Posted tagged ‘Diskussion’

Ein paar Fakten, ein paar Ramblings

May 4, 2010

Tja, Mr. Rosewater hat bereits auf meine zweite Mail nicht mehr geantwortet. (Ich hatte sie sicherheitshalber nach zehn Tagen Abwarten noch einmal abgeschickt, da es ja vorkommen KANN, dass Mails zwischen AOL und GMX verloren gehen.) Ist der Mann einfach zu beschäftigt, um auch nur eine kurze Antwort in der Art von “While I appreciate it that you care so much for this game, I’m afraid my schedule will not allow me to participate in a prolonged discussion. I will still read all mail sent to me, though, so don’t worry that your concerns will go unnoticed. Keep playing!” zu senden? Oder zehrte bereits diese beginnende Diskussion so sehr an seinen Nerven, dass er mich bewusst ignoriert, in der Hoffnung, dass ich sie rasch aufgebe?

Und wie soll ich reagieren? Ist meine ursprüngliche Annahme, dass es eh sinnlos ist, ihm zu mailen, damit bereits bestätigt, oder sollte ich mir weiterhin die Mühe machen, ganz nach dem Motto “steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein”?

Vielleicht habt Ihr ja in den Kommentaren etwas Kluges dazu zu sagen.

Wie auch immer, es ist mal wieder an der Zeit, ein paar mehr oder weniger technische Dinge in eigener Sache abzuarbeiten:

Einmal steht immer noch ein Arbeitsnachweis von mir aus, nämlich für meinen Artikel “Spaß”, aus dessen Diskussionsumfeld übrigens auch die Idee stammte, MaRo zu mailen.

Dann will ich Euch darauf hinweisen, dass zu meiner schon vorher bereits äußerst umfangreichen Sammlung von Tauschkarten in den letzten Tagen mehrere hundert Rares (sowohl neue als auch alte) hinzugekommen sind! Falls Ihr in Berlin oder Umgebung beheimatet seid und Übereinstimmungen Eurer Wantz und Needz mit meinen (natürlich über Kreuz) feststellt, dann könnte man sich doch vielleicht einmal zum guten alten Tauschen treffen (ganz ohne den Umweg über die Deutsche Post). Natürlich sind prinzipiell auch postalische Tauschs oder auch ein Verkauf von meiner Seite denkbar, aber wie Ihr vermutlich wisst, bin ich kein allzu großer Fan davon und forciere solche Geschichten daher von mir aus eher nicht.

Da sie mir gerade durch den Kopf gehen, will ich zwei recht bemerkenswerte Zitate mit Euch teilen, auf die ich in den letzten Wochen gestoßen bin:

“du bist der letzte von dem ich irgendetwas wie Kritik entgegennehme”, so sprach Holzi. Das ist eine sehr vernünftige Einstellung! Insbesondere, wenn man gerade einen dermaßen unsäglichen Artikel verfasst hat, dass eine niveaubewusste Redaktion den Autor eigentlich persönlich hätte vorladen müssen, um Gelegenheit zu haben, ihn mit dem kräftigen Arschtritt, den er sich mit seiner praktischen Arbeitsverweigerung verdient hat, wieder vor die Tür zu setzen. Da ist man ganz offensichtlich an ehrlicher Kritik nicht interessiert, denn man weiß ja eh vorher bereits, wie sie ausfällt. Ein Versand, der absichtlich leere Verpackungen verschickt, hat gewiss keinerlei Interesse daran, einen Reklamationsschalter einzurichten.

Und dann war da noch: “dass der Pischner keine Ahnung von Magic hat ist doch auch nix Neues”, von irgendjemandem namens “monkeymafia”. Welch ein brillianter Selbstdiss! Wie wenig Ahnung muss man selbst von Magic haben, um auf diese Idee zu kommen?

So langsam beginne ich mich ja zumindest ein ganz klein wenig daran zu gewöhnen, die Magic-Szene mehr und mehr von außen zu betrachten. Von den bislang für die DM qualifizierten Spielern sagt mir nur ein Bruchteil etwas, darunter sind jedoch solche Lichtgestalten wie DJ Lukas, Duodax und Spam. MartenJ fehlt wohl noch.

