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Magic: the Gathering: Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons Learned

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Magic the Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater shares twenty lessons learned over twenty years of designing one of the world's most popular collectible card games. Watch to learn lessons such as "Restrictions Breed Creativity", "Fighting Human Nature Is a Losing Battle" and "If Everyone Likes Your Game, But No One Loves It, It Will Fail". GDC talks cover a range of developmental topics including game design, programming, audio, visual arts, business management, production, online games, and much more. We post a fresh GDC video every weekday. Subscribe to the channel to stay on top of regular updates, and check out GDC Vault for thousands of more in-depth talks from our archives. Follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/Official_GDC Checkout our Facebook page for GDC exclusives https://www.facebook.com/GameDevelopersConference http://www.gdconf.com/
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Text Comments (831)
xthatwhiteguyx (13 hours ago)
Here he is talking about lessons he learned... and not confusing interesting with fun... Then they create Teferi and Nexus of Fate 2 years later -_-
The Silver Shroud (20 hours ago)
Excuse me that's not the reason Grislebrand is a problem.
Indi Aner (1 day ago)
Zzzz.....
DarthG33k (2 days ago)
46:10 is waaaaay too relevant for WotC right now. They've forgotten this lesson...
Shattered Knight (3 days ago)
Brilliant Lesson #1. I have been saying this since Overwatch released. And all the users are blaming other users for bad picks rather than blaming the game design. Users want to play certain units period. Games need to be designed around that fact period. Meaning regardless of what unit a teammate or opponent is playing, each user should pick any unit to play without limitation or without resulting in a disadvantage to the team.
Thomas (3 days ago)
I just watched this, and it seems like MTG has forgotten about this entirely. They no longer care about their target audience, or evoking a strong response. They simply want to minimize the negatives.
FALpwn (6 days ago)
To appeal to me as a magic player. Please bring magic duels or arena to Android.
so fun to watch!
Sphere723 (7 days ago)
Dude is literally just reading the text off his slides.
SpectrumTide (8 days ago)
The fact that I’m getting these 20 lessons for almost free is beautiful.
BingBong 1234 (7 days ago)
Monetarily free anyway...you did spend 1 hour of time money though.
Earl Grey Hot (8 days ago)
I feel like the date analogy flew right over the heads of this audience
returningwhisper (13 days ago)
This is a really good video.
Kats (16 days ago)
I love this talk so much. It oozes value to game and product designers in all markets. 10/10, excellence. A core philosophy I discovered a while ago was that one of the most important factors in design is how your game makes the players feel. That the game serves as an engine to eliciting some emotional response from the players in order to drive immersion and investment. Seeing this philosophy validated by a veteran game designer is huge to me and lets me know that my observations on game design aren't without merit and that I'm thinking about it in the right way.
Loremaster Dasmodeus (16 days ago)
This guy is amazing.
Rufus Shinra (17 days ago)
You're not Richard Garfield....
Nate Ungrodt (17 days ago)
Full art land was the best. Bring it back! RIP Mr. Rush.
Jonathan Copperfall (17 days ago)
I spent the last twenty years designing the same game... and it's been going downhill ever since
J D (19 days ago)
The presentation aside, to learn only one thing per year despite thousands of interactions sounds like a terrible outcome.
Cage .Cage (29 days ago)
bethesda, blizzard... take notes
csudab (1 month ago)
A great talk on design principles, though I feel as though #1 and #14 are in contradiction?
Egregious (1 month ago)
Blizzard could learn something. Let's pray they do this time around.
TehBigB4dWolf (1 month ago)
This guy is a genious. Whoa. It took me like 3-4 hours to watch this video, so I can keep up, and write thing down.
qwertyu uytrewq (1 month ago)
Many AAA game companies need to understand things said in this video
Dave Collins (1 month ago)
As a fan of the game, i have a note. Cats seem to rule the MTG universe. Humanoid cats, powerful cats, even a planes walker. Yes cats are cool, i have 4. I also have 4 dogs. Dogs or hounds, as they are in magic, are vastly under represented. There's always a new cat and it is usually very useful. Not so for hounds. I would love to see some K-9 creatures to rival these felines. There should be some plane that is ruled by k-9 like creatures that are smart and good to play with. Please balance this inequality.
Wendin (1 month ago)
Rares should be interesting? Ah thats why all the playable duallands are rare. So much fun when you get one of this expensive duallands and draw them. Really *fun* cards to play and build a deck around.
3SkatingLibras (2 months ago)
This talk applies to so many things. God damn!
Joaquin Sanchez (2 months ago)
he tries to be funny but just sounds condesending. i guess he doesn't like playing the game if he needs to be constantly researching and analyzing what "humans" like in the game.
