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Wide Beta Update: Spring Fever

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The letter H!ello Magic Online players. Since my last article, we've officially left winter behind and said hello to spring, which in the Seattle area means rain, rain, and more rain. Spring also represents new beginnings and transformations, however, and the Wide Beta has reached a major milestone, so let's check in on its progress and announce the date of our next Wide Beta Spotlight.

Spotlight the Way

When we started the process of delivering the new version of Magic Online, one of our primary goals was to ensure that players have as much access and visibility into the process as possible, and to provide those players with opportunities to provide feedback. Well, many of you have run with that opportunity! The forums and ongoing feedback form have generated hundreds of responses (and is still available for feedback whenever you like). We've received thousands of submissions from the surveys we've released (be on the look out for another survey in a few weeks). We've also added new players to our Closed Beta group, so we have more players looking at the changes before they go out to the public.

As part of the plan to get as much feedback as possible, last year, we also ran a Wide Beta Spotlight that let us get a concentrated look at the Wide Beta. The dedicated nature of that Wide Beta Spotlight generated some of our most useful feedback to date, including information that really drove the decision to focus on stability and performance over the past few months (more on that below). We're looking to duplicate that success with a second Wide Beta Spotlight, starting on Wednesday, May 7.

As an added benefit, players who participate in the Wide Beta Spotlight will get early access to the Magic Online Journey into Nyx Prerelease Events a day early. Wide Beta players will be able to access Journey into Nyx Prerelease Events a full day early, beginning Thursday, May 8, at 10:00 AM PDT. This special early access will be available for twenty-four hours until the Prerelease Events open to players on both clients at 10:00 AM PDT on Friday.

Wide Beta Spotlight participants who play in a Journey into Nyx Prerelease Draft or Sealed event will receive a promo version of Eidolon of Blossoms.

In addition, Wide Beta Spotlight participants who play in a Journey into Nyx Prerelease Draft or Sealed event will receive a promo version of Eidolon of Blossoms. All players who win a Journey into Nyx Prerelease Draft or Sealed event will receive a premium promo version of Eidolon of Blossoms.

The Spotlight will begin after we come back from downtime on Wednesday, May 7, and run until 10:00 AM PDT on Friday, May 9, when the Magic Online Journey into Nyx Prerelease Events are scheduled to begin. Journey into Nyx Spotlight early access begins on Thursday, May 8, at 10:00 AM PDT, so you can play with the awesome new cards a day earlier than normal.

During the Spotlight, we ask that players do all of the things they'd normally do in Magic Online, including build decks, play games, and trade. Then, let us know what you think by using the feedback form (here's that link again), or discuss on our forums. The week after the Spotlight, we'll have a survey available, as well. Make your voice heard, and tell us about your Wide Beta experience.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with a Spotlight, here is how it works: When Magic Online becomes available after the downtime on May 7, players will only be able to log into Magic Online using the Wide Beta version. The current version will have logins disabled for the duration of the Spotlight.

Please be aware that everything you do on the Wide Beta is "real." This means any purchases you make, trades you complete, or events you participate in count, and will carry over to any version of Magic Online you use on our production system.

If you don't have the Wide Beta version, you can download it now. You'll use your regular Magic Online username and password to log into the Wide Beta, and your collection will be the same as it is on the current version. You'll have access to all decks you've saved as "netdecks" and can import any decks you've saved to your computer.

Built to Last

As I've mentioned before, we brought an external team of platform specialists onboard to address some of the foundational issues with the Wide Beta that were contributing to its stability and performance issues. We set a stability and performance bar for the external team to reach before moving back to feature development, and we're happy to announce that with the build released on April 9, we reached that bar.

The team has delivered a wide array of stability and performance improvements over the past six months, and the difference between the client they started work on and what's available now is drastic. Players should see much better memory usage and performance, as well as far fewer crashes or freezes.

That said, we're not done yet. There are still a few outstanding crash and performance issues, and we'll be addressing those concurrently with our feature work as opportunities arise. In most cases, the remaining crashes involve odd hardware setups or extremely specific or obscure reproduction steps, such as the .NET Framework issue from a couple weeks ago (if you haven't updated your .NET Framework recently, you can follow the instructions in this blog post).

I'm excited to share that the team that helped us with our stability work is staying on to help complete our feature work as well.