Ach ja: So lange mein erster ROE-Draft letzte Woche noch nicht ausgewertet ist, befinde ich mich in der erstaunlichen Position bei etwaigen Diskussionen über Magic mit Kai Budde RECHT ZU HABEN! (Weil, wie wir ja alle wissen, Recht hat immer der mit dem höheren Rating.) So ganz sterben alte Gewohnheiten eben doch nicht: Obwohl ich auf keinen Fall zur DM fahren werde, ertappe ich mich doch gelegentlich immer wieder dabei, dass ich auf mein Rating schaue und mir so etwas sage wie “noch zwei gute Drafts, und Du bist für die DM qualifiziert…” Es hängt vermutlich mit den Eigenheiten des Total Rating zusammen, aber in meiner ganzen aktiven Zeit war ich genau ein einziges Mal via Rating bei einer DM. Jetzt, wo ich mich endgültig dazu entschieden habe, diesen Level des Spiels aufzugeben, befinde ich mich konstant zumindest in Schlagweite, gelegentlich sogar deutlich über der Qualifikationsgrenze. Okay – eine andere mögliche Erklärung dafür ist natürlich, dass ich nur noch Limited spiele und mein Total Ranking sich daher meinem Limited Ranking annähert, welches eigentlich schon immer deutlich besser war als mein Constructed Ranking (ich schreibe hier “Ranking”, nicht “Rating”, da die Ratings selbst mit dem Total Rating nicht vergleichbar sind).

So richtig überzeugt mich dieses Total Rating allerdings nicht. Das gute alte Composite war dann doch erheblich aussagekräftiger gewesen, nicht nur, weil es weniger schwankungsanfällig war. Das Total hingegen kann man, wenn es um die Einschätzung der Spielstärke eines Spielers geht, mehr oder weniger in die Tonne treten. Irgendwie ist es inkonsequent, dass es einmal im Jahr beim Rating Cut für die Nationals relevant wird, wenn ansonsten Pro-Tour-Punkte zu 95% für alle Standing-basierenden Qualifikationen verantwortlich sind.

Andererseits ist diese Vernachlässigung eines aussagekräftigen Ratings seitens der DCI auch wieder konsequent. Magic als mentaler Sport – das war einmal. Wer außer mir erinnert sich eigentlich noch daran, dass dieses Verständnis unseres Lieblingsspiels einmal eine zentrale Marketingstrategie gewesen war?

Damals, da infiltrierten professionelle Bridge-Spieler einst die frühe Pro Tour. Heute sind die “professionellen” Magic-Spieler praktisch alle zum Pokern abgewandert.

Ist es eigentlich möglich, dass Typen, die bei Magic nichts Nennenswertes auf die Reihe bekommen, beim Texas hold’em so große Nummern sind, wie sie es mit ihrer großem Klappe teilweise anklingen lassen? Irgendwie glaube ich nicht daran. Gibt es da eigentlich nicht auch Ranglisten? Gefunden habe ich nur dies hier, aber das kann doch irgendwie nicht alles sein… Unnötig zu erwähnen, dass da kein von Magic her bekannter Name auftaucht. Wo verstecken die sich alle? Wer weiß es?

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Dear Mr. Rosewater (2)

April 10, 2010

Mark,

thank you very much for answering my mail!

You won’t be surprised, though, that I do not consider my issues answered yet. Of course, in one short mail I could neither convey the scope nor the depth of my concerns. Not to waste too much of your valuable time, let me get right into the thick of things:

You write: “My articles (“Fun Off, Parts I & II”) talking about fun was a face off of cards that different PLAYERS thought was the “most fun card in all of Magic”.  The discussion was not about what makes the game fun in general but about what PLAYERS embrace as their favorite.  Grizzly Bears is a huge part of what makes the game fun, but  I highly doubt it is the “funnest card in the game” for many PLAYERS.” (Capitalizations by me, of course – I’m not comfortable with other ways of highlighting text in mails, since they tend to get lost between different mail programs.)

A centerpiece of my issues with those articles is just that: When the head of Magic design writes such an article, I expect to read about what HE feels, what he KNOWS about what makes this game fun, not just to summarize the players’ view, and it is by no means a stretch to assume that mostly unreflected repetition equals endorsement. Grizzly Bears aren’t the most fun card in the game*, but they are more fun than cards which are actively unfun (e.g. they make other players refuse to play them, or make games end out of nowhere), and they are more fun than cards which sometimes create special moments, but more often create boredom and frustration (e.g. by sitting in one’s hand uncastable or having no visible effect on the game). You touched on those issues ever so lighty, but you missed an opportunity to clear up misconeceptions of the general public. It’s true that you write about the importance of nuts and bolts cards sometimes, but you haven’t stated clearly yet that they are of fundamental importance to the game because they are the cards which keep this game FUN. They are responsible for Magic’s underlying structure of options, choices and interactions, and thus creating the very fun of playing this game, which flashier cards only expand upon or even leech off. These articles of yours gave you the perfect opportunity to explain that, but you refused to take it.

This is perhaps my biggest issue with Magic nowadays: You – (when I write “you”, I might mean you, Mark; or R&D as a whole; or the company WotC; depending on the context – you’ll have no trouble sorting that out, I’m sure) seem to have given up on educating your customers in favor of catering to their whims. I won’t have to explain to you that what people want, what they like, and what they actually need, are different things.