Jarvis Rosales (2 months ago)
I guess lesson 15 is why they jacked up the prices for Ultimate Masters? ‘Coz the game isn’t for everyone and it’s only for those with overflowing cha-ching?
B T (2 months ago)
How to destroy an IP. Thanks for the talk.
its funny how each of those lessons go against everything that riot games has done to League of legends in the past 3 years, no wonder why its sucks nowadays
Aroop Roelofs (2 months ago)
4:34: "which are human" *looks at dog* I'm sorry pal, you're not allowed to play.
Aroop Roelofs (2 months ago)
ah, So Emrakul and Ornithopter was his fault :D k den :D (just joking around)
VTL (2 months ago)
Does this guy still have his job???
Óscar A. Montiel (2 months ago)
his talk is gold.
Alper Özgün Yeşil (2 months ago)
one of the best thing i've ever listen about game design, thank you!
Artur Sarlo (2 months ago)
Best talk about game design I ever watched. Thank you very very much.
schlaghund (2 months ago)
great talk
Gareth (2 months ago)
P2W gone wild.
Nickdini Hoodini (2 months ago)
fortnite changed human behavior to autism
vvaze (2 months ago)
I really wish that blizzard would sit down and take notes here. Missing the glory times
Wendin (2 months ago)
yeah but just because someone hates the 2 mana planeswalker doesnt mean noone loves him?! I think the idea is cool and would really like to play around with that...
Tracy Coxon (2 months ago)
Really good talk. Lots of interesting stuff to chew on and many of the things he discussed could be applied outside of game design.
ovrzelus (2 months ago)
Hearthstone devs.... are ya listening?
André (2 months ago)
Lands not matter??? WTF the artworks of lands from Shards of Alara was the reason why i even started to play magic......
p dub (2 months ago)
"#9 allow your players to have a sense of ownership" - f2p mobile games violate this SO HARD. Eg, when you "run out of energy" and can no longer play. When you cant play the game without paying for consumables or whatever. It makes it feel like the game is never quite yours.
Eduardo Dandolini Dutra (2 months ago)
I just watched the whole 1 hour video and it felt like it was just 5 minutes... fucking amazing talk!
Scho0rschi (2 months ago)
Twenty years of Magic, one lesson learned: print proxies, build cube, enjoy game far away from shitty op cards and biased judges.
John Kidby (29 days ago)
I've never once met a biased judge. Magic is highly procedural; judges almost never get to make any actual "judgement calls". They're just there to clarify what the complete rules specify in any given situation.
opsimathics (2 months ago)
lesson number 3 is terrible, "be generic" "be run-of-the-mill", "don't reinvent or reimagine anything"
Meya Enyo (2 months ago)
One lesson they haven't learned is to not shit all over their customers. I mean wizards of the coast going after Boogy when Boogy is the most loving and forgiving person I've ever seen. Shame on Wizard's of the Coast
Akeem (2 months ago)
I was expecting lessons about balancing issues such as: one mana draw three cards was dumb, etc... but this is more about catering to casuals that don't care at all about technical aspects of the game but cry when you print a 7/7 that costs 8 mana... (really?) After all I understand that such people make for the majority of the paying customers so they need to listen to their silly feedback.
Darin Ladd (2 months ago)
Need Mark Rosewater radio station.
Vidly von Kompost (2 months ago)
1-2 slides per sentence is really too much...
Jorthax (3 months ago)
Lesson #21: Get woke, go broke.
Iwaman (3 months ago)
55:00 "Change the process, change the outcome" -> Another GDC super interesting conference
Snippa (3 months ago)
Couldn't keep watching after he suggested "don't change your players to match your game, change your game to match your players". This is a very dangerous way of thinking. While there are some common things out there surrounding video games that from a gamer's pov make a lot of sense and they will often suggest a designer implement, there are also things out there that players like to suggest, often as very vocal minorities that would upset the quiet majority. Let's take Ultima Online for example; a vocal minority of players didn't like the rules that were initially set forth for the game, it wasn't their type of game... pre-internet that basically meant that, well, that player is going to go find something else to play, something more their style. So what happened? Well, a copy of the world was created with a new ruleset to protect this vocal minority of players, this actually caused a fair amount of people to quit even though it brought in a great deal more people... these new people having only experienced the game after the new ruleset was implemented became accustomed to how things are, only hearing stories of how things used to be. This new set of players, often younger and even more vocal (and often times vulgar) had less interest in some aspects of the game or had experienced things when crossing over to the old ruleset world that they didn't like, after it had happened enough times and with complaints being made by these players in general or that another player was maybe cheating in some form (whether true or not)... the developers decided to change some mechanics and give this new crowd more things to do in the new ruleset areas, neglecting their core player base and the original design of the game. Fast forward and you will see that the developers eventually decided to essentially copy large portions of other popular or more popular games as the core player base was growing upset and/or bored... these new changes in themselves drove even more people away. Anyways, the point of all this is that you cannot please everyone, and the more you try, the more people you upset. If you have a vision for your game, stick to it, be careful what kind of suggestions you implement. Don't change your game for the players unless it is truly something that benefits ALL players and DOES NOT stray from the original vision.
