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By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 20 2008 11:29pm
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Author's Note: I lost a full article when Firefox crashed... if some of my items are shorter; they didn't use to be... :(

Editorial Section

  Below is an interesting tale.  It's a story about our community that's been ongoing for the past, oh, two years or so.  About two years ago I started writing this.  Then I shelved it, and updated it again and shelved it.  Only to finally post it with the 'updates' about 18 months ago.  I felt impressed to revist it this week as I think it's good to keep an eye on where we've been so we don't lose site of it.

The active MTGO message board community is concerned about the current state of MTGO.  We all love MTGO otherwise we wouldn’t take the time to be here.  However is seems that our love has allowed us to be taken advantage of.  Our desire to keep MTGO alive is being abused and neglected.

So how did we get here?  For those who are interested in the past of MTGO and why many are concerned about the current state of MTGO, they should read RoaringPossum’s excellent culmination of events titled: The Compleat History of MTGO.  It is truly a fantastic bit of reading.

In summary, we've had numerous set backs with 2.x since its inception.  The 2.x client/server architecture is starting to show its age and flaws more and more. 

Now that we’ve briefly gone over where we’ve been, we should look at where we are now.




Community frustrations:

Betrayed trust. Based on purported enhancements that are now either missing or deemed 'too difficult'. V3 has gone from being better than V2, to V2 with stability to less stuff than V2 and hopefully, maybe, enhanced stability. This series of events has left many in the community with feeling of betrayed trust and destroyed confidences.  If this were then only shortcoming in recent history we'd be able to overlook it.  However, it is the icing on the proverbial cake.  It is the last straw.

*Update 06/27/2008*: V3 has been put on indefinite hold.  Many of the items mentioned by the community appear to be being worked on which seems to have bolstered trust in the management of the project to do what is right for the community.

*Update 11/21/2008*: We have come a long, long way in this regard.  I can list quite a few things that have been added or updated that would never have been done on MTGO V2.  

Mantle of Leadership

Concerns about leadership of the project. It has been stated that there is no 'one person in charge', which may be part of the current issues that the V3 project is facing.  This lack of accountability means that no one is responsible for making the hard decisions, or for facing the music when a hard decision has been made.  For example, there's no one behind the scenes keeping track of what was and wasn't promised for V3.  Meaning that features can and have been cut that were promised in the past and no one is there to say: "hey, we promised that would be in, go fix it!".

*Update 06/27/2008*:  We're in about the same place still.

*Update 11/21/2008*: I can now name a handful of WotC people that I could communicate with, and know that the issue would get back to the right person.  Or I could PM Gordon and know that the guy in charge of the day to day stuff of MTGO got it.  We now know that a) Gordon is the guy for this and b) Worth is in charge of all the digital stuff at WotC.  A big improvement.

Wave of Indifference

Lack of compassion from MTGO management. It *feels* to us that we are being ignored and patronized at this point. Our feedback is being met with repetitious statements. Our hard work of beta testing and providing feedback is sometimes met with dismissal.

*Update 06/27/2008*: The MTGO management has recently been extremely active in the community.  This is a great step forward and I hope that it will be continued for the foreseeable future.  Thank you Worth.

*Update 11/21/2008*: Again, we've made some very impressive strides here.  Worth has continued to give out product, decks, cards, etc, etc, etc for the past 18 months.  He's also directly communicated with all facets of the MTGO community, even those who continually attack him.  It's been very impressive and has helped reassure many of us about WotC's dedication to MTGO AND it's users.


Community Dependence.  The MTGO community has provided countless hours of free work for Wizards of the Coast.  We have taken on many projects, projects that should have been funded and accomplished by WotC themselves.  Items like the FAQ, State of the Program, Technical Support, and even how to start the game are being provided by the players instead of the company.

