Feedback To Basics

Posted in Feature on August 2, 2010

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

Welcome to Feedback Week. This week we're going to talk about how all of you have an opportunity to shape the game you play. Wizards of the Coast long ago decided that connecting with our audience was important and as such we have gone to great lengths to reach out to all of you. is one of the best examples of how we've done this. Do you want to know what we're up to? Interested in what comes next? Are you curious what reasoning went into those decisions? Each and every week, we tell you. I've been writing Making Magic for nine years (and in numerous other forms before that) to inform you all what is going on with Magic design.

This communication is not just one-way though, and today's column is going to explore the many ways you have of talking to us. Before I continue though, I want to stress three things:

  1. We really care about what you have to say. I believe a great amount of Magic's success stems from the attitude R&D has about all of you. Our job is to make a game that all of you want to play. How do we do that? By listening to your feedback about what is and isn't working.
  2. We have set up various ways for you to get in contact with us. The major goal of today's column is to spell out all the resources that exist to allow you to talk to us.
  3. If you take the time to have your voice heard, it will have an impact. The major reason for this is simple. We want feedback and the vast majority of players don't communicate with us. That means those who bother have a louder voice than they realize.

So, you have an opinion about something. Maybe it's something you hated. Maybe it was something you loved. (Quick aside, please don't feel that feedback is only about negative responses. Telling us we did something you enjoyed is just as valuable as constructive criticism.) How do you go about telling us how you feel? Let me count the ways.

#1 Mail (Email and "Snail" Mail)

At the bottom of every Making Magic column, you will see this link.

Clicking this will get you to a form that gets mailed directly to me. As I often explain, I read every piece of mail sent to me. I don't have the time to respond to them all, but I read every one.

The important thing you need to know is that whenever you click on the "Respond via email" link it gets sent to the author of that article. Just about anyone who you'd want to give feedback to (at least in R&D) has written an article at some point. For example, let's say you want to send a letter to Ken Nagle because you feel there were a few things you wish he'd done differently on Archenemy. Type "Ken Nagle" in the search bar in the upper right.

The first thing to pop up is Ken's archive and below it are some of his articles. Click through to one of his articles and then scroll to the bottom. Click the "Respond via email" and now you can write a letter directly to Ken. Note that the email will start with the line: Regarding your article "Name of Article." You can erase this line if your feedback is not about the article.

What if you don't have a computer or have vowed off all electronic means of communication? Then send the interested party an actual letter. Address it to:

Now that I've covered how to reach them, let's talk a little about what you say:

  1. Let the reader know what your issue is up front. Why are you writing a letter? To communicate some issue you care about. The reader shouldn't have to struggle to understand what the message is. In fact, when you take classes in writing, they always stress the importance of getting your topic out at the beginning (known in fancy terms as a thesis statement). For email, not only should you make sure to state your topic in the first paragraph, you should also have it in your header.
  2. Notice how in every Making Magic I always begin by explaining my topic for the day in the very first paragraph. This allows you, the reader, to instantly know what I'm going to be talking about and decide whether or not to continue reading. Letters benefit from the same treatment. Inform your reader upfront what topic you are going to be writing about.
  3. Break up your writing into paragraphs. The average paragraph should be between three and six sentences. Also, always include a line break between your paragraphs. Why is this so important? Because a letter broken up into many small paragraphs is inviting while one giant wall of text is not. When I open a letter that's just one long paragraph, I can see myself pause for a second to build up some will to jump in. You don't want to start your letter with your reader hesitant to read it.
  4. Keep the letter short. Of all the tricks to make a powerful letter, this is the most important. There is no better way to make your reader focus on what you have to say than saying it succinctly and to the point. As the saying goes "less is more".
  5. While I don't have the time to respond to every letter, I try to answer as many as I can. One day, on a lark, I went through some of the letters I had replied to and tried to figure out if there was common ground to the letters I chose to respond to. There was. They were mostly very short. A succinct letter encourages a response because it asks for a singular thought from the reader.
  6. Stick to one topic per letter. This is a corollary of the last suggestion. One way to keep your letter short is to keep the focus on a single issue. If you have multiple things to say, I recommend writing multiple letters (although not all on the same day). The advantage of this system is that it makes each letter have more impact.
  7. Be nice. When someone invites you into their home, it is good manners to be courteous. Mail is no different. You are asking something of the reader. It is only proper that you treat them with respect. Note this doesn't mean that you can't have criticism in your letter. You can complain about things you don't like. You just need to do so in a civilized manner.

