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Mark provides the answers to your questions, including an announcement about the Invitational.

In the Mailbag

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The letter B!ack in the day, I used to write multiple mailbag columns a year. While I still read every piece of mail sent to me (and respond to the few I can), I realized that I hadn't done a traditional mailbag column in quite some time. This week I'm going to rectify this situation by doing a good old-fashioned mailbag column. On with the letters:

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Last year at this time we were voting for the Magic Invitational. This year we haven't heard anything let alone begun voting. What's going on?

Bob

Bob,

Let me just rip off the Band-Aid. This year there isn't going to be a Magic Invitational. As part of our Organized Play Department's refocusing on grass roots programs, the Invitational was cut from this year's schedule. What does this mean for the future of the Invitational? I honestly don't know. The Invitational has had many bumps along its way, and we have previously held Invitationals held over a year and a half apart. It has been repurposed numerous times and, as it is my baby, I hope we will be able to do so yet again. That said, as of today, there are no current plans for when and where the next Invitational will be held.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

In your article "Dear Maro", you make mention of Antoine Ruel's Invitational card in your penultimate paragraph:

"Finally, let me comment on the status of Antoine Ruel's card...I believe you will see Antoine's card in a set within the next year (and no, it's not in Lorwyn.)"

I was curious as to whether or not Antoine's card has made it to print yet (I would assume not, since there were no humans in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, which would make it difficult to portray him in the art, but I was unsure) or, if not, if it was possible to say when it would be printed.

Additionally, thank you for consistently writing an entertaining and/or informative (more often than not 'and'.) column every week. I enjoy reading about Magic, and your columns are some of my favorites (and I'm also not afraid to shamelessly flatter people to appeal to their subconscious in a roundabout way to get answers...I mean, ignore the preceding sentence).

Thanks,
Kyle

Kyle,

Antoine's card is in Shards of Alara. It was originally going to appear in Shadowmoor but, as you surmised, the setting had no humans, and Antoine needed to be pictured on the card. We were forced to move it off to the next large set. Along the way, it went through a few changes. You'll have to wait until the card becomes public to see what those changes are, but as a little teaser, let me show off the art from the card. For the first time ever, here is Ranger of Eos:

Ranger of Eos

Art by Volkan Baga

Good evening Mr. Rosewater!

I had a question about the CYOS [Choose Your Own Standard] format from last year's Invitational. Will this ever be a sanctioned format? It seems like a really fun and interesting format, allowing people to play with awesome old cards but without needing to get expensive dual lands or power pieces. I haven't gotten the chance to play it for real, but it seems like a blast.

Thanks in advance,
Jay

Jay,

As I explained last year when I introduced the format, it was created to fill a gap that I see coming down the road. As Magic gets older and older, I believe there is going to be need for a format that gives access to all of Magic (well, most of Magic) without allowing all of it at once. Choose Your Own Standard was my suggestion to fill that void. The format got very good feedback from the players. The problem is that while I believe the void in question is coming, I don't think it's quite here yet. As such, no one other than me inside Wizards is really looking to fill it.

For fans of CYOS I think time is on our side. I believe when the void comes that this format will have some legs to be able to step up (see it has legs, thus it can step up) and try to fill the void. If you enjoy the format I strongly urge you to try and find people to run it locally. Like most homebrewed formats, I think this one's going to take some time to ferment. But don't worry, I haven't forgotten about it. I still bring it up from time to time.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "Every Card Has a Story":"Stream Hopper. This card belongs in Time Spiral. That's all I'm saying." Why?
-Travis

Travis,

One of the things we liked to do in Time Spiral was take two older cards and merge them together. Stream Hopper is an interesting hybrid design wherein each version was already done as its own card. The card was done in red in Alpha as Goblin Balloon Brigade and then in blue in Tempest as Manta Riders. As neither card was all that powerful we decided in Eventide design that it was okay to repeat both cards in a hybrid version. The card led to us discussing what other hybrid cards we could design in which both halves had already been printed. Feel free to discuss this in this week's thread.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Yet another week has gone by and neither you nor Wizards have made any announcements on this board regarding the many changes about to come. This was the loudest outcry from the Magic community, EVER, and your silence is deafening.
-Ken

Ken,

The reason I, or for that matter Wizards, hasn't responded is that there isn't much for us to say. There are changes coming. We told you what the changes are. We explained why we chose to make them. There was a public outcry, as there has been every time we've ever announced a major change (more on this in a moment). We are interested in hearing feedback about the changes, but that cannot happen until the public gets a chance to actually see what we've done.

On a side note for those that enjoy historical context, this announcement was not the "loudest outcry from the Magic community, EVER." We received more mail for both the announcement of the Sixth Edition rules change and of the Eighth Edition card face change. Also, the announcement of the creation of Standard (back then called "Type II") created a greater amount of verbiage online (note that this was before I worked for Wizards and most of the discussion was on the Usenet boards).

