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Author Topic: Suggestions For Improving the Online Vintage Experience  (Read 10870 times)
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« on: September 14, 2015, 08:38:48 pm »

The state of Vintage on MTGO is, to put it mildly, not everything we hoped it would be. Stephen Menendian and I teamed up to write an open letter about how to improve the state of Vintage on Magic: the Gathering Online. I hope you will take the time to read this and share it with your friends.
http://redd.it/3kzg8h
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2015, 09:55:40 pm »

First of all, I want to thank you guys for doing this. I've been a really vocal critic of how MTGO RE: Vintage/Play Points has been handled. I wrote several emails, and I've received replies via twitter, but it's as if Lee Sharpe is misunderstanding what I've said, or just not caring (more likely).
I'm not as important to the whole scene as you guys, you're both very visible, being in the VSL and all (among other things). I'm hoping that they pay attention to what you've written, and decide to act.

I do think that there is at least some additional changes that should be made, I know I want to see some other changes. I'd like at least a slightly-higher payout in our Daily Events. I don't think it would break the bank to throw one extra pack to a 3-0 and one pack plus the 60 PP to a 2-1. Those payouts would still be far less than they used to be, but there would be a lot more incentive to keep playing. I don't think asking for that is a big deal.

Previously, with the lowest pack prices, a 3-1 record and the six-pack prize would earn you 11-12 tix (more when prices were better). That's doubling your six ticket entry fee, and it's a great deal.

We all need to remember that the only downside to giving out packs is that it can lower market prices and it makes buying packs from the store a worse deal. It seems like the real reason they did this was to force people to buy packs from the store (or at least try to do so). The thing is, this isn't like an LGS giving out prize packs with a tangible cost, an addition to their overhead. This is us spending real currency and being rewarded in intangible digital objects. The profit margins are huge, so as long as the market isn't being over-saturated, then they shouldn't be stingy with the prize packs!
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2015, 08:06:52 am »

Nice write up Rich and Steve!

I agree with all your thoughts here.
The infinite loop issue has been known to WOTC for as long as I can remember. I used to bang my head against the wall in the modo format "Classic" trying to Metalworker/ Staff combo for years.
It would be so very sweet to see Dragon and Salvager's be viable on modo ( I did play some Dragon last weekend on modo, and was determined to make it work. FAIL).
 
The re-introduction of PE's would be amazing. I agree that monthly PE's could fire if we plan ahead.

The Winter Festival was an amazing success. If we could have 1-2 (if not quarterly) of these a year it would help draw a lot more attention to Vintage and keep our player base happy (The prizes where ridiculous for this event).

Player Points=boosters is great in theory, and I agree having non tradable points is a terrible supplement for what we had (booster payout).
The problem is I just don't see them investing the time into programming something like this. I hate to say it but it took them several years to get leagues back into circulation.
This would be so far down the totem pole for them it isn't even funny.

Results is a serious problem for modo Vintage right now.
Since going to 3 rounds they only post the 3-0 deck lists which is typically 1 list now.
This is abysmal for data, and far worse than it was when we had 4 round events.
I have to be honest I have just stopped looking at the lists as it is now essentially useless.
I am really in support of going back to 4 round events. I agree with you guys in that i do like the time commitment of 3 rounds better as they are more conducive to my lifestyle, but it just feels so much worse. I mean the other night I got a round 1 bye, played round 2 and my round 3 opponent quit? I waited 3 days to play in that event. lol.

The best feature imo that was implemented with the play points was the ability to fire an event with 8 people or less. The irony of it all though is that we never had much difficulty firing events with the 16 player minimum when we were moved to 7 events a week.
We now can fire events with 8 people or less, but of course we lost a good portion of our player base with these changes. Sigh. Seems like a bad deal to me.

I really commend you guys on your suggestions and ability to convey your message to WOTC in an optimistic and neutral manor.
I however, cannot repress my venom for WOTC and these changes they have made. I have to say MTGO Vintage is in a pretty bad spot right now. I have never been so uninspired to play. The prize payout is unacceptable. The 3 round events are ridiculous.

Worth and his team are misguided. They act without thinking things through thoroughly causing more damage then good. I mean when they moved us from V3 to V4 it was incomprehensible what we where given. V4 was and still is a completely unpolished program. I am talking Beta stage product at best. They still haven't given us satisfactory foils after all this time. WOTC has completely desecrated the value of foils and my collection with it. I have seen to many examples of incompetence from these people to think otherwise.

We are a small group of people the "Vintage Community". We will always come last in WOTC eyes as we don't bring the money in like the other formats.
These changes you have suggested are all spot on, but I am skeptical we will see any change. WOTC has bigger more important issues to tackle.
Hopefully you guys can have some influence here, where others have failed.

Thanks again, and great write up.
I am in full support of your suggested changes.
Andy



« Last Edit: September 15, 2015, 08:14:53 am by Montolio » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2015, 11:39:47 am »

Can you post it here?  I mean, this is the Vintage Magic site and all.
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2015, 01:04:49 pm »

I thought this was a very well thought out and written letter. And I truly hope WoTC takes it to heart. It wasn't directly addressed in your letter (or my memory is failing me) but your suggestion of quarterly tournements happens to lign up pretty closely with WoTC set release schedule. MTGO already hosts standard and limited  championships to celebrate most sets and awards pretty nice prizes to the winners of these events. I would think it would be nice if WOTC institutued a parallel structure for eternal players. If they rotated between legacy and Vintage it would be a boon to the eternal community and would fit nicely into MTGO's current structure. Though it would be less helpful to this community they could include modern in the rotation so that everyone gets to play in these, not just standard and limited players.

On a somewhat related note, I hope the leagues rollout eventually includes Vintage, as the feedback I have heard has been fairly positive for the standard league. Granted Vintage has the issue of reaching critical mass of players, but if it is met, it would address the timetable issue Montolio mentioned as you can play at will without downtime and the prizes are somewhat better than the currently terrible prizes for the Vintage daily events.
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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2015, 05:32:36 pm »

Can you post it here?  I mean, this is the Vintage Magic site and all.

We could, but that would require work formatting and so forth. If you'd like to do that for us, knock yourself out.


