GDS2. Episode #4: "Trading Places"

Posted in Feature on December 22, 2010

By Staff

Welcome to Episode #4 of the Great Designer Search 2. Last episode the judges reviewed the submissions for the second Design Challenge and I made the second elimination, Daniel Williams. We then gave the remaining six applicants the third Design Challenge. Today we're going to be judging the submissions from that challenge.

As always I'll begin by introducing this week's panel of judges. Note that the color box they will be appearing in will be the one used throughout today's judging. Our first judge is myself.

MR: I'm going to use my green box today to stress that the Design Challenges are not meant to be realistic challenges. Much like Project Runway will make the designers create a dress out of items from a hardware store or Top Chef will make cooks use the contents of a vending machine for their meal, our Design Challenges are created to test our applicants more so than represent realistic scenarios. That said, almost all of the skills we require of the applicants are things used every day in Magic design. We just have more resources, including a lot more time.

Our next judge is our other regular judge (and former GDS candidate), Ken Nagle.

KEN: Greetings, I'm Ken Nagle. My first cycle is the Boon Reflection / Thought Reflection / Wound Reflection / Rage Reflection / Mana Reflection cycle in Shadowmoor. My favorite cycle ever that I worked on is the Sun Titan / Frost Titan / Grave Titan / Inferno Titan / Primeval Titan cycle in Magic 2011, as I was on that development team. We do a lot of cycles here in design, and I've seen plenty of them born and killed for various reasons. I'll be looking at submissions with an eye towards, "Is this is a worthy cycle?"

Our design guest judge for today is Brian Tinsman. I'll let Brian make his own introduction.

BT: I'm Brian Tinsman, the lead designer of six Magic sets, including Time Spiral and Rise of the Eldrazi. I'm the Sr. Manager of Game Design in Wizards R&D, leading a team of designers that works on Magic and all other company brands too. In addition to my Magic sets, I've designed over 30 other tabletop and digital games.

I'm known for bringing a "think differently" perspective to my projects. In fact, I seem to get away with sets that reach further toward the edges of Magic's design space than we usually go. I love finding new things for Magic cards to do. It's the amazing range of possible play experiences that makes Magic the best game in the world.

In contrast to all that, I also bring a very broad game design viewpoint. I was the concept acquisitions lead for R&D for several years, which means I was in charge of evaluating new games submitted to us for publication, as well as competitors' games that might be threats or acquisition targets. During these years I played hundreds of new games in all stages of development and wrote critiques of most of them. Based on this experience I learned a ton about all kinds of mechanics and wrote a book called The Game Inventor's Guidebook.

Our non-design guest judge is Creative Director Brady Dommermuth. I'll let Brady introduce himself.

CBD: I'm Brady Dommermuth. The "C" is for Christopher, which I've never used. I've been called Brady since birth, more or less. But I use it because there's a DB on my staff (Doug Beyer), and there used to be a BB as well (Brandon Bozzi), and seeing BD, BB, and DB on everything was driving all of us crazy. So it's been CBD for years now. Anyway. I've worked on Magic: The Gathering and virtually nothing else for almost 14 years. In that time I've been an editor, rules manager, technical writer, world designer, and creative director. Tempest was the first expansion I worked on, and Mirrodin was the first world I designed. I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to make Magic creatively coherent, to enable its players and fans to take it seriously, which means I occasionally make unpopular decisions (such as greatly reducing the game's squirrel, dwarf, and pun populations). I manage the creative team, which includes three writers—Doug Beyer, Jenna Helland, and contractor Adam Lee—and two artists: concept illustrator Richard Whitters and art director Jeremy Jarvis. I'll be commenting on the flavor of the submissions and how effectively they help communicate the world in which they're set.

Zen and the Art of Cycles

For our third Design Challenge, we asked our applicants to design three cycles: one common, one uncommon and one either rare or mythic rare. The big twist was that each applicant was paired off and then asked to design in their partner's world. The partner was allowed to give them advice but could not design any cards for them. Unlike the previous weeks, these cards were not playtested.

As I do every show, I want to take a moment to stress that what we are asking the designers to do is very hard. They are being asked to create results with a tiny fraction of the time and manpower that a real set would have. The judges are being harsh in our criticisms but please be aware that we have great respect for the work the applicants are doing.

Below are the six applicants each with their Design Challenge submission along with the judges' comments. Click on each name or avatar to see that candidate's material.


After you read what the judges have to say, click here for the third GDS2 elimination.

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