Thursday, April 2, 2015

this is not kill reviews: return to ravnica

pt i: no fun

Ever done something you were supposed to enjoy?

The thing you’re doing is exactly the same as it has been every other time: the ritual of doing it, all the things in the process that you definitely remember enjoying before. But now, stripped of all the enjoyment, it’s nothing but that process. You recognize the thing as being the same, and wonder: will this feeling pass? Will I come back to it with the same joy I had before? Or have I just changed as a person, away from this thing?

At its worst, this feeling can spread from the specific to the general: the feeling that nothing on earth is enjoyable, and the knowledge that there’s absolutely nothing that can change that other than time.

For those of you who have never experienced this, here’s what I’d compare it to: watch a film you like. Then immediately watch it again. And again. Then the next day, do the same thing. (No doing anything on your computer or phone at the same time, that’s cheating.) Unless you’re a child, this probably sounds absolutely maddening. What’s the matter? It’s something you enjoy, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t you want to watch it again?

Personally, the solution I’ve found is going back to bed and sleeping off the feeling for the next three or four days.

pt ii: the prologue to ravnica

There was a time when Magic possessed so much restless energy, so much creativity bursting out of the people behind the product, that just doing a previous block’s theme again was out of the question. The only way to do a sequel… would be to do the theme in a completely different way. That way, the revisit of an earlier theme would be so completely independent of the original that it would stand boldly on its own.

The original Ravnica was introduced as being another multicolor block, specifically citing Invasion. But instead of blindly aping what came in the original:

“The next step seemed obvious. Take the things that defined Invasion and flip them on their head.”

Where Invasion emphasized playing as many colors as possible, Ravnica’s multicolor was narrower: play two colors, and here’s a specific definition of what playing those colors is going to be like. As I detailed in the review of that block, it is a creative achievement unrivaled in Magic’s history.

pt iii: snes roms

Between the ages of 12 and 14, I spent a lot of time playing emulated SNES games on my computer. I had grown up with an actual, physical SNES, but I had neither the hundreds of dollars to obtain real copies of these ~collectables~, nor the patience necessary to deal with The Worst Save Systems Ever Devised.

This piracy at young ages influenced me a great deal, probably more than it should have. Just like anyone else can justify their interest by constructing a series of life lessons from it, so I can do with this phase of SNES gaming.

I had spent a lot of time with PSX and PS2 games. But despite the technical sophistication of these systems over the SNES, I found myself marveling at the beauty of the sprites in old Final Fantasy games. FF7, by comparison, was mostly hideously ugly compared to its predecessors with backdrops halfway between watercolor and pointillism.

But beyond the games themselves, there was a real value in the grey-area-legality of their distribution. I could freely try as many games as I wanted for as long as I wanted, with the only limitation being my capacity to find them. The best-selling games ever competed on equal footing with rare, obscure, or even never-officially-translated-into-English titles (Front Mission was a favorite of mine, a full five years before its commercial American release).

Some of the ROM distribution sites, clearly handmade by people with a tenuous grasp of HTML from a how-to book from 1998, were wonderful in their amateurish passion. Writers would gush in exclamation-laden prose about games that never got past a few thousand copies distributed. Some of these games genuinely were lost classics; others mystified me in how people could think of them as anything more than another SMB knockoff.

In many ways, my artistic ideology has never grown past that of the kid wanting to play around with everything, opposed to anything and anyone who would stand between me and some 1993 game a dozen other people were still playing.

One enduring memory of these ROM sites were their overblown cautions, warning, disclaimers, and faux-legal protections against prosecutions. Some of them seemed to genuinely believe that, if they put a line of text saying “IF YOU ARE LAW ENFORCEMENT YOU HAVE TO CLOSE THIS WINDOW NOW,” they were completely in the clear.

pt iv: a legal protection against magic developers

What’s even better is that such a line of text actually can work for me. Rosewater has mentioned how, for legal reasons, he is prohibited from reading any fanmade cards or sets (outside of very narrow Wizards-created programs such as Great Designer Search where the creators blah blah blah legal stuff). He’s even said that he reads all his emails; however, if it’s heading toward that forbidden territory, he closes the email immediately.

