With the rumors of a full game client release this fall. We go over the current Open Beta game client and what features are needed before calling it a full game.
Magic The Gathering Arena has been in Open beta for a good while now, there where a lot of speculation last year that the game would go into the state of officially released when Kaladesh and Amonkhet rotated out. It was probably the intent too, but the game was far from done and a lot of features were missing from the game.
Rumors about MTGA coming this year started during Hasbro revenue Report this July, but nothing official has been stated yet. But this fall they will have a new chance when a lot of sets rotate out and we get a new fresh Standard. Throne of Eldraine also seems to have a very interesting theme which also caters to a wide audience. These are great conditions to release the game!
There is not much time left. The game, while still having a lot of new features still feels quite incomplete, especially for MTG veterans. A lot of people are fine with the state of the game right now, but I would argue there are still ways to go.
They could, of course, release the game without it being fully completed and patch it more as we go, which is probably what they are going to do now that they have fixed the MTGA updater.
Earlier updates required you to download the full game every time, now it will only download the parts required for a new patch. Let us go over the main parts MTG Arena are missing when it comes to a full game.
It does come as a surprise that this has not been a part of the game since the beginning. Collecting cards is a big part of Magic The Gathering, people want to complete sets, see their progression and have something to work towards. They have even hidden the collection button inside of the deck tab. Not only is this feature a must, but the data is also already there!
Screenshot from mtgarena.pro
Numerous sites are using the game logs for tracking collections and other data from the game, MTGArena.pro, Lotus tracker, Untapped.gg are all reading the logs and have collection tracking where users can see the progress of acquiring the full sets. This means all of the collection functionality can be computed client-side, nothing is required server-side.
The most surprising thing about this is that they are missing out on a lot of revenue by not having collection tracking. The number of additional booster purchases to get a full collection would increase by who knows how much.
Right now we are all opening boosters and crafting cards to play decks which means that when you have the decks you want there is no real incentive to get more boosters or craft cards when you do not see any real progress of collection growth.
This has not seen a lot of debate, most likely because many people finding this kind of stuff probably has tracker software installed. While it can be discussed that some stats do not belong inside of the game as they do not want people to focus on win rate and reveal too much of the metagame, collection stats sure do and it is only beneficial for all parts.
Drafting with only bots gets boring quick
Initially, drafting with bots was just something they added to test drafting, after a while they found that it made it easier for people to close the game during a draft and continue later. There is also less pressure when drafting as you can do it in your own tempo. It is now a vital part of the game and the bots get updated now and then with new algorithms as they do tend to fall into patterns.
While bot drafting has its upsides, it also comes with some real downsides...
You (almost) always play against the best deck of each draft pod. When you draft in Magic in real life, there is always the comfort that even if your card pool is total crap the rest of the pod is also in the same situation. All the decks drafted by bots disappear from the league, those seven garbage decks the pulled by the bots all go away and all you are left with one nicely crafted deck by a human. If they were all human instead, all of those decks would also be part of the pool.
It is a wide known fact, which has also been stated by pro players that the bot draft meta is completely different than drafting against humans. The bot draft is all about trying to figure out what cards the bots tend to ignore and build a powerful deck out of those cards, it has happened in many sets already and it will continue to happen, no matter how many fixes are released.
While the League structure is awesome. It feels great to play a match one day and then continue later if you do not have time. Drafting with bot does not feel awesome. I would like to see Wizards sticking to their original plan with having human drafts instead of bots and this needs to be put in before the game release.
A suggestion; You draft with humans on a timer for each pick, much like MTG Online. If someone drops out or quits a bot will jump in and take over your draft by picking cards for you when the timer runs out. (I know I will pay some gold/gems to see what the AI comes up with for poops and giggles.) This way during the league you will face all eight decks in a draft pod not only the best one out of each and the draft games will feel much more natural.
This will require some testing and should be released as soon as possible if the aim is to make it to the release date.
The game client has always been laggy, stuttering and random slowdowns. Even people with powerful gaming rigs have had this experience, there have not been many comments from WotC addressing this. We did at one point get a client optimization patch which kind of mended it a little bit but it quickly went full-fledged bad again after a couple of patches. It is surprising that you can have a game with 100 players simultaneous on a little island, interacting with thousands of items, firing bullets at each other with pixel-perfect accuracy, run completely fine, while in MTG Arena we can't even get a small static battlefield with two players and some playing cards running smoothly.
While the digital card game Artifact did fail completely, the graphic and smoothness in that game are what you would expect of a game released in 2019. The clunkiness of MTG Arena still has ways to go before it's ready for release. On the same note, another thing I noticed in regards to Artifact is that it felt that I was playing with paper cards, the sound and animation gave me that paper feel. Notice the next time a card hits the battlefield in MTG Arena, it feels like a brick hitting the battlefield.
It might just be personal preference but I would like to see the card animations loosen up a bit and introduce that wonderful paper flickering sound.
It did not turn out to be a success, but it still delivered in the graphics department and was a very smooth game.
The Menu Interface
All over the place, no good overview, unnecessary hide buttons, scrolling, no good use of the space. We can go on and on about this, and we do think and hope Wotc is aware of how bad it really is seeing as they have not done much about it. It does feel like this is one of the things they are kind of saving for last when everything else is done.
Why is there a big empty space to the right causing a scrollbar to appear?
We need to enter an event to read about it, why not use all that blacked out space to display event information. Saving clicks and confusion.