These changes you have suggested are all spot on, but I am skeptical we will see any change. WOTC has bigger more important issues to tackle.
Hopefully you guys can have some influence here, where others have failed.


I think there is great value in trying to develop some consensus around what the key changes that are needed are.  So, even if we are skeptical of the possibility for change, developing agreement on what they should be is a big step. 
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« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2015, 09:35:15 pm »

By Stephen Menendian and Rich Shay

Introduction

Vintage is the Magic: the Gathering format that allows the oldest, most powerful cards. It is the format with the largest permissible card pool among sanctioned constructed formats, with over 12,000 cards and counting. The Vintage format is defined as much by its passionate players and dedicated community as it is by its powerful cards like Black Lotus. Interest in the format is illustrated by the recent Vintage Championship in Philadelphia, which drew over 450 participants from around the globe.

Despite all of the enthusiastic Vintage players out there and the interest among non-Vintage players, the format faces some unfortunate barriers to entry. First, the cards that define Vintage are often expensive. Certainly, innovation abounds and new cards are constantly seeing play; the deck that won the Vintage Championship contains Dragonlord Dromoka, a printing from Dragons of Tarkir, released this year. However, many of the core cards of the format are prohibitive in terms of their cost. Because Wizard of the Coast's interpretation of the Reserve List policy precludes their being reprinted, format-defining staples like Black Lotus are limited to their original 1993 print runs and are not going to become more accessible.

Another factor that makes paper Vintage less accessible is geography. Because of the rising cost of entry, generally areas with historical interest in Vintage Magic or the benefit of population density have enough players to hold regular Vintage tournaments. Most Magic players lack not only access to critical Vintage staples, but also access to competitors and established tournament scenes. In the United States, that means the Northeastern corridor and a few other scattered pockets of Vintage seedbeds. For these reasons, tournament organizers interested in Vintage confront the reality that nearly any other constructed format will draw broader player interest. Despite the intensity of passion held by its advocates, Vintage requires a critical mass of players and competitors, a challenging threshold for a format with a daunting barrier to entry.

The Promise of Online Vintage

One of the most exciting developments in the history of the Vintage format was its introduction on Magic: the Gathering Online. We have already discussed the challenges facing the expansion of the paper Vintage format. Magic: the Gathering Online (MTGO) is neither bound by the Reserve List, nor are its players bound by geography. Instead, MTGO provides a promising platform upon which Vintage can flourish.

The thousands of viewers tuning into the Vintage Super League is evidence of interest in the format and the continually increasing attendance of the Vintage Championships demonstrates a growing number of prospective Vintage players. Vintage has persisted in paper in spite of a paucity of official tournament support or large-scale sanctioned events because of its passionate, dedicated player base. The arrival of Vintage on MTGO inspired hopes among the Vintage community that we would see more support.

Unfortunately, Vintage on MTGO has not yet lived up to its potential. As Vintage enthusiasts, we eagerly adopted this platform as soon as the format was introduced in the summer of 2014. With over a year of Vintage on MTGO, we developed many insights derived from our own experience and dialogue with other active members of the Vintage community. Based on this, we believe that the experience of Vintage on MTGO can be greatly improved to support a sustainable, growing, and thriving player base through a few adjustments. Further, we strongly believe that Wizards of the Coast wants Vintage to succeed on MTGO. In that light, we present the following recommendations for improving the online Vintage experience.

Improving the Structure of Tournaments

Over the last year, MTGO has experimented with a variety of offerings for Vintage players to see what works and what does not. Meeting the needs of Vintage players can be a challenge, as Vintage players often have requirements that differ from Standard enthusiasts. Vintage Daily events were reduced a few months ago in the interests of trying to increase the number of events that “fired.” This effort was successful. Scheduled daily events more regularly met the required minimum number of players.

On the other hand, Vintage premier events were eliminated entirely. The only Vintage premier events that “fired” were ones organized by one of the authors of this letter and this was accomplished by promoting the event in the Vintage community. The Vintage premier event filled its capacity of 64 players (http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=46568.0).

Most recently, Magic Online has changed the format of dailies from four-round events to three-round events. This has caused some consternation among players, who feel as if support is slowly slipping away. While the smaller events have upsides, including a lower minimum number of players, and a smaller time commitment for busy participants, many Vintage players perceived it as part of a trend of gradually diminishing support.

Part of the frustration among Vintage players arises from the fact that the expense of acquiring or building an established Vintage deck, even for Magic Online, is not trivial. Many Vintage decks, even on MTGO, cost over a thousand U.S. dollars when acquired from scratch.

Unfortunately, with the changes to tournament offerings since the introduction of Vintage on MTGO, prize support for Vintage events is increasingly small, especially relative to the cost of entry. Winning an online Vintage tournament generates at most three booster packs as well as some Play Points (to be discussed below). A Vintage deck is an investment that, under the current online tournament structure, is unlikely ever to pay for itself, let alone subsidize the acquisition of key staples for additional decks and a growing collection.

What Vintage players who invest in MTGO want even more than better prize support are enough significant and meaningful opportunities to participate in high-level events against strong competition. Vintage players, more so than most other Magic players, are motivated by a passion for the format and a desire to make a name for themselves.

To ensure that players will invest in MTGO and stay invested, it is necessary that there are sufficient, periodic opportunities for high-level tournament competition, not just small daily events. Therefore, we recommend that MTGO offer: 1)quarterly, large-scale Vintage events comparable to those of the highly successful Vintage Holiday Festival, which had over a 100 players; and 2) a monthly premier event.

The previously scheduled weekly premier event faltered because it offered too many opportunities to enroll without focusing interest or attention on any particular date. The same logic that led the organizers of MTGO to reduce the number of dailies applies with greater force to premier events. Offering a single premier event per month would almost certainly focus maximum attention and anticipation for that event.

Additionally, monthly events would sync with the rhythms that Vintage players have come to expect from paper Magic, as many regular Vintage events are held monthly. Vintage players tend to be slightly older than the average Magic player and have less time to commit to weekly or even daily events. These players prefer to plan further in advance and could more readily plan around a monthly schedule.

We predict that a monthly premier event would regularly enroll the minimum number of players and would lure more Vintage players to the MTGO platform who have decided not to invest at this time while dissuading skeptical Vintage players from selling off their collection. Larger, quarterly events on the scale of the Holiday Festival would simultaneously reinforce and receive support from the monthly premier events.