People are notorious for valuing the wrong things. Instead of finding a number of moderately interesting examples from other areas of life, I will apply this insight directly to Magic: The first thing most beginning players wish for is a creature that will flatout win them the game when played. It’s just natural. They want it to be bigger than everything their opponent can muster, and they want it to not be stopped. They might even get excited about getting their hands on a spell with the unbelievable text “opponent loses next turn”. In short, they care so much for winning that they don’t realize that they want to win in a way which would effectively mean to stop playing. They do not appreciate that winning a game is only fun when playing that game is. (Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a game, but this bothersome thing people call “real life”.) Also, they do not realize that their fun of winning with an unstoppable card comes at the expense of their opponent most certainly NOT having fun.

Then, when people leave the beginners’ stage of their magic career, they still cling to their idea that this game would be more fun if winning was easier for them. Note that this is probably true for any single individual: Practically everyone will have a little more fun in a game in which he wins a little more often! Obviously, though, this does not work out if EVERYONE wants to have a little more fun that way (and it also gets problematic when an individual starts to win so consistently that he comes to expect it, but that’s a different issue). To understand that a game might actually be more fun when winning is HARDER for them takes an insight most players are unwilling to gain.

Magic is both a game of skill and luck, and it’s commonplace that skilled players tend to wish it were less luck-based, while less skilled players tend to be happier when the luck factor increases. That debate about the ideal balance between skill and luck, while it ties in with my topic today, I’ll leave aside for now, but I want to note that this balance cannot leave a certain margin which is inherent to the nature of the game – or, put the other way: If you change that balance too drastically, you change the very nature of the game, and you are in dire danger of taking away a fundamental part of what makes this game FUN.

I think we actually agree about an integral part of what makes Magic fun. Your quote: “Anything that makes the game less interactive (be it alt win cards or anything else) is bad.” There, we have it: Interaction is essential!

However, the sad truth is that most players wish to take interaction AWAY from their games. They do not want their opponents to interfere with their plans; to attack their resources, to counter their spells, to remove their permanents. They’re still in the mindset of wanting to win easily, by playing invincible creatures, or by executing ingenious combos – in short, by IGNORING their opponents. They do not want to INTERACT with their opponents’ strategy, they want to TRUMP it.

And this, in a nutshell, is the path which Magic seems to have taken during the last few years: Away from the concept of interaction, towards the concept of trumping your opponents’ cards with stronger cards. This is why it has become a worse game, even though many players seem to enjoy it more.

I’ll end this mail with a few more thoughts on that stew analogy of mine: No, you cannot avoid all ingredients which upset somone, or there will only water be left in the stew (if at all). However, if you put in something you know many will hate, you need a better reason than “others like it, though”. Are there no other possible ingredients which will not provoke as strong a negative reaction, but serve a similar purpose? Is that ingredient possibly essential to the stew?

Some kinds of food are essential to people’s health, and this is true for cards in a complex game like Magic as well. Even if many people don’t like them, they should be included and defended on those grounds. Others are widely liked but are, in fact, detrimental to people’s / a game’s health if used too often. They might get applauded when the stew is served, but lead to sickness after a while. They should not be overused, even if the majority of people calls for them.

Sincerely,
Andreas

* If I had to nominate a card for being “the most fun”, I’d chose something like Impulse – a card which is very seldom useless, almost always gives you interesting options/choices, and almost never frustrates your opponents when you play it.

Dear Mr. Rosewater (1) – Answer

April 7, 2010

Andreas,

As you took the time to write such a well thought out letter, it only seems fair to send you a reply.

For starters, let me address the biggest misconception of your letter.  My articles (“Fun Off, Parts I & II”) talking about fun was a face off of cards that different players thought was the “most fun card in all of Magic”.  The discussion was not about what makes the game fun in general but about what players embrace as their favorite.  Grizzly Bears is a huge part of what makes the game fun, but  I highly doubt it is the “funnest card in the game” for many players. You are correct that the nuts and bolts of the game are the thing that makes Magic what it is.  I have talked about this plenty, it just wasn’t exactly the topic of the article in question.

About alternate win conditions.  Yes, I like them.  In fact, our market research shows that many players like them.  That is why we keep making them.  Now, you are correct that there are right and wrong ways to make alt win cards.  Anything that makes the game less interactive (be it alt win cards or anything else) is bad.  Alt win conditions don’t necessarily have to be non-interactive.  This is something we have room to improve upon and your criticism is something for R&D to take to heart.

The problem with your stew analogy is this.  If we eliminated all the things that really upset some subset of the players, we’d have no cards. Magic is many things to many players and in order to give each of them enough of what they want so the game is what they’d like it to be, we have to include many different types of cards.  This means that we have to try and include something for everyone knowing that lots of cards will be disliked by someone.

