Gds/gds2/labyrinth/Essay

rudyardo
Joined Sep 2010
283 Posts

Gds/gds2/labyrinth/Essay

by rudyardo, Oct 11,2010
These are the unrevised answers I provided to the essay questions for the great designer search 2. Further thoughts on each question will be linked here.
I'm looking at the other essay posts I can find on the wiki. If there's an organized collection of such posts please direct me there. I might form one myself if I can decide on an appropriate place for it and it hasn't been done already.
1. Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
Rudyard Cashman 25 year old mixed race male janitor from Seattle, Washington.
For as long as I've played magic I've loved designing pieces for the game. Designing is a hobby that brings me thorough satisfaction. The game provides material for endless art and unlimited creation. Magic is a system just like the universe, full of laws and objects and zones. It is a game of discovery and evolution, always growing and changing with the potential to literally be played as any other game in existence through its mutable flexibility.
My passion is for creation and improvement. Magic provides a beautiful outlet for this passion. Casual designing has taught me a lot and really helped in the development of my perspective on the world. It has also brought me improvement in both abstract and concrete thinking.
I appreciate that this second great designer search is emphasizing not just technical design but also artistic design. This is one way I hope to set myself apart from the pack. My skills in writing and visual arts are modest. These strengths are magnified by my potent talent in concept design. I'm an idea person. This talent can be applied to mechanical design and world design equally. If you're working for more people to bridge the gap between form and function, I can see the overlap between the two and that's where I live.
I'm a holistic, big picture thinker. I'm very concerned with how every little part relates to the whole. On world building I'm equally as interested with the individual planes as with their relation to each other in the multiverse. On block building I'm equally as interested with the individual mechanics as with their relation to each other in the behavior of the neighboring blocks past and future as well as every set from alpha to omega.
I am a good fit for this internship because I would relish the chance to sharpen my fangs on serious design. My passion would pull out my unique potential as a Magic resource. I may be tapped for just greatness.
2. You are instructed to move an ability from one color to another. This ability must be something used in every set (i.e. discard, direct damage, card drawing etc.). You may not choose an ability that has already been color shifted by R&D. What ability do you shift and to what color do you shift it? Explain why you would make that shift.
I would move reach and general flying hate from green to red. As an enemy of both blue and white it makes the most sense flavor wise for red to have the most anti-flying cards in response to the two colors with the most flying. Flavorwise I feel that green should get more weenies fliers than it does like birds and faeries. It green did get more flying it wouldn't need as much flying hate.
Reach makes sense for red because the mountains allow you to reach the skies. Reach compliments red's occasional ability to be unblockable against flying creatures. It compliments red's ground burn such as earthquake. Red wants to pull you to the earth. Then when it has you down on the ground it wants to use the ground to smash you.
3. What block do you feel did the best job of integrating design with creative? What is one more thing that could have been done to make it even better?
Zendikar block is the best designed block yet. With traps and quests I think of Zendikar more as the Event block than the Land block. Quests remind of Evan Erwin's Fate mechanic from his Rise of the Titans set. Caring so much about events makes Zendikar a very temporal block. Unlike Time Spiral (my second favorite block after this one) the temporal elements ebb and flow instead of marching steadily ahead. The concept of the Roil fits nicely with the Landfall mechanic. The Roil happens regularly yet unpredictably. Landfall causes events to happen regularly yet unpredictably.
Landfall is probably in my top ten list of favorite mechanics (Traps and Quests are also on that list). Eternity Vessel is a good showcase of Landfall's value. The Vessel gives us a repeating trigger that would be busted if it happened every upkeep. Landfall allows the timing of the trigger to be manipulated yet not entirely controllable. Eternity Vessel does an excellent job of portraying a Tree of Eternal Life.
My two favorite cards from Zendikar are Treasure Hunt and Explore. They symbolize a lot of what was great about Zendikar. Simple concepts going a long way and fitting their flavor perfectly.