The Holiday Festival Vintage tournament was a notable and impressive success. Despite being a qualification tournament, over 110 players enrolled to play. With high-profile players not only participating, but winning the event (Luis Scott-Vargas won the tournament), it drew interest from non-Vintage players as well.

Considering the success of the event, it is mystifying that it has not been replicated or followed-up in at least some manner. Just as monthly premier events would draw more paper-Vintage players to the MTGO platform, quarterly events on the scale, size, competition and prestige of Holiday Festival would prove to be an even bigger draw, not only in terms of participation, but of interest and discussion. Regularizing these tournaments – or indicating an intent to do so – is an easy way in which the organizers of MTGO can indicate a long term commitment to supporting Vintage on this platform while cementing support and dispelling doubts among the existing player base.

The main problem for so many MTGO Vintage players is not simply the lack of support, but also the perception that MTGO offers so little for adherents of the format. To combat this perception, the organizers of MTGO must not only act, but they must manage the expectations and concerns of its users more effectively. Although many recent changes have been well-intended, they are not always perceived positively among users. Announcing either a monthly premier event or a quarterly large-scale event would go a long way toward assuring current MTGO Vintage players of the platform's long-term promise for the format, assuaging any concerns they may have from recent changes or disconcerting trends, as well as serving as a lure to recruit more paper Vintage enthusiasts onto the platform.

Suggestions for Improving Play Points

A recent change to MTGO is the introduction of Play Points. Play Points are digital objects that cannot be traded between players but which can be used only to enter events in MTGO. The constructed tournament prize structures have been changed such that a large proportion of the prizes being awarded are in the form of Play Points, rather than online booster packs. Play Points make it easier for tournament players to enroll in events. Rather than having to convert packs to tickets, it reduces the transaction time for enrolling in new events. To a player who plays Standard and Drafts, Play Points may also be desirable. That player can accumulate Play Points by playing Standard, and then redeem the Play Points to enter Booster Drafts, which in turn award booster packs as prizes.

However, this system is less ideal for the average Vintage player who has less interest in drafting. The sole value of Play Points to such a player is entering more Vintage events. Because Vintage MTGO tournaments now pay out primarily in Play Points, a very successful online Vintage player is likely to accumulate a large number of Play Points. Unfortunately, because they cannot be traded or easily converted into anything that can be traded, Play Points have diminishing utility as more are accumulated. Beyond what can be used to enter events, excess Play Points have little to zero value; for example, 10,000 Play Points and 100,000 Play Points have effectively the same utility.

In this way, Play Points make it much more difficult to accumulate Event Tickets or invest in one's Vintage MTGO collection through success in Vintage events. Under the old system, in which more liquid booster packs were awarded as prizes, players could pursue the objective of leveraging success in Vintage tournaments into expanding their online Vintage collections. Under this new system, that dream is gone. Taking away that motivator is very discouraging for Vintage players who aspired to succeed online and grow their collections.

Admittedly, this may not have been a very realistic scenario under the old system, but this possibility served an important incentive to Vintage players. After all, not many players actually play on the Pro Tour, but the Pro Tour's existence helps sell booster packs and inspire participation in tournament magic.

One solution to this problem is clean and easy. Allowing some number of Play Points to be converted into a booster pack would give Vintage players a way of deriving value from excess Play Points. This will also discourage players from selling their MTGO accounts laden with excess Play Points, which would be against the MTGO terms of service.

We are certainly aware that one of the reasons for the introduction of Play Points was to reduce the number of excess booster packs in circulation. We do not believe that a reasonable implementation of solution (e.g. 40 Play Points for a booster) will lead to a large number of booster packs being introduced to circulation. The majority of players would still use Play Points to enter events. It would remain inefficient for a player to trade Play Points for packs, exchange those packs for Event Tickets, and then use those Event Tickets to enter events.

The only players who would likely want to trade Play Points for packs would be those who have too many Play Points to use to enter events or who are getting out of MTGO entirely. In other words, this solution would only be useful to a small minority of players, but it would be extremely valuable to them and an option for everyone else while remaining an aspirational incentive. Further, it would make the entire system much more player-friendly. It would let users feel more confident in accumulating Play Points, knowing they can still recoup value from their Play Points should they choose to quit MTGO, without resorting to selling their accounts.

Although the introduction of Play Points makes sense for most players, much like the changes to the range and quality of tournament options for Vintage players, it has been perceived by many Vintage players as part of a negative trend. The perception of these changes often trumps their underlying logic. The solution we recommend serves the goals of the recent changes while also preserving the integrity of the system in the eyes of Vintage users.

Additional Suggestions for Improving the Online Vintage Experience

In the real world, Vintage tournaments occur far less frequently than tournaments of other formats. This is in large part a result of the dearth available cards and invested players, as discussed above. One unfortunate consequence of this is a lack of Vintage tournament results. We realize that Wizards of the Coast does not publish all results on MTGO and we understand the reasons why. However, in the case of Vintage, we believe that those concerns are either misplaced or not as pressing. Vintage is a format that suffers, if anything, from a lack of data, not an over-abundance. Rather than over-define a metagame, more deck results would help players better understand the metagame of an often misunderstood format.

Moreover, we believe it would be beneficial to everyone, including non-MTGO users, to have more results available. Having more results published would mean having more decklists to use as resources for new players, providing more ideas for deckbuilders, and showcasing more of the diversity of the format. The format is not easily solved, and the Restricted List could be used to address whatever problems may arise. In short, publishing more Vintage results would go a long way to helping advance the format. We recommend that every Vintage tournament result be published, and that more data on Vintage and data-tools be made available for analysis.

A further suggestion is related to making more paper Vintage decks playable on MTGO. It is not possible, nor necessarily desirable, to make the paper Magic experience identical to MTGO. In some respects, such as the play clock, MTGO provides a superior platform than what is logistically feasible for paper Magic. However, there is one area where MTGO should more closely reflect paper Magic.