It amazes me how often I get letters that break the advice I am giving above. You have a wonderfully easy way to communicate with the people who make Magic. The means by which you present your feedback has a huge impact upon how it is received.

#2 Message Boards and Threads

To the left of the "Respond via email" link is this link:

Each and every article on links to a message board page (certain daily features link to a common page). If you have things you want to say, especially about a particular article, feel free to post on the message boards. Note that you have to sign up (it's free) to be able to post.

Three R&D members have columns (my Making Magic, Doug Beyer's Savor the Flavor, and Tom LaPille's Latest Developments). Each of us reads our own message boards so if you want to say something to one of us, the message boards is another place to do so. The authors, however, are not the only ones reading the message boards. Many members of R&D will read the message board thread articles to the R&D columns, especially on weeks where a more sensitive issue is discussed.

The message boards have pros and cons. On the plus side, it allows other players to react to what you have to say with opinions of their own. This allows for some discussions that would be impossible in other formats. On the minus side, the nature of the internet makes people a little less civil and the message boards have the ability to drift towards what I'll call the constructive criticism side of the spectrum. It's a running joke that if I want to see what went right with my column, I check my email and if I want to see what went wrong, I check the message thread.

That said, I do think it is important that a place exists where players can speak uncensored about how they feel concerning different aspects of Magic. While blunt honesty is not always easy to hear, it is something that I, and the rest of R&D need to hear.

Let me end by stressing that there are message boards on many Magic sites (more on these in a bit). R&D has more visibility on our own site but if you feel there's a thread from elsewhere that we should see, feel free to email me a link.

#3 Twitter

If you don't have the stamina for letter or message board writing, the next way to give feedback is on Twitter. For those that are unaware of the site (and really if you are unaware you have to come out of your cave more), Twitter is a social networking site where people communicate to anyone who will listen in 140-character bursts. The reason that Twitter is a good feedback venue for Magic is that numerous Wizards employees have Twitter accounts. Let's walk through who these people are:


This is me. I'll go for days at a time without saying anything and then some days I'll tweet up a storm. I tend to make a lot of cryptic tweets as what I'm working on is so far ahead (16+ months). I also sound off on issues that bug me. (I don't exactly hide when something annoys me.) I also use my Twitter account for my articles when I need some kind of input (My recent two-parter "Know How"—Part 1 / Part 2—for example, took questions directly from my Twitter feed. )

Like my mail, I read all of my tweets. People often ask me questions and if it's something that I can be public about and I think people are interested to hear I'll often answer. From time to time, I will also throw impromptu question and answer sessions most often on Friday when I work at home on my columns.


This is the official Wizards Magic Twitter feed run by Kelly Digges and Monty Ashley. It's a good place for getting announcements. Kelly and Monty will occasionally answer questions posed to them.


This is Aaron Forsythe, director of Magic R&D (a.k.a. my boss). Aaron tends to speak his mind and his Twitter feed follows this trend. Aaron is very willing to answer questions although be prepared for blunt answers.


This is Tom LaPille of "Latest Developments". Tom enjoys commenting on what it's like to work at Wizards and on Magic specifically. If nothing else you will learn from Tom's Twitter that I am very loud.


This is Zac Hill, former intern and now full-time developer.


This is Ken Nagle. Ken tends to talk about Magic design and things that bug him, one being how loud I am.


This is Mike Turian, long-time Magic developer. Beware, Mike is a little more mischievous than most of R&D.


This is Dave Guskin, who recently made the transition from web developer to digital developer in R&D.