Quests are wonderful in their direct simplicity, but I'd trade some of that simplicity to make some of the Quests feel more like actual quests. The Traps definitely feel like traps, but the quests are more like reverse traps. A trap is made cheaper by an event, a quest is cheap to start but requires an event to be repeated many times. Real quests are not usually as direct as repeating the same motions a few times. Reals quests tend to require several different elements to come together because they can be completed. A only slightly more complex way of would be to give some quests more than just one trigger for quest counters and varying the number of counters based on the event. For instance, a quest could get a counter for each turn you don't attack and two counters for every time you play a legendary land or have at least two allies you control block the same creature. This would feel more quest-esque since there'd be multiple ways to achieve your goal and there'd be a greater sense of distance traveled.
The Quests from Zendikar are a natural evolution of Suspend. Using time a resource has so much potential. Suspended spells could be considered quests that only trigger quest counter additions from upkeeps. Both suspend and quests create promote interactivity, since the delay provides room for all players to change the situation and affect the effect a suspended spell or a quest permanent will have on the game. Suspend benefits from automatic release as opposed to the optional release of quests. Since a quest is charged by events this gives opponents a change to prevent events from happening. With quests there's no reason for an opponent to purposefully cause an event to happen. If the quests that were sacrificed for their effect had to be sacrificed automatically when they reached whatever number of counters, then another level of intrigue would be added. Consider a quest that got a counter whenever a player casts a noncreature spell. If such a quest could be sacrificed with four counters to counter target noncreature spell, that'd be fine. It'd be more interesting if when it got the fourth counter it triggered and sacrificed automatically to counter a noncreature spell, then the opponent casting the noncreature spells could control which one got countered and in exchange such a quest could be a fairly cheap counter spell. Somewhat like a suspended Hesitation.
The Eldrazi Spawn give the sense of a swarm of minions that can be devoured for power. The Spawn are a great design with the Elder Eldrazi. Not only do the Spawn serve to help bring out the elders, they also provide protection against the elders as chump blockers and annihilator fodder.
The Level Up mechanic is a lovely follow up to Kicker. Level Up is basically Kicker as you go. Both Level Up and Kicker play well with Zendikar's emphasis on land (and thus mana). Level Up might've made more sense flavorwise if it took a page from the Quests' book. Instead of investing mana it would've make more sense if Levelers received counters from events and thus represent their growth in experience. For instance, getting a level up counter for every time a creature survives combat would represent the concept more truthfully.
4. R&D has recently been looking at rules in the game that aren't pulling their weight. If you had to remove an existing rule from the game for not being worth its inclusion, what would it be?
Maximum hand size presumably exists to reduce the game's potential level of complexity. It's too infrequently important though. The absence of this rule would be a minor absence. It's one more thing for a beginner to learn that's not very important and creates extra noise. Removing the maximum hand size would be one less piece of information to track, and not a very sexy piece at that.
There are only seventeen cards that care about maximum hand size. Don't get me wrong I love Spellbook and adore Reliquary Tower. Their reduction in power is unlikely to cause widespread complaint. Removing the maximum hand size wouldn't make Spellbook completely valueless thanks to the Odyssey Thought Munchers and the their ilk. The Thought Munchers of course would require some awkward errata sadly. Maybe one line giving you a maximum hand size and another reducing that hand size. Since a player only has one Vanguard card at a time ignoring casual play, Vanguards might be been given errata changing the hand size modifiers to starting hand sizes.
Even if the maximum hand size was kept, I take issue with the forced discard part of it. If the rule caused the player to put excess cards on the bottom of their library this would be more appropriate since the game impact would be reduced. And it would irk players less, because usually it's less annoying to shelve than to discard.
Much like the removal of mana burn, the removal of max hand size might open up more design space than close it. The ability to control one's hand more freely would be a boon to any hand size matters mechanics. Numbers greater than seven could matter without having to add clunky pieces like Spellbook to a deck build. Cards like Maro would be strengthened but probably not to the point of being broken.