While we'll be keeping an ever-vigilant eye on system and program stability, our primary focus moving forward has shifted to finishing features and fixing bugs. I'm excited to share that the team that helped us with our stability work is staying on to help complete our feature work as well. We've built a really good relationship with that team, and their continued involvement helps ensure that we maintain our stability and performance targets while delivering high-quality features.

We've been using the feedback gathered over the last year or so to prioritize our upcoming work and have a couple big targets scheduled for delivery the week before the Wide Beta Spotlight.

Stick to It

First up on our must-fix list is finishing what we call "sticky settings." The goal here is for players to only have to adjust a scene or feature once, and then Magic Online will remember that moving forward. From chat location to the columns shown in the Play Lobby to the panes in the draft window, most settings will be remembered between your sessions.

These "sticky settings" will also include things like your most recent filter choices in Collection or Play Lobby. This means that if you filter your collection to only see white cards in Standard, the next time you return to your collection, whether in this session or in a future one, it will already be filtered to only show white cards in Standard.

The goal here is for players to only have to adjust a scene or feature once, and then Magic Online will remember that moving forward.

The same will be true of the Play Lobby. Only play two-player Commander in the Getting Serious room? Once you've filtered the Play Lobby to show you two-player Commander games in the Getting Serious rooms, you won't have to adjust the Play Lobby again unless you change something.

This change represents a slight paradigm shift for us based on your feedback. Previously, Magic Online remembered some of your settings, but forgot others on purpose. The goal was to prevent confusion between sessions, where you may have done some filtering or adjustment in one session and then forgotten that those adjustments had been made in your next session. For example, players could filter their collections to only show Standard cards and then get frustrated when they return because they've forgotten the collection is filtered to Standard, but the cards they're looking for are in Legacy.

The drawback with forgetting some settings, however, was that players had to adjust any setting that wasn't remembered each new session. Now, we're going to trust you to remember what you've done, or at least know how to undo those things next time you log in. After we get this update in, we'll be looking for your feedback to address any places where this may be confusing, but we hope the end result is players can set up Magic Online in the way that benefits them most and gets them into the action faster.

Stay on Target

Next on the must-fix list is making sure targeting and associations work as designed in the Duel Scene. Players have voiced concern about the targeting changes between the current version and the Wide Beta version, and a lot of that concern stems from the fact that Wide Beta targeting is only partially complete.

We have the basic framework for the targeting and association system in place, and now we are refining the display and interactions to be better. This includes adjusting the visuals for targeting, tweaking how associated cards are displayed (such as Auras and Equipment attached to creatures), and conveying other important card relationships. Players will also see improved battlefield dimming and highlighting, which will really reinforce what is happening during a game.

We're very excited about the final plan, and once it's fully implemented, targeting will be much clearer and really improve the play experience.

Rank and File

In addition to finishing the big features listed above, we're also targeting specific bugs. This includes fixing some of the issues with cancelled trade requests, fixing the incorrect game winner display, and some other outstanding bugs. We'll have the full list in our build notes before the update goes out.

With our shorter work sprints, your feedback can help define the order in which we deliver various features, updates, and bug fixes.

After the Spotlight, we'll follow up with work on remaining collection display and management issues, updating how temporary windows work (such as searching through your library), updating the player information display to be more visible, and more. Our goal is to release Wide Beta updates every two weeks, but this schedule is always dependent on what is happening with Magic Online 's Live Team.

With our shorter work periods, your feedback can help define the order in which we deliver various features, updates, and bug fixes as we'll be able to react more quickly than in the past.

Spring Forward

In addition to the Wide Beta, the Magic Online team is hard at work on upcoming card sets like Journey into Nyx, which will be released on May 12, and Vintage Masters, which will be released in June. Stay tuned to MTGO.com for more information on those product releases.

Leagues are still on track for release later this year. We're approaching a major internal milestone, and as soon as we hit it we'll start talking more about our plans. If you are not sure what a league is, you can find a quick summary in my previous article.

All in all, it's a very exciting time to be working on Magic Online, and I'm excited for what the rest of this year has in store. If that's not the epitome of what spring is about I don't know what is. As always, I can be found on Twitter (@ckiritz), you can email me using the link below, or you can discuss on the forums.


Have fun and happy gaming,
Chris Kiritz
Digital Business Manager
Magic: The Gathering



 
Chris Kiritz
@ckiritz
Email Chris

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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.

 
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