The Great Designer Search 2: "This Time It's Personal"

Posted in Feature on September 29, 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 the Great Designer Search 2! I'm sure most of you are here eager to start on the first test, but that won't be happening today. Why? Because the GDS2 is going to work a bit differently from the GDS1. (That's sort of a theme for today's article.)

Instead of just jumping right into the tests, we're going to spend today talking about what the GDS2 is going to be. As you will see, there are some significant changes from GDS1. Don't worry, there is a lot for potential applicants to think about, and I promise you will leave today with more than enough to keep you busy.

Today I'll be telling you everything you need to know about GDS2 to be either a competitor or a spectator, and as you will see there is a bunch of new things no matter which role you take. One of the biggest differences between GDS1 and GDS2 is that we have a role for the people who are not competing for the internship.

Here's what I'm going to be explaining today:

  1. How do you become a finalist in the GDS2? What exactly are the tests we will be putting you through?
  2. How is the "show" of GDS2 going to work? What are the changes from GDS1?
  3. How will non-candidates participate in the GDS2?
  4. How can you prepare for the upcoming tests?
  5. When will the first test begin?

If any of this is of interest, stick around.

1. How Do You Become a Finalist in the GDS2?

When the exams start, the first thing we'll be doing is giving you a ten-question essay test, each question of which requires a 250-350 word response. The first test is very similar to the initial essay test of GDS1, except that nine of the ten questions will be new. (Question #1 is the same, for those who want to get a jump-start on thinking about it.)

If you qualify, the second test is a 50-question multiple-choice test. This test is similar to the multiple-choice test from GDS1, except that it has 50 questions rather than 35. The extra questions are in response to what we expect will be an increase in the number of applicants. (The GDS1 had just over 1,100 applicants.) The number of correct answers needed to pass this test will be based on how well the group as a whole does. As with the GDS1 multiple-choice test, we are looking to narrow down the field to a certain size. (This will be spelled out for you before you take the test.)

The third test is a design test. It will be composed of two sections. The first section will ask you to propose a world/block that you want to design both from a mechanical and a flavor perspective. This part of the test is very important, because GDS2 design challenges will work differently from those of the GDS1. The first big change is that whatever world/block you propose will be the place you will design all your challenges in.

The challenges in GDS1 had no continuity between them. This is not the case for GDS2. I am telling you about this restriction now because I want applicants to come up with the best world/block that they can and as such want to give you plenty of time to think about it. As someone who does this for a living, I can tell you it takes a lot of time and energy to come up with a cohesive world/block.

The second part of the design challenge will involve designing cards that go into your world. Obviously there will be some restrictions which I'm not going to give you at this time. So you'll be able to think a little about this part, but you won't actually be able to start in earnest until you get the test.

Once all three tests are turned in, they will be evaluated together, and eight of you will be selected to participate in the "show" part of the competition. I say eight as that is what we're planning, but obviously we reserve the right to go up or down from the number if we see fit.

Why eight instead of fifteen? We got a lot of feedback from GDS1 that it was a little too much to follow at the beginning of the "show." To make this easier on the audience and to make it easier on all of us behind the scenes, we've decided to chop the initial group of "show" contestants down to eight.

2. How Is the "Show" of GDS2 Going to Work?

The major thrust of the "show" portion of GDS2 will be similar to GDS1. There will be five challenges that will be judged, and at the end of each challenge we will eliminate an applicant (most likely just one but as always we reserve the right to shake things up). The biggest difference will be that the challenges will be held every other week instead of every week. This will allow the applicants some downtime and make it easier for us behind the scenes to put it all together.

Also, as I explained above, all the challenges will have more continuity as the applicants will be designing all of them within the same world/block they proposed (each applicant will be designing in his or her own world). There will also be one other major change, but that's really just a lead in to the next section.

3. How Will Non-Candidates Participate in the GDS2?

Of all the changes to GDS2, this one's the largest. In GDS1, the applicants were responsible for 100% of their work. They were allowed no outside help. While this did a good job of testing their card design skills, it didn't allow us to test an equally important part of design: vision.

For GDS2, we are allowing the designers to get help from anyone they wish (with an important caveat I'll get to in a moment). If GDS1 was about furniture building, then GDS2 is about interior design. A big part about leading a design is taking the ideas of other designers and blending them together into a cohesive whole. As such, the GDS2 is going to be at least as much about testing the applicants' ability to find good ideas as their ability to generate them themselves (although there will be times when we restrict the designers to their own ideas—we'll be clear when that happens).

Here's how it's going to work. Right now I'm going to give you a link to the Great Designer Search 2 page on the Magic Wiki. Anyone who wants to (provided, of course, you register for the Wizards Community and agree to all our guidelines) may post to it. The applicants are allowed to use any material they've produced themselves and anything posted on the Wiki. The applicants are also going to be given a public forum to tell all of you what kind of designs they need.

The reason we're holding off on the exams is that we want to get a conversation going on the Wiki. The GDS2 is all about evaluating the design work of others, so in order to make sure that there is plenty for our applicants to sift through, we wanted to let all of you start creating it today.

Do you know how the double strike mechanic came to be? A man named Wayne Alward submitted it for the very first You Make the Card. I bring this up because the Magic Wiki is about more than just the GDS2. We aren't just looking for great designers, we're also looking for great designs. Even if you can't come work in Renton doesn't mean that your idea can't end up printed on a Magic card.

You see, the great designers of the GDS2 are not just the final applicants, but also all of you. This is a big change and one that I think will make the GDS2 a much different animal than the GDS1. I hope you all are up to the challenge.

4. How Can You Prepare for the Upcoming Tests?

I know a lot of you are itching to start, so I thought I'd spend a little time today giving you some homework to help you get ready. If you are planning on entering, here's what I recommend. First, start thinking about your world/block design idea. This is key to becoming a finalist, and it's something that's going to take some time to get right. Don't wait. Start working on it now. Note that anything on the Magic Wiki is fair game to use even for the world/block design. (And note, people designing on the Wiki, that applicants will be looking for cool world/block design ideas.) Just remember that you want to create something that we aren't seeing from lots of other candidates.

Next, look at and study the tests from GDS1.

Here are the first essay test (and my answers) and the first multiple-choice test (and the answers—note that the original test is no longer takeable). The tests for GDS2 are going to be very similar so becoming familiar with them should help. If you advance beyond the multiple-choice test, you are going to want to look at the other parts of the GDS1. There are a lot of design lessons that will be important to know stuck inside it.

Finally, here are some of my articles talking about points that would be good to know:

There's more you need to know than just those articles but they will give you a good starting point to study.

5. When Will the First Test Begin?

The answer is soon. Our goal is to make sure that we're generating enough material on the Wiki before we start the search, so we want to give it some time to get going. (We also want to make sure the applicants have enough time to think through their world/block design.) Once we're happy that things are up and going, we'll begin the search. We'll have an announcement on the front page of Daily MTG before we begin, and the essay tests will be posted in a feature article on the front page much like this one.

That's all I've got for today. Hopefully, I've given you all a bunch to chew on.

I'm excited to finally be starting what I believe is going to be an amazing event, one that will involve the greatest audience participation we've ever had. It's also quite possible that this event will have more impact on the future of Magic design than any other thing we've ever done, including things like You Make the Card and Selecting Nth Edition. Head to the Great Designer Search 2 Wiki page and start making your mark.

I can't wait to see what you all can do.

Good luck!

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