5. Name a card currently in Standard that, from a design standpoint, should not have been printed. What is the card and why shouldn't we have printed it?
Serra Ascendant is a problem for multiplayer formats. It enters the battlefield fully powered in Two-Headed Giant and Elder Dragon Highlander, two formats that are growing in popularity and deserve more consideration in design. I've played against that card in a few multiplayer games and can say it's a pain. Sure, it can simply be banned in such formats, but I feel there's enough people playing THG and EDH that cards like this should be avoided when possible.
One possible solution to this problem might be to change the wording from counting a specific life total to counting up from the starting life total of the game. A player's starting life total in a game is an easy number to remember. I might have suggested wording Serra Ascendant's second ability, "As long as you have at least ten more life than your starting life total, Serra Ascendant gets +5/+5 and has flying." This way the card retains its intention regardless of the special conditions of a given format.
6. What do you think design can do to best make the game accessible to newer players?
Magic can obviously seem intimidating from the outside. Learning the game almost seems like learning a new language. I feel the use of reminder text could be extended for beginner sets. Reminder text could be placed in the text box of vanilla creatures explaining how they work as well as instants and sorceries and all types. and some cards could be created for the express purpose of teaching.
7. What do you think design can do to best make the game attractive to experienced players?
A place in the mulitverse. A stake in the future of the game. If the story of planeswalkers is going somewhere, involved players might enjoy some influence in the direction. For example, I could imagine the outcome of the upcoming affiliated games of mirrodin versus phyrexia could have an effect on whether or not mirrodin is overcome in the story.
8. Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the best designed? Explain why.
Traps actually are the best design I've seen. They're interactive, they can be a surprise, traps can change players behavior. I could see the concept being evergreen, it's so natural, so simple, basic, clean, elegant.
Both halves of every trap work well together of course, and tend to make sense flavorwise. They fit wonderfully for Zendikar. They extend the area of hidden information to the board position and encourage players to play their opponents. Traps are the best bluffing mechanic I've seen, and that's an element of the game I'd like to see get more love.
9. Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the worst designed? Explain why.
Sorry, but I gotta go with planeswalkers. It's not that they're not a good idea or don't fit in well. They just needed more time or needed to wait for another time. They're really, really messy and complicated. They could've been less messy and complicated if they weren't trying so hard to merge an specific ideal with the constraints of current rules. The fact that you target a planeswalker's controller with a burn spell to direct burn at the walker is a little awkward. It's inconsistent that you can't be the same with a life gain spell. New burn spells and life gain spells should call out planeswalkers by name perhaps. If players are planeswalkers then planeswalker cards should have life not loyalty. I don't see that there should have been a problem giving life to a permanent.
10. Choose a plane to revisit other than Dominaria or Mirrodin. What is a mechanical twist we could add if we revisit this plane?
Lorwyn / Shadowmoor could've done more with the whole mirror image thing. There's a lot of mechanics that could've shown up there to emphasize duality. For instance, flip cards could've been used to represent twins on the same card. Stillmoon Cavalier was cool, representing both black knight and white knight on the same card. This could also be done by putting black and white on seperate halves of one card. These flip cards could be printed in both the dark and light blocks. So a future Shadowmoor block could have the flip knight and the following Lorwyn sequel could have the card as a reprint.
Using flip cards could showcase the shift of the aurora. Triggered by some event the dark side would shift to light or the light side would shift to dark. Perhaps whenever a dark side permanent enters the battlefield, all light side perms would flip to dark and vice versa. Some creatures with champion could be set to champion dark side or light side creatures.
I'd like to see more cards like Stillmoon Cavalier. Such as a hybrid red/blue Reverberate Twincasting. To take it a step further it'd be cool to see hybrid spilt cards. Like a half Reverberate Twincasting half Naturalize Disenchant.

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