Mike Turian is a Magic The Gathering Hall of Fame champion and is the current Product Architect for Magic The Gathering. Mike has the unique experience of being on nearly every side of the success of Magic, from Pro Player, to marketing manager, to game developer, to digital product manager. I’ve known Mike for many years from our days on the Pro Tour, and in addition to being brilliant, he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever encountered.
“It’s better to be making quick decisions and be able to iterate than making deeper, slower decisions but giving up iteration possibilities.”
At the beginning of this episode, Mike and I talk about what drew us to Magic The Gathering when we were kids. We both have a specific love for the open endedness of the game, the feeling that there are lots of solutions to any problem in the game. We take this discussion into the broader realm of gaming and dig into how a designer uses the iteration process to help create these open-ended experiences.
“…when you playtest a game, success is not about winning the game, it’s about making a better game with a better experience for all of the players.”
There are typically two places designers start on a game mechanics first or flavor first. I find it interesting to challenge designers to start from the side they’re not comfortable with to see what they can learn. For example, if you normally design mechanics first, challenge yourself to start with a story (flavor) instead.
“One of the challenges is that if a game has an audience, language, and culture to it, then unless someone is already accustomed to that language and culture it often is challenging for outsiders to understand the ecosystem.”
Mike does a lot of consumer research to improve Magic The Gathering, in this section Mike and I discuss methods for getting feedback on a game. He discusses some of the questions he asks on surveys and where he looks for the information. If you’re a designer with games out there in the world, collecting consumer feedback can be extremely helpful when it comes to creating expansions for current games and building new games for current fans. We also dig into the new Dungeons & Dragons-themed Magic The Gathering set.
Mike also spends a lot of time working with a charity called Extra Life, you can donate and learn more about the organization here.
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