I'm not trying in any way to demean this outcry. It was large and very vocal, and yes we do care what you all have to say. I just want to put it in context that big changes to the game always result in big responses from the public. I simply ask that you wait to see the changes so that any discussion comes from talking about what has been done rather than you having to speculate on what might have been done.

Burn Trail?Dear Mark Rosewater,

What happened to conspire in Eventide? I can see it overlapped with retrace in that they both copy things (sort of) but didn't it fit the colour matters theme SO much better?

Don't get me wrong, retrace is fun, but It feels kind of off that conspire would only last one set--if so shouldn't it have been used to finish off a block, rather then start one? or is there conspire in eventide that I've just failed to notice?
-alastair

Alastair,

One of the biggest expectations of the players is that new sets will have new mechanics. Because all our market research says our players value this highly, we make sure to do it every set. Conspire was dropped because there simply wasn't enough room to do everything that Shadowmoor did and add new mechanics in a smaller sized set. Why drop conspire? Because we felt there were fewer interesting things we could do with it in Eventide as contrasted against Shadowmoor's other mechanics. One of the hardest parts of design is taking out things that don't fit. Conspire was one such casualty. As to why we choose retrace over conspire when conspire fit better into the "color matters" theme, please remember that the original version of retrace did care about color.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "After Party":

Your articles have slowly evolved from discussions of magic design into postmodernist art tangentially related to magic. How long until magic is out of the picture entirely?
-Dylan

Dylan,

I'm planning to phase out all Magic content by May of 2010. Kidding. I'm kidding.

One man's trash is another man's treasure. Every Making Magic column I've ever written has had something to do with either Magic or design, most often both. The problem is that sometimes I talk about a part of Magic / design that you don't care about. Thus to you, it's an empty column. Here's the problem. To other readers it's a part they do care about.

For example, from time to time I do articles where I explore some flavor aspect of the game in a very colorful way. Examples of these would be articles like I cc: Dead People, Dear Diary and IM Legend. There is a segment of my readership that loves these columns. The three I mentioned above, for example, are in my top twenty of all time (and I've written almost 350 Making Magic articles) in responses they generated. How creature types are used, how a common evolves, and how the colors are represented are all meaty design issues. Maybe not meaty design issues you care about, but they are things that I as Head Designer very much have to care about and thus are fair game, as far as I'm concerned, for topics.

In addition, while I like to use Making Magic to inform, I also have to use it to entertain. My solution to this problem is to keep rotating the type of columns I write. This way everyone gets to see the type of article they like some of the time. Hmm, kind of the way that I have to design different types of cards each set so every player finds something they enjoy in each expansion.

Maybe a Facebook parody wasn't your cup of tea. Luckily, it's done. You don't have to see it ever again. Will I do something else equally "silly" in the future? Of course. Because if I didn't I would get a letter like yours asking me why I'm always so dry and serious. What I can promise you is that I promise to write the kind of articles you like... some of the time.

Dear Mister Rosewater,

Now that Eventide is out and the "Hybrid Block" is complete, making Hybrid a force to be reckoned with in the world of Magic, I was just wondering if we would see more it in other sets. Sets not designed to be 'a hybrid block' like Shadowmoor / Eventide or 'a multicolor block' like Ravnica. What I am asking is if we will see Hybrid cards showing up in sets like they did during Ravnica, alongside the more traditional 'gold cards'. I personally have loved the idea behind Hybrid Mana since it first came out and would love for it to become a standard part of the game. I can see a lot of potential for it even alongside 'gold cards', especially the 'if both' type of Hybrid card such as Firespout. I would really hate for such a great mechanic as Hybrid to fall by the wayside when I feel it adds so much to the game.

Thank you for your time, both in reading this letter and in helping make a wonderful game for me to play,
R.J.

R.J.,

I see hybrid not as a mechanic but as a tool, much as I see traditional multicolor (a.k.a. "gold cards"). My plan is that hybrid will be treated very similarly. Yes, we will have the occasional block built around it, but it is a tool that will be available to other sets much like we use gold cards in sets not all about multicolor cards. I will even be so bold as to predict that you will see hybrid used again before the next hybrid block.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "Ability Word To Your Mother":

I hate ability words because they hit the players over the head and say "Look, you idiot! There's a pattern here!". And while apparently most of your players aren't all that good at pattern recognition (and you probably do enough market research to know how smart your audience is), I still find it insulting. (Kind of like reminder text, although on new keywords or one-off cards like Time Stop it's okay.)
-Jeffrey

Jeffrey,

I'll be blunt. When we have to decide between making sure players understand what cards do and insulting those who already get it, there isn't much of choice. Err to one side and we lose players who aren't able to get into the game and probably never will return. Err on the other and we get grumbly players who keep playing but occasionally send me letters like yours. I'll gladly take the grumbly letters if it means we get more people into the game. In short, I apologize if you feel insulted, but it's for what I feel is a greater cause.