*Update 11/21/2008*: There are still a lot of things that are handled by the community.  The difference is that we now get recognition for them.  The FAQ has been linked from the WotC pages, my Video Guide has been linked from the WotC download V3 page and user created content has been posted to the MTG/MTGO page as well.  Well done to everyone involved with these items!

Brood of Cockroaches


With more and more card sets being release on MTGO we’re seeing more and more bugs slipping through the cracks.  Now you may be thinking “So what?”  I see the impact of bugs as one of the top two biggest issues* facing the future of MTGO.

I guess I should define my terms first, so that we’re all on the same page.  I define a bug as any difference between MODO’s Magic Online Digital Objects and their paper counterparts.  For example, there was a bug with Power Conduit that would cause the game to crash and exit completely.  This is obviously a bug.   I’ve never heard of an opponent flipping over the table in response to a player using Power Conduit, which would be the equivalent of what was happening on MTGO.  Each and every time one of these bugs comes up, MTGO loses a little more credibility.  Each and every time one of these bugs come up, the end of MTGO draws nearer.

If players don’t trust the software, then the players won’t use it.  There have been times that certain bugs have stopped people from playing altogether.  A bug with Mausoleum Turnkey made it so it wouldn’t return a creature from the graveyard.  I subsequently stopped playing Ravnica drafts and leagues entirely at that point.  If I can’t trust the software to do what it’s supposed to do, I’m not going to spend money on it.  This was not the first game impacting bug that was discovered for Ravnica cards, but I hope that it will be one of the last.

If the software doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, the players won’t use it.  We currently are very rarely impacted by this; however, as MTGO gets more and more cards arbitrarily large (or ‘infinite’) loops will increase in viability.  That’s a bad thing for MTGO.  As it stands now, the system cannot handle even the most basic loops, let alone any loop with complexity.  This in turn causes certain paper decks to be impossible to run online within the time of the chess clock.  As more and more decks become nonviable online the confidence and trust in the program will dwindle.   This is why for each bug that impacts a user on MTGO that’s one more nail in the coffin.

I’ve tried to think about what is causing these issues.  What I believe, is that the programmers are currently overworked.  Bugs are slipping through the beta process and can last for months before being fixed, if it is fixed at all.  And when they are fixed they often cause other cards to stop working correctly, such as the recent Power Conduit ‘fix’ which in turn broke other cards.  Altogether those things make me think that the staff just doesn’t have the time to properly do their job.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the staff is trying, and doing whatever they can to make the game the best it can be.  It simply seems that by the amount of bugs make it through to the production client, that something must be amiss.  It is possible that the addition of V3 beta has overstrained the staff, or it could be the culmination of a flawed rules engine, or it could just be due to difficult mechanics in the recent sets.  I don’t know what has caused the recent increase of bugs slipping through, but there are many more bugs that are being discussed on the message boards, and are impacting games on the live server.

To help MTGO I implore all of you to report any and all bugs you find.  Any glitch you experience, any bug you see or witness, click on the ‘Report a bug’ button that scrolls by in the bottom left of the application.  Then bring attention to the problem onthe message boards.  Loss of any users due to bugs not only decreases the user base, but also creates vocal opponents to new people joining MTGO.

*Update 06/27/2008*: Again, about the same...

*Update 11/21/2008*: Much, much better lately.  The amount of bugs that exist on a product launch are fewer, the betas have been starting out in better and better initial starting points and the amount of reported bugs on the forums have decreased.  Things aren't perfect here yet, but card bugs are improving.

Blind Fury

Blind Siding the Community:

The previous MTGO staff has more than once blindsided the community with changes to policy and features. 


*Update 06/27/2008*:  This seems to have subsided greatly, with the recent exception of the Gleemox distribution.  However as the intent of Gleemox was to not be announced I can't hold that against them.

Redemption changes.  On June 28, 2006 we were informed the redemption would be turned back on in less than 24 hours.  However there would be some changes.  Namely that each set would be charged the full rate.

