#MTGOMATTERS: Magic Online Wide Beta Spotlight & What We Should Do

Addendum #3: This is a repost of an article I wrote for the original Wide Beta Spotlight. If you haven’t read it yet, now is a good moment to remember why giving feedback on the Beta will be in your interest, as well as Wizards’.

Addendum #2: Now that the Wide Beta Spotlight has been rescheduled for June 12. 2003, (as stated in this article), I implore everyone to take a moment to read over this and then help Wizards with constructive feedback!

Addendum: The Wide Beta Spotlight has been postponed (and you can read about it in this article), but I believe that the points in this article are still relevant. Maybe, when the Spotlight is rescheduled, some tutorial videos will make sense! Also, please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments below; they will make nice discussion points for the reschedule!

Anyone that regularly plays Magic Online is probably at least somewhat aware of “Shiny,” the Magic Online Wide Beta client. As the Wide Beta client will soon be the “only Magic Online client,” it may well be the most important topic in the Magic Online realm today! Luckily (for us and them), Wizards has implemented a feedback tool so that our opinions can be cataloged, aggregated, and absorbed by the Magic Online Wide Beta development team. This short article will detail the Magic Online Wide Beta Spotlight, describe its importance in relation to increasing (or maintaining) functionality within Magic Online, and set forth options that you (the Magic Online player) ought to take over the coming days.

What Is the Wide Beta Spotlight?

You may have read that the Prerelease Events for Dragon’s Maze are starting a day early: tomorrow, Thursday, May 9, 2013! [Editor's Note: These dates have now changed, as per the postponement discussed above. --PlanetWalls] To get access to them (or to get access to Magic Online at all from after the May 8 downtime until May 10, 2013, 10:00 AM Pacific), all interested parties must log on using the Wide Beta client (available for download here). This 30-some hour period is the Magic Online Wide Beta Spotlight, a period that exists solely to get our opinions on the client that is looming (with a launch date forecast for sometime in July 2013).

What Does It Mean to You?

Before we get into why you should take advantage of this opportunity, feedback and bugs on the Wide Beta client can (and should) be communicated to Wizards of the Coast through these handy links:

 

The Wide Beta Spotlight is a big opportunity for all of us to shape the program that we are going to have to use for the foreseeable future. The feedback survey and the Magic Online forum both provide chances to comment on the interface design and the user experience, two foundational components of the program. Also, reporting bugs assists Wizards in strengthening the user experience and stabilizing the program.

Until Wizards feels that these areas are strong, they will not focus as much about improving the user experience through events and new features. What does this entail precisely? We don’t know entirely, but given the current trends during development, we might assume the following:

  • Magic Online organized play will remain fairly stagnant until the new client reaches a point where Wizards feels they can shift resources from development of the client itself to development of the experience within the client. (This is related to leagues.)
  • New features and important upgrades to existing features that are not critical to the core user experience will not occur until the client has been stabilized. (Major overhauls to multiplayer games and trading fit under this category.)
  • Wizards will not pursue an aggressive expansion of the player-base and resources associated with this initiative until the beta client is respectable. (A larger player-base might support new events, such as fringe formats, more frequent out-of-print drafting, leagues and the like. It could also lead to Wizards adding talented individuals to the Magic Online team to help realize goals that seem like only dreams at the moment. Lastly, the news about the Power 9 possilbly being released on Magic Online and other promotions like it most likely will take a backseat to the development of a positively received Magic Online client. In other words, if we help fix it, they will come.)

 

As users of Magic Online, new features such as those above could benefit us greatly. It makes sense, then, to help Wizards get to a point where they can focus on these initiatives, and providing constructive feedback on the Wide Beta client is one of the best ways for us, the average user, to make a positive difference!

