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Tycho / on Tue, Nov 3 2009 at 1:54 pm

Magic: The Gathering Tactics

Historically, we’ve had a strange relationship with SOE’s John Smedley - though I think it’s more or less reached equilibrium now.  We received a press release for a new game he’s catalyzed over there, namely Magic: The Gathering Tactics, but since we don’t run press releases there’s no place for that.  This being established, I think a lot of their work out of their Tucson and Denver studios is woefully underappreciated, and I want to show some support.  I gave him a call yesterday to see if I could find anything out, and while I don’t know if I succeeded especially well, if you share my vague enthusiasm for this currently mysterious game, read on.  I have taken the liberty of adding smileys where I believe he was being ironical.

Me: Your press release contains no information.  That’s not a question, so much as a statement.  You can’t just say there’s a Tactical Magic: The Gathering game, swirl your cape, and then leave!

Smed: Sorry. :)

Maybe this will help.  It’s a turn-based strategy game based not just on Magic, but the idea of Magic.

Me: Are you saying that the existing interpretations don’t communicate the entire game?  Like Duels of the Planeswalkers, for example, which is more like Magic: The Gathering recast as a fighting game?

Smed: First and foremost, we’re trying to retain the core idea of Magic, or at least what we think it is.  The whole idea is that we can provide the depth and variety of the card game online.  Players will tell us if we’ve done it right, but I think they’ll agree with us that deckbuilding is core to the experience of playing Magic.  The idea that you never really know your opponent’s true capabilities is so important - what’s on the table doesn’t represent everything they can do.  Obviously we’ll have dueling, and we’ll investigate other ways to use your cards, but the single player experience is also very important to us.  Long term, campaigns are a major focus. 

Me: I’m glad to hear that.  I own decks and cards for a ton of games from SOE Denver and SOE Tucson, but going online to be obliterated by strangers isn’t something that really appeals to me.

Smed: You’re in the majority, about seventy percent of Legends of Norrath and PoxNora players play it that way. 

Me: Really?  I guess you would know.  Actually, there is one game that I duel online in, which is Free Realms - but that’s only because I feel like I’ll probably be matched against a child, who I’ll be able destroy.

Smed: I don’t know.  Some of those kids could probably destroy you!

Me:  Well, let’s not dwell on it.  When I think about games that are online, tactical, and collectible though, I think immediately about SOE Tucson’s Pox Nora, which we both got into back when they were still Octopi.  Did SOE Denver seek their input in creating Magic: The Gathering Tactics?

Smed: The design was completely collaborative in fact, and it’s not just a reskin of our existing games.  It’s a completely new codebase, something we made from the ground up to live on the PC and the PlayStation3.  The PS3 version comes out a little later, but obviously they’re both very important to us.   

Me: Will the two versions share an account?  i.e., can I play the PC version at work when I should be working, and then jump on the PS3 version when I get home?  All my decks will be intact and so forth?

Smed: Absolutely.

Me: Yeah, I’ve been trying to figure out when you would start doing things on the PS3.  You’ve been pretty good about the “Online Entertainment” part of SOE, but maybe not so hot on the “Sony.”

Smed: Well, we do have three MMOs in development, all launching next year on the PS3.  Our strategy is very broad, and it’s taken a long time to arrive there, but we’re getting close.

Me: How should tweens refer to the game, when referencing it in their tweets?  Is it the straight up M:TGT, or will Sony Online Entertainment be insisting on the hyphen?

Smed: M:TGT ought to be fine :)

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