Redemption update: http://boards1.wizards.com/wotc_archive/index.php/t-660994

I’m unable to find how long redemption had been down, but to say about a month isn’t an exaggeration.  So they brought redemption down, changed the cost model drastically and then brought it back up with less than 24 hours notice to the change, and no forwarning while they were planning this.

*Update 11/21/2008*: Redemption is once again the sticky widget.  Some still doubt its return, even though it's been stated that it is coming in the next few week.  I wouldn't be surprised if that date slipped again, but I do expect to see it sooner, rather than later.

One client per computer.  The first time this was done there was no advanced warning to the community.  As seen in the following thread, the restriction was implemented with zero advanced warning.  http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=730687

*Update 06/27/2008*: * The warnings and communication for this have greatly increased recently.

*Update 11/21/2008*: We are way better here.  Announcements go up in multiple spots now, including the game itself, and in advance of whatever is being discussed usually.

V3.  V3 has gone from “It will be amazing” to “It will be the same as V2, but more stable” to “Umm, less stuff than V2 but we’re pretty sure it will be more stable”.  This regression of expectations is another piece of the anger puzzle.

*Update 06/27/2008*:   According to this post: http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=860574 the UI of the Client will see some sort of update.  We still don't know who is in charge of the entire project.

*Update 11/21/2008*: We still haven't seen a major update to the client, but it has had some cosmetic and some structural upgrades done to it in the past 18 months.  And while we haven't seen the UI yet, there is that is being worked on according to the folks at WotC.


So here we are, at the verge of anarchy.  We’ve been through a great many things over the years.  Stability issues, bugs, lost functionality, broken promises and no communication about massive infrastructure changes.  I’d love to say that things are looking up.  I’d love to say that we are entering a golden age of the MTGO world.  But we aren’t.  We have no indication that anything listed is getting better.  Bugs are still being ignored.  Redemption is still outlandishly priced.  We don’t have any idea what the long term plans are for MTGO.  We don’t even know WHO is in charge of critical projects like V3.

*Update 06/27/2008*: The anger seems to have greatly died down.  People are still communicating with the MTGO management in the hopes of making MTGO better for everyone.  MTGO Management has been active in community feedback.

*Update 11/21/2008*: I don't think that people who weren't on the message boards at the time can truly appreciate the frustration and anger we were feeling at the time. 

Final Judgment

What happens now?  Where do we go from here?  What can we do?

The short answer is: I don't know.

*Update 06/27/2008*:  Things are indeed moving forward.  Management is more involved, a second position is being added to help with the load of the Liaison and bug fixes are being focused on.  I think we are indeed getting through the anger and frustration that we experienced during the time this article was written.  We still have a long way to go and many miles to go before we sleep, but I think the staff has shown that they are willing to make that journey.

*Update 11/21/2008*: It's amazing how far we've come since the days of writing this initially.  Worth has continued to do good things for us and MTGO.  The new liaison I mentioned above is now known as Solace who is in charge of the VCL program.  And we've gotten Mike Gills who has done a fantastic job with his position.  He has never once sugar coated bad news, or tried to spin a situation as something it wasn't.  He's been straightforward and blunt in his communications when it comes to the important stuff.  

When this article was written the attitude of the boards was angry, frustrated and quite acidic.  That has subsided through continual interaction with the staff and acknowledgment of our concerns and frustration.

I'd like to thank Worth, Solace, Mike Gills, bubba0077, skullonastick, Xtofyr, Ivo, Sax, Algona, Midnight Angel, Argumentitive_Silence, natedawg, nushae, Darth_solo_, emoticon and many many many! others for helping to make the community what it is: a great place to debate, get information and keep in touch. 


Discussion Items

Pauper Rules Announced!:
A fantastic moment for the many pauper players, supporters, founders and retired paupers.  I hope you paupers enjoy this, you've earned it!