I think you see where this is going.

pt v: an extremely serious submission that wizards should totally put in the next set (a magic card designed by me, jesse mason, @killgoldfish,

Eric - 
Creature - Insect

pt vi: follow-up discussion to the above brilliant original design (by me, jesse mason, etc etc etc)

Kick back. Relax. Smile in realization that there cannot possibly be any Wizards R&D people reading at this point. If they are, they are blatantly going Against Company Policy and will receive a serious head-shaking-frown from The Legal Dudes And/Or Associated People.

*airhorns* *gunshot sound effect* *Public Enemy vocal sample*

pt vii: me and mark rosewater

I don’t think there’s any piece of writing I’ve attempted and abandoned more than a thorough discussion of Mark Rosewater. My Google Docs account and various hard drives are littered with attempts at discussing the man, his writing, his design, his influence. They vary from glowing assessments of his important writing to impassioned defenses of his value, down to cautious and-on-the-other-hand toothless, positionless caveat-making and one document which, swear to God, opens with an extended metaphor comparing him to Adolph Hitler, yes that one.

I have spent an almost immeasurable amount of time over the past 13 years reading his writing, pondering his ideas, considering his grand proclamations first in their original context, then in the context of Magic’s development since then. I have made glowing recommendations of his writing to non-Magic playing folks, and loudly scoffed at Magic players endorsing his views. I am fascinated and disgusted by his ideas on Magic, design, creativity, commerce, and the overlap of all of these.

Some of this is because his writing, in some ways, inspires mine. I wrote “why i want to fuck mark rosewater” as a response to an interview he did with Ted Knutson, where he called for holistic design analysis of Magic sets, similar to how film reviews work. This is, obviously, an idea and call to action that I agree with (though when he, in answer to a question about my reviews, said that they are inspired directly by that interview, I was immediately taken aback, because I had forgotten about that by the time I was writing the first installments of this series).

It is impossible to write about Magic design without referencing the man. It just cannot be done. He’s more than Magic’s head designer: he is Magic’s prime design historian, design critic, design analyst, design advocate, public relations agent, and salesman. So it’s now, after so many reviews where I grudgingly must reference something from Rosewater’s writing or theories, that I face him head-on.

So let’s talk about Rosewater’s writing. The most important facet of his writing, the defining aspect of it, is its presentation and context: he is writing for the official Magic: the Gathering web site as Magic’s official design representative to talk about the official vision of Magic: the Gathering.

DailyMTG can never be neutral to Magic. It exists with the purpose of promoting Magic, to get new players to play Magic, in order that they spend money on it; to get lapsed players back into the game; and to get currently-invested Magic players to stay that way and spend more money on the product than they currently do. Rosewater is the most popular, longest-running, and most important voice on this site.

When going back to read old pieces of his, it’s important to remember what he is: he is a marketing agent. His writing are not simply essays on design, they are officially promoted by the company to advertise the game. His writing, including all those often-referenced essays, is ad copy.

Advertisements are a tricky thing to analyze. As long as they fall under the category of advertisement, their motive is unquestionable: they exist to sell the product. When I read a Rosewater piece, I mentally insert the word “PAID ADVERTISEMENT” above it, like that fat chunk of a magazine paid for by Prilosec which all reasonable people skip past.

Advertising, by its nature, is a dishonest medium. This doesn’t mean that what an advertisement says is fundamentally false, but that, as an advertisement, it can never be fully honest with the reader. It must phrase its statements, make its arguments, and work toward always convincing readers that The Product is supreme, that The Product is worth your money.

In one of my favorite essays, David Foster Wallace discusses a paid essay by a writer whose other work Wallace quite liked. The essay in question, a travel-writing sort of thing about the cruise ship he was getting paid by, was found by Wallace to be inherently bad. This wasn’t because the quality of writing was subpar, but because, as an advertisement, it was a piece of writing which did not intend to serve the reader. The writing works against the reader, in service of the company paying for it. It does this while attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader, who is reading the essay looking for genuine information on the topic.

It is with a similar line of thinking that I think of all Rosewater writing as inherently bad. This isn’t because of one specific line of argument he made, or his ideas, but that his writing for DailyMTG has never sought solely to serve the reader. It is in the service of Wizards, to sell Magic.

I cannot claim to say exactly what of Rosewater’s writing has been honest, and which is dishonest. But I know that when he writes about the newest Magic set, it’s not because he has a burning desire to enlighten his readers… or even if he does, it is not the end goal of his writing, but merely a stepping stone toward his actual goal of selling Magic.

