Last weekend was not a good one for Magic Online. Both major tournaments over the weekend – the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) Season 11 Championships on Saturday and the PTQ on Sunday – failed to complete due to problems with the program. I happened to be competing in the MOCS at the time, and I was 7-0 before the crash caused me to get disconnected and dropped from the tournament. I was more than a little upset, and I wrote about the experience here.
Since then, the powers-that-be at Wizards of the Coast made an announcement that they consider the events of the weekend unacceptable, and that for the foreseeable future they will be cancelling all large scheduled events, including PTQ and the MOCS Season 12 championships, along with all premiere and daily events as well. This was met with understandable frustration from many players. The reactions have been fairly extreme, and my role as the loudest voice in the events over the weekend have thrown me right in the middle of it. I’ve had people thank me, curse at me, and even threaten to physically harm me. Just an average day in the life of Worth Wollpert, I’m sure.
I just wanted to touch on a few points here:
1) It was never my intention to drive people to quit Magic Online. Some people have suggested that the aggressive language in the final Tweet I posted in my article meant that my goal was to get people to stop playing MTGO altogether. That was not and is not the case. My point with that was twofold – one, that there were many people who shared my frustration with the state of the program, as evidenced by the number of favorites and retweets on the post, and two, that without some threat of financial repercussions for the failures of MTGO, there is little to no incentive to improve it. My argument all along was the Magic Online needs to be fixed, not abandoned – thankfully, it appears that real steps are now being taken in that direction.
2) I didn’t save Magic Online. Nor did I destroy it. While I find the credit/blame I have received for this whole situation amusing, my rant was not the reason the higher ups at WotC decided to finally take action to improve MTGO. I do think that the outrage surrounding my situation in the MOCS helped raise the profile of the problem, but the sheer absurdity of both major events over the weekend failing back to back was the major catalyst for this action. I know for a fact that there were plans to make some kind of announcement before my blog post ever went up, much like the fourth Pro Tour was in the works long before my article suggesting it come back. I’m just good at identifying and articulating problems that need fixing, so my track record on writing about things that are later changed is pretty stellar. I do enjoy playing savior, though, so feel free to give me credit – or blame, if you prefer. I may not be the hero MTGO deserves, but I am the hero it needs right now. Because I can take it.
3) I am empathetic to those who make their living via Magic Online who are adversely effected by this situation. I have seen a lot of callous remarks thrown about criticizing people who play on MTGO for a living and suggesting they get “real jobs”, and I certainly don’t share those sentiments. I understand that for many players, especially in other countries, MTGO offers a better income stream than many of their other opportunities. That said, knowing the state of the client and how many problems it has had historically means that it is important to be prepared for the possibility of this kind of situation. There was never any guarantee, express or implied, that the existing event structure on Magic Online would be around forever (I sound like a damn lawyer…). In the long run, though, I suspect those who rely on Magic Online for their livelihood will be better off, because improvements to the program mean more potential players and less crashes to deal with.
4) I certainly didn’t do any of this to drive players to SolForge. I’ve seen a number of people suggest that I was somehow feigning outrage over this whole ordeal simply to draw players away from Magic Online and to my own game. But the reality of the situation is that SolForge would be better off if Magic Online simply languished as a horrible program eternally. Providing WotC with motivation to make improvements means that Magic Online will be a stronger competitor down the line – which means that any encouragement I provide to make MTGO better actually works against my self-interests, as far as SolForge is concerned. But I care deeply about Magic, because it’s a huge part of my life, and I want to see Magic Online be the quality program that players deserve. That said, SolForge is sweet too, and free, so you should try it out anyway 😛
5) The notion that this is some excuse for WotC to remove higher value events rather than an attempt at a fix is fairly absurd to me. Taking down events that players want to participate in costs them money. Cancelling the remaining PTQs for the year costs them a lot of money. Any implication that this was somehow orchestrated to screw over players is just a conspiracy theory.
6) Without more knowledge about the details of what’s going on, it’s hard to know whether WotC’s reaction is the best one available – and that’s part of why it’s not as good as it could be. Taking down daily events, which in the eyes of most players are unrelated to the events that are causing problems, seems unnecessary and confusing. I appreciate that drastic actions are being taken and we can at least see that the problems are being taken seriously, but I believe WotC would be better served with better communication. Explain to people why the events that have not been experiencing problems need to be taken offline. I’m not asking for a precise timeline with commitments to fire people if milestones aren’t hit like I’ve seen floated around elsewhere, because that is neither realistic nor good for company productivity or morale, but something besides “We’re taking these events offline and will tell you more by the end of the year” would go a long way to stave off concerns. Previous event types that were removed with promises that they would return, like Leagues, are seemingly gone forever. Players have many reasons to lack confidence in Magic Online, and leaving them with doubts about what’s going to happen is not a good idea.
Overall, I’m hopeful. I can’t say I’m happy with how things went last weekend, and it’s unfortunate that it has taken this long for this kind of acknowledgement that the tournament conditions on MTGO are unacceptable and need to change. Earlier this week, Ben Lundquist commiserated with me by sharing a story of a PTQ he was playing in that crashed during Scars of Mirrodin block when he was a lock for Top 8, so this problem is clearly nothing new. But at least it’s gotten bad enough that now steps are being taken to make things better. And really, that’s what I was going for all along.