Dear Mark Rosewater, I was curious if there are any books on game design you're particularly fond of?

Thanks,
-Matt

Matt,

Believe or not, I haven't actually read many books on game design. Up until the last few years there really weren't many, and having three kids has significantly cut down on my available reading time. So I turned to an R&D member who I consider an expert in this area, Brian Tinsman, R&D's head designer of new games.

Brian recommended the following:

  • A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Ralph Koster. Brian felt it was pretty theoretical but had a wonderful approach that's relevant to games in all categories.

  • Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton. This book is mostly focused on video games, but it had the best step-by-step "how to design a good game" approach that Brian had seen. The book draws on principles from many genres.

  • New Rules For Classic Games by R. Wayne Schmittberger. This isn't a game design book per se, but Brian felt it had some wonderful examples of how to change games to meet different player needs, essentially what Wizards' development process is all about.

And I'll recommend the following:

  • The Game Inventor's Guidebook by Brian Tinsman. This is one I have read, and since Brian was too humble to peddle his own book, I will. The book is mostly focused on how to get a game published once it's designed but it covers all the fundamentals of the game design process and interviews just about every name game designer (myself included) in the business. The book is currently out of print, but it's due to be reprinted November 1st.

Finally, I'm forced (by the same powers that keep making "Roseanne" references show up) to also mention that my favorite book, A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech, is an excellent book on creative thinking, and also a must for any aspiring game designer.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "Breaking Eventide":

I enjoy your column; I feel Magic is in good hands with you at the helm.

In this article, and in a number of others recently, you use the term "design space". I *think* I know what this means, but even if I do, I bet I have an incomplete understanding of the topic.

You may have already done this (I did a cursory site search and could find it), but if you haven't... what about doing an article specifically on "design space"? What it means, how it impacts design, some specific examples, etc.?

I think this would be a really good article on its own, and it would make your other articles more accessible.

If you *have* already done such an article, how about putting a link to it when you do new articles that use the term?

Regards,
Brad

Brad,

"Design space" is a term I've tossed around a lot. I searched through my archive, and I haven't specifically touched upon what exactly "design space" means. So, you are correct, it would be an excellent topic for a column. I will try to write it before the year is out. Thanks for the suggestion.

Festercreep Dear Mark,

"Power Creep" is always a fear with trading card games, and Magic has always been accused of it, on and off. Less informed players cite R+D slip-ups such as Targmogoyf while more knowledgeable but still concerned players may cite "experimental" cards like Isamaru. I have an alternate hypothesis about Magic that I was wondering if you could verify. I call it "fun creep." The basis is fairly simple:

R+D is intentionally making more enjoyable aspects of the game more powerful.

The easiest example of this is how much creatures have improved: Creatures are the most interactive and thus fun part of the game, so it makes sense R+D should encourage people to play with them. The power level of creatures has risen continuously over the years: Juzam Djinn was considered the best creature of all time when it was printed, but its recent re-print Plague Sliver never saw serious constructed play. The "broken" cards in Alpha consist of mana-producers (Moxen, dual lands) and overpowered 1-3 mana instants and sorceries (Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, Dark Ritual). The two best creatures in Alpha, Hypnotic Specter and Llanowar Elves, are still core-set staples.

Other examples of "fun creep" include increases in the power of auras (creature enchantments are fun, but the inherent card disadvantage kept them from seeing much tournament play with a few exceptions), life gain's continuous improvement, and the massive, exponential improvements in the quality of huge creatures.

In short, my central question comes down to: Do you feel that "fun creep" is actually occurring, and if so, is it an intentional move on the part of R+D or a self-causing natural process?

Sincerely,
Devon

Devon,

You caught us. We have been actively trying to make the game more fun. I think the idea of "fun creep" is a little inaccurate though. The danger behind "power creep" is that sets have to keep getting more powerful to compete with the sets that came before. Why? Because power is relative. In order for something to be powerful it has to be more powerful than the majority of other things. Fun doesn't quite work like this.

Something can be just as fun as something else without having to trump the previous fun. Fun is a threshold. To make something fun, you just have to pass that threshold. As long as it crosses the line, it's fun. Fun doesn't have to compete with other fun. For example, how much my children loved ice cream yesterday has no relevance on whether they'll enjoy going to the playground tomorrow.

What this means is we can ratchet up the fun in the game without causing ourselves any long term design or development issues. Our master plan, which thanks to you is now out of the bag, is to make every set as fun as we can.