How to Proceed

The best way to provide constructive feedback on the Wide Beta client involves trying all of the features of Magic Online that we regularly use. I suggest opening a text editor and taking notes to later report to Wizards. Here are some examples of things that we might try:

  • Add a buddy from the Home screen.
  • Message a buddy or clan member from the Home screen
  • Create a deck or two in the Collection tab
  • Create a Binder for trading in the Collection tab
  • Create a Wish List for trading in the Collection tab
  • Navigate to different types of Constructed and Limited events in the Play tab
  • Play in a Constructed or Limited event, like a Prerelease (remember that we can file for a refund if something related to the Wide Beta client ruins our experience)
  • Play a casual game or three in the Play tab
  • Challenge a buddy to a game
  • Purchase something from the Wizards Store (which will be necessary for anyone playing a Sealed Prerelease)
  • Enter a Magic Online Promo Code in the Store tab to get a free card (such as “WBSpotlight”)
  • Post a trade message in the Trade tab
  • Change your Active Trade Binder
  • Make a trade with a buddy or someone that has a message in the Trade tab (many bots, unfortunately including MTGO Academy’s, will be down during the Spotlight; see our announcement for more information)
  • Go to the Account tab and explore the different options
  • Explore the Help tab (and notice that there is a link to request a reimbursement!)

 

In addition to these specific tasks, we should also take note of any overall points, including layout, design, and system performance. Then, armed with our notes, we are ready to submit bugs and to provide feedback! Please, remember that we must be respectful, provide suggestions, and offer detailed accounts of our findings (both positive and negative) in order for the feedback to be valuable to Wizards.

Hopefully, everyone that plays Magic Online over the next two days looks at this as an opportunity. Despite the Wide Beta Spotlight being possibly annoying to many users (MTGO Academy included), such a concerted push shows that Wizards wants to have users try the program out and comment as soon as possible so that their feedback can be taken into account as we approach the July deadline when the Wide Beta client becomes simply the “Magic Online client”). Please, seize this chance to shape development of the new client in a positive way and continue to provide feedback whenever Wizards deploys an update! (Updates are tracked in the Magic Online forum’s Wide Beta Changelist thread.)

Thank you for reading,

Chris Kuehl
ChrisKool on Magic Online
2011 Community Cup Participant
@MTGOAcademy on Twitter

 
  1. Everyone who’s opinion matters has already tried the beta, hated it (or pretended to like it for god knows what reason), and voiced their opinion to WotC via those forms.

    It still sucks nearly as bad as it did last year.

  2. Thanks for all the ideas to test and respond to the Beta client. I applaud WotC for making the right decision to delay the forced Beta use, especially on something as important as a pre-release – also glad they decided not to take the one extra day away from us as a result of this decision.

    I think this shows there is a lot of work to do on the Beta client and that it is not anywhere near ready to fly solo as the only MTGO client. Anyone trying it in the last week are so annoyed with the constantly changing stack window (second game on, it appears real small and right in the middle of the playfield – you can scale the size back up, but it insists on being right in the middle of the action covering up most of your in play cards).

    I also find myself constantly struggling with my play time in the new client, despite the extras put in to save you time. I timed out in 3 different Momir games two weekends, making it where I only played Cube this past weekend – that was $24 WotC lost out on as I usually would play in the 4 Momir tournaments each weekend.

  3. For me the card design on the New client is awful, it doesn’t look anything like in real life. Also the performance of the game is too bad, the battlefield view is not really clear and there is still a lot to be made before they move to the new client.

  4. Thank you Chris for pointing out that we need to provide constructed feedback for WotC. All the incessant whining about “the beta client sucks” is not going to change things. I think a lot of people had much higher aspirations for what the next MODO client would look like, and I’ll admit, Duels of the Planeswalkers has probably much to do with that.

    Once people accept that aesthetically, the beta client is not going to magically morph into a presentation that rivals the latest Call of Duty the better off everyone will be. The point of MODO is to play Magic the way it is designed to be played. Having a presentation that looks “like a million bucks” is second to having the client function “like a million bucks”. This spotlight is the best way to make sure that people are properly testing the beta to ensure that it functions correctly, so long as people are willing to follow some of your suggestions and provide the type of feedback that WotC needs in order to make changes.

