“We want everyone to be able to experience Magic: The Gathering.”
Upon this “simple idea” Wizards of the Coast is building Magic: The Gathering Arena’s business model, which could quickly be summed up as free-to-play that gives players a choice of time or money as a way to progress. By earning gold (in-game currency) or purchasing gems (RMT currency), players can purchase card packs, access events, and open up “The Vault,” a special treasure trove with secret rewards.
Wizards said that it is structuring the game’s economy based on a few principles: “Make our players’ valuable time as fun as possible; players need a variety of cards to have the most fun, so reward them with as many as possible; and make sure players can get the specific cards they want.”
Magic: The Gathering Arena went into beta testing last month with the eventual goal of releasing an online card game that will mirror the physical set releases and be more accessible to the general gaming public.
It’s true that we lost a lot of MMOs in 2016 — bigger and more important ones than in 2014 and 2015. 2017, however, has been a different sort of beast. The list is long, and while it’s painful for those whose games are gone, the genre didn’t lose many major MMOs this past year. And that startles me.
Marvel Heroes was surely the most dramatic of all the sunsets, given that it shut down early without notice. Earlier in the year, we saw Daybreak put an end to Landmark after less than a year of live operation, while Turbine let the Asheron’s Call franchise go, Firefall formally closed, Club Penguin’s sunset broke the internet, and NCsoft called it quits with Master X Master. A number of other MMOs simply halted development – Perpetuum, Sword Coast Legends, and SkySaga being the most prominent of those. And on a more positive note, there were a few sunsetted MMOs that were revivified, including Otherland, Uncharted Waters Online, and RaiderZ.
Farewell, old friends.
Better buy Sword Coast Legends while you still can: It appears that Wizards of the Coast and Digital Extremes will be ending the publishing contract for the Dungeons and Dragons-based co-op game at the end of 2017. The good news that the servers will stay up for those who already own it (or who purchase it before December 31st).
“Purchase Sword Coast Legends now at 67% off and receive the Rage of Demons DLC for free,” the devs posted to the official forums. “Our publishing contracting is ending, but although Sword Coast Legends will no longer be available to purchase after December, its multiplayer servers will remain live indefinitely.” (It looks to be $14.99 on Steam as I type this, so the sale doesn’t appear to be live yet.)
We’ve been following the game since 2015 when we first heard about this odd multiplayer-slash-single-player game, which allowed one player to step into the gamemaster’s shoes to run campaigns for a team. It officially launched in October of that year after an initial delay, then rolled out an expansion in May of 2016, followed by a double console launch in July of 2016, but it’s been relatively quiet since then. In the middle of it all, the original developer, n-Space, was shuttered, leaving further development to Digital Extremes.
Magic: The Gathering Arena’s alpha development is apparently going well, as according to a new dev blog and press release today, Wizards of the Coast is due to begin closed beta on December 4th.
“Starting December 4, we will begin inviting the first wave of Magic players to our Closed Beta, including bringing back everyone who has played so far in the Alpha. Whereas the Alpha was focused on a few weekends, the Closed Beta will be up and running every day (barring maintenance, downtime, or pirates storming our servers—it’s more common than you think), giving you even more opportunities to try it out.”
Everyone in the closed beta will be under NDA, but WOTC stresses that “initial invite waves will start small,” so even if you sign up right now, you may not get in until next year.
Remember a few weeks ago when Wizards of the Coast announced Magic The Gathering Arena, an online card game headed up by former Turbine prez Jeffrey Steefel? We’ve got a little bit more info today, as PCGamesN reports the studio aims to release cards inside the game in sync with their physical release in the real world.
“Our goal is to definitely have card sets released day and date. [… ] So when you see a release in the physical world you should be able to see it in MTG Arena. You’ve seen a little bit of our experimentation with this with Magic Online so far where [card releases] sometimes even earlier than day and date release.”
The plan won’t surprise MMORPG players, as we’ve been watching PWE’s Neverwinter sync up with WOTC’s real-world D&D releases for several years now. In fact, that might just be one of the properties that helped WOTC get over its apparent past fears about leaks, as chronicled by PCGN.
And what about Cryptic’s Magic The Gathering MMO announced back in June? No news yet.
Remember how former Turbine President Jeffrey Steefel was snapped up by Wizards of the Coast this past January to head up a digital games studio for the studio’s IPs? Now we know the big project that his team was making: Magic: The Gathering Arena, a F2P digital card game that’s coming soon.
Made for PC and mobile, Magic: The Gathering Arena is a full-fledged Magic game with “full rules and ongoing content support for new card sets.” It sounds as though Arena might well be a replacement for the creaky and faulty Magic Online, although the studio wasn’t saying if this will be the case.
“We want to create the deepest, richest digital card game on the market, and for it to be as much fun to watch as it is to play,” said Steefel in a press release. Magic: The Gathering Arena is taking beta signups and will begin testing Constructed play from the Ixalan set later this year.
At this point, Cryptic Studios has a stable of games based off of existing IPs, most notably Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, and the upcoming game based on Magic: the Gathering. A new interview on GamesIndustry.biz with CEO Stephen D’Angelo discusses working with the IP and making a successful game out of it, noting that first and foremost it’s a matter of finding the core element of the IP that makes it interesting and designing the game around that.