There are strategies in Vintage, past, present, and presumably more in the future that use repeated loops as a central part of their gameplan. The Worldgorger Dragon decks are one prominent historical example of this. A more salient example of this is the deck that recently won the Vintage Championship. This deck uses Auriok Salvagers, Black Lotus, and Pyrite Spellbomb as a way to win the game. In paper Magic, the player essentially announces repeated combos and how many times they are being repeated.

On MTGO, this is not possible. Executing a repeated looping combo can take hundreds of clicks, expending precious clock time. This should be corrected. We wish to avoid being overly prescriptive on how to resolve this problem, but wish to emphasize that fixing this would help enable some decks that are perfectly good in paper Magic, and even important parts of the Vintage metagame, but are not operationally feasible on MTGO. However it is accomplished, we recommend that a simple functionality be programmed into Magic Online to make these strategies more playable.

The fact that the deck that won the most recent Vintage Championship is not functional on MTGO is a serious problem. But for Vintage players, this runs deeper than a technical problem. The importance of enabling this functionality in MTGO is exemplified by community pillar and reigning Vintage Champion Brian Kelly. Brian has stated that the only reason he has never used MTGO is because he is not able to test the majority of his designs because Auriok Salvagers and Black Lotus do not function together online as they do in paper Vintage. Instead, he has found other ways to test his decks. This highlights the lack of loop functionality as both a technical and community issue.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we believe that a number of simple steps on the part of Wizards of the Coast could greatly enhance the online Vintage experience. Vintage is a format with ponderous real-world constraints. However, these constraints do not exist online, and Wizards has the ability to tap into a very devoted and enthusiastic Vintage community. The steps we recommend are summarized as follows.

1.Introduce additional, larger-scale tournaments. This includes a) a monthly Premier event and b) a larger, quarterly event.


2.Allow Play Points to be converted to a tradeable commodity, such as booster packs.


3.Publish more tournament results from online Vintage events.


4.Enable repeated-loop interactions on MTGO.


To some extent, these suggestions are as much geared toward solving technical problems as improving the perception of the platform and the experience of the average Vintage player. While undoubtedly well-intentioned, some of the changes to the Vintage experience on MTGO, from the tournament offerings to the introduction of Play Points, have been poorly received in some quarters of the Vintage community.

Moreover, when viewing any of these issues in isolation, the bigger picture is easily missed, and well-meaning changes may form a larger perceived trend of gradually diminishing support. We believe that these changes will help Vintage find even greater success on MTGO and greatly improve the experience of the average Vintage player.

Sincerely,

Stephen Menendian & Rich Shay
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2015, 08:14:48 am »

Great letter. Magic online needs to be able to handle infinite loops. I'm probably being naive to hope that a vintage league would gather enough players to provide a sufficient stream of opponents.  If it worKed a league would best suit my schedule.
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2015, 11:11:41 am »

Completely agree with you Steve.
I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but when you have been around modo for as long as I have you learn to eat disappointment for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2015, 11:26:05 pm »

I think that's partly what makes this convo so difficult. 

Think about it from Wizards perspective.  Every decision they make actually has a kind of logic in isolation:

* Reducing the number of daily events has helped more daily events fire
* changing prize tix to play points does make it easier to jump into another event, and has other upsides

Etc.

The problem is that, when taken as a whole, all of these decisions look collectively like they are crapping on Vintage players and gradually reducing support.  Players are pessimistic, and that generates apathy and spite, which makes it harder to actually have a persuasive argument.  They are less willing to hear people who just sound angry, and it creates a vicious circle.

The number #1 thing I want to see is more premier events/big tournaments on MTGO.  I don't play dailies - even when they were four rounds, I think I enrolled in like 3-4 ever.  We tried to apply their own logic in order to persuade them/show them how they can support Vintage more.  I hope it works.
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2015, 09:13:58 am »

I appreciate you both writing this to them.  While I understand the approach you took in your argument I'm not sure it really focuses on the root of the problem.  Nor do I think it really displays how much discontent there is in the Vintage community on the issues with this program.  If the price of Black lotus acts as proxy for the number of Vintage players (or at least vintage interested), this shows that the player base has been slowly dying for some time and that it was not all of a sudden triggered by their recent changes: http://www.mtggoldfish.com/price/Vintage+Masters/Black+Lotus#online

First, you mention the loop problem, but that's the tip of the iceburg for this platform, and people are always going to have serious problems with MTGO until the interface is fixed.   This is the root of the problem.  Yes magic is more complicated than other card games and "blah blah blah", but MTGO has also existed for over 13 years now.  In those 13 years all they've really done are make cosmetic changes and update the card pool.  Its pitiful.  Any other computer gaming company would've been out of business 10 years ago following this model.  Just imagine if that's all Madden did or if that's all Pokemon did with their games.  Granted these are the primary sources of income for those products, but that's where people start to get angry about the cost of the game...  

They are asking us to pay full price (as in the same price of the paper cards), but we only get part of the experience.  Its completely ridiculous.  They need to fix their platform or offer discounts online (compared to the real game).  Yes you mentioned some fix for play points, 40 points for 1 pack, but that still comes so far from what their product is actually worth in its current state.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2015, 09:30:40 am by vaughnbros » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2015, 10:36:55 am »

In those 13 years all they've really done are make cosmetic changes and update the card pool.  Its pitiful.  Any other computer gaming company would've been out of business 10 years ago following this model.  Just imagine if that's all Madden did or if that's all Pokemon did with their games.  Granted these are the primary sources of income for those products, but that's where people start to get angry about the cost of the game...  

Uhm, that is exactly how each EA-Title and Pokemon games are handled. Considering Pokemon is already 20 years old and how the games themselves evolved, I can tell you there could have happened way more. The game got a bit more complex, but otherwise... just update the grafics and create some new Pokemon.
And I'm not even talking about EA. I'm sure you could play Madden 2005 and Madden 2015 and count the differences with a single hand.


Regarding this topic though I also have to add some points - I will edit this post later, time is running out for now Wink
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2015, 07:21:11 am »

In those 13 years all they've really done are make cosmetic changes and update the card pool.  Its pitiful.  Any other computer gaming company would've been out of business 10 years ago following this model.  Just imagine if that's all Madden did or if that's all Pokemon did with their games.  Granted these are the primary sources of income for those products, but that's where people start to get angry about the cost of the game...  

