Wednesday, July 16, 2014

magic online: 7/16/2014 never forget

Today is a magnificent day in the history of Magic. It is a day when a subset of Wizards revs their engine and zooms past the userbase of Magic Online, their grotesque yellowed middle fingers flubbering in the breeze as they plow straight into the nearest building and tell us it’ll be right back up in no time. Welcome to the Beta Era, shitbags.

For years now, we’ve read fake-cheery articles announcing More Sweet Features in the fabled Fourth Version of Magic: Online, and today, it was formally released with all the expectation and excitement normally associated with waiting for the vet to put your dog to sleep. It is beyond criticism, because every criticism is answered with “we’re aware and totally working on it” from a representative of both of its programmers with a combined $60,000 salary. It has become such a frequent punchline that it is the unstated end joke to anything that happens in the program.

A community of people so focused on the next new thing when it comes to Magic, the people lining up in front of their local Wal-Marts to get the latest Android phone the second it comes out, were so horrified at the idea of using the new client rather than the basically-eight-year-old-one that Wizards had to have weekends when it forced its players to use the new client, or they couldn’t log onto Magic Online. Magic players responded in droves by not logging on to Magic Online.

Wizards genuinely cannot seem to fathom why people would rather not use a client that, by default, has everything in the program as a separate window, shows the cards in hand as so big that they overlap unreadably, and presents a handy scroll button to reveal the entirety of one’s opening hand. Brian Kibler’s encounter with the Wide Beta should be enshrined as a classic piece of Magic history: presented with baby-sized cards in the most important zone, all he can do is laugh and ask why. When a monolith of a corporation makes a terrible product and throws fake-sympathetic community relations agents at us instead of fixing everything, laughter is the only response left.

Today, Magic Online called us drunk at let’s say 2:17AM. “HEY! Heyyyyy it’s our annivvversary and wewerereally greaaatt together aand I knoww you liked, like the uhh… the Modern Master… master-“ *giggle* “MASTERS and the vintage one aaaand holiday in cubeodia soooo yeah come on over?”

We gleefully give Magic Online another chance, try out this Holiday Cube again, and Magic Online is passed out face-down on the couch with vomit dribbling from his mouth before the draft is even over.

This was your special day, Magic Online. This was supposed to mean something.

7/16/2014: the day Version 3 is retired forever.
7/16/2014: the day someone forgot to hit the “phantom draft” checkbox next to the “launch Holday Cube” button.

Should we have expected any better from the program that couldn’t ban Æther Vial for an entire day because they didn’t know how to add a card with that little “Æ” to the banned list?

The logical conclusion to this isn’t that they gave people Black Lotuses they weren’t supposed to have, then shut down the Holiday Cube to fix the problem, then took them away. They’re not capable of that. First, they had to make everyone who had acquired illicit Cube cards on a No-Trade List while they figure out how to remove them from people’s accounts. The emails they sent to those people mention doing it for everyone manually. On the plus side, this wasn’t communicated via stone tablet thrown through their window.

A rough timeline:

2002: Magic Online 1.0 by Leaping Lizard released for Windows.
2003: Magic Online 2.0 released by Wizards internal development, after wresting control from Leaping Lizard.
2003: MTGO 2.0 so unusably server-crashingly buggy that Wizards turns off the ability to give them money, reverts it to a beta.
2003: Wizards apologizes for the servers crashing by launching a free event called ‘Chuck’s Virtual Party.’ This crashes the servers.
2006: the rebuilt-from-the-ground up Magic Online 3.0 scheduled for release.
2006: it is not released.
2007: “
2008: Magic Online 3.0 released.
July 2012: Magic Online 4.0 (“Tha Beta”) gets first Wide Beta Spotlight.
7/16/2014: see above.
20XX: Macintosh client? Android? iPad?

Another timeline:

March 2013: Blizzard announces Hearthstone.
August 2013: Hearthstone enters closed beta.
March 2014: Hearthstone released for PC and Mac.
April 2014: Hearthstone released for iPad.

Magic Online turns to the camera and shrugs. Audience laughter. Applause. “That’s Our MODO!”


Elias Ross said...

I know this is an old post but I thought it interesting to follow up.

I haven't used MTG online but from what I know looking for work, they were desperately seeking a software architect/developer to help build the next version and contacted me.

The problem is (as far I as I know) strong developers are hard to find in the gaming world, since a lot of them have gone on to big companies with fatter paychecks. New (successful) people also don't want to work on failed or struggling projects. Switching hands on deck isn't always the solution, the problem is usually systemic.

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