Greetings Magic Online players.
It's been a busy couple of months since my last update, so I wanted stop by and let you know where we are with the Magic Online Wide Beta, and what is coming down the road. Let's jump right in.
Who's the New Guy?
If you missed the memo, Mike Turian (@mturian on Twitter) joined the team recently as the digital product manager, and he and his team have taken over managing organized play, communication, new product releases, and everything else associated with the daily operations of Magic Online.
Mike's addition allows me to focus on new features and future development projects for Magic Online. We have a bunch of exciting things lined up, including the Wide Beta and leagues, but we released a smaller feature just a few weeks ago...
On September 11, we improved the new account creation system on our website and made it easier for new players to learn about and join Magic Online. This includes an updated introduction page, a revamped account creation process, and an updated Learn to Play page that features video tutorials for the Wide Beta. These videos provide a quick walkthrough of major Magic Online features, and will help new players get started. There are a few videos up right now with more on the way.
Another recent addition is a Wide Beta help page in our knowledgebase, which includes information for various Magic Online features. Just use the categories on the left of the section you need help with and follow the step-by-step instructions.
We're also working on updating Magic Online's in-game help, so players can find the information they need without loading up a web browser. Right now, the Help section is pretty sparse and we want to provide more information and an up-to-date FAQ right in the client, though these changes will need to wait on our upcoming stability updates.
What Upcoming Stability Updates?
When last we spoke, I told you that Wide Beta stability and performance was our primary focus. Well, that statement is still very true. While we really want to tackle some of the outstanding feature work, we know that delivering a stable and responsive program is critical to Magic Online's success.
This summer we asked an external team of platform experts to review the state of the Wide Beta program and provide a recommended plan of action to address our stability and performance issues. After they presented their findings, we brought that team in to help us rebuild the foundation of the Wide Beta.
Recently, they showed off a collection scene that smoothly scrolled through cards nearly four times faster than the current Wide Beta version. We're confident that we'll see this kind of improvement in other areas as well, drastically improving the experience for most players, especially for those using computers below our recommended specs.
While our external team is working on updating the underlying structure of the program, however, we can't do any feature updates that may interrupt their work.
What, No New Feature Updates?
Even though we aren't deploying features, we're definitely staying busy working on the new version of Magic Online.
Design and business is spending this time reviewing player feedback, addressing outstanding design issues, and prioritizing our backlog of bugs to lock down a solid release plan after the stability work is completed. We've added some new digital designers in the last few months, and we're ensuring they're viewing and updating design direction for interface and game play elements.
High on our list of priorities is collection management, particularly around how it relates to trading and deck building. We also know that players want a better way to browse their cards and are exploring ways to improve that process and make it more intuitive.
We have spent a lot of time reviewing game play elements and want to improve the battlefield and Duel Scene for regular everyday players as well as for those who stream and create video content. This includes improving how card associations are shown on the battlefield, adjusting the graveyard and other game zones, and even hiring a sound designer to create new game sounds.
We're also looking at improving our general experience for new players. We'll be streamlining the process and guiding players into an updated practice mode and one-on-one matches with other players just starting out before letting them loose in the full game.
On the development side, we've reassigned some of our internal resources to other in-flight projects. These projects are crucial to the overall success of Magic Online, and include Leagues, updated player and event management tools, and other infrastructure projects that will help us support game experiences for both new players and seasoned veterans.
Leagues, You Say?
Indeed, leagues are well on their way. Our dev team is hard at work updating the basic Magic Online infrastructure to support leagues, and we have some very cool things planned. While we're not quite ready to share the full details yet, we hope that you'll be playing in Core Set and Theros Block leagues all summer long next year.
But When is the Current Version Going Away?
Unlike the last time we released a new version of Magic Online, we've been able to take our time because the current version is stable and supports our players basic needs, even if it isn't the prettiest or easiest to use. That philosophy is not changing, and we won't be rushing to turn off the current version.
That said, as new features are being designed and developed, they are being done with only one version of Magic Online in mind. You've seen that with some of the smaller features we've released, and that will continue with major features as well.
As for timelines, the official changeover to the new client will not happen this year. We need to integrate the stability work from our partners, and make sure we have time to address any major issues from that integration. This process will start later this year and stretch into the beginning of next year.
We're also planning another Wide Beta Spotlight before we make the final switch-over. This was a great way to get feedback from players while making sure the system works as a whole, and we'll probably have something cool going on to help get players to try the new version if they haven't yet.
Is that Everything?
We're very excited about the future of Magic Online, even if it is coming along more slowly than we all would like. There is a lot of work left to, but we're definitely on the right path. With help from our development partners, as well as the continued feedback from you, either on the feedback form, using our updated forums, or on Twitter (@magiconline) we'll continue moving forward to a better MTGO.
Thanks for your support and have fun!
Chris Kiritz has been part of the Magic Online team since 2008 and the business manager since 2010. A long-time gamer, he's played Magic since 1994 and loves turning creatures sideways.