  5. The card design is one of the turn-offs in Shiny, especially for me. The font is not the same and the borders look like Alpha borders. That said, these are fixes that can be made once the client functions properly (the foil animations have already been drastically improved, even if they still have a long way to go). In time, the cards will be redesigned to look more like real Magic cards, but certainly constructed feedback on this will help WotC prioritize it over other things.

  6. “I applaud WotC for making the right decision to delay the forced Beta use, especially on something as important as a pre-release”

    I have a hard time applauding them. They just admitted they made the original spotlight announcement despite the fact that they knew they had “performance and stability issues” and before they “deployed the updates to our production environment” to fix said issues (guess how that worked out). They then received a ton of (rightful, imo) backlash, likely realized that a prerelease that no one wanted to play in wasn’t great for them ($$$$), and pulled the plug on the thing. Not exactly restoring my faith in the direction this thing is going.

    As for the actual client itself, the actual layout of the dual scene is a major problem for me. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they changed the display of phases from a vertical, list display, to the horizontal bar that stretches across the screen. This is something that every player checks without really thinking about it constantly, and it just seems much less intuitive now. Makes your eyes dart around all the time, especially if you’re playing on a wide screen monitor, where again, the bar basically stretches across the entire screen.

  7. “Until Wizards feels that these areas are strong, they will not focus as much about improving the user experience through events and new features. What does this entail precisely? We don’t know entirely, but given the current trends during development, we might assume the following:”

    Here’s the thing, though, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to separate client stability with user experience.

    I’ve never enountered a bug or glitch in the beta client, so my experience is that it’s stable enough (of course, community experience tells me otherwise). But I still hate using the beta client because the overall use experience is terrible. Even in gameplay window, where they’ve made the most advancements, they still ‘broke’ some things they were doing right. In a game (and especially the current format with the prevalence of cards like Snapcaster Mage, Unburial Rites, and Angel of Serenity) where a lot of interaction takes place in the graveyard, not being able to pop out the graveyard and move and resize that window is a step backwards. Same with the revealed cards window (and slightly less important, the ability to simply click on the card to remove it, rather than finding that little ‘x’).

    But, yes, overall, the gameplay window does look better; it does a better job of displaying information (with the exception of the aforementioned issues). However, gameplay itself is still frustrating. The best way I can find to describe it is ‘laggy.’ As a previous poster mentioned, one seems to be more prone to timing out in the beta client. And I’m not some clicker and has to scroll over to the “OK” buttom every time; I’ve got an 12 button MMO mouse that has all the important F_ keys bound to those buttons, and I’m still worried about timing out.

    So, lets move beyond the game window. Creating a deck is more difficult in the beta client. I’m always building and brewing new decks, and the beta client makes this more difficult. Trading is terrible in the new client. Both of those things are simply easier in the old client, so that’s why I keep using it. Despite everyone’s complaints about the old client (seriously, it’s been a decade; how have we not found a way to implement ‘loops’ in game?), the user experience is simply better. That’s just basic functionality, not highly requested features like leagues (Jon Loukes has some awesome ideas too). Until WotC makes the user experience on the beta client comparable to the old client, people are going to be slow to move over.

  8. WotC_K’s letter said nothing of the sort. They were finalizing the latest batch of updates and fixes in preparation for the spotlight and to their dismay, these changes created a whole set of other bugs and glitches. This is how beta testing works. They were not willfully trying to force people to use a client that was broken, in fact, they have spared us that misery.

    WotC will go back and try to fix what went wrong with the latest update and will revisit this in the near future. I see nothing wrong with the way things are headed, or at least, nothing worse than the way it was before.

  9. “When I made that announcement, we were getting ready to release a new build that included significant updates to the Duel Scene, Trade, and Chat and also targeted some of our bigger performance and stability issues.”

