[Editor's note: we here at kagf are extremely proud to have stumbled upon a leaked early version of Zac Hill's What Developers Do. Views expressed are those solely of Mr. Hill, and not of kagf or its subsidiaries.]

Today I want to talk to the audience that probably clicked here because it’s Sunday night and this is where Making Magic should be. Well, first of all, I’m sure you can wait a few minutes before you get told to read a book about creativity (with the same wording as the last twenty times you were told that). Second, I make Magic.

No, seriously. Those Magic cards you play with. I design them. Technically, we’re the second step in the process. What happens is that “Design” makes some cards, then “Development” makes Magic cards that won’t make you shoot yourself in the head. Let’s walk through the process.

Activity Number One: Playing Magic

I’d say the biggest difference between Design and Development is that Development plays Magic.

WHAT?! But doesn’t design have to play Magic in order to make cards?!?!?!

You would think! You know how when you do something every day for a decade, with thousands of hours of practice, you get really good at it? And the designers’ full-time job is to work on Magic?

Have you ever played against a Design guy at an event? Yeah. They’re quite bad at Magic.

Hey, why aren’t they good at Magic if they play Magic all the t- ohhhh.

Exactly. So the next time you hear something about how a designer did something crazy outlandish like make a mechanic where you jumped on the table and did an ancient tribal dance, or designed a preexisting card without knowing it, or said “hey what if we just print Necropotence but make the card draw immediate and cost it at six,” you’ll know why. Designers don’t play Magic.

Activity Number Two: Staying Away from Ken Nagle

Have you seen this guy? Have you interacted with him? Here, I’ll give you some background information in case you haven’t. You know that guy at your card shop that comes up to you and shows you his casual deck and details the combos in it and makes little explosions with his hands then laughs in a really creepy way despite the fact that no one other than him has said anything? Great, you’ve met Ken Nagle.

Ken Nagle once made a mechanic that put your cards in the opponent’s deck. Not in an Un-set. No joke. He called it “pwnage.” He thought it would be perfect for the Phyrexians, because it wasn’t fun. Still not joking. This is an actual employee that we pay actual money.

Activity Number Three: Making Magic

So here’s the basic process for how sets are designed.

Step one: Design meets with Creative. Creative guys say “imagine, if you will” and “in a world” unironically. Design guys say “resonance” and “Roseanne.” They come up with some idea about like a dragon I think? I don’t really know. There’s probably a demon woman (with a chest like opening the bag of dodgeballs for gym class) already drawn for the booster box. Argyle works fast.

Step two: Design makes the “set.” Their creative process involves a bunch of running around making bird noises, if there are birds in the set. Lots of pizza. Someone makes a card top-designed to be a lolcat. Then they delete the MTGSalvation thread where people came up with the set.

Step three: Development looks at the printed file over lunch. It’s fun, we don’t need extra napkins for once.

Step four: Development makes a Magic set. Some ideas are kept from the file, of course, because we can seriously polish anything into a playable set at this point. Think about Rick Moody writing a story based on the suggestions of a second-grade classroom. Eventually, someone will say “…and they’re in space with a dinosaur and…” and he’ll make that into something readable. Same basic idea with developing a handoff from Design.

We hope you understand what we have to go through on a daily basis now.

-Fake Zac Hill

[[Actual authorial note: this is satire. It was not written by Mr. Hill. I'm sure that Mr. Nagle is a lovely person.]]