I hope that answers your issues for this letter.  Thanks for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

Mark Rosewater

In den nächsten Tagen werde ich meine Antwortmail formulieren.

Dear Mr. Rosewater (1)

April 2, 2010

Dear Mr. Rosewater,

allow me to introduce myself: My name is Andreas Pischner, and I’m from Germany. I have continuously been playing Magic since the end of 1994. I was a level-3 judge in the early days of the DCI and played on the Pro Tour a couple of times. I also worked for approximately eight years in a hobby shop, selling Magic. During the last decade I have written some three-digit-number of Magic articles for German sites. I have a reputation for voicing critical opinions very clearly and for writing about a lot of different aspects of the game.

Over the last few years I have become increasingly dissatisfied with this game, which I love, and in which I have invested large amounts of money and even larger amounts of my lifetime. Recently someone asked me why I didn’t write about my concerns to you, since you have a (probably deserved) reputation of actually reading all the mails you get, as well as a (certainly not deserved) reputation for being responsible for all things Magic. I was tempted to answer that I didn’t see the point, but after some reflection came to the conclusion that I could at least give it a shot.

Please note that I am reasonably familiar with your points of view, having read every article of yours ever published on Wizards’ sites, as well as every article written about development. Also note, that I am well aware you are neither responsible for everything I deem is going wrong with this game, nor necessarily agree with company policy all the time. However, I will write to you, since you are no doubt the public face of Magic, which should include being its ears and its voice.

Let me get out of the way that I am, by and large, a fan of your writing. Your articles tend to be the most entertaining and insightful pieces on the subject of Magic on the web, and I find myself agreeing with you a lot more often than many other people. However, I will concentrate on the points where I disagree (a growing number, lately). For brevity’s sake I will single out a specific topic which I happen to have on my mind as I’m writing to you, but I intend to mail you on a more or less regular basis from now on.

I consider these mails to be open letters, meaning that I will publicize them on my blog (https://magicthegatheringblog.wordpress.com – in case you’re interested). If I get dignified with an answer of yours, I will publicize that, too.

The starting point of my train of thought today is the preview card for Rise of the Eldrazi, Near-Death Experience, which immediately leads me to the slightly broader topic of alternate win conditions. I know you love these. I hate them. This is why: They make players play different games, when they should be playing the same game. (That’s largely the same beef I have with combo decks, which have a lot in common with alternate win conditions.)

There is a difference between using different strategies to win a game and having different goals. The former leads to variety. The latter tends to reduce interaction. Play often either degenerates into a simple race or is decided by a player having exactly the right answer for his opponent’s winning plan at the right time or not.

I guess your affection for alternate win conditions ties in with your ideas of what makes this game fun. I criticized your recent articles on that topic heaviliy, with my major point being that you confuse creating memorable moments with creating fun. Alternate win conditions create such memorable moments, but they also create boredom and frustration, and the fun you have with them is not growing out of the fun you get from playing the game, but replacing it. Cards which allow you to catch up when you’re behind are great. Cards which make former game actions irrelevant are not. Alternate win conditions tend to fall in the latter category.

After reading your articles about fun I got the impression that you severely underestimate the fun of just playing the game, of attacking and blocking, of using tricks, playing removal, discard and counters, of simply INTERACTING with your opponent. Flashy cards certainly can enhance the experience of playing Magic (and, of course, have their use in advertising and marketing the game), but they should not replace it. Magic is a much better game than R&D seems to think lately, and it doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks like five-color-spells, superfatties or alternate win conditions nearly as much as it does nowadays.

One last thought: A typical line of defense of yours is “If you don’t like the card, it wasn’t made for you”. I consider this a rather weak alibi. For one thing, I’m supposed to spend money on cards which were not made for me? If I open a booster pack and the rare is one which neither I nor the majority of players want (resulting in a lack of trade value), I have a right to complain. But more importantly, Magic is not a buffet – it’s a stew. If there is an ingredient in the mix which I despise, I cannot avoid it, unless I refuse to eat it at all (meaning that I stop playing against people who might use that card). While it is obviously impossible (and not even a sensible approach) only to print cards which everyone likes, defending cards on the grounds of “you may not like them, but others do” does not work. The DCI does bannings because they know that a single ill-conceived card can ruin a whole environment. That is even more true in casual play*.

In summary, lately Magic seems to be designed more and more for people who do not understand why playing with Grizzly Bears is fun (because playing Magic is fun!), and I was extremely disappointed to get the impression that you numbered among them.

Yours sincerely,

Andreas “Zeromant” Pischner

* Note that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a casual player who refuses to play you because your deck contains Grizzly Bears, but many will – and with good reason! – if it contains Cheatyface or Shahrazad. Now, how much fun is that?