Rosewater has promoted every Magic set on DailyMTG since Torment. He has told us how the first Ravnica, Future Sight, and Innistrad are wonderful and worth our money. He has similarly written about design and design philosophy in ways that praise Scourge, Saviors of Kamigawa, and Avacyn Restored. I don’t know whether he thought to himself, as he wrote about Avacyn Restored, that the set is actually a pile of shit. But I do know that, if at any point he had reservations about the quality of the design or the set in general, he was contractually obligated to not tell readers about this. It’s not the demonstrable presence of dishonesty that bothers me; it is the impossibility of complete honesty. And a writer who, by the nature of their paycheck, cannot be completely honest with readers is a bad writer.

It is in this way that Rosewater has most directly inspired this series. Magic design theory has had a negativity-shaped hole in it. When things are good and positive and moving in the right direction, Rosewater tells people half a dozen times about each thing through DailyMTG writing, tumblr posts, Drive to Work, his new video series where he talks about Magic design as he sleeps, etc etc etc. I’m excited to write negatively about Magic design because there hasn’t been anyone to do so intelligently.

The most interesting Rosewater pieces are those where he argues against himself. That is, he calls out a particular aspect of earlier Magic design as being bad, which he had previously written about as having knocked it out of the park. It’s in these moments of introversion and self-revision that I find the most honesty in his work. However, I always question which Rosewater was the right one. What if the earlier one, overjoyed in telling his audience how great Planar Chaos was, had been right all along?

Rosewater’s writing most directly upsets me in areas about the overlap between creativity in commerce, and I don’t think his current occupation allows him to dive into it like I want him to. He identifies as Izzet: the mad scientist, frantically creative, always making making making without boundaries. But his writing often exposes a more cynically commercial bent than this image of himself that he creates.

Think back on his writing about creativity, where he compared things to screenplays, where he talks about Roseanne.[1] He emphasizes the need of the screenplay to stay true to a strict structure. He speaks in glowing terms of the familiarity of the American sitcom; how people follow routines, how things must stay the same if anything about it is going to change. He says that Magic strives to make blockbusters, not “art house” sets.

[1] At this point, there have been more references to “Roseanne is a Rosewater cliché” than actual Rosewater references to Roseanne.

Rosewater’s writing has become the design equivalent of the American sitcom. We read it when it goes up at the appointed time, we chuckle insider-like at the references to the same things it always references, making the same points it made five or ten years ago. If you miss one or two or ten, that’s not a big deal, because other than the season finale, everything always stays the same forever. He’ll use the same examples to make the same points next year, too.

If my scorn hasn’t become so obvious at this point that it’s become corporeal and coagulated onto your screen, I do not like the traditional American sitcom. They are never different from one another. Their plots are paper-thin veneers to allow the characters to insult one another and then find good in each other at the end of the episode.

Have you watched any Roseanne? Thank the internet age, because it’s all on youtube. Here’s one that Mark Rosewater got a writing credit on.

The biggest problem I have with this is that it isn’t funny. Like, not even a little bit funny.  One could very easily go through it and diagram exactly how it’s a Good Sitcom Episode because of how the characters interact, how the plot provides poignant and humorous moments intermixed. The jokes follow tried-and-true joke formulas. But it’s not funny.

The season of this episode, Roseanne was the second-most watched show in America. More than 18 million households watched the average episode.

But who the fuck still cares about Roseanne?

Mass-appealing shlock like Roseanne might get people who watch it on a regular basis, because it’s their time to watch TV and that’s what’s on. But it’s not made to be memorable. It is disposable art.

The advantage that the “art house” work has is that, if it’s good, people remember it. People talk about it the next day, the next week, the next year. Ten years later, it’s influencing a whole new genre created in its wake. Thirty years later, people who weren’t even alive when it was around the first time are still talking about it.

After spending a lot of time thinking about him, part of that thought process transformed into a “you’re not so different from me” sort of villain speech directed at him. We both read comics, and reference stuff like Watchmen all the time. We self-identify as creative types, and care deeply about the creative process. We think a lot about comedy. And, in our most obvious and closest parallel, we both write about Magic design. If I’m not (distantly) second behind him in the list of the most-read authors about the history of Magic design, I’d be surprised.

