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By: Cweaver, Christopher S. Weaver
Mar 17 2014 11:00am
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I started this article last weekend(March 8th) during the MOCS crash. At that time, I was doing extremely well in a Premier Event, guaranteed top 8 for sure. MTGO froze for about an hour before the event crashed. Before the resumption of the event, ORCs were assuring people they could drop from events. As such, many people dropped from the Premier Event. I didn't, and ended up with a Top 4 spot and a few boosters. But what about those people that did drop? What about the people who were 4-1 and in contention for Top 8, but MTGO crashed for them and they were timed out of the event? They got their entry back, sure, but entry is paltry when you're doing an event of that stature. I intend to break this down into 3 major issues with MTGO at the moment:

1) Stability

2) Communication

3) Event Offerings, Compensation, Bugs

Stability

Back in December, we were promised better stability. As a result, Daily Event had to be reduced in size. PTQs and MOCS events were put on hold. Restructuring all of these events resulted in the loss of Pauper and Momir Daily Events, and a non-rotating schedule(which is both good and bad) of Daily Events. 

The result? Well, not much changed. On March 8th, 2014, the MOCS crashed catastrophically: Read about it here

Events were eventually restored, with Game replays disabled to facilitate the return of events. You can read about that here

Communication

This is a personal beef of mine. Within the past few months, we have endured a myriad of problems with MTGO. We never knew when events were coming back in December. We never knew if we would ever get Daily Events back. It was implied that events would return as they were before the famous Kibler MOCS crash, and we got a complete restructuring of the Daily Event schedule with some events removed(talked about below, in the next section). The task was simple: get things back to the way they used to be. The action: for better or worse, we arrived where we are today with events.

The result? We provided feedback as much as possible, eventually got the less popular Premier Events to require lower minimum entry, and things were fine. We tooled along just fine with the prospect of PTQs returning to those of us who play exclusively MTGO, and a MOCS event even finished with Cjlack92 taking down the MOCS that completed successfully! I think there was a Preliminary crash in that time frame, I believe though.

While we always knew PTQs and MOCS would return to MTGO, we weren't sure when or under what circumstances. Turns out, PTQs would be returning in a way different structure than we were used to. We would have preliminary events for a qualification to the PTQ(think Satellite Tournaments in Poker, except this is more like Satellites to Satellites). Alas, it was not meant to be and Worth Wollpert announced that we were still having stability issues.

This normally would be classified under the Stability above, but I highlight it under Communication because the MTGO team realized after 3 months that we still have stability issues and haven't conveyed any issues prior to this. They had to have known the system still wasn't up to par, and in my mind I view this as poor communication.

Overall, I just want the team to tell me what's going on. I invest a lot of time and energy as a consumer to their product, and I don't have a lick of an idea of what's going on behind the scenes or why certain decisions are made. I don't want shareholder prices, but I want more communication than "we are investigating the issue right now"

Event Offerings, Compensation, Bugs

I loop these 3 major issues into one topic because they are problems with the program itself rather than management or infrastructure.

Event Offerings

Many people, myself included, were more than a little upset about Pauper and Momir Daily Events going away. Even more people were upset about the reduced prize payout of Theros release events. Going back to the era before I played MTGO, even more people were upset about having to start paying for "guildmarks" to pay in prerelease or release events, rather than being able to use tickets.

I understand from a business perspective why many of these changes were made, and I resigned myself to acceptance that if I wanted to play my favorite format in a way that wouldn't bust the bank, I would have to do so for a 6+ hour block on the weekends. I make the sacrifice just about every weekend of waking up at 6:30 am on my sleep in days to play in Pauper Premier Events, because I love playing Pauper. I told myself that I made the trade-off of a bigger time commitment for me for increased stability of the system.

That argument could be made for the "guildmarks" too. Want stability during the high server-stress times of prerelease and release events? Pay for it. I'm okay with that, if I get to play with the new set.

I won't go too in depth here about Release Events being worse than before because I'm not that vested in Release Events and new sets. If you want the full breakdown, tune in to Michael Jacob's stream or follow him on Twitter.