This is Del Laugel, Magic's Lead Editor. She has interesting insights into Magic as she approaches it from a different vantage point than most of R&D. Also, she is the third part of the triumvirate that complains about how loud I am. (I should stress—I am loud. This is why three people constantly blog about it.)


This is Elaine Chase, Grand Poobah of the Magic brand team. (I think that's her technical title.) Elaine loves retweeting people saying cool things about Magic.


This is Lee Sharpe, Magic Online analyst.


This is Lee's other Twitter account, one where he has chosen to put up actual quotes said by developer Erik Lauer.


This is Alexis Janson, winner of the Great Designer Search. Alexis programs Magic Online by day but is a frequent contributor to Magic design teams (by night—okay, not actually by night but it sounds like a good plot for a direct to DVD movie).


This is Kelly Digges, editor-in-chief.


This is the official Magic Online Twitter feed run by Worth Wollpert.

All of the above feeds will give some insight into the behind-the-scenes of Magic's creation. It is also a place where you all have the opportunity to directly give feedback to the people that make the game.

#4 Facebook

I've decided to list Facebook not because it's a great place to give feedback but rather to explain why it's not. Many of the people listed above have Facebook accounts. Most of them, including myself, have chosen to make Twitter their public account and Facebook their private account. While I am honored so many players want to friend me on Facebook, I have decided to only friend with people that I actually know. If you want to follow me publicly, I ask you to go to my Twitter account (@maro254).

The one Facebook thing I should mention is that Wizards of the Coast hosts an official Magic: The Gathering page. With over 138,000 members, this is a great place to hear announcements and talk with other Magic players.

#5 Other Magic Web Sites

There is another good way to get R&D's ear—write an article. If you have something to say and are good at putting your thoughts in writing, consider putting out your ideas for all of the Magic community to see. The hitch to this avenue is that doesn't take outside submissions, but luckily there are many other Magic web sites out there. Here are some of the major ones:

This is one of the oldest Magic web sites. Its content leans towards strategy and tournament play but many different topics get covered. Star City has premium content, meaning some articles on the site cannot be read unless you have a subscription, but there are free articles every day including Even Erwin's "The Magic Show" (Magic's premier video column) every Friday.

Mana Nation is another site that leans towards strategic play, but also covers a wide variety of topics. Mana Nation is best becoming known for its video segments it does at different premier events (done by the site's editor Patrick "Trick" Jarrett).

With content run by pro player Luis Scott-Vargas, Channel Fireball is another strategy-oriented site. The site boasts a writing staff with the best win ratio on the Pro Tour of any site out there.

TCG Player covers many games but there is a significant amount of articles about Magic. It too leans towards articles about strategic play.

Top 8 Magic is run by Mike Flores and Brian David-Marshall. It also leans towards strategic content. It hosts Flores and BDM's popular Top 8 Magic podcasts.

Mike Flores's other Magic site (because one Magic site just isn't enough). This site is much more of a personal blog.

Good Gamery is about finding the humor in the game. The site includes the very funny comic Pro Mtg Online. (See, I do actually notice.)

This is a Magic aggregator site, meaning that it provides links to mentions of Magic all over the Internet. Run by Bill Stark, this site does a wonderful job of providing links to many things about Magic you might never see.

R&D reads all these sites because we are interested to see what all of you have to say about the game. If someone finds a particular article interesting, they will post a link to it in the internal Magic R&D folder so that others can read it. If you write an article that you really want us to see, send me an email with a link.

Writing good articles is one of the best ways to get R&D to see what you have to say. It also has a nice side benefit of being one of the ways R&D looks for new hires. Aaron Forsythe, for example, got my attention back in the day through his articles. Tom LaPille and Zac Hill also helped cement their development internships through their article writing. If you have something to say and you can say it well, a Magic article might be the best of all formats.

Feedback in the Day

The main message of today's column is that there are many ways for your voice to be heard. R&D wants to hear what you have to say, and your comments affect how we make Magic. So pick whatever means you want and talk to us. Please, we want to hear what you have to say.

Join me next week when I plant an idea.

Until then, may you let me know what you think about Magic.

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