The difference is what end result we hold highest. Rosewater, as an employee of Wizards, cares about its status as a product, with the bottom-line measurement always being sales. I care about its design in the aesthetic sense, with the bottom-line measurement being whether it appeals to me. His is, obviously, a lot more easily definable and quantifiable. But I’d like to think that mine has longer-term impacts beyond quarterly profits.

The big contradiction in Rosewater’s writing about design is that he wants people to look at the game’s design from a holistic perspective. Then, if the holistic analysis of it comes back as “this is banal,” he just shoots back with “who cares, it sold packs.” He only wants a holistic analysis that tells him it’s wonderful.

pt viii: again

If you’re a musician or know musicians, there’s a very good chance that you could create an album that’s better than the first, self-titled Ramones album. Record those same songs, but with a little bit better, more modern, production quality. The musicianship was pretty bad on that 1976 record, so with good musicians, you could tighten it up. Maybe record slightly more emphatic, more melodic vocals. Add just a touch of autotune.

Would your album be better? Almost unquestionably, it would improve on the original.

But would it be a “good album?” Of course not. You didn’t do anything unique. The initial statement that the Ramones made with that album is the important thing, as are all the myriad influences that it had on cultures worldwide. There’s not a punk or indie rock band anywhere that isn’t influenced by that album (even if it came passed down through other bands in between them and the Ramones).

There is value in doing things first. When it comes to art, being original isn’t just an important thing. It is the most important thing, to set yourself aside from what everyone else is doing. Without originality, art is nothing.

pt ix: magic design is art

Magic design is art.


jbc_here said...

Related: Rosewater insists that the best Star Wars film *has* to be Star Wars, because it innovated all the good Star Wars ideas that the others built on.

Kestrel said...

Good article. I'm interested to see your reviews of Theros and Khans. There's something about the mechanical, practiced, and (in my view) uninspired execution of those blocks that I found aesthetically off-putting. Rosewater often discourages box-checking, but both of those felt like predictable completions of patterns rather than something new and unexpected. Both blocks also felt completely humorless, which in my view is an even worse indictment.

Innistrad proves there are still unmade masterpieces yet to come from Wizards, but we're not likely to see another experimental setting as lighthearted as Lorwyn, as crazy as Time Spiral, or as funky as Kamigawa.

Unknown said...

Hey man, I liked Khans block. It may not have been the big groundbreaker that Innistrad was, but I'd be surprised to hear anyone call it a bad set. The block overall wasn't perfect, but it was above average in quality.

Theros, I can't really say the same for. Hated it.

Kestrel said...

Despite my criticisms, I liked Khans too. They were very smart to use morph in a tri-color set, and the draft environment seemed enjoyable enough. From a flavor perspective, it struck me as a total dud.

In Ravnica, the guilds each had their own place in the fictional world, with stories that go deeper than "we're guys that fight each other." I don't feel Khans really goes beyond that. Wizards did a good job making all the Khans feel unique, but I still can't think of anything less interesting than warlords going to war because... war. But then again, maybe the depth is there, and I just need to read more.

Unknown said...

Link to the David Foster Wallace article (I'm 95% sure this is the one you mean)--the pertinent section starts at the very end of the page bearing the number 41, AKA pdf page number 9, and runs to page 43/11:*

I liked this part in particular, as it also happens to be a good summation of some of the lingering effects of the deceptive emotional abuse I experienced as a kid:

"[An ad pretending to be art or a smile given only because someone wants something from you] is dishonest, but what's insidious is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill's real substance, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair."

Nail successfully hit on head in more ways than one there, for me at least.

Also, I would *love love love* to get a compilation/mash-up/dramatic reading on YouTube of your attempted writing bits on Rosewater over the years. The range of emotions you describe is very similar to what I've gone through, though on a smaller scale of 4 years rather than 13. (And I've yet to be motivated to add my thoughts on him to my giant collection of experimental writing bits, but time will tell...)

Seriously, start a Kickstarter or something if it's too much of a pain in the butt to assemble all that for free; I'd fund it. :-D

TLDR: a) I put a link. Now people can read what you're talking about with the David Foster Wallace critique of a cruise-ship advert-disguised-as-essay. b) I want to read everything your mind has ever thought about Rosewater, preferably in amusing form where you juxtapose waxing poetic with vigorous-fist-shaking diatribes. Kickstarter. YouTube. Hashtags. Social Media and Internet Buzzwords.

