Big changes are coming to the Magic: The Gathering Companion app Open Beta today! I'm here to talk about the new features, what they mean for Magic players and the future of the app, and talk about next steps.
What is the Magic: The Gathering Companion Open Beta?
In order to ensure the Magic: The Gathering Companion app is the best it can be when we release it publicly, we're putting it through an Open Beta first. For the past several months, tens of thousands of users around the world have been using the app and providing feedback that has helped us make regular improvements to it. We've been adding features step by step so that our developers and design teams properly take in feedback, incorporate it, and roll out improved updates. So far, we've found the Open Beta to be a huge success.
What have we released so far?
The first feature set we rolled out for testing is something we nicknamed the "home tournament organizer" functionality. In our consumer research and personal experience (most of the team working on Companion are active Magic players), we found there hasn't been a great way to scorekeep tournaments among family and friends at home, but a strong desire for such functionality definitely exists.
Since we were simultaneously working on revamping the software that runs official Magic: The Gathering tournaments around the world, this gave us a perfect opportunity to develop this capability and put it in the hands of players. By building the services that power this tool, we're also testing functionality that will power the replacement for Wizards Event Reporter and help run events at local retailers around the world. It's like two Open Betas in one!
So far, the testing has gone well! Our services have stood up, we've gotten great feedback on issues we hadn't considered, and we've been able to roll out smaller new features and bug fixes along the way. All that has been leading up to the big effort developers have been spending most of their time on, something we've nicknamed "the player experience."
What we're releasing today
As of today, the Open Beta for Android users features functionality that allows everyone participating in an event to get the latest information for the event as soon as it's available and gives more control over tournament scorekeeping to ensure things run smoothly. All it takes is your own version of Companion and logging in with your Wizards Account, the same account you use to access things like Magic: The Gathering Arena.
Previously in the Open Beta, a single player managed an event on their mobile device using Companion, adding all the players, inputting all the results, announcing to everyone what the pairings were, and managing the round clock. Now everyone participating in the event can accomplish this together more quickly and efficiently. A host still starts an event, but now each event comes with a unique code that looks like this:
The host can share that code with any of their players who are also using Companion. Those players simply "join" the event by putting the code into their app. Once the code is validated, the player is automatically included in the event with no additional registration needed by the host. When the event starts, players who joined using Companion will see their pairings automatically. They look like this:
No need to print pairings or yell names out! Now you can simply see who you play against from the comfort of your mobile device. Once you're seated, you'll also receive your match slip digitally, allowing you to submit your match results directly to the host instead of having a third party do it for you or filling out a match slip. You can view how much time is left in the round from your seat and check your standings too. Your home events are now super easy to manage for you and up to 16 total players through the simplicity of Companion.
Why not include iOS?
The short answer is, we are and we will! Apple restricts our Open Beta to just 10,000 users on iOS, and we've almost reached that capacity. That makes it difficult to get a lot of great testing feedback because the playerbase is significantly reduced. Additionally, the iOS version of the player experience feature isn't polished enough just yet to put in customer's hands. With those factors combined, I felt it was best to get the feedback we could now on Android and not delay access to those features while we continue polishing off iOS and ensuring we start the feedback and testing process through Open Beta as early as we could for a wide swath of our users.
Don't worry: the feature set will be coming to Apple fans in early 2020.
The team is hard at work finishing what's needed to get Wizards Event Reporter ready for release sometime in 2020. We've even started testing it at our internal events here at WotC HQ and been very happy with the results so far. I'll have more on that at a later date, but for now you can join the Magic: The Gathering Companion open beta at the links below (and remember, there are only 10,000 seats available for iOS users, so if you're on an Apple device and want to test what we've delivered so far or be in line to test the new features when they're ready, hurry!).
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you report your match in Companion?
If both players are using Companion, either player can report the result of a match directly through the app. Simply score the result as a draw, (0-0 or 1-1), a win (2-0 or 2-1), or a loss (0-2 or 1-2). Once a player submits the result, it automatically displays to the opponent. If there are any disagreements about the results, either player can address it with the tournament organizer who can change the results.
What about tournament fraud?
For home events, we don't anticipate significant amounts of friends defrauding one another, but the system has been designed with future store play in mind. Historically, match slips have always suffered from a risk of fraud: they're controlled by a single player, the player that turns the slip into tournament officials. To mitigate this, tournament rules dictate the winning player of a match submit the result to minimize the likelihood there's an incentive to change the result. After a paper slip has been submitted, the player who didn't turn the match result in has no way to verify what actually happened until the next round unless they seek out guidance from tournament staff.
Companion solves these problems in several ways:
- Events can still designate the winning player "submits" the result by being the player to input the results into their version of the app.
- A confirmation screen verifies the result before the player submits to ensure they didn't accidentally put in the wrong result.
- Both players can see the results immediately and at all times until the next round is paired, fraud protection that has never been available before; previously, a user would have to seek out tournament staff to find out results for a round in progress.
- Neither player can change the results to commit fraud once the results have been submitted.
- Any player can contact tournament staff for a result they feel is in error, and staff will be able to edit the results after investigating the issue with any changes automatically displaying to both users through Companion.
Why not have both players confirm a match result entry?
We actually started the design with this intention, but testing quickly showed it didn't solve the problem and, in fact, created a new one: delaying events because many players forgot to fill out their half of the slip. It's far more difficult to commit fraud using Companion for results entry than something like a paper match slip because, for the first time ever, both players can see the results at all times. If your opponent did input a result incorrectly, you can simply seek out tournament staff, which has always been the method for handling such mistakes, and have them investigate and correct it. You never have to worry about the slip being out of your sight or not knowing what's happening to it. Displaying this information to both players at all times solved the problem of someone trying to "sneak" a fraudulent result by their opponent.
What we found when we added the confirmation screen is that malicious attempts or accidental mis-reporting rates stayed about the same (<1% of total results). What happened instead? More events suffered delays because one player forgot to "accept" the result on their device and had to be tracked down to complete the round. That's an issue that's bound to happen when you double the number of people who need to take an action.
For now, we'll continue moving forward with match result reporting as it is currently implemented in the Open Beta and keep a close eye on feedback and the data. That, after all, is the whole point of such testing: forming a hypothesis and seeing how it works in the real world, then adjusting based on that data. If we find the real-world data doesn't stay in line with what we've already seen, we'll look at changes before launch to remedy.