Uhm, that is exactly how each EA-Title and Pokemon games are handled. Considering Pokemon is already 20 years old and how the games themselves evolved, I can tell you there could have happened way more. The game got a bit more complex, but otherwise... just update the graphics and create some new Pokemon.
And I'm not even talking about EA. I'm sure you could play Madden 2005 and Madden 2015 and count the differences with a single hand.

This is not true.  Madden is tremendously different from 2005 to today.  They've improved every single aspect of the game play from actually in game with features, like truck stick, dramatically improved play calling, and the entire physics system being revamped.  In the team management they've made huge strides with a whole new overall system, player development system, college scouting, improved free agency and trading.  They've also failed with a number of attempts to improve the game during this time, like QB vision.  

Pokemon creates an entire new story line with every generation, has completely revamped their type system, and have a added a number of smaller additions to the game as well.

The point is these games built and refined their systems over time and now they have games that are extremely polished and time tested.  MTGO has gone through several "rebuilds", but they haven't actually polished anything.  We are 13 years in and its still rough to play, glitchy, and a bunch of the card interactions don't work properly. Not having infinite loops would be the equivalent of madden not having something as simple as a no huddle offense.  I don't think the requests that people have are unreasonable, we are simply asking for the game to function as it does in real life.
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« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2015, 11:11:18 am »

Ok, so on-topic this time.

So, while I agree with your basic ideas and I enjoy you spending time and effort to make the world a better place for Vintage players, the problem for me with your writeup is that it seems like you wrote it with your heart while hardly doing any research. Just going by your conclusions at least makes me think you did. But let's go through them point by point:

Quote
Introduce additional, larger-scale tournaments. This includes a) a monthly Premier event and b) a larger, quarterly event.

To be honest, this is the only one you got right and the only one that I *could* see happening. Not on a as large scale as monthly Premiers (they got rid of them for a reason) but at least on something like 2 big tourneys a year. Also, why is there no Vintage Mocs season? Perfect to show Vintage on the big stage.

Quote
Allow Play Points to be converted to a tradeable commodity, such as booster packs.

Yeah, and that is the first wtf-moment. Or rather wishful thinking. The whole point of Play Points is to limit players and their winnings, to force them to literally spend their winnings on the next tourney. "Tradeable" play points would go against anything that was intended, every single person would use and abuse that system, no one would ever have more unwanted Play Points left than the ones they cant trade right now. It might also lead to Play Points becoming a fractional currency. Just an unrealistic wish in my eyes.

Quote
Publish more tournament results from online Vintage events.

I would praise Wotc if they ever returned to just publishing all events, but that is not what will happen. Especially not for such a niche format that Vintage is. To be fair, your statement should just read "publish more results" - but there is no reason to publish more Vintage and not the other ones. Anyway, they got rid of publishing most events like 2 years ago, for whatever reason. Probably one that I will never understand, like "Richard Garfield intended the game to be played without perfect information".
Talking about that, Wotc "knows" way more than we do anyway. They have all the matchup percentages and stuff, yet they never make it public. Fighting on this ground seems like a pointless uphill battle to me.

Quote
Enable repeated-loop interactions on MTGO.

Hah, yeah. I remember like 9 years ago when a deck called "Project X" was tearing up Standard tourneys. Of course it was unplayable on Modo without loops. Truth it: they don't know how to do it and they don't like external help. I'm sure if they have a list of things to fix, infinite loops are on the bottom of that list.
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« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2015, 05:52:51 pm »

Ok, so on-topic this time.

So, while I agree with your basic ideas and I enjoy you spending time and effort to make the world a better place for Vintage players, the problem for me with your writeup is that it seems like you wrote it with your heart while hardly doing any research.

Quite the contrary.  We not only did extensive research, we also vetted our letter to many folks behind the scenes to make sure everything we said was accurate. 

Unfortunately, what's most disappointing about the response to the letter is that people don't really seem to agree on the problems (or solutions) OR are so frustrated and cynical that they don't really think anything can change.  Your response is really a case in point.

Quote
Just going by your conclusions at least makes me think you did. But let's go through them point by point:

Quote
Introduce additional, larger-scale tournaments. This includes a) a monthly Premier event and b) a larger, quarterly event.

To be honest, this is the only one you got right and the only one that I *could* see happening. Not on a as large scale as monthly Premiers (they got rid of them for a reason) but at least on something like 2 big tourneys a year. Also, why is there no Vintage Mocs season? Perfect to show Vintage on the big stage.


They got rid of the premiers because almost none of them fired (1 or 2 ever, I believe). 

We argue, applying the same logic to reduction in number of dailies, that had they reduced the premier events from 3 times a week to 1 a month, that that monthly event would actually fire. 

The most important point, from our perspective, in the entire letter, is that we want Wizards to implement:

1) A once a month premiere event
and
2) A quarterly huge event

If they did either or both of those, we would be happy. 

Nothing anyone has ever said suggests why this isn't possible. 

Quote

Quote
Allow Play Points to be converted to a tradeable commodity, such as booster packs.

Yeah, and that is the first wtf-moment. Or rather wishful thinking. The whole point of Play Points is to limit players and their winnings, to force them to literally spend their winnings on the next tourney. "Tradeable" play points would go against anything that was intended, every single person would use and abuse that system, no one would ever have more unwanted Play Points left than the ones they cant trade right now. It might also lead to Play Points becoming a fractional currency. Just an unrealistic wish in my eyes.


I'll let Rich Shay respond to this.

Quote

Quote
Publish more tournament results from online Vintage events.

I would praise Wotc if they ever returned to just publishing all events, but that is not what will happen. Especially not for such a niche format that Vintage is. To be fair, your statement should just read "publish more results" - but there is no reason to publish more Vintage and not the other ones. Anyway, they got rid of publishing most events like 2 years ago, for whatever reason. Probably one that I will never understand, like "Richard Garfield intended the game to be played without perfect information".


It's not for "whatever reason."  Speaking of research, they stopped reporting every event because they felt that other formats were solved too quickly online.  We explain why that's not true of Vintage.  Vintage suffers from the opposite problem. 

There is no good reason that they can't publish more Vintage events.  It's easy to do.  Treating different things differently is Aristotelian logic. 