*Google Scholar gives the APA reference info as:

Wallace, D. F. (1996). Shipping Out. Harper’s, 292, 33-56.**

**(I got curious what year it was published, since that wasn't in the pdf; I didn't look this up *solely* because I'm a giant nerd.)***

***David Foster Wallace uses almost as many footnotes as Jesse Mason, which I think is funny.

DrTandtheWomen said...

Great insight as always. Thanks for writing this!

Sanctaphrax said...

I don't really agree with the main thrust here, for whatever it's worth. I think a lot of great writing was produced by writers who couldn't be completely honest with their readers.

Rosewater might get fired if he's too negative, but Shakespeare could have gotten straight-up killed if he had really offended the local royalty. Probably wasn't a problem for Shakespeare, because as far as I know he had no real desire to write strongly anti-royal plays. The restriction probably didn't touch him.

And I doubt the restriction on Rosewater affects him much. He reminds of Stan Lee...I think he's always very excited about the latest set, even when it's bad. He falls in love with it while working on it, and that makes it easy for him to promote it. Maybe my amateur psychoanalysis is wrong, but given how much enthusiasm he puts out he'd have to be downright Machiavellian to be faking it.

And I think he'd be interested in a holistic review that told him a set was bad, if it was predicting/explaining poor sales. Thing is, the last few sets have sold really well so no such review is likely until and unless WotC fumbles.

Unknown said...

Speaking of Star Wars: You're wrong to say mass market appeal can't have an enduring impact. The myth that quality doesn't equal profit is the suicide pact of creative industries. The big players get to justify lower innovation and fewer risks because it's they way they're supposed to do it, and the smaller players get to pretend that the fact they're unsuccessful means their work is going to somehow win in the long run. This lets them feel good about making poor decisions that end up wrapping their work in impenetrable layers, or trying to be different without the suffocating constraint of also trying to be enjoyable.

Let's look at MTG sets. Which are the best designed ones? Innistrad is a blockbuster hit and a lot of people hold it up as extraordinarily well designed. The same goes for Ravnica earlier in this article.

Future Sight, on the other hand, goes the opposite direction.

The myth that the less successful something is, the more enduring it will be, is a comforting one. It means you always get to be happy on both ends of the spectrum. However, it's just not true. Believe it or not, making a good game helps you get good sales.

Maokun said...

It seems to me that you too gratuitously make the completely necessary advertisement side of Rosewater writings a bad thing. It's very easy to be anti-corporate and to obtain the raging agreement of your fellow modern commoner but let us think about it: Rosewater does indeed fulfil a role of salesmanship in his weekly column (more so than in the rest of his output), which admittedly is grounds to cast doubts on its honesty. The man gotta create hype, promise the new set is even greater than the previous, and that, oh boy, the next will be even better. Yes, the man has got to sell the product he worked so hard on to create.

Is that wrong, though? To believe in what you did, to make sure that other people will think of it as highly as you do? And yes, to make sure people will invest in the product allowing him and his team to keep working on more of this stuff they love making.

Moreover, for us, as fans and users of the product, it is in our best interests that it sells and sells well. The moment it stops selling well is the moment that it stops existing, and where does that leave us? Some times lack of inspiration, time constraints, misunderstandings, underestimations, overstimations, a combination of these, etc., will result in a product that is less satisfactory than we (and even the creators) expect. It is really impossible not to have blips in quality standards for creative endeavours. So what? Should they come ahead, bow their heads and half-heartedly push their product on our hands saying "um, sorry, it is not that great, but that's all we managed to make this time"? Or maybe just put a sign saying "sorry, this set is still mediocre, we may have to scrap it and begin from the start again, so please stay tuned in a year or so for the new release date"? You know as well as I that would basically guarantee that there wouldn't be a next set after that, ever.

So what do? Sell whatever few good qualities the product has, raise hype and encourage people to purchase the product. Yes, purchasing and finding it lacking will cost them some good will, and even some customers, but most will stay around to see whether the creators can make a comeback with the next release; after all, they are already literally invested. And the developers are not stupid. They know when they dropped the ball; they know when the product is subpar. However, they can learn from their mistakes and having the opportunity to stay in business and try again to do a great product is infinitely better than scoring some brownie "honesty" points in their documentation that will lose them their player base. Better for them and better for us, the fans.

