Interview: Magic: The Gathering: Tactics

January 18, 2011

Sony Online’s Magic: The Gathering: Tactics, an online multiplayer game with collectible spells based on Wizards of the Coast’s popular card game, launches today. We spoke with the game’s executive producer, Mark Tuttle, about the game, its development, and plans for the future. 

Snackbar Games: The Magic license is inherently tied to its mechanics. What was your philosophy about what you could mess with and what needed to stay as close as possible to the card game?

Mark Tuttle: It’s been a fascinating process. This game has changed many times over the 18-month cycle of development we’ve had here. I think where we started is that there are a couple of things that has to be in this game. We have to treat the iconics like the iconics. Everything has to feel right. Serra Angel has to feel like Serra Angel. Lightning Bolt has to feel like Lightning Bolt. That was rule number one. It has to feel like Magic

From that point on it had to look great, it had to sound great. We needed to create the world that Magic: The Gathering takes and really offer the player; we had to bring these characters to life. We needed great sound effects and great character animation, and great models, and really good gameplay too. 

Lastly, the thing I was firm about was combos. I wanted to make sure that spells and figures could be combined together. That’s really what the Magic player likes to do. They like to look at a table full of cards in front of them and say okay, how I can take 40, 50, and 60 of these and create something. 

Then we talked to a lot of players talked to a lot of people in the company and we asked for inspiration. What do you like in a tactics game? What’s important to you? What’s a trump we can throw out? I think what we have is the biggest compliment we’ve got from players that has played this as they walk away saying: You know it’s a great tactics game, but it feels like Magic. If someone says that, then I feel we’ve won.

SBG: There’s a large in-person Magic community. Are there plans to get these people involved some way, with promotions or something?

MT: You know, it’s not out of the question. We’re not trying to move Magic players from the paper product into the digital product or anything like that. We want to introduce it to Magic players and tactics players, players who are just younger players that are starting to find the gaming they like to play. Any way that we can reach out to any of those groups, we’re certainly willing to do so. 

I think that if somebody plays a game and they like a game, they will tell their friends about it. “Hey, I found this really great game. Here’s where you can play it too.”

SBG: You’re starting out in the Dominaria setting. What are your plans for future expansion? Are you trying to update in parallel to the card game, theme-wise? Or are you trying to go in your own direction?

MT: It’s funny, but we get that question a lot. And it kind of surprises us. You know, not really. We’ve got 17 years of Magic: The Gathering to catch up on. So there’s no specific plans of really tying into, at least on a whole set basis, to what they’re doing in the paper card game. You know, we’re a licensee of the Magic brand, so I don’t know that that would necessarily happen, but I can also not say that that would never happen. For right now there’s no plans to do so. 

We’ll have a review of Magic: The Gathering: Tactics soon. In the meantime, you can download and try it for yourself by heading over to the official site.