Magic Gathers in the MMO-sphere

Well, Cryptic/PWE kind of threw a curveball at me recently.  Not being an industry insider or anything like that, I didn’t have too much warning on this, but it looks like the next big thing for Cryptic MMOs is a game famed far and wide:  Magic the Gathering.

My first rare in my first Magic starter pack. Had a soft spot for this guy ever since.

For the folks who aren’t familiar with it:  MtG is a trading card game that’s been around for years and years now; I’d played it myself for number of years, roughly from the tail end of the Unlimited run to the last of the Invasion block.  Yeah, that probably requires a bit of explanation too:  Unlimited was pretty much the third edition of the main game, and they’ve cranked out revised editions regularly (including, if I recall right, one actually called Revised).  Additionally, the producers of the game-Wizards of the Coast-would release expansion card sets, and it didn’t take long for them to follow a pattern of releasing a big expansion, then two smaller expansions that followed on the same theme; these would be called “Blocks”.

I’m not getting into the mechanics of the rules-this is an MMO blog, so I’m going to instead talk a bit more about the setting.  And the setting is a little tricky, because it’s actually many settings-a multiverse of worlds, with their own societies and problems.  Some are more fantastical than others, but for the most part, all are fantasy settings, from Dominaria-which was the “primary” setting early on, to Phyrexia, which could best be described as “Borg Hell”.  Additionally, there are individuals who have a “spark” which gives them the ability to travel from plane to plane-from world to world, and they’d be called Planewalkers.  (Early on, they were the next best thing to gods, because they were intended to represent MtG players.  That changed somewhere along the line.)

Given the possibilities of this setting, with all the possible worlds it represents, it makes one wonder just how they’re going to put this together.  Will Cryptic be focusing on a single world?  Multiple worlds?  How will the players be represented-will they be Planewalkers, or something more traditional in class?  The fact that Cryptic is involved tends to make one dubious as to how they are going to distinguish characters, from a mechanics standpoint.  I feel pretty confident on the appearance customization, as that’s a Cryptic hallmark.  Races to choose from can span all kinds of possibilities, given the span of the card game.  Humans and elves are usually a safe bet.  I don’t recall heaps of dwarves in the setting-this could just be my memory getting involved, but back when I was active, there were always a lot more elves published than dwarves.  The setting shines with less traditional races, and even brand new ones; minotaurs and goblins are active in the setting, angels and demons, merfolk and vampires and even stranger beings:  slivers who became stronger when more of their species were around and gained the abilities of their fellows, plant-creatures that could breed more plant-creatures, lizard men and more.

Gearing should be no issue; the setting has heaps of artifacts which can easily be adapted to an MMO.  Magic…well, it’s in the name, right?  We can probably expect wizards to show up.  Priests are also around, although one doesn’t necessarily have to be one to use healing magic in the game.  I’d be shocked if the game didn’t include a roguish sort of character, somewhere-and fighters are always with us.  So I’d expect at least a core of wizards and warriors-and from there, all bets may be off.

There are web sites out there than can tell people more about the assorted settings of MtG; they’ve all got a story, and it’s been expressed via the cards for years.  I’ve not followed said stories for over fifteen years (yes, it really HAS been around a long time), and not actually played the game for almost that long-but I’ve still got fond memories of going to the local game shop and playing in games with friends, and took a lot of personal satisfaction in their reactions to my card decks (which were less “OMGHe’sGonnaKillUs” and more “WTFKindofDeckIsThat!?”  I built for personal entertainment as much as utility…).  I’m not sure how big a splash an MMO with MtG’s pedigree behind it will be; big properties do not necessarily translate into big MMOs.  We’ve seen example after example of that over the years.  If the developers for this MMO try to keep realistic expectations and don’t expect a flood of card players to suddenly translate their passion to an MMO based on their game, we could be looking at something interesting here.  I’ll be watching where things go.  There isn’t much information out there yet (they DID just announce it), but since this is Cryptic/PWE, there’s only one thing we can be dead certain of.

There will be lockboxes.  Lots of them.

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