Finally, I want to address the entirely irrelevant praise you give to the timeless value of "arthouse" piece in comparison to the transient, junk-food-like popularity of the "blockbuster". It definitely doesn't apply to Magic, where the goal is to keep the creators alive and able to keep working on it. Do you really want an arthouse set that will satisfy the harshest critics, the seekers of originality, the designers of exquisite taste, at the cost of alienating the more numerous, "popular" playerbase? A set that you'll remind fondly in twenty years even if you have to append the sentence "too bad it was the last Magic set ever"? If you answer yes, then it is clear that you place higher your own artistic sensitivity than the livelihood of a small group of creators and the enjoyment of a huge group of consumers. You are entitled to such entitlement but do not be surprised when it doesn't happen.

Magic design may be an art but Magic the TCG is a business. Good luck expecting from them the impoverished life of the tortured artist that is true to his craft even if only people in generations to come will appreciate it.

Unknown said...

Your complainrs are a littledisjointed. Are you complaining about magic or his view of magic? A person selling their product hardly detracts from content for me the way it seems to for you. Really, going in with "paid Advert" isn't unfair. But letting that detract from your appreciation of the work and the content is misguided. no one makes it onto WotC teams without proving they are passionate for the product and not the sales. Sure you have to worry about it, but the fact remains that the best products sell themselves.

Your opinion would suggest you ignore all the "here's what we did wrong" content and all the general game design advice, focusing only on the promotional content.

I get your point. But it's biase. Towards a portion of his content and not by the overall content or the personality behind it. Just listen to some podcasts and you'll come across a lot of "oops" moments in magic's history.

Meh. Still a great read! Love your content, whether or not I agree :D

syuk said...


Anonymous said...

This is probably your best review so far, espeically considering it's not a review.

The above commenters seem to take too much of an all-or-nothing approach. Did Time Spiral block kill Magic? No? Magic is still here and greater than ever, in fact? Then why would you think another arty block now and then will immediately kill the game forever? It's not obvious to me that the point of this review is "always make arty stuff."

The point is (seems to me to be) clear: Star Wars is good fun and well-made. Make Star Wars (Innistrad) sometimes. Primer* is complex and clever and original, make Primer (Future Sight) sometimes. Roseanne is unambitious, uninteresting dross. Oh, sure, it's nice to watch something where you already know exactly how everything will play out, something unthreatening. There's room for that kind of comfort-art in the world. But is that why we play Magic? We would all claim we play for the thrill of the mind-v-mind combat, but maybe we actually just want something familiar. Maybe Magic is already dead.

* Or, your choice of art-house film here

Unknown said...

All this discussion in the comments here is well and good, but when are we going to get back to Roseanne? :-P

Actually, I do want to talk about that a bit, because you're absolutely right--the episode isn't funny. The few chuckles I got out of it were in the parts I was pretty sure Rosewater *didn't* write, the moments where the actors got to have these moments of crudity or physicality in their characters.

The parts that struck me as really Rosewater-ish, by contrast, seemed to bring out this wooden quality in the actors, and only part of that is about acting skills. It's also about how so many of the lines don't feel real; they feel like a commentary on the nature of the American sitcom.

Ironically, it doesn't seem to be the case that the episode fails because Rosewater is over-invested in tropes; rather, it's his sense of ironic detachment about them. In a way, he's gone *too* art-house for something like Roseanne, where really all we want to do is watch people being slightly outrageous buffoons in relatively harmless ways.

I've criticized Dragons of Tarkir's execution of time-travel tropes as feeling inorganic and cludgy, and to me, that's exactly how the Rosewater-ish parts of Roseanne feel--"Here, look, I'm doing a trope! Isn't it highly amusing how tropes exist in our culture and how I'm aware of their existence? Tee-hee!"

It also ticks me off how much he oversold the "DJ stops speaking" as being a huge part of his contribution to the show when he talked about his audition (try-out? whatever they call it). I actually started watching this episode thinking it would be about DJ not speaking, then said to myself a couple minutes in, "Oh, that must be Mark's *other* credited episode." I was very annoyed that this little one-minute exchange, shoehorned in just before the credits, was enough to make him think he's amazing at coming up with plots, when in fact that didn't end up being the plot of the episode at all.