We also were rewarded for our commitment to MTGO with capped Daily Events at 128 people. Several times over the past week, I have been unable to enter Wizards flagship format because the event was full. We were told this would increase stability of the program. So why are we still crashing? Why did our event offerings get reduced? Why are we paying more for a program that was just as bad as it was in December? Why are we able to play in less events? None of this makes any sense to me as a consumer.

Compensation

Through all of the event crashes, one thing has reigned true: no one likes the compensation policy. When I say no one, I really mean people who were guaranteed prizes beyond entry to the event. Think about this: A person who is 4-0 when a Daily Event crashes gets entry refunded. That person was actually guaranteed 11 packs, but because the event crashed they now get 6 tickets. With boosters selling at ~3 tickets per pack right now, that person stood to make 33 tickets vice 6. That's a pretty substantial difference. Nevermind if packs are sitting around 3.3 - 3.7 tickets...

Furthermore, people aren't compensated for the time they spent. If I have a bad experience at a restaurant, normally I would be compensated the meal along with a discount or coupon, or some way of encouraging me to come back. This is not only good for the restaurant's business, they are also compensating me for the time I spent with them. They want me to spend more time with them, so they encourage me to come back even though it costs them profit to do so. They are thinking long term and understand that I'm upset with them. I'm upset with MTGO every time it crashes, and it often costs me not only a money investment, but a time investment as well. Not compensating me when I'm guaranteed prize payout beyond entry is actually a slap in the face. Not only am I not getting compensated for my time, I'm punished. In my mind, that 4-0 guaranteed payout was worth 33 tickets, and I only get 6 because YOUR program messed up. Your program messing up should not cost me $26.

I'm not the only one who believes this, just check out this tweet from Sam Black:

We have several big name responding to that comment. This isn't a new issue, people have just given up complaining about it for the most part. Until it happens to you, you don't particularly care. I was pretty livid on the 8th though when I was guaranteed top 8 and I'd only be compensated 10 tickets.

Bugs

The problem with bugs and bug fixing is that one fix seems to beget another 10 bugs with the system. Some folks on Twitter tell me there are Commander bugs that are ignored and have been ignored for a long time. Pauper specific cards had this problem as well for a long time. Staple cards such as Oubliette and Kaervek's Torch and Cuombajj Witches were bugged for years before they were finally fixed under the new Kibler regime. Now some people on Twitter have told me that Commander has the same issue. I can't speculate on that since I don't play Commander, but I can empathize for sure based on my experience with Pauper. 

Issues arise pretty commonly with new "builds" of MTGO that happen during extended downtime every month, and some of these issues greatly sway the results of MOCS tournaments. Most famously, Pillar of Flame just straight up did not exile in a Geralf's Messenger Standard during the MOCS. As a result, Zombies won that tournament. Strictly due to the bug. Another incidence of this happened in December. I remember because I was standing in line with my kids to see Santa at the mall, browsing Twitter when I learned that Jace, Architect of Thought effectively didn't have an ultimate. The format is Standard, and one of the top 3 decks features a bugged Planeswalker. HOW IS THIS ACCEPTABLE AT ALL?!

How did the guy who lost to Zombies because his Pillar of Flame didn't work feel? How about the people who have been grinding and learning the ins and outs of UWx control when they've had no issues prior to the new "build" of MTGO? Now these people have earned entry into this high stakes event by putting their money on the line, only to have their cards not work. These people are compensated nothing because they were given a prior warning. 

To top things off, if you lose to a bug in a win-and-in situation, you may still file for compensation, but only the entry will be reimbursed. For example, if you are 2-1 in a Daily Event and lose solely due to a bug, you will only be compensated 6 tickets, not the 6 packs you should have earned if not for the bug. Once again, this feels like a slap in the face. 

Bugs are a massively frustrating experience. We understand that bugs happen. It's computer software, and computers have bugs. However, they need to be handled better. It is 100% unacceptable in my mind to run a MOCS or PTQ with such a major bug. It is 100% unacceptable in my mind that popular formats have staple cards that are or have been bugged for months or years. We pay for this program, more now than ever before, with less offerings, so show us where our money is going.

MTGO Episode IV: A New Hope

Bugs have been fixed expeditiously recently. The line of communication seems to be opening a little, although we have a long way to go. Compensation could definitely use a policy change.