MrVovoda (2 months ago)
You should come back and watch around 55:55 (lesson 19)
Eireate (3 months ago)
He presents a power point like a kid in jr. High. He reads from each slide almost word for word. Lol, Richard Garfield for life!!!
Konsta Krekola (3 months ago)
Up on the wall
Siah Airsoft (3 months ago)
all i watched was lesson nnumber 1, and they still haven't implemented that lesson in magic, so i stopped watching lol
Jackson Wald (3 months ago)
I love how a lot of what this guy says is so applicable to any game
Shall NotWither (3 months ago)
As a teacher... this could be an educational seminar.
Scripter (3 months ago)
This guy is one of my heroes. So many great tips here. People only want to learn your system. Everything else should be common knowledge.
ryan morfei (3 months ago)
20 lessons most of which are innistrad block
ecchi squid (3 months ago)
MTG, now for SJW's.
TheStormPulse (3 months ago)
Lessons for game design and lessons for life.
BuzzaB77 (3 months ago)
Great talk. relevant. concise, and well paced/ easy to absorb / learn from. Considering that has been his only job for 20 years he is incredibly 'bigger picture' thinking. Most devs or publishers doing that would be so blinkered they don't know what's truly good any more.
mesopable (3 months ago)
So good. Favourite GDC talks of all time.
Jamie Knox (3 months ago)
I think mark should watch this agine so he might understand who his audience is. i think they have lost sight of who there target audience is number 15.
1Rodric (3 months ago)
He sounds and looks like an older Abed from Community
generalnawaki (3 months ago)
moon white player here, art MATTERS. I resonate with white due to the art on the cards.
Eric Fudurich (3 months ago)
Hahahahahah know your audience....yeah sure.
Javier G (3 months ago)
Why did I just watch this whole video?
AlabasterJazz (3 months ago)
For anyone who desires a written format: Lesson #1: Fighting against human nature is a losing battle Humans can be stubborn Don’t change the players to match the game, change the game to match the players Don’t get into a fight you’re not going to win Lesson #2: Aesthetics matter Game components need certain qualities to “feel” right Balance, symmetry, pattern completion Poor implementation is fighting against Human nature (perception) Humans like to perceive things in a certain way Lesson #3: Resonance is important Humans come pre-loaded with emotional responses Use pop-culture and tropes as foundations to build upon Lesson #4: Make use of piggybacking Use pre-existing knowledge to front-load game information to make learning easier Match expectations to make things easy to grasp “Flavor” can help with mechanics Lesson #5: Don't confuse "interesting" with "fun" Two types of stimulation: intellectual and emotional People think of themselves as intellectual, but they make their decisions based on emotion Emotional responses are more likely to generate satisfaction Lesson #6: Understand what emotion your game is trying to evoke What impact does a decision have on the game experience? If it does not add to the desired experience it has to go No scene is worth a movie, no line is worth a scene Everything in the game has to contribute to the emotional response you’re trying to create Lesson #7: Allow the players the ability to make the game personal Knowledge = familiarity = preference = quality The brain prioritizes things that it knows The players will think more highly of something they have a personal connection to Provide a lot of choices. A choice of resource, or path, or style, and the ability to not choose Make them feel that what they choose is “theirs” Lesson #8: The details are where the players fall in love with your game Players are searching for something to bond with, to call their own A detail might only apply to a single percentage, but to that percentage that detail could be everything Lesson #9: Allow your players to have a sense of ownership Customization. Find a way to let players create something uniquely their own What they customize becomes personal, and when that thing wins, they win Let the game become theirs, not yours Lesson #10: Leave room for the player to explore People are more invested in things that they initiated, get them to ask questions Don’t always show the player the things you want them to see, let the player find them Discovery = investment Lesson #11: If everyone likes your game, but no one loves it, it will fail A few 1’s and 2’s that come with a few 9’s and 10’s is better than all 7’s We want a strong response, even if some of that response is negative There has to be joy and excitement and passion, or there won't be a second chance They don’t need to love everything about your game, but they need to love something Lesson #12: Don't design to prove you can do something People who create tend to have very large egos. Don’t let your ego drive your motivations Your goal is to deliver an optimal experience for your target audience Your decisions have to serve your game, not you Treating game design as a game is a trap Lesson #13: Make the fun part also the correct strategy to win Put the fun where they can’t help but find it. It has to be at the core of the experience The thing that makes the player succeed has to be the thing that makes your game fun