I have this picture in my head now of them hiring him basically because he was enthusiastic and energetic enough they figured at the very least he'd work hard--which I think he probably did--then dropping him like a hot potato shortly thereafter when they realized he couldn't write well for these actors and these characters.

Now I'm going to go track down the other episode for comparison.

P.S. I'm amazed you managed to put MaRo on tilt over on Blogatog; I didn't think it could be done. I suppose I should feel bad for him, but I kind of just...don't, somehow.

Anonymous said...

An interesting read:

KillGoldfish said...

Oh wow, I didn't think to go back to his "talking about Roseanne" articles and connecting them with the actual episodes. That's good insight.

DukeD12 said...

I have been playing magic since Apoc and I have found Theros and Tarkir to be about as boring in limited as DGM. The fact that people feel that unflinching courage is amazing just sickens me because it is just a strictly worse Armadillo Cloak and MaRo himself tried to defend it by stating how the original version was too powerful.
Many of my friends quit magic in Theros and I quit Magic in BNG. I now only try out prereleases if I find them interesting. MaRo only seems to cater to new players and seems to feel that the veterans are only a small percentage and should simply move with the times. However these players have been faithful and have continued to support wizards. What he doesn't realise is that new players don't enter magic because it's interesting, they enter to play with their friends who are already playing magic. If you continue to exclude the veterans and reduce power level, eventually the number of players leaving will be greater than the number entering.
I feel that wizards doesn't trust it's customers, they don't share their poll data with us and the way they handled YMTC proves that they feel no guilt about fucking over the player base. Due to their own manipulations of the polls and choosing which designs they liked the best we were left with another bin rare.
Gone are the days where you could finish two rounds by an hour and sit outside enjoying the cool breeze while chatting to your opponent. Players don't communicate with each other and or jest. I used to enjoy playing because I would meet new people to have a laugh and we'd all go to the pub to have fun afterwards. Much of that camaraderie is lost now and it saddens me.
Magic was made by Richard Garfield to have fun with his university friends many years ago. Wizards turned it into a business which is fine and understandable. Mark Rosewater came and turned it into a parasite where children don't have enough money to go bowling or take girls on dates cause they spend $50 on a single land so they can keep up with their friends decks. This entire change reminds me of Warhammer 40k and why I left warhammer. The only difference is that rather than new units/cards being stronger they are weaker and less interesting.
The storylines are cheaper and the level of depth shallow. Original Ravnica had many untold stories to tell but instead they make up a maze and bring in Jace to weave this terrible tale. Theros was just the TV tropes of Greek myth from shit films like the remake of Clash of the Titans and the Lightning Thief. No knowledge of Odyesees or original Greek Myth were used in Theros's design. The use of God as a creature type was silly when they used it on female gods. A better type would have been Deity since that is not gender specific. Tarkir ruined legacy history by ignoring the rules of time travel, elder status and the base colour of wedges.
Clearly Mark Rosewater cares not for what Magic once stood for and only to sell packs to the new and unknowing players who are unaware of the grandeur of Magic's past. This is why modern/legacy is more expensive to enter every year. Not because cards are disappearing but because players peak over the wall of limited filler at the past treasures and wish to obtain what treasures magic had once made. With numbers dwindling, the resources to make funner decks become limited and players are left penniless staring at cardboard that is worth more than food that could save a dying village in Africa.

Anonymous said...

I find an interesting contradiction between this piece and your review of Time Spiral. Here you find Rosewater at his most interesting and honest when he is heaping mea culpas on his head, saying that yes, we made a mistake. However, in the Time Spiral review, you take him at his word when he says that suspend is easy to grok, and reject him when he later reveals it was often confusing to players, because this contradicts your experience.

Why then couldn't it be that the Rosewater selling you on the simplicity of suspend was doing just that: selling it to you? If you believe Rosewater's works were dishonest ad copy, then they don't become any less dishonest if you believe it. And if he had a vested interest in selling you on the merits of suspend, then there must have been a tangible reason for him to make him later believe suspend was a bad idea.

TobiasJ said...

Jesus Christ peaceinmadness, lighten up.

Amarsir said...