    It absolutely said that, enderfall. They had “performance and stability” issues they obviously felt like needed fixing, and the announcement was made before the release of the new build that was supposed to fix those issues.

    It’s putting the cart before the horse, there’s not much more to it. When you have it ready, you make this announcement. Otherwise something like this happens. And lets not pretend that it was good to go but then the new build broke things. It obviously wasn’t what they deemed to be stable before the new build, because if that was the case they would have just rolled back to the previous build and gone with that.

  10. First of all, there is no way they would remotely consider “rolling back” a build in beta testing. What would be the purpose of that? The changes were meant to be an improvement and remain that way despite it causing ancillary bugs.

    Second, the plan was to do this during DGM pre-release, at a time that they knew people would want to play MODO presenting a unique opportunity to launch a much more thorough beta test (one can argue if this was a good plan, but that was what WotC decided was best for them). They needed to make an announcement at the precise time that they did. So would you have preferred that they release ZERO information on the DGM pre-release until all of the improvements were implemented and considered 100% functional? People would be screaming to high heavens about that too.

    That’s also ignoring that their internal testing did not notice the same bugs that everyone else had been noticing. WotC made a business decision to move forward with this based on their internal observations on the latest build. The shit hit the fan when released to the public, which was certainly not by design.

    Look I get it, Magic players love to complain about everything and always assume that WotC is some evil corporation out to steal their money and slap their babies. It’s pointless to continue this argument since you clearly are reading what your paranoid eyes want to believe.

  11. “First of all, there is no way they would remotely consider “rolling back” a build in beta testing. What would be the purpose of that?”

    If they have a stable build, then can make this announcement, and then if a new build breaks things, they simply roll back to the stable build and go ahead with everything as planned. That would be the purpose, but the previous build obviously wasn’t stable either, at least in their minds.

    “So would you have preferred that they release ZERO information on the DGM pre-release until all of the improvements were implemented and considered 100% functional?”

    I would prefer that they not make the original announcement if the new client is not stable. Seems like a fairly simple request. Who cares if the plan was to do this during DGM pre-release- tough luck WOTC, you didn’t get it done in time. It wasn’t ready, so scrap that plan instead of just hoping you’ll get there.

    “That’s also ignoring that their internal testing did not notice the same bugs that everyone else had been noticing.”

    This does not exactly inspire confidence in me as to how the development/testing process is going.

    Your last paragraph is just silly and baseless. I’m one dude, who freaking loves Magic Online, and I’m annoyed that they aren’t doing a better job of this whole thing.

  12. I’m glad that you care; I just hope that you have used this disappointment to share your thoughts on the build (and future ones) to make it better.

    As for their decision making, I’ve said my peace and if you can’t appreciate the timelines that WotC was working with/against, then nothing I say will ever matter.

    But I will address one final thing, if WotC’s internal testing, (which is what, maybe 2 dozen people?) doesn’t reveal any major issues with a build, how then are they supposed to decide that it’s good enough to be released to the public? You expect them to have a QA team of 1,000 people with 1,000 different systems to test?

  13. It’s a good conversation, enderfall, I respect your opinions on the subject although I agree that this is probably enough back and forth. Anyways, I’ve been on the closed beta for awhile and have submitted my thoughts a number of times. My main problems are with the dual scene, as I mentioned above.

    And no, I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I expect better than this. I’m not going to feel sorry for WotC if they haven’t committed enough resources to this – that’s on them. Because they don’t need a QA team of 1,000. They have us, and they have a working client that is stable. I understand that they’ve set deadlines, but I don’t like seeing them pushing a product that isn’t ready just to meet those deadlines. Especially when I, and many others, are already pretty dissatisfied with the overarching design of that product.

  14. So obviously everyone at mtgo academy gets some sort of bribe to blindly argue that WotC is brilliant and it’s our fault for being ungrateful (despite spending an average of thousands of $ per year on cardboard or digital cardboard).

    THAT’S the reason it’s pointless to continue arguing this here.