More concerns regarding the CBS bots:
It seems as if we can't go a week without hearing some new tale of scamming that seems to involve this bot/bot chain.  Either something is rotten in CBS, or someone is running the most amazing smear campaign ever.  You can decide for yourself.

Bots, tracking and enforcement:
Spun off from the latest CBS bot debacle, a good thread about potential ways to handle bots and perhaps even different ways to 'fix' the problem.

MTGO Usage Stats:
The ever amazing Algona posted a new round of sporadic numbers for us to digest.  His findings?  The average per week events are up.  Way up.  And he's not talking about the release events, either.

Open Source Bot Project:
Another spin off from the CBS bot threads, and that is the need for some other, new, secure way to trade cards that doesn't involve trusting anyone.

Pauper Mini-Faq:
This was spun off from the Pauper rules announcement.  A good resource that you can paste into MTGO for anyone curious about the format!

Announcement Details Date
4 Man Constructed Queues The following formats now have smaller queue options: Extended, LWR-SHM Block Constructed, Classic, Prismatic, 100 Card Singleton  9/25/2008
World Champs Qualifier: MTGO Keep an eye out for qualifier tournaments that feed into bigger and more competitive events!


If you've been running the "CBS" bots you really need to read this announcement.  There's a lot of he said/she said going on right now. 

Shards of Alara Release Events
Some new changes, including the start of 16 person queues

New Skin Released
Art is subjective, don't-ya-know? 10-29-2008
Jace vs. Chandra
Updated with the most current information!
Return of the 2D avatars!
We complained, they listened!  They'll be phasing out the 3D avvies over time.
New Scamming Reports More troublesome reports surrounding the CBS bots.  
Jace vs Chandra date announced YAY!! These decks are worth the 19.99.   





Card Prices




Card name: Last Week This week Percentage Changed
Wirewood Symbiote 0.25 2 700.00%
Wirewood Symbiote 0.34 2.43 614.71%
Wirewood Hivemaster 0.19 0.72 278.95%
Rings of Brighthearth 0.15 0.3 100.00%
Painter's Servant 0.6 1.15 91.67%
Regal Force 2 3.75 87.50%
Wirewood Herald 0.08 0.15 87.50%
Elfhame Sanctuary 0.19 0.34 78.95%
Weird Harvest 0.58 0.97 67.24%
Goblin Sharpshooter 2.43 3.92 61.32%

Card name: Last Week This week Amount Changed
Figure of Destiny 25 31 6
Bitterblossom 17 20.5 3.5
Ajani Vengeant 7 9.75 2.75
Glen Elendra Archmage 7 9.25 2.25
Wirewood Symbiote 0.34 2.43 2.09
Rugged Prairie 4 6 2
Wrath of God 13.86 15.84 1.98
Wirewood Symbiote 0.25 2 1.75
Regal Force 2 3.75 1.75
Bloom Tender 2.5 4 1.5

Card name: Last Week This week Percentage Changed
Brainstorm 1 0.5 -50.00%
Tezzeret the Seeker 13 6.75 -48.08%
Sharding Sphinx 0.35 0.2 -42.86%
Manaplasm 0.35 0.2 -42.86%
Ad Nauseam 0.6 0.35 -41.67%
Glimpse of Nature 8.33 4.9 -41.18%
Dregscape Zombie 0.05 0.03 -40.00%
Carrion Thrash 0.05 0.03 -40.00%
Grixis Panorama 0.05 0.03 -40.00%
Brilliant Ultimatum 0.25 0.15 -40.00%

Card name: Last Week This week Amount Changed
Tezzeret the Seeker 13 6.75 -6.25
Wrath of God 19.8 14.85 -4.95
Wrath of God 19.8 14.85 -4.95
Glimpse of Nature 8.33 4.9 -3.43
Wrath of God 20 17.5 -2.5
Tundra 34 32 -2
Underground Sea 36 34 -2
Meddling Mage 33.66 31.68 -1.98
Rafiq of the Many 5.5 3.75 -1.75
Destructive Flow 13.37 11.63 -1.74

A couple of interesting things:

1) Wrath of god was in both the top 10 gains and top 10 losses.  The 7th version gained and the rest dropped quite a bit.

