By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Oct 19 2009 11:19pm
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I was able to sneak Mark Rosewater away from the gun slinging, the public appearances and the challenge areas to get an exclusive interview.  We talked about MTGO and its role going forward as well as where it will fit into the overall strategy of Magic: the Gathering.  This interview was perhaps my favorite chunk of time from my non-MTGO Live coverage (it's close between this one and my interview with Adriana, coming soon!).  I'd once again like to thank Mark Rosewater for his time since it is certainly a very precious commodity for someone with his level of requirements.  Thanks again, Mark!  Details behind the link!

Erik Friborg: Lately there have been production issues with Paper Magic (sold out, distributions, etc), but MTGO does not have those... is there anything that works on MTGO that can be used to help Paper Magic?
Mark Rosewater: In some ways, Online is the future.  There will be a day when people play Magic on their phones, it's just a matter of time until that happens.  I like paper, I think there's a lot of fun with paper, I think that interacting socially is something that people will always enjoy.  But look, online is definitely the future.  We want to give people the ability to play Magic however they want.  I don't think paper's going away, but I do believe that Magic Online will more and more attention because there will be more ways to play online.
ErFr: Like Macs with the new version?
MaRo: Here's the ultimate goal: we want to let you play Magic in any medium we can let you play Magic in.

ErFr: MTGO has impacted card development in the past, does it ever impact the day to day work of development?
MaRo: Magic Online has very little impact.  I was told, a long time ago by my boss who said: "Don't worry about Magic Online, just make Magic the best you can make, we'll figure out Magic Online."  And like I said, the only the only time they killed something was when I was trying to do something so crazy... the reality is that if it was something super important to the set it wasn't impossible to do, but something difficult to do.  Since it was just a little throw away cycle from unglued that would be fun to bring back and it was like 'well... is that worth the energy?' and the answer was 'no, no, we have plenty of things in Future Sight'.  Future Sight is probably the most difficult set we'll ever make.

ErFr: Any thoughts about a Magic Online "Un" set?
MaRo: We have talked about the following: Maybe one day we would do a set that is all the Unglued cards, and all the Unhinged cards that could be programmed, plus maybe a few things that would only work online.  We've toyed around with that idea, it's not on the books.  We're not planning on doing it yet.  But I do believe that maybe one day we'll do that.  The big question is what you can and can't program.  I'm always amazed at when they say 'oh yeah, we can do that' or 'that, I... don't know'.  Our running joke is Hurloon Wrangler.  I attack, are you wearing jeans?  Somethings work better than others.

ErFr: Any thoughts about MTGO and Bookkeeping Cards:
MaRoFor example, we talk a lot about 'What if Magic only ever existed online?'.  There are a lot of things we could do that we can't do now.  There are strengths of a computer, like it can remember all of the things and keep track of them for you.  We have had to cut things because sometimes the physical act of monitoring them are just too much.  I've thought about designing an Online TCG, and it just has different restraints.  Because MTGO is dependent on the paper version we're not making things that would only work online.  But it is true!  If Magic was an only online game there's more stuff we could do. 

ErFr: If you could change one card, which one?
MaRo: I would change any card that impacted the fun of the game.  However, a lot of cards that were unfun were unfun in combination.  But as Magic is doing well my answer would be "don't change the past".

ErFr: What do you think about fan sites like U/G madness:
MaRo: I read as many as I can, I know they make fun of me at Pro MTG Online.  They make fun of me because they think I constantly dis him, but I think he's funny.  I want to support fan sites.  I think it's awesome when fans care enough to take things into their own hands.  I was a big fan of UGMadness.  He would write me from time to time and ask "are you upset?".  "no no no!"

ErFr: Do you ever do things to get rumor sites going:
MaRo: I will say the following: I am very conscious about things I say that will have a reaction to them.  I don't lie.  I don't ever say things that aren't true.  I have at times said things that I knew could be misinterpreted by people because they didn't to believe something different.  It is fun sometimes to give a statement that is ambiguous, knowing that some people are going to interpret it differently because they don't have all the details.  A lot of my job is to get people to talk, and a good way to do that is to not give all the information.  Knowing that some will get it wrong.  My favorite time was from Mirage, and I teased a 12/12 trampler for 1... which was true!  But what's the drawback on that? 
ErFr: It's fun to watch the rumor mills go when you give those hints. 
MaRo: We don't publicly acknowledge those types of sites, but it's fun to watch the communities dig into those.

ErFr: The Invitational was your idea... were you involved in the Community Cup?:
MaRoI judged, hosted, designed, and ran every invitional, I loved the Invitaional.  Sadly the invitational got cut for finacial reasons.  I had nothing to do with the Community Cup but they'll probably rope me into it.  I just found out about it actually.  Hopefully we can get the Invitational back some day.