  15. So by your logic, if they had rolled out a virtually unplayable DotP 13 say, that was totally different to the previous ones, and expected the public to waste their time reporting problems that never get fixed and losing valuable time and money, that’d also be ok?

  16. Since someone else is trying to call me out, I guess I’ll throw my hat back in… My viewpoints are my own. No one else’s. I don’t get a damn thing from WotC, but I’m sorry that I’m a realist and trying to get the best out of what we have.

    I’d really, really, really like to understand what it is that everyone hopes the beta client to be, since it’s clear that nothing, and I mean nothing, will satisfy the masses. It is a BETA. It WILL have bugs. Is a “spotlight” the best way to get people to play the new client? Maybe, maybe not, but you also have to understand that you could choose to simply not play MTGO and do something else with your time.

  17. No way, Done here. That’s not the point. The point of the article, as I understand it, is that the MTGO community should work hard to make sure that they’re helping with bugs BECAUSE we don’t think Wizards is actually going to fix them all and sufficiently improve the user experience to make the eventual mandatory Shiny release enjoyable! This is not to say that we OWE ANYTHING to Wizards regarding the Beta client now. It’s to say, instead, that we owe it to the MTGO player community to try to help out now, lest we run into an overly buggy, or perhaps completely-lacking-in-cool-features client later.

    At no point did Chris in the article, or Enderfall in the comments, compliment WotC in broad strokes on the way they had handled the release of the new client. (Sure, they defended certain actions, but not necessarily as excellent or completely selfless — just as wise when, or potentially after, shit hit the fan.) This article is all about mustering community involvement to help make our own experience better in the future, recognizing the limitations in time, funding, man-power, etc., that WotC has when it comes to designing and programming the new client.

  18. Thanks everyone for taking the time to type up your thoughts! I will try to succinctly respond on a per author basis!

    @Pointless: Each major iteration should be attempted, lest WotC stops hearing feedback and thinks that they have “the” product to release (when they might not).

    @Frizzell66: I have had some lag issues in the Beta client, but I haven’t played an event in a while. I will add it to my list of things to do and see if even a fairly fast player has issues!

    @diLopes: I don’t mind the card design as much as I dislike the fonts used on the cards a lot; they no longer feel like paper cards. :( I hope that this improves as more serious issues are resolved!

    @vis & enderfall: I am glad that you two found a nice conclusion to those epic posts! I also really dislike the pushing of a very unfinished product, and I hope that through constructive critique we can prevent that from happening. Hell, a QA team of 1,000 still might not provide an experience that the average user would find acceptable (but they surely would eliminate bugs, or so I hope)!

    @Done here.: We are just passionate about MTGO, because we have spent countless hours working toward the one day where we will get the experience that we want. Enderfall runs a Player-Run Event that lasts for a few months at a time and plays one of the hardest-to-find-an-event-for formats on Magic Online. I don’t begrudge him for his desire to appreciate what has been done while hoping for better. I am not asking you to argue your opinion; I am asking you to log into the Wide Beta client after every major update, try out major functions and let WotC know what you think of them. But *only* do it if you will be honest and provide those opinions in a way that the reader isn’t abused by your hatred. With a level head, you might even find that you like a few of the new things (or like them in theory… there still needs to be a lot of improve on the programming side)!

    @PlanetWalls: Thanks for wording my viewpoint probable better than I could. Can I just dictate my next article to you, and you can ghostwrite as needed? Please. :}

  19. I believe the beta is sets the path for MTGO to be played using tablets as I see everything is server based. Less need for the cards to be downloaded locally but would strain low bandwidth connections. I’d love if I can play magic on the go.

  20. no leagues, no install.

    wotc destroyed my gaming experience when they dumped leagues..
    nor me or my friends like it without

  21. Same here with Leagues. This was the best feature and since it’s gone Magic just is not as fun anymore. I spend way less time online and also spend less.