D’Angelo explains that the studio’s core goal is to expand beyond the existing audience for the IP by exploring new directions, rather than trying to solely cover the same material as the original; he notes that the expansion into Magic: the Gathering made sense due to a strong working relationship with Wizards of the Coast and the desire to not simply make an online version of the same card game. The studio wants to explore the world from another angle, just like Neverwinter doesn’t simply plug the stats of the tabletop game into digital form. If you’re interested in the mechanisms of making an IP-based MMO work, the full interview is worth a read.
One of the largest and longest-running collectible card games is about to become a brand-new role-playing video game, courtesy of Cryptic Studios. Cryptic and Perfect World Entertainment announced today that it is ramping up development on a Magic: The Gathering MMORPG in partnership with Wizards of the Coast.
The untitled game is being made “from the ground up” for both PC and console as a top-tier release and is part of Wizards of the Coast’s Magic Digital Next initiative. According to the press release, the RPG will allow players to “fully immerse themselves in the Multiverse.”
“Everything from the graphics to the gameplay is being targeted for a truly unique AAA game,” said Cryptic CEO Stephen D’Angelo. “We’re thrilled to provide Magic fans with an opportunity to explore the game’s worlds and characters through an entirely new lens. Get ready to embark on a brand new journey.”
What is Wizards of the Coast’s loss is ArenaNet’s gain.
Michael Yichao announced on Twitter yesterday that he was leaving the Dungeons & Dragons company to take up a position as narrative designer for Guild Wars 2 at the end of June. Previously, he worked on lore and stories for Magic: The Gathering.
In addition to being a writer, Yichao’s portfolio includes performing improv comedy, developing plays, and being a teaching artist. You can read some of his short stories that he produced for Magic: The Gathering over on Wizards’ site.
Yesterday we reported that Guild Wars 2’s June feature pack will be centered around the game’s competitive PvP and WvW scene.
For years now, we have been pondering what “top secret” project might be in development over at Cryptic Studios. Well, the studio isn’t talking — yet — but there are indicators that suggest that Cryptic might be working or collaborating on an MMO set in the Magic: The Gathering universe.
PCGamesN connects a few sparse dots to point to such a project, noting that Cryptic ex-devs have gone over to work for Wizards of the Coast and that a new Cryptic job posting for an art director on the unnamed title mentions that the game will be “based on an extremely exciting, well-known fantasy IP.”
“We’re very excited about what we’re working on,” Cryptic has had posted on its top secret project page. “Our top secret work represents our continued commitment to diversify and reach beyond the boundaries of traditional MMORPG gaming.”
Wizards of the Coast is putting out the call for streamers, movers, and shakers to assemble in Seattle, WA on June 2nd and 3rd for what it’s calling the Stream of Annihilation. This event will be broadcast on Twitch and contain some important information about the future of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise — including that of Neverwinter.
During the livestream event, the company will be revealing plans for this fall’s storyline, which if past efforts are any indication, will impact virtual game worlds. For instance, both DDO and Neverwinter took part in 2015’s Temple of Elemental Evil campaign. Cryptic will be on hand during the event to share upcoming plans for Neverwinter, although that’s all the information we have so far. A schedule of events is forthcoming.
Speaking of Neverwinter, make sure to follow our own Eliot as he gives the game a serious go in his Choose My Adventure series!
Source: Press release
You may not play Magic: the Gathering Online, but if you play any sort of free-to-play online card game, you owe some of your history to it. Which is notable, because it’s always been the poor cousin to the classic paper card game, despite being the way to play the game online with others. Traditionally, it’s also gotten its releases of the sets a bit behind the actual hard copy releases, but for the game’s latest set, the digital and cardboard pre-releases happened simultaneously… and a card ban took two days instead of weeks.
How did this happen? Well, normally the delay between the physical release and the online release has been two weeks, but this time they were simultaneous. By having the set immediately available, there was immediate hard data about the prevalence of an infinite damage combo that was more or less everywhere right away. In two days, the designers were able to see, evaluate, and issue a ban to break up the combo, thus preventing it from dominating the game’s environment for more than a two-day stretch. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your love of infinite damage on turn four (it’s more lovable when you’re dealing the infinite damage, we should note), but it certainly provides an interesting look at how the online community shaped the environment of the game.
Everyone loves expansions, right? Neverwinter’s
latest expansion, Cloaked Ascendancy
, launched the last week of February
, giving players the opportunity to delve in and enjoy the new areas and stories for the last few weeks. That is, PC players have that opportunity; fans who prefer to partake via consoles have to wait extra time for each update and expansion to pass certification by the respective console makers before they can release. And waiting is never very fun.
Thankfully, this wait is just about over: Cloaked Ascendancy will land on the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 on Tuesday, April 11th. In less than a month, all Neverwinter players (of the appropriate level) will have the chance to experience all the new stuff that the expansion offers, from the the new zone to the new story line to the new skirmish.
If that still seems a bit too far away, we’ve got something to help tide you over: I sat down with Thomas Foss, Lead Designer, to talk more about the expansion. We discussed the inspiration behind it to his favorite parts of it. He might have even shared an Easter egg or two!