Quote

Talking about that, Wotc "knows" way more than we do anyway. They have all the matchup percentages and stuff, yet they never make it public. Fighting on this ground seems like a pointless uphill battle to me.

It's a larger battle about thinking about Vintage differently, and the Vintage player base differently.  Vintage is not a pro tour format.  It can be treated differently. 

Quote
Quote
Enable repeated-loop interactions on MTGO.

Hah, yeah. I remember like 9 years ago when a deck called "Project X" was tearing up Standard tourneys. Of course it was unplayable on Modo without loops. Truth it: they don't know how to do it and they don't like external help. I'm sure if they have a list of things to fix, infinite loops are on the bottom of that list.

We agree with you, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth mentioning. 

There isn't a single recommendation we made that you said was impossible.   
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« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2015, 05:56:31 pm »

Quote
The whole point of Play Points is to limit players and their winnings, to force them to literally spend their winnings on the next tourney...[under the suggested system] no one would ever have more unwanted Play Points left...

Well, you successfully explained why we need a way to convert Play Points to something of value.
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« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2015, 03:43:31 am »

Unfortunately, what's most disappointing about the response to the letter is that people don't really seem to agree on the problems (or solutions) OR are so frustrated and cynical that they don't really think anything can change.  Your response is really a case in point.  

Why should I be less cynical or even optimistic? Based on what? I do agree with both the problem and the solutions, I just know that you might as well pray to a wall. WotC has proven many times that they don't care about this particular stuff and only act if the revenues get less or if Kibler/ LSV/ Turtenwald complains.

Quote
They got rid of the premiers because almost none of them fired (1 or 2 ever, I believe). 

It would make sense if they only got rid of the premiers that did not fire, but they decided to retire that type of tournament altogether - Standard and Modern had terrible payouts, yet they always fired. I'm sure they stated another reason (probably events cannibalizing each other). Anyway, as I already said, this is the only point that I can actually see happening - not a monthly premier of course, these times are gone, but a bi-annual "Holiday-Style-Champs" is something that I could imagine. Emphasis on could, because since the switch to Play Points a lot of people stopped playing and I hear that even the new 8 player dailies are struggling sometimes.

Quote
It's not for "whatever reason."  Speaking of research, they stopped reporting every event because they felt that other formats were solved too quickly online.  We explain why that's not true of Vintage.  Vintage suffers from the opposite problem.

There is no good reason that they can't publish more Vintage events.  It's easy to do.  Treating different things differently is Aristotelian logic. 


Things may be different for you, but not for WotC. All formats are equal... at least when it comes to publishing decklists. You may say that Vintage and Standard are totally different beasts, but where exactly do you draw the line? The latest Modern and Standard are wide open formats and I'm sceptical that publishing more decklists would make these formats "solved" during a week.
Again, I agree, publishing more lists is always the better move. Yet it won't happen, because that is just how Wotc rolls. And arguing that Vintage is different and would profit as a format from more decklists published is just void and elitist as you could argue in a similar way for each and every format. Either it's "more or all decklists, period" or "everyone is a loser".

Quote
Vintage is not a pro tour format.  It can be treated differently. 

The way I interpret this is as the loophole that Wotc exactly needs to justify 3-round tourneys, no premiers and less decklists. The same is true for Legacy.


So, please guys, don't get me wrong. Your cause is right and you just express the everyman's opinion on the actual state of online Vintage, yet your ways to solve problems are just breaking with parameters that have just been set. I'm sure there are other, better solutions that you guys can come up with. So far your solution reads as "please Wotc, think about things twice and then turn back to the old state that we all enjoyed" - but it is not that easy. 
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« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2015, 08:24:44 am »

So far your solution reads as "please Wotc, think about things twice and then turn back to the old state that we all enjoyed" - but it is not that easy. 

It's worth noting that this approach has worked in some cases in the past.  Most notably: the trigger rules.  There have been a few other cases where public opinion has caused them to reverse or reevaluate a recently-announced change.  It might not be likely, but letters like this are one of the the ways you promote such changes.
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« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2015, 05:58:06 pm »

Unfortunately, what's most disappointing about the response to the letter is that people don't really seem to agree on the problems (or solutions) OR are so frustrated and cynical that they don't really think anything can change.  Your response is really a case in point.  

Why should I be less cynical or even optimistic?

Cynicism is the seedbed of apathy.   If you are cynical, then you are less likely to voice support for steps that can be taken to improve the status quo.

Quote

Anyway, as I already said, this is the only point that I can actually see happening - not a monthly premier of course, these times are gone,


If I schedule a recurring meeting, and then cancel it, does that make it impossible for me to reschedule it?  Of course not.  The idea that they cancelled premier events, therefore they can never come back doesn't follow as a matter of logic. 

 MTGO scheduling is not a zero sum game.  It's not like an actual game store, where there is only one or two game rooms with tables and chairs.  MTGO could schedule 100 tournaments in the same day, overlapping in time if they wanted.  I don't see a single reason why they couldn't schedule a monthly Vintage premier event.

Quote

but a bi-annual "Holiday-Style-Champs" is something that I could imagine. Emphasis on could, because since the switch to Play Points a lot of people stopped playing and I hear that even the new 8 player dailies are struggling sometimes.

Exactly.  Which is why we wrote this letter.

Quote

Quote
It's not for "whatever reason."  Speaking of research, they stopped reporting every event because they felt that other formats were solved too quickly online.  We explain why that's not true of Vintage.  Vintage suffers from the opposite problem.

There is no good reason that they can't publish more Vintage events.  It's easy to do.  Treating different things differently is Aristotelian logic. 


Things may be different for you, but not for WotC. All formats are equal... at least when it comes to publishing decklists. You may say that Vintage and Standard are totally different beasts, but where exactly do you draw the line? The latest Modern and Standard are wide open formats and I'm sceptical that publishing more decklists would make these formats "solved" during a week.
Again, I agree, publishing more lists is always the better move. Yet it won't happen, because that is just how Wotc rolls. And arguing that Vintage is different and would profit as a format from more decklists published is just void and elitist as you could argue in a similar way for each and every format. Either it's "more or all decklists, period" or "everyone is a loser".