ErFr: The impact of Magic on the lives of its players, does that impact your approach to the job (thanks Runeliger for the great question!):
MaRo: One of the things that's important is that everyone wants to feel like they're contributing.  Like, I'm not just doing a job, I'm kind of contributing to the world at large.  I mean, what am I doing?  I'm making people happy.  I'm giving them a release from stresses in their lives.  I get a lot of mail from people who met their spouse playing Magic.  I just recently got an email from a woman who met her husband playing Magic and she wanted me to design a magic card specifically for them as a Magic Card Cake.  The story I tell, it's a heart warming story.  I'm at DragonCon about eight or nine years ago and I see an older woman sitting at a table.  Having been to a lot of these conventions it's kind of odd to see an older woman at one.  So I go over and say "Hi!  What are you doing here?" and it came out that I work for Magic.  And she said "I just want to thank you.  I have two children.  My younger child is really smart but he had trouble focusing on things, things were too easy for him he had social issues.  Meanwhile, my older son had a learning disabilities.  Then Magic comes along and my younger son finally has something that's bigger than him.  He makes friends through it, he's socializing.  He gets his older brother into.  He starts reading the cards and getting into it.  Then his scores started improving and his teacher calls me and asks if I'll teach Magic lessons." For this woman, Magic changed her life.  "I promised them that if they got their grades to a certain point that I'd take them to DragonCon."  That's what makes this an awesome job.  I love to get emails, good or bad.  It really touches me.  I read my mail because I want to hear these things.

ErFr: Worldwake Details?
MaRoWorldwake is designed differently with block design.  Worldwake wasn't just "what's leftover from Zendikar".  It's really changed from the old design.  We saved stuff for Worldwake.  We looked at what people like to do with lands, and we put that in Worldwake.  We had a kicker variant, and we said, let's save that for Worldwake.  Kicker without 'blah'.  This is Ken Nagle's first set as a lead designer.  If you liked Zendikar, you'll like Worldwake.  It's like Zendikar 'plus'!

So there you have it!  MTGO is meant to a large part of the Magic: the Gathering mediums that will be available for players to enjoy this great game.  Look for MTGO to get more and more focus, like the Community Cup, the UI redesign, MTGO Live, MTGO Reporters (raises hand) and more.  This is a very large change from the previous focus of "it's fine so long as it doesn't hurt paper" mentality that was around when MTGO started.  It's now being given ample room to grow and to prosper as well as it can.

If anyone was on the fence about WotC's dedication to MTGO I hope that hearing the words directly from Mark Rosewater's mouth may help assuage those concerns and fears.  And for any of you who had dismissed MTGO in the past as something that might not last, you may wish to re-visit that decision in the light of this new information.


Great interview Hammy. Yes, by MadSalad at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 08:21
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Great interview Hammy.

Yes, you can definitely see the increase in focus on MTGO, not only since Beta all those years ago, but even since V3 came out.

Great interview Hammy. Lots by dangerlinto at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 10:00
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Great interview Hammy. Lots of questions I was happy to hear from Mark Rosewater

Well done, Hammy. Great by Shivad Drake at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 10:00
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Well done, Hammy. Great interview.

An interview with MaRo on by Lord Erman at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 10:41
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An interview with MaRo on puremtgo (which was a great interview by the way), was one of the best things I've seen here. It could even be the best one, I'm not sure.

Excellent job.


Great job Hammy by martinlongbow (not verified) at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 16:48
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Great job Hammy

Awesomeness! Thank you for by Katastrophe at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 22:11
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Awesomeness! Thank you for getting this interview.

So the Invitational was killed because it cost too much? I'm assuming the expense was flying all the players to a central location to hold the event. Which is understandable, but it's too bad because I really liked the event and the prize. Of course then they go and hold the Community Cup on MTGO's budget. I wonder if there is some way MaRo could re-establish the Invitational on a budget? If only there were some way (besides the forbidden program) to play a game of Magic between two or more players in remote locations? Think... think...

Digital Un-set: don't use any paper Un-cards. I thought they were released only in English because they didn't translate well? A digital unset should do the interesting things that the avatars do, like Mormir/Johira/Stonehewer, and use jokes that MTGO players would get.

Great job Hammy by night_day (not verified) at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 08:05
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Great job Hammy

You also have to add in by gamemaster32 at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 19:44
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You also have to add in accommodations and the $2,000 that all invitational players got for playing in the event. Comes up to be a pretty decent sum.

Oh yeah. Well, if it's held by Katastrophe at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 23:43
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Oh yeah. Well, if it's held online, then no hotel, and pay them in tickets. Maybe not 2,000 of them. Or give them a digital foil set that they can either keep or redeem. A foil M10 or ZEN set is basically a cash prize.

Also the last invitational by Amar at Thu, 10/22/2009 - 23:53
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Also the last invitational that was held had AWFUL coverage. It should have been a superb opportunity with writeups - if not videos - of almost every match. Instead they didn't even cover every round. It was so bad that cancelling seemed like a good idea (and I always loved the Invitational more than the Pro Tour).

I'd love to see something done online with better coverage on a lower budget. But I have to keep beating the drum that if watching matches is to be beneficial, we need to be able to see the players' hands.