Not to kill any theories, but sitcom writing credit doesn't work the way the credit would imply. They have a "writers room" where they collaboratively work on all scripts, adding jokes or subplots until the episode is done. And then to for credit (including union requirements) they rotate through the different writers' names to give them credit.

Also I agree they're not particularly funny and I wasn't really into the show at the time either. However a lot of the appeal came from the grittiness and imperfection. The jokes, such as they were, came from more realistic characters and emotions. Not "Legen-wait for it-dary" or "Bazinga!" It was a product of the day and the culture it represents, and whether it holds up 2 decades later isn't as important. The Canterbury Tales doesn't get many people rolling in the aisles these days either.

The Lord of Hats said...

Not that the post is off the mark or anything (it's quite well written), and you do sort of make your point about RTR, but will we get an RTR review that's, y'know, actually about RTR in detail?

KillGoldfish said...

The lack of a review is the review, and there won't be another one.

Unknown said...

Ha, I assumed as much. That's really the most scathing commentary.

When they announced they were going to do multiple blocks in a year finally, I was pretty hyped about it. But there was little bird flapping around in my head going "But! They could just regurgitate things more often. Wouldn't it be the worst if they announced the first content made for the new paradigm was Zendikar 2? Nah, surely this rehash fad has run its course. They'd let three years pass before giving us another repeat, surely."

Then they announced the fall set was Zendikar 2. And it was like, shit. Come on.

Even if everything is completely different and they go someplace wierd, they're not exciting me with this on first impression. They can rehash Ravnica once a decade forever and I won't care because it's fucking Ravnica. At the minimum you'll get some nice cards to add to a themed cube.

But this other stuff. At least toss on a new coat of paint on old ideas.

Maokun said...
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Maokun said...

B. Moser, do you realise that the return to Zendikar, much more than a set rehash comes from the necessity to continue an overarching story that has been on hiatus for 6 years and that fans have been pleading to hear more about? I have seen players dismiss a whole set after seeing the first couple spoilers, but dismissing it just by hearing its setting? New record there, dude.

Also, I find funny that the author only replies to neutral comments or the ones agreeing with him.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Maro called RtR's design too conservative and Dragon's Maze a failure. He even owned that it was "[his] responsibility".


I have numerous other problems with these reviews, especially the most recent set. I hold out hope that they'll return to the interesting analyses of the early sets.

KillGoldfish said...

Not a chance.

amyfus said...

I don't think its entirely faking it. Its sort of like marrying someone, and, decades down the line, you just don't love them as much, or the same. MaRo still loves magic deaign, i think, but there's a lot of times where it feels like he's going through the motions in a lot of regards

Jeffery said...

I love your blog because of the candidness of your experiences. As I've mentioned before, I was introduced to MTG during the end of Innistrad and the beginning of RTR, so there's a bit of nostalgia waxing for me. Despite that, I take what's said in this blog to heart about the purity of design and whatnot. I went on over to ol' MaRo's blog to see what sort of "tilt" he was on, since Killing was mentioned twice(!). He said something that struck me, along the lines of, "I value free speech and welcome criticism, but I ask you to take a good look at me yourself and judge what you see". I respect that. I'd like to see more dialogue, though, and not just taking those things at face value. I'm still trying to "get" this game, and the opinions and sorrows of the developers and players means a lot to that process. That said, I've formed my own opinions, and those so far are: I hate the Theros block, and I think Tarkir is okay, and I enjoy playing the heck out of it. I also want to experience more of the glory days, but that's something I can't afford to do, lest I live them vicariously through the veterans who've experienced them.

DirigibleQuixote said...

>In many ways, my artistic ideology has never grown past that of the kid wanting to play around with everything, opposed to anything and anyone who would stand between me and some 1993 game a dozen other people were still playing.

>this is why i think steve argyle should be fired and blacklisted for drawing sexy women

>this is why i think people's political views should determine whether or not they are allowed to play magic

>this is why i censor comments on my blog

You're a hypocrite.

KillGoldfish said...


Jhonatan Mondragon said...

Yeah he is a cunt. He got steve argyle fired. For drawing sexy ladies? Please, only monster get pervs over drawing, other just see an ode to beauty

KillGoldfish said...

I did?! Holy shit, I had no idea. That's going on my resume

Ruvyn said...
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Ruvyn said...

No. Steve Argyle broke his hand and missed a block of magic as a result. He's got a card in origins.

John Keck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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