Stability remains the number one problem with MTGO. Without stability MTGO is unsustainable. We have endured a game growing too popular for MTGO to support the sheer numbers of new players. When these new players experience some of the tomfoolery of MTGO, they'll be lost as electronic consumers.

With all of the issues though, I remain optimistic about the future(after all, I did label this section A New Hope). The team tried to push the envelope to satisfy us with PTQs returning(albeit then removed) and a MOCS completing successfully. We all clearly want MTGO to be the best it can be, but we need to provide them with feedback. We need to give them more than "you guys suck" and "OMG FIX MTGO YOU GUYS SUCK". We all run our mouths a bit on Twitter and get frustrated with how we're compensated and such, but the best course of action is to provide them with constructive feedback as a consumer of their product. Without constructive feedback, they don't know what we actually want. I wrote this article for two reasons: 1) I wanted to spark some discussion amongst other MTGO consumers and 2) to give my feedback to Wizards in a format I enjoy.

Let me know what you think, and let's make our voices heard.

22 Comments

I don't believe nothing will by Alphi at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 12:07
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I don't believe nothing will ever happen because customers will never be able to vote with their wallet when it comes to MODO. However crap the software is, it is the only portal to access the great game of Magic for anyone who does not care for or cannot have cardboard. Better software is ubiquitous, better card games are non-existent. If you will pardon my French, they got us by the balls, and have for the past 10 years.

I agree with Alphi a little bit by Avatar at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 13:38
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MTGO, and MTG for that matter have had "us" since the beginning. This is an excellent game without comparison...And "they" know it. They know we'll keep on coming back. I've walked away about five different times, and sold out four times...and yet, still I am here like so many others. One thing for sure, MTGO needs to change many things...the first is to go back to simple formats like back in the day when there was only Type I, and Type II. This game is trying to do too much...which is causing numerous catastrophic failures, like the one this morning...and so on over the last few months. Because of the instability, I don't tourny as much as I used to. I also got burned when the client crashed, and now I am weary. Once bitten twice shy.

I think going back to four simple formats will solve many problems:

1. Vintage type I
2. Standard Type II
3. Commander
4. Block

Leave out pauper, modern, legacy, and all those stupid ready made deck formats...uhg....

OR better yet...Have two clients and two servers. One for the kiddie gaming, and one for the serious MTG player who relies on top quality hosting from reliable servers not cluttered with over exploited over commercialized game content.

Avatar and UltimateUltimatum on MTGO.

I don't understand why you by MarcosPMA at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 14:20
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I don't understand why you have a problem with them taking down PTQs. I don't think they need to tell us that they're having stability issues because it's obvious that they are still having them. What good would it do for them to say on a weekly basis "Hey guys, the client is still having issues and not as stable as we want it to be" What would we do with that information? Nothing really.

This is what I feel happened: WOTC thought they were coming along fine with stability and decided to tell us in February that PTQs would be coming back (probably a little sooner than they originally planned). Then a week prior to them starting they realized that they weren't where they needed to be and decided to take them down before wasting anybody's time. I see no problem with them preventing a bad user experience that they would already know about.

Nothing will change by howlett23 at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 15:02
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with simple complaining, it will take a lack of players or all the players refusing to spend a dime for a month or more to make any real changes. That in itself is so unlikely because most players are casual, not competitive so they don't care if PTQs are up, or what the compensation for tournies are, since they just get on to build a deck to play against someone at the drop of a hat and to have access to each card, if they so choose.

You should not get by Lagrange at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 16:36
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You should not get compensated for the "time" and "money" invested into playing. You should get compensated for the entertainment value lost. Don't see MTGO as an investment.

The few people making a living on MTG and MTGO are still playing despite the crashes. Did LSV quit? Even Kibler is still playing. If anyone has anything "invested" into the game it is those guys and they are still playing. Committing 6 hours in a weekend is not an "investment" it is you enjoying the game for entertainment. Will you go to bed hungry because the crash made you loose your "investment"? No.

Can WotC compensate the lost entertain value better than now? Maybe. We only hear the ones who where guaranteed a prize cry over the compensation policy. What about all the players who were out the money at the time of the crash? They got the entry fee back as well. I'll bet they are satisfied with the compensation policy (in a limited event they even get to keep the cards, so they come out ahead from a crash).