in the first place Lesson #14: Don't be afraid to be blunt Sometimes subtlety doesn’t work, people can miss the obvious Name mechanics to make them easier to digest Subtlety is important, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be blunt when it’s valuable Lesson #15: Design the component for its intended audience Some play to experience, some play to express, some play to prove something Make sure you understand what different kinds of things each player wants, and maximize the design of each component with the target player in mind Trying to please everyone often leads to pleasing no one Lesson #16: Be more afraid of boring your players than challenging them Trying something grandiose and failing is memorable. It could have been awesome. They’ll forgive you and see what you’ll try next. Boring has no such forgiveness The greatest risk is not taking risks Lesson #17: You don't have to change much to change everything Don’t ask how much you need to add, ask how little you need to add Unrequired additions add complexity, muddy the message, and wastes resources Look for ways to synergise off what you already have rather than introduce something new Lesson #18: Restrictions breed creativity People tend to solve the same problems the same way every time. Adding a restriction so the same way won’t work forces interesting solutions Start from somewhere you never started before Lesson #19: Your audience is good at recognizing problems and bad at solving them Use your audience as a resource for determining if a problem exists, but take their solutions with a grain of salt Lesson #20: All the lessons connect Learning is a holistic process, everything is interconnected. What you learn in one area can apply to other things, and can be leveraged off each other to great effect
wiz4e (3 months ago)
Awesome. Simply amazing. Well done on so many levels. I play MTG Arena for a few days and I find this video great. gg <3
Ben Faunce (3 months ago)
More like 20 DICKS in Mark Rosewater's ASS!
Mark Landry (4 months ago)
WIZARDS NEEDS TO LISTEN TO THIS THEMSELVES
Matteo Moriani (4 months ago)
Oh my god the example with Plants vs Zombies was shocking
FuturePants (4 months ago)
WOTC has learned nothing nor have they taught us anything, they have become a laughing stock of a company who ignores cheaters and bans people for tweets. Lessons Magic has taught us: Don't drink the kool-aid.
Santiago González (4 months ago)
23:00 that's the fakest thing ever, everyone now jsut copies a list form the internet and calls it a day.
GamePlayMetal (4 months ago)
18:19 If only Rian Johnson saw that part...
L0j1k (4 months ago)
What a turd.
note4note (4 months ago)
Kind of interesting to see bits for KeyForge and look back to this wondering why so many of these lessons didn't seem to be applied to it.
Damnationization (4 months ago)
I understand why people do not like Mark Rosewater. He is constantly taking credit for things when it was a team of people. Saying "I created" this instead of saying "my team created." I do agree with his ideas overall.
Shiva of The East (4 months ago)
Lesson 13 is absolutely the problem with twilight imperium. The imperial card is everything that isn't fun about the game
Shiva of The East (4 months ago)
I think Tibalt is an amazing card. Great flavour and a strong effects for 2 mana. I think it drives home the previous point that some people are going to love what others hate
xXNoFateXx (4 months ago)
..... few mistakes...... riiiiiiight.
Only 20 in 20 years? Are you retarded or what?
Elliott Wood (4 months ago)
this was super awesome and very helpful
Frankmusik (4 months ago)
upondabord
Sammy Blaze (4 months ago)
Lesson Number one: invent the first lootbox in form of booster packs, make a pay to win game without anyone noticing and milk the shit out of teenagers.
エイー!Sir (3 months ago)
It's a costly form of entertainment same as going to concerts and whatever, so no need to be salty on this ted talk.
Well, yeah. The game is fucking good, their business model should be illegal!
TheDarkever (4 months ago)
Most of these teaching can be 100% applied to our own life. Afterall, life is just a big game with just many more rules :)
Knife1437 (4 months ago)
Ion Hazzikostas... Please take note. Bloody Blizz.
The Rothgar (4 months ago)
Maybe its all about learning the different types of magic.
Brad Young (4 months ago)
Lol WOTC still breaks almost all of these rules still in designing magic.
Carl Lee (4 months ago)
44:42 The third guy looks like Brian Kibler, and sounds like him
Patrick Matlin (4 months ago)
That lizp though
Sandwichman1337 (4 months ago)
Stop worrying about invoking a negative response, and start focusing on invoking a strong response....That explains cards like Second Sun and Nexus of Fate....
Santiago González (4 months ago)
uhmm, can't you jsut like...counterspell second sun???
Lsean Armatrading (4 months ago)
For some reason I strongly dislike this guy
raimondspauls (4 months ago)
Great talk! Many of these points apply to creating/designing almost anything.
Matt Williams (5 months ago)
Maro is an absolute legend. What I wouldn't give to have a job I had as much passion for as he does!
Bart Rabelo (5 months ago)
Mark Rosewater is slowly killing the game.

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