  22. I believe the haste with which the old client will be shut down is proportional to the number of people trying the beta. So if a lot of people tries out the beta they’ll believe it’s successful and scrap the old (somewhat properly working) client.

    Other than that I don’t believe we’re able to influence anything about the new client. It’s obviously made by an amateurish in-house team that are probably doing all they can to make it good. They just aren’t better than this and no amount of feedback is going to make them better at their jobs.

    Just imagine for a second what kind of an amazing game we could be looking forward to if they’d just hired, say, a team from Blizzard for just a month or two to lay down a proper foundation.

  23. I reported all of the bugs in the tournament status screen years ago, such as the figures being wrong, not being percentages, the description “Last Game Length” being incorrect etc. All of these problems are still there despite being trivial to fix.

  24. They are not doing a very good job at all. My guess is that they have never even heard of a UI designer – or if they have, they decided that they didn’t need one. Boy, were they wrong. It looks like a webpage someone made with Microsoft Frontpage in 1997. I don’t know what happened to the silverlight web-based version they showed some screens for before the beta client came out, but they should have hired that team to do this beta, because it looked amazing, even in pre-alpha. Then we got…this.

  25. It makes me sad every time I play DotP on my PC – while not perfect, it has the fluid animations and the look of what a modern UI should be. Not to mention it runs silky smooth on my machine- then I switch to the beta client and I’m greeted to a broken, clunky lagfest.

    If this is what the future of MTGO is going to be like it’s not looking very “Shiny”

  26. To everyone who is going on about ‘give them a chance’, ‘help report problems’, ‘don’t act so entitled’ etc etc, are you forgetting that MtG and MtGO are products, and we are consumers who have spent a LOT of money over the years?

    IT ISN’T OUR JOB TO TEST YOUR BETA, PUT UP WITH A RUBBISH PROGRAM THAT’S WORSE THAN THE OLD ONE, AND STILL HAVE TO PAY THE SAME PRICE FOR EVERYTHING ASSOCIATED WITH IT, DRAFTS, TIX, ETC.

    That is all.

  27. Maybe it’s Hasbro’s fault… give WoTC some money for the job or something.

  28. New client is a mess. The interface is even less intuitive than normal modo…. At least over the years I have managed to figure out how works. I would rather stick with the devil I know.

  29. Reminds me of going from Master of Orion 2 to Master of Orion 3.
    Was supposed to be a new better, more modern game, failed hard.

    Lots of it is clutty. The play interface is harder to look at. Quite honestly the only thing I like with the new client is that I can maximize it without issue having my traybar on the top. And that’s it.

    I wonder if they will fix the land issue though… start with little lands, draw none, start with loads, only draw lands. That is another issue though. One that makes me hate the game sometimes though.

    Also, did they fix the message thing? Can’t find the messages sent to me at all now.

  30. Draft: It was so slow loading that i couldn’t even select a card. it was so frustrating spending money on garbage like that. I really expect more from wizards, magic is such a great product but i just spent 14 dollars to NOT pick any cards and not even play. I just uninstalled it, i can’t waste my time and be bothered. My computer is fairly new as well, what the hell!

  31. They’re a joke. We’re supposed to pay to bug-test their beta software? That along with the still ridiculous 4-3-2-2 queue payouts, 4-pack nix-tix sealed being removed because “the client wasn’t built to accomodate 40-card decks”, cube tickets being a bald-faced scam, MMA packs being $7 and unredeemable, etc. How lowly do they consider the customer? For as good as they are at making a fun and enjoyable game, they are terrible at customer relations. I’d never spend another dollar on any of their products if I didn’t love the game itself as much as I do. All they have to do is lay out a reasonable investment to hire an established development house to make a new client, fix the feel-bad money grab schemes, and stop lying to us. I put in about 20% of the money I used to and I’d go right back to spending a ton if they’d shape up and address this stuff. Like, WoW is $10 a month for all you can play. $25 on mtgo gets you a single MMA draft which is non-redeemable. Shameful.

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