What should WotC do? Should they pay you the minimum guaranteed prize? Should they pay you the highest possible prize given your standing? WotC would probably be happy to pay the minimum guaranteed prize, since the total payout would then be smaller than what they promised to pay out at the inception of the tournament. Players out of the money would be worse off because they would get nothing. But you would probably not even be content with the highest possible prize given your standing because you also lost the satisfaction of winning, getting the prize is only half the fun, but you then lost out of the other half.

I tend to agree with this by Paul Leicht at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 18:04
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I tend to agree with this point of view because it is a no-win situation for the company. However I will say they do not seem to be learning from their mistakes. It is tempting to think if they were forced by their policy to pay out more for their crashes they would be more incentivized to find a good solution instead of patching the bad one. I realize that temptation is flawed since the ultimate fix would be to take it away altogether and thus avoid having to pay a dime. However this is their money maker and if it ultimately doesn't work properly they are losing profits and potential earnings down the line.

I agree that they are not by Lagrange at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 18:26
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I agree that they are not learning from their mistakes. At least in the sense that they have not made a change to the compensation policy.

But on the other hand that is not the same thing as not learning from their mistakes. The mistake is that the program keeps crashing. The lesson should be that they should stop the program from crashing. I will bet anything that it is the number 1 wish of any WotC employee. They even say so in the latest wide beta update article.

Or is the lesson they should learn that people are unhappy when the client crashes? What exactly should the lesson learned be?

Making WotC pay out more in the event of a crash because it would increase the incentive for them to fix the problems, is implying that they have low incentive to fix the problems right now. But that is a naïve statement. They loose money when they reimburse entry fee. They have plenty of incentive already not to let the program crash. Why would they do a self-imposed extra monetary penalty? The potential upside from fixing the problems should be all the incentive that they need.

Well from the data to date it by Paul Leicht at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 19:15
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Well from the data to date it seems the lesson should be: "Hey we suck at this software thing. Lets find someone who does not." I mean it is a little like rocket science but there are plenty of people who are good at it.

I cant argue against the data by Lagrange at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 06:31
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I cant argue against the data :-) You are spot on.

Everyone seems to forget by xger at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 11:26
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Everyone seems to forget (I've seen similar sentiment several times and have responded) that Wizards *is currently* **paying** ***outside*** people to work on the program. They *very* clearly have learned from their mistakes to at least some extent.

We've heard this several by Paul Leicht at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 19:04
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We've heard this several times in the past and each time it has proven to be less than accurate. It isn't that I don't believe them but that I still fear they will tinker with the result for their own ends despite being inexpert at doing so.

I don't remember them ever by xger at Wed, 03/19/2014 - 10:53
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I don't remember them ever explicitly stating that they hired outside experts to help, then saying that experts improved the code, then saying they are still using those experts help.

We have no idea who they are by Alphi at Thu, 03/20/2014 - 00:37
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We have no idea who they are paying how much to do exactly what. I am not saying we are entitled to such information, but I will certainly maintain a healthy dose of skepticism until I see results.

That's not how I view how I by Cweaver at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 02:26
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That's not how I view how I should be compensated, personally. I do play this game for fun, but there is definitely a monetary and time-spent factor to consider. That was actually the entire point of Brian Kibler's "The MOCS shouldn't exist" blog post.

Wizards is doing a great job at promoting the game. I am thoroughly entertained every time I play a game of Magic. It's extremely frustrating however that when I put my money on the line and perform well enough to cash that I may not get what was promised in the Event advertisement. Think about it like a game of poker where you have collected a huge stack of chips, only to be told it was just for fun and that chip stack is worth your entry.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the point of the game is entertainment, but when I risk my money for a certain prize, I expect to be rewarded that prize if I perform well, regardless of system errors.

I haven't lost sight of playing for fun, I still frequent the Tournament Practice room and hell, I play Mono Black Aggro in Standard. I'm asking to be crushed by decks that laugh in the face of small black creatures.

Some people get comped, myself included, when the system crashes and they're on a x-2 record. If I have that record I don't expect to be compensated and I would totally be fine with not being compensated.