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "A Merfolk's Tale":

For the expert in creativity around here, you dropped the ball. You took the time to write an amazingly insightful and entertaining story, yet stumbled on the basics of the story. Couldn't you come up with something more creative than "Ariel" for a young merfolk!?

Sigh.
-David

David,

My goal in naming the merfolk wasn't to be original but to make the reader get that she was a merfolk. So yes, I chose the best-known mermaid in pop culture. A common design trap is to look for the most original answer when the most functional one will better serve the task.

Maro Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "IM Legend":

Hello. I have this question about Maro. Who or what is it? Is it the Mirage rare, a person I missed in the other columns, or just a random NPC column writer? Further, I like to know how the party went. What did the colors do? And did Red actually slap Black in the face?...

Yours faithfully,
Reinout

Reinout,

Maro is my nickname. It comes from Mark Rosewater. During Mirage development, I created a card to fill a hole. Bill Rose called it Maro because that was what he typed into his computer when he wanted to write me an email (the system would fill in names if there was only one combination that fit) and the name somehow made it through the system and wound up on the printed card. Since then, it has been my nickname. I'm guessing that lacking that information made IM Legend a very different read for you. ("Why are the colors talking to a nature elemental?")

Dear Mark Rosewater,

Regarding your article "Stating the Obvious":

When I was around 10 years old, I asked my dad why the bad guy never wins in movies. Dad was a little dumbfounded and said that sometimes, the bad guy does win. The only case of that I can find is in the "Saw" movies. Your column today did a great illustration of why the bad guys don't win in movies to me.

As an aside, you state that you don't have an office. Which hasn't really struck me as odd until now. Why wouldn't the head designer of Magic have his own office? Thanks for reading Mark,

Andy

Andy,

Everyone always seem dumbfounded that I don't have an office. I think it stems from the fact that so many people seem to want to believe that I single-handedly run Magic. I don't, by the way. The real answer is that I'm just not high enough up the corporate food chain. My boss (Aaron Forsythe, director of Magic R&D) has an office and his boss (Bill Rose, vice president of R&D) has an office and his boss (Greg Leeds, CEO of Wizards of the Coast) has an office. So close.

I should stress that I don't really want an office as I enjoy being in the Pit. A great deal of the fun of being in R&D is being able to interact with everyone and sitting alone in an office would mean I'd miss many of the little moments that make working in R&D so enjoyable. (My money, by the way, is on Gandalf beating Yoda in one on one basketball.)

MTGLord377 has logged on.
MTGLord377: Serra.
MTGLord377: Let's talk.
Serra_Angel9: Hey, MTG. What's up?
MTGLord377: Have u read Maro's article?
Serra_Angel9: Is it good?
MTGLord377: omg its so funny.
Serra_Angel9: ok, brb.
Serra_Angel9 has logged off.
Serra_Angel9 has logged on.
Serra_Angel9: zomg lawlz
Serra_Angel9: that was SO hilarious.
MTGLord377: Yeah
Serra_Angel9: But not original.
MTGLord377: ?
Serra_Angel377: Remember the time he made a fake msg board about his own article?
MTGLord377: ...no. O.o
Serra_Angel9: Well he did.
Serra_Angel9: Is he running out of ideas?
MTGLord377: I'll find it.
MTGLord377 has logged off.
MTGLord377 has logged on.
MTGLord377: lololol but that was different. This was like an IM thing.
Serra_Angel9: Yeah, but its the same idea
Serra_Angel9: Adn I didn't get much out of it
MTGLord377: Remember th eone where he made a transcript of his own therapy thing?
Serra_Angel9: omg that was funny.
Serra_Angel9: Hellhounds lol
Serra_Angel9: But he didn't say much about MTG
MTGLord377: He does MTG? lol
MTGLord377: But he does informative stuff 2.
Serra_Angel9: He should make these have info about MTG in them
Serra_Angel9: So there good articles 2
Serra_Angel9: u should email him.
MTGLord377: no way >.>
Serra_Angel9: ur right its dumb
MTGLord377: my hotpockets r done brb
Serra_Angel9: c u @ the card shop instead?
MTGLord377: k :)
MTGLord377 has logged off.
Serra_Angel9 has logged off.
Manascrew222: omg lawlz!!!111

-Myrlin

Myrlin,

Maro525: lol

And with that, I'll call this article a wrap. I hope you enjoyed today's trip through the mailbag. Let me end by reminding you all that I allow any Magic player to have my ear if he or she takes the time to write. I read every letter sent to me. (Although I am unable to respond to most of them.) You have an opinion and want it heard by the guy who singlehandedly runs Magic. Here's your chance. Part of my secret to doing what I do is listening to all of you, so please if you like or dislike something we're doing, let me know. It really does impact how I, and the rest of R&D, make the game.

Join me next week when I talk all about the little people.

Until then, may you be so blessed as to have people give you feedback on what you do for a living.

Mark Rosewater

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