Magic Duels: Origins Dev Diaries

Posted in Feature on July 8, 2015

By Drew Nolosco

Drew Nolosco is the head designer of Magic Duels: Origins

Game designers are also time travelers. I’m currently 35,000 feet above Greenland, flying back to Seattle from the United Kingdom. As I write this, Magic Duels: Origins has not yet launched. When you read this, we will have officially launched on iOS devices. (And you can find the game in the Apple store here.)

Despite writing to you from the past, I’ve just spent a week in the future. I just completed an intense week at Stainless Games, collaborating on new features and content for an upcoming expansion to Magic Duels. I couldn’t be more excited at all of the truly awesome things Magic Duels players will get to experience.

To understand why you will be as excited as I am, we have to go all the way back to the beginning. What is Magic Duels?

Magic Duels is an evolution of the Duels of the Planeswalkers series of games. We listened to fans, tested our designs with players, and turned over every stone to produce the best Duels game yet. Many features return in a refined form and will feel familiar to players of Duels of the Planeswalkers. Other things are all new—the direct result of digging deep into the hearts and minds of our players. Let’s start from the top: what’s new?

First, Magic Duels is free to download, free to play, and each set of Magic: The Gathering card content in the game is completely earnable via gameplay. We’re serious about this. The majority of the gameplay in Magic Duels awards coins, which players can then use to purchase booster packs of Magic cards (more on this in a bit). You can purchase additional coins if you want to get cards faster, but you don’t have to.

Second—speaking of cards—there are more of them. Lots and lots more. Magic Duels launches with Magic Origins boosters available in the store, and most of the cards in the paper Magic Origins set show up in those digital boosters. Four times a year, Magic: The Gathering releases a block booster set; two sets per block, two blocks a year. For the first time in the history of Duels, four times a year, those block booster sets will push down to Magic Duels as a huge card content update. So when Battle for Zendikar releases this fall, Magic Duels will feature Battle of Zendikar boosters in the store. The Magic Origins boosters won’t go away—there will be two sets for players to choose from. This is true for future block booster releases, too. That implies a third major new change.

Magic Duels is a persistent game. You’ll download the free game client and add more and more cards to your collection. Unlike previous versions of Duels of the Planeswalkers, which were unconnected annual releases, Magic Duels doesn’t get replaced each year. We just keep adding card content, all of which is earnable via gameplay.

The last major new thing is the one from the future. With each of the card content updates, we can and will add new features to Magic Duels. Some of these will be very player focused, like new gameplay modes or upgrades to Magic Duels’ game engine to support the new mechanics in future sets. Others upgrades will be more in the background, like improvements to the game’s server capabilities and infrastructure to provide a better play experience. Most card content updates will include some combination of player-facing feature and backend upgrades.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s actually a lot more. Player favorite features like Two-Headed Giant and the full deck builder return. Magic Duels has revolutionized the way it teaches Magic by breaking up the rules into puzzle-like skill quests which teach one concept, present a quick in-game scenario you must win using that concept, and then reward success with coins. The full deck builder has a new sibling, the Deck Wizard—a step-by-step assistant which make building popular deck archetypes quick and easy. The user interface is significantly upgraded with an emphasis on clarity and usability. The list goes on and on.

But don’t take my word for it. Or, rather, do take my word, but take it from me in video form. The four videos interspersed throughout this article are your introduction to the world of Magic Duels from me. Learn how to get started and begin dueling on iOS devices (with more coming later) today!

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