Frankly, I really don't care what they do for other formats.  Aside from Old School, I don't play other formats, so I don't care what they do with respect to other formats.  The only thing that matters is that the rationale for not publishing all the decklists does not apply to Vintage.  It simply does not hold water.  Bringing other formats into the discussion muddies that fact.

Quote

Quote
Vintage is not a pro tour format.  It can be treated differently. 

The way I interpret this is as the loophole that Wotc exactly needs to justify 3-round tourneys, no premiers and less decklists. The same is true for Legacy.


Hence, your cynicism.

Quote

So, please guys, don't get me wrong. Your cause is right and you just express the everyman's opinion on the actual state of online Vintage, yet your ways to solve problems are just breaking with parameters that have just been set. I'm sure there are other, better solutions that you guys can come up with. So far your solution reads as "please Wotc, think about things twice and then turn back to the old state that we all enjoyed" - but it is not that easy. 

No, our letter reads as a series of requests for how to improve Vintage on MTGO to bring back players who quit or players who never joined:

1) Schedule Monthly Premier Events
2) Schedule Quarterly Festivals
3) Permit some exchange of play points for packs/tix.
4) Report all Vintage tournament results
5) Fix Vintage loops

Are those suggestions unlikely?  Possibly.  But are they impossible?  No. 
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« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2015, 09:41:35 pm »

I agree. I feel like if I just stop being vocal over my disdain at the current state of affairs, then it sends the message that we've just decided to accept it and move on. This is a product we've all paid for, so we have a right to politely disagree with what they've done.

That's why I'm glad you guys took the time to write that. I've had a small back and forth on twitter with Lee Sharpe, but I think they just view me as a disgruntled player or something. You guys have been an important part of this community for a long time, I have not.

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« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2015, 03:21:47 am »

Frankly, I really don't care what they do for other formats.  Aside from Old School, I don't play other formats, so I don't care what they do with respect to other formats.  The only thing that matters is that the rationale for not publishing all the decklists does not apply to Vintage.  It simply does not hold water.  Bringing other formats into the discussion muddies that fact.
Quote

To be honest I think you should. Wouldn't trying to persuade Standard/ Modern/ Legacy players help way more than being vocal as a subscene of subscene? Just a small fraction of people plays Vintage and Wotc is not going to overhaul their change if only 5 people complain who hardly spend anything on the game anyway. Just limiting your complaints to Vintage won't get you anywhere. Also, a lot of Vintage players sold out after the Play Point announcement and Wotc can easily keep track of trades and login activity, while they also see that partipant numbers are dimishing. If that doesn't make them change their mind I don't think that getting vocal about such a small format has any impact. I also think that as long as they keep their Standard and Limited players they hardly give a hoot.

But ok, I will lean back now and watch if anything is going to happen. If you need my voice then trust me, I'm on your side and I will be vocal about it. So far I think Wotc gives a crap about Vintage and its community on Magic Online. Well, I guess they still support Player Run Events if you ask them nicely... 
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« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2015, 06:58:34 pm »

To be honest I think you should. Wouldn't trying to persuade Standard/ Modern/ Legacy players help way more than being vocal as a subscene of subscene?

No, I don't think persuading Legacy, etc players matters at all because they have no reason to care, if they don't play Vintage. 

Magic Online is not like a large office building where every format competes for office space.  It's rather like a series of infinite parallel dimensions where different formats manifest, and people only travel to the dimension they care about.  Getting other players to care about Vintage is not realistic nor necessary to our goals. 

Quote


Just a small fraction of people plays Vintage and Wotc is not going to overhaul their change if only 5 people complain who hardly spend anything on the game anyway. Just limiting your complaints to Vintage won't get you anywhere. Also, a lot of Vintage players sold out after the Play Point announcement and Wotc can easily keep track of trades and login activity, while they also see that partipant numbers are dimishing. If that doesn't make them change their mind I don't think that getting vocal about such a small format has any impact. I also think that as long as they keep their Standard and Limited players they hardly give a hoot.

That may be true.  But it's also true that our reasoning explains why Vintage players have sold out.  So if they care about trying to get those players back, then they will take the steps we recommend.

It sounds like Lee Sharpe may be trying to implement some of our recommendations in a recent column: http://magic.wizards.com/en/MTGO/articles/archive/magic-online/september-2015-event-changes-2015-09-28

He announces that big tournaments are going to be announced in the near future.
But ok, I will lean back now and watch if anything is going to happen. If you need my voice then trust me, I'm on your side and I will be vocal about it. So far I think Wotc gives a crap about Vintage and its community on Magic Online. Well, I guess they still support Player Run Events if you ask them nicely... 
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« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2015, 08:38:31 pm »

Lee Sharpe emailed me today, so there's hope. Would he be asking me if I (we) like today's update if we just sat around and did nothing?

I, and the people that wrote the open letter have been vocal about our disdain for the current situation, and it has had a non-zero effect on our format online.
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« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2015, 03:16:29 am »

Great change! Back to the old payout. Now I can only hope that all of you jump into the queues ASAP, because this one line still makes me a bit sceptical:
Quote
Unfortunately, our current data suggests that an eight-player Vintage queue would not fire at present.
. Oh, and also this one:
Quote
t's been about six weeks since the transition of Constructed event prizes to Play Points went live. We're still examining the changes, but initial signs are positive for the system overall.

Well, I guess dailies like we are used to them is better than nothing.
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« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2015, 08:56:44 am »

This isn't dailies as we're used to them, though, Vintage has never had 12 ticket Dailies before. For players below a certain win threshold, switching away from swiss to a higher entry fee, more topheavy prize structure, means it's significantly less cost effective to play. It definitely means I'm strongly disincentivized to use mtgo as a testing platform, or play "fun" decks (both of which are important for streaming).

I understand why serious grinders wanted more prizes at the top end, but I wish it hadn't been pushed so hard, and/or I guess I wish I spoke out more in approval of the daily structure we just lost, which I had been enjoying, and which, by definition, was better value for more players.

Aside from the issue of yesterday's daily change, I do really like Rich/Steve's suggestion of larger monthly/bimonthly events. I sincerely hope they decide to run something along those lines - and the wording from Lee's article makes me think something like that is in the works.