Linker and LSV and other pros still play MTGO because they don't have different options for online Magic. Most pros aren't exactly quiet about how much they dislike that they have to settle for such a subpar program.

I would also be very bitter by Lagrange at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 06:56
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I would also be very bitter and vocal in my dissatisfaction if I were kicked out of the money because of a system error.

The monetary and time-spend factors are not unique to the competitive players. Casual players also spend money and maybe just as much time playing a specific deck. They also loose out on the entertainment value when the system is down. But they are never compensated?

I dont think that you risked your money for a certain prize, since you got your money refunded.

My problem with these vocal statements about the refund policy, is that they are always made by bitter people in the heat of the moment when they get kicked out of the money. Like the ones from your pics. "It is not fair" - but they dont talk about fairness when they get over-compensated for being out of the money. When you get kicked out by a system error, no compensation is large enough, if you were in the money.

If the policy was to give you the minimum of the entry fee and the number of guaranteed prizes, then that seems perfectly fair to me....... but next time Kibler, SamBlack and other bitter people will say: "My win percentage is 65% on average, hence my expected payoff is XXX and I only got compensated with the minimum number YYY. We demand a more fair compensation policy which takes account of our expected prizes".

You know the compensation policy, you know that system crashes can occur. You have full information on the possible outcomes when you decides to enter a tournament.

Is this factually correct? by Psychobabble at Mon, 03/17/2014 - 23:28
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Is this factually correct? "Think about this: A person who is 4-0 when a Daily Event crashes gets entry refunded. That person was actually guaranteed 11 packs, but because the event crashed they now get 6 tickets. With boosters selling at ~3 tickets per pack right now, that person stood to make 33 tickets vice 6. That's a pretty substantial difference. Nevermind if packs are sitting around 3.3 - 3.7 tickets..."

It's my understanding that you are paid out any guaranteed prizes that you've earned. if you're one click away from winning the match which will make you 3-1, then you only get your entry refunded, but if you have actually won that match and are just waiting for the event to finish then I believe you get your 6 packs. There's multiple reports here of people winning prizes in this circumstance, for eg:

http://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/the-game/magic-online-general/548362-...

Seeing as that entire section of your article is based on that premise, I think you want to be fairly sure that that is their policy - I 'm not sure it is.

This is the first I've ever by Cweaver at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 02:11
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This is the first I've ever heard of people compensated packs. Picture in the article shows many have had similar experiences of only getting comped entry

The pictures in your article by Lagrange at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 06:57
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The pictures in your article are from before the program went back online and before any kind of compensation was paid out. Or did I get that wrong?

SamBlack is talking about what he expects the refund policy to be.

If the refund policy is that you get the minimum of your entry fee and of the minimum guaranteed prize, then WotC is EXTREMELY bad at communicating it out.

Cweaver by Barbarian King at Tue, 03/18/2014 - 21:12
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The entry fee for drafts includes packs so when Wizards comps you your entry fee you get the 3 packs and 2 tickets it cost to enter. Like I recently experienced a crash during a RTR Block draft and was compensated 1 RTR pack, 1 GTC pack, 1 DGM pack and 2 tickets.

Technically you can pay 14 tickets and then would be compensated 14 tickets but you can generally get the '12 tickets worth' of packs for 9-11 tickets off of a booster bot.

In the link provided above by Lagrange at Wed, 03/19/2014 - 01:48
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In the link provided above someone claims that they got 6 boosters from being 3-0 in a Modern Daily event (at the time of the crash). So that is something else than the entry fee.

When we say entry fee it is whatever product you used to enter the tournament with. If you used pure tickets you will get pure tickets back. If you used boosters and tickets you will get exactly that back if entry fee is reimbursed.

I was playing a Sealed Daily by IYankemDDS at Wed, 03/19/2014 - 06:03
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I was playing a Sealed Daily the day the MOCS crashed and even though the event was able to Rise From the Grave, I still got my entry comped. I went 2-2 so I ended up getting 9 packs, two tickets, and my pool, which happened to include Brimaz. I didn't have too many problems with the policy then.

Yeah, but your event got by Alphi at Thu, 03/20/2014 - 00:30
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Yeah, but your event got reanimated after it was entombed. That's not actually very common, even with the new team overseeing events in place.