The layout still needs a lot of work
The game modes are confusing, why invent new names like "Traditional" when you have "Standard" already? "Play" also has an official name, which is "Arena Standard"
Let us quickly redo the menu to something way less confusing, new names to the left, old in parenthesis. It might not be perfect but I think it is better than calling them BO3 and BO1 which I feel is the other alternative:
- Draft M20 (Traditional Draft Core Set 2020)
- Standard Event(Traditional Constructed)
- Arena Draft Ranked M20 (Ranked Draft Core Set 2020)
- Arena Standard Event (Constructed Event)
- Arena Standard (Play)
- Arena Standard Ranked (Ranked)
- Arena Standard Bot Match (Bot Match)
- Standard (Traditional Play)
- Standard Ranked (Traditional Ranked)
Consistent titles which make sense inside and outside of the game, easy to recognize and ordered in a logical sense. Standard is always Best of 3 matches while Arena Standard is the Best of 1 format.
Community tools and friendslists
MTG is a social game, consisting of playgroups, be it the people meeting up kitchen tables matches, the local game store playgroup, a group competing players forming a team or a full-fledged esports or streaming team. Giving players that feeling of entering the local game store meeting up with their friends every time they log into the game would ensure a huge win for MTG Arena.
Introducing community tools like Clans/Teams/Communities where people can join a group of likeminded people or the group of their favorite streamer. Having an in-game chat with the members, moderator tools, group high score lists for each season making it easy to compare yourself to the others in the group and arranging playoffs. While we do feel chat should be disabled in 1v1 matches having a community chat would be a massive win, this could be disabled when on mobile as it would not transfer well on that platform.
If I had one thing on the wishlist it would have to be this, unless it has already been in the plans for a while there is no way we will see this in a 2019 release. At least I do hope it is something they would take into consideration as it would put the game on a next level as a digital card game.
As for friendslists, we do know that it is planned and has been in the workings for a long time it should also include a direct chat function as it is the industry standard for games nowadays.
Running one of the bigger Diablo III EU Hardcore clans back in the day, it was always fun to log in, chat and look at the leaderboards. Always trying to outplay other clans or fellow members.
Draft pods with friends and Tourney pods
The ability to draft with 8 players both as a friend group or in a tournament is a must for getting the complete MTG experience, as far as we know from Wotc, this is also a goal of them to implement. As we talked about earlier in the article this also helps a lot with the feeling of being part of a community, entering the game and sitting down with friends over a voice chat and playing a full draft table.
While some will argue for "Shadow drafts", which is when you do not keep the cards you draft and all you do is simulating a draft. I feel this will dilute the experience of drafting, but I would like to see them do "Friend Pods" with gold while Tourney pods can be Gem only. Best of one or Best of three should be an option in "Friend Pods", while if not a choice in Tourney pods I would like to say it should be Best of three for the true draft experience with sideboard.
I would say that this is one of the key features that are a must to have when the game releases, it will feel very lackluster without having the ability to draft in pod groups with other people and only having to play with.
In regards to "Shadow drafts" I feel it would be a good idea to implement a draft training mode, where players can shadow draft with bots to create a deck and learn how to draft. So what do you do with your deck after building it? Well MTG Arena already has a bot you could play against to test your deck. The bot is not smart enough to play custom decks but he could play the decks he has today just for players to test theirs against an opponent.
More animated Pets
While far from game-breaking or a big necessity, I want to talk a bit about pets. No, I don't mean more as, in quantity, I mean it as in more animated. What we have today is called a pet, but it's more like a statue with some small movements. I was excited about pets coming to MTGA but was really disappointed in how it looks, the cat almost looks like it is part of the background.
It looks more like a statue and it reminds me of a Nintendo Amiboo. Yeah, it is nitpicking but I wanted to just raise some cat awareness. I think the idea of a pet is cool, but feel it could be way better executed.
The MTGA cat's unknown Amiibo brother
The de-facto standard in all games and they should be no exception in MTG Arena. This also ties into the community tools mentions above where players can see each other's profiles and compare achievements in their guilds/clans. Would like to see some hard and ridiculous ones like "Create 5.000 goblins", "Win 200 games with alternative win-cons", "Counter 10.000 spells".
Okay, maybe not that last one...
This is not a crucial thing to include of course but it would be nice to have, Magic Duels and the other Magic 201X games also did have them.
The last spice is missing from the mix
Something feels off in the game, there is something missing for longevity. I am not sure why it does feel like a chore every time I log into the game to do some dailies, it is not very fun even though I want to have fun. There is some spice missing here, it feels a bit bland. I think it is mostly because of the reasons above, drafting only bots, no social features, no goals in the game than earning some daily gold and climbing the mythic ladder which is not for everyone, no sense of collection progress. There are still so many basic features left needed in MTGA so at this point, it is a bit wrong to say it's missing some spice when the stew does not event contain the main ingredients.
It would be really unfortunate if the game releases with the state it is in now, uncomplete and lacking important features. Hasbro said that they were going to double down on MTG and we can only hope that this does not only mean on ads, Netflix series, and esports prizes, but also on the devs of MTG Arena.
Because as of right now, with the dev speed we are seeing, and most updates mostly containing new events and new sets. There is no way that they are going to make it for a fall release if they want a feature-complete game. But I would still like them to release it soon as it has been in Beta for quite a while, it will require some all-nighters though if they want to pull through.
I would love to know what you guys think, any comments as to what you feel is missing in the game? Leave a message below.
André Liverød Founder and CEO of AetherHub.com, techie, senior IT Network consultant, web dev, and MTG enthusiast. Likes to play with fire. You can follow André on Twitter.
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