I do think the suggestions surrounding play points betray a bit of naivety about how online game economies work (that used to be my job for a while), and while I agree that the looping problems are unfortunate, I think most people are suggesting fixes to that which betray naivety about how difficult and expensive it is to roll out new features in a large online application (which is my job now).
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« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2015, 01:39:47 pm »

I like the changes to the daily events overall.  I do think we need something in between daily events and 2 mans though.  Like Andy said, some place to play fun decks or for people to play and get better.
Does anyone know why they don't run 4 man ques instead of 8 man's for vintage?  2 man ques fire off pretty often and I think getting to 4 people would be pretty easy.

Pushing the play point issues is going to undermine anything else your discussing.  If they wanted to payout in tradeable tix, they would have just used the existing ones.  Focus on what you can actually change, and worry about the other stuff later.

All that being said, thank you for putting the time in and writing this.  I think the idea that WOTC doesnt care about vintage and vintage online has always been incorrect and stuff like this is payed attention to. I also think they care a lot more about MTGO vintage than paper.  Its a section of the player base they don't currently have that will generate more mtgo $ for them.  Its win-win for them to make it popular online.


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« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2015, 04:47:05 pm »

I do think the suggestions surrounding play points betray a bit of naivety about how online game economies work (that used to be my job for a while), and while I agree that the looping problems are unfortunate, I think most people are suggesting fixes to that which betray naivety about how difficult and expensive it is to roll out new features in a large online application (which is my job now).

I don't think that either suggestion reflects naivete.  We left open exactly how Wizards should address those issues because we didn't want to advance proposals that were unfeasible or poorly thought through and we acknowledge the challenges in addressing them.   It follows as a matter of logic, according to your premise, that merely raising them makes us seem naive.  The only alternative was not to raise them.
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« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2015, 06:56:51 pm »

I think I eschewed clarity for brevity in my comment - sorry for that.

I like how you and rich handled your discussion on loops. It is a problem, and we'd be in better shape if it was fixed, and there are lots of ways they could fix it that would be great, so harping in on one implementation misses the point, which you totally understood. I have heard other people suggest specific fixes - both about the loop problem, and other bugs - followed by estimates of how cheap and easy it would be to roll out those fixes, that frustratingly understate the challenges involved. That's not what happened in your letter, I understand how my comment sounded otherwise.

I do stand by the statement about online game economies. I was particularly thrown by:

Quote
We do not believe that a reasonable implementation of solution (e.g. 40 Play Points for a booster) will lead to a large number of booster packs being introduced to circulation.
40 play points is supposed to be the equivilant of 4 tickets, which to WotC is worth $4.00 ... or, the current retail price of a booster. The suggestion reads "instead of allowing people to buy packs with $4.00 worth of real currency, you should allow them to buy packs with $4.00 worth virtual currency." As youhavenogame has been stating, stopping players from doing that is the entire point of player points - to REDUCE liquidity. You can still "buy booster packs" for approx 45 play points each, by entering a draft and rare drafting and dropping. This is hard on purpose. The fact that it's harder is the only practical change between this system and the last one. They spent a lot of development time and money just to make that harder - giving out tickets instead of packs would have achieved all the "it's easier to enter new queues now", and it would have been a lot cheaper for them to implement.

I think the average member of the community just doesn't realize how expensive this stuff is to build, and that prizes, bug fixes, new features (the looping) are all drawing from the same limited pool. If it's unprofitable to run vintage events they just won't - and with something like only 16-32 regular online vintage players IN THE WORLD, we better be REAL careful we're asking for things we need.
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« Reply #28 on: September 30, 2015, 06:23:39 am »

If anyone has not seen, Lee Sharpe announced that they would be giving us the same events as everyone else, except we only need 12 to fire.

This means that our Vintage DEs are going to be 12 dollars a piece now. I'm not thrilled about paying more money to play. People have done the math on the prizes for these events, and they are "about the same", maybe a tiny bit better (in play points not packs).

The players that consistently lose subsidize the prize pool for the winners. That's just the way it's always been, and that by itself is fine. But now we're asking those players at the bottom of the totem pole to pay twice as much for the privilege of losing in a Daily Event. Where's their incentive to keep playing?

In other formats, namely Modern and Standard, players have Grand Prix' and maybe even Pro Tours to train for an aspire to. That isn't a draw for Vintage players as that is not applicable. I think about someone new to Magic Online and/or Vintage deciding to take the plunge and join a tournament, and I wonder how many times they will lose  twelve dollars going 0-2 drop before they decide to quit playing Vintage tournaments (or the format entirely).

There are other reasons someone might play in a tournament, but I feel like Magic Online isn't addressing those either. For instance, one reason to play a tournament other than prizes is to get four rounds of competition, maybe learning something or improving your game. Well, in a MTGO DE, if you lose the first two matches you're welcome to play the last two, but chances are everyone else in your bracket will have dropped, leaving you with a bye or two. I've stuck around to play round four "for fun" a few times, and only once was I able to play that round.

Social interaction is a big draw to paper events as well, and we all know that is almost non-existent on Magic Online due to the nature of online games. That's not exactly a discussion for this thread though.

One other reason I can think of of the top of my head is the concept of glory, or accomplishment. Being the Vintage Champ won't make you a millionaire, but it must be awesome! The value of that title is worth so much to all of us. On MTGO, the best we can hope for is to go 3-0 (or now, 3-0 or 4-0) and get our deck reported on MTGGoldfish or WotC's site. The part of the letter concerning large events and festivals relates to this bit, as does the section asking for better reporting of event results. Winning a big tournament on Magic Online would be awesome and showcase some talent, that's a wonderful thing to aspire for.

The current DE system only incentivizes prizes and winning. I think it could help a lot to try to create an incentive for people who aren't EVER going to go infinite to keep pouring money into the system. I emailed Lee Sharpe about this, some ideas I had were untradeable prize packs in small amounts, better MOPR promos, and things of that nature. If anyone has any other ideas, please let me know or just email or tweet to @mtg_lee yourself.

I would like to hear what everyone thinks of the doubled entry fee so I can pass it along.

Thanks

-Joe-
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« Reply #29 on: September 30, 2015, 08:34:26 am »

These monthly and quarterly big events that are proposed in the letter... Which time zone should they accomodate in their scheduling?
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