2) Some solid demand for the constructed playables makes Standard gain for the 4th week in a row.  The other two lost a few tickets but nothing out of the expected.

3) Dollhouse.  Joss Whedon.  Eliza Dushku.  I can't wait to see what happens here.

To illustrate the charts above we have the following two images:



Well, that's another week of prices, news and announcements down!  Tune in next week when I hopefully have some gossip to sling and some questions answered!














































































































































































































































Editorial Section
MTGO Discussion Items
Card Prices




































by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 11/22/2008 - 03:55
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture

I think mtgo v3 is great. First and last time this quiet majority speaks.

by hamtastic at Sun, 11/23/2008 - 20:13
hamtastic's picture

I was wondering when we'd hear from you!  :D

Actually, I'm writing a V3 report card for an upcoming SotP, and obviously, it's not going to be a glowing review.  There are a few good things to cover, but by-and-large, it's a rough review.  Because V3 IS still very rough.

Just something to look for in the next week or two!  

The commentary by hammy (on the road)(Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 11/21/2008 - 15:54
hammy (on the road)(Unregistered)'s picture

Evidently I need to explain the commentary and what I dusted off.

The original (and the updates) were written 95% about community issues, not V3/V2.

Because let's face it... V3 is still pretty much craptacular.  The look is better, there are a couple new features, but really that's about it.  It's still really bad in most aspects and not much has changed in that regard since launch.

The commentary isn't saying that V3 is fine, or even that V3 is getting much better.  It's saying that the interaction with the community has improved greatly.

The bugs mentioned were bad, yep.  But they aren't any worse than the bugs we had pre-V3, and the number that do make it out seem to be lower than before.  And when they DO get out they actually tell us about them (via a couple different avenues).  Obvioulsy it's better if they never happen, but I'm glad that they're at least telling us about them when they do happen now.

But I don't think anyone will argue about the status of V3 = bad.

Your rant by jyalt(Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 11/21/2008 - 13:05
jyalt(Unregistered)'s picture

The reason the 'anger' died down on the boards is many people, myself included, left the game.  Since I love magic, I've gotten in the habit of reading your updates and checking the MOTL boards three times a month.  If they ever fix MTGO, I'll be there soon.

Redemption has been off from April 2008-present.  Eight months, about.

And Hammy, I've seen more angst about v3 bugs than anything going on in v2.  During Shadowmoor it was a common that ruined games (Elsewhere Flask not changing land types).  Let's keep going.  A popular draft uncommon pick (Skeletonize) auto-crashing the game during the Alara release?  Banding not displaying attackers properly during MED2 release (still not fixed)?  Profane Command not working during the last standard season?  And Tarmogofy/Sutured Ghoul still doesn't work (AFAIK)...   I mean these are highly visible bugs in a flagship product, and the AREN'T fixed for weeks and months.

Is it a suprise people like me have quit the game? 

No thumbs up by DIProgan at Fri, 11/21/2008 - 10:29
DIProgan's picture

All i hear you saying here is that things have gotten better point by point but from where i'm sitting the thing _I_ care about - playing mtgo - haven't changed one tiny bit. It is still as lousy as ever. Cards are released with simple bugs and the program itself is still littered with the same annoyances it had months and months and months ago. As if not enough new errors appears too. Recently games have been starting to get canceled a lot. Every day that goes by the feeling that v3 is the biggest let down in gaming that i've experienced since 1984 gets even more cemented. Nothing short of a v4 announcement will make me think something good is being done behind the scene. If that happens i can only hope the jokes me and some pals had about how mtgo v4 will need you to type in cardnames to play them and how v5 will present stuff in ascii graphics won't come true. Since v3 I can't be sure anymore.