Interview: planeswalking the walk in Magic: The Gathering - Tactics
If you've ever played the Magic: The Gathering customizable card game, you've no doubt wondered what it would look like if the creatures you cast duked it out on the table in front of you. SOE's free-to-play Magic: The Gathering - Tactics, a turn-based strategy game based on the CCG universe, renders your summoned creatures in 3D, fighting in formation on a tactical grid. We got the chance to talk about the game with Mark Tuttle, executive producer at SOE Denver, about the launch. Read on and see what it took to turn the classic tabletop card game into a grid-based battle of wits.
Beginning the project, what was your biggest goal? Where did you want to take Magic?
Mark Tuttle: With Tactics, our biggest goal was to make a game that appealed to both Magic players and fans of tactics games. It’s easy to take a game as rich and detailed as Magic and go down the rabbit hole of complexity, but you lose casual players. If you chase the casuals, then you risk boring the Magic players. We hope that we hit the sweet spot somewhere in the middle. We’d like to have Magic players enjoy this iteration of the universe that they enjoy, and maybe introduce more casual players to the concepts that embody Magic.
How do you plan on expanding the experience in the future? More card sets, campaigns, etc?
Tuttle: As Tactics is a live game, content is extremely important to us. Our first release tells the story (though our campaign chapters and missions) of your avatar’s ascendancy as a Planeswalker. We plan on adding more chapters to that tale within the months following our launch as mid-release content. Roughly five months from our initial launch, we’ll begin releasing regular expansions which will add anywhere from 150-180 new figures and spells into the mix. Magic players will feel the familiarity with this model, and new players will be constantly challenged with new gameplay.
How many cards are there in the current set?
Tuttle: Right now we’re looking at roughly 180 figures and spells. Of those, 60 percent represent content taking directly from the trading card game and 40 percent was created exclusively for Magic: The Gathering – Tactics. There are also a handful of promos, rewards, prizes and such that we’ll be mixing in.
What is the level cap? Do you foresee this eventually being raised?
Tuttle: The current level cap is 50. It certainly can be raised, and we have accounted for that, but we have no plans to raise it in the near future.
What was the thinking behind reintroducing the Black Lotus to Magic? How is it balanced? Do you think it's less powerful in a tactical setting?
Tuttle: The fact that you’re asking me about the Black Lotus is the answer to your question. We wanted to make sure that we gave players some of the powerful and iconic cards they have experienced in Magic for the last 17 years. The Black Lotus in Magic: The Gathering – Tactics is powerful, yes, as it gives you three additional mana, but its use happens on the turn after you activate it and using it is a turn-ending mechanic. It’s hard to explain out of context but it’s a great artifact and we hope we’ve done it justice.
What do you think Tactics' most powerful card is?
Tuttle: It’s probably a little early to say, but Tooth and Nail is a really popular green spell that allows you to play two figures into play for free. One of my favorites is the common Drudge Skeleton. Due to the tactical nature of the game, it’s amazing how powerful a regenerating creature can be in blocking your opponent’s largest advances.
How is XP handled in multiplayer? Do your talents from the skill tree carry over into multiplayer?
Tuttle: Talents do carry over into multiplayer for the most part. They are used in pick up games as well as open and constructed tournaments. Talents are not used in draft. Since players never know for sure what spellbooks they’ll make for drafts, having talents might influence players to draft according to their talents rather than what they think will make a good draft spellbook. Plus, we also like to think of draft as the purest skill form in Magic: The Gathering - Tactics.
Will co-op ever be added either for campaigns or 2v2, etc?
Tuttle: Co-op is absolutely something on our drawing board for an upcoming release.
What happens if you drain your library before the scenario/game is over?
Tuttle: You keep playing! We don’t have the concept of decking in Magic: The Gathering – Tactics so if you do empty your spellbook, you should still have figures in play to continue the fight. It could just come down to the two Planeswalkers beating on each other, but sooner or later someone is going to win.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Tuttle: I’d just like to thank the folks at Wizards of the Coast who were so great during the development process. It’s always a scary thing to let someone else play with your toys, but they were very forthcoming with access and assistance. They were actively involved in the development and I think together, we’ve made a terrific game that we hope gamers of all types will find appealing.
Stay tuned for our review of Tactics, but until then, keep on tapping lands and casting creatures.