So I decided to check out Magic the Gathering Online. They had their booth next to ours at E3 and were giving away copies of their retail box but by the time I was able to get over there they were all gone.
I found that I could just download the game from their site and didn’t need the box. Normally I like having a box because if I am going to shell out money I want something I can hold in my hands in return. But I’m slowly getting over that. It was the beginning of a lesson in how not to set up your game service.
Before I begin here is how their game works as far as money goes. You pay $9.99 for the account and then you can play for free but you have to buy the cards online. I believe once you are in the game you can buy the booster packs and pre-made decks from inside the client but since I haven’t gotten into the game I don’t know that for sure.
I also have to ask what kind of sign up system they were after when they designed this. I imagine what they wanted is a system where they can easily grab a casual player who is curious about the game and then hope to hook him into continue playing, pretty standard stuff. But what they have set up has way too many hoops. They aren’t really difficult hoops and you can’t expect a hoop free system, although that is possible if you design it right, but this one has annoyed me enough that I’ve decided to ramble on complaining about it. I hope your not bored enough to actually read this. Just so you know I probably won't be proof reading it either. You were warned...
First I downloaded the self extracting zip file. No problem there. I execute it and it unzips itself into its default directory and then launches the game. Now I don’t know what was in that zip file which was only 39mb in size but it wasn’t enough. The game spent over an hour patching. OVER AN HOUR!!! It might have even been two hours I didn't really pay attention to when I started.
Okay so now it has finally finished patching and the log in screen pops up. It does have an option for a free trial but I decide to just shell out the $9.99 and get an account. Now here is another big hoop: their online store. It isn’t built into the client it is a web page store. Now this is just a little thing, but remember we are trying to “grab a casual player”. I have to figure out what I’m buying which is the Magic the Gathering Account. Its kind of an esoteric concept that might lose Timmy’s dad who just bought little Timmy the game for his birthday.
But that isn’t it. I HAVE to fill out their little survey before I am allowed to buy this item. I am thinking okay this data is important to them I guess… but obviously not since it looks to have been several years since they update it. One of the final questions asks me what other online MMO games I play and none of the options are any game that has come out in the last two years. World of Warcraft isn’t mentioned, No Everquest II, etc.
Now I have bought an account. I don’t remember the exact steps here but I believe it sent me the account email at that point where I get my password. I am not sure though because when I look back at the text that I saved from the store it says:
Congratulations, you are now a registered player of Magic: The Gathering Online. Launch your Magic Online program, enter the user name and password you created at the beginning of this process and click "Log In" to begin playing!I didn’t create a password at the beginning of the process. The password was sent to me in the email"
Thank you for requesting an account at the Magic Online Store. WithSystem generated password, not password I created. And do you see any problem with that link? The period is part of the link which brings you to a page not found.
thousands of creatures, ever-evolving strategies, and 24/7 access to
opponents, Magic Online is the ultimate online competition.
Now that your Login Name and Password are created, we need to complete your account setup. Listed below is your Login name and a system-generated password. For full, step-by-step instructions on account creation, please visit
Somewhere in the activation process I also had to detail how I got my account as either from a retail box, the online store purchase, or something else. I’m not sure why.
What ever it was I figured it out and tried to login to the game.
Cannot establish a connection to the server. Either the server is offline or you have lost your connection to the internet. If the server is offline, try again in a few minutes.My internet connection is fine. But I am wondering if the server is down or it needs me to open a port on my router. Now there isn’t a help or website link on their launcher. So I navigate back through their maze of Wizard of the Coasts website to the Magic the Gathering Online site not to be confused with the Magic the Gathering normal website. I find their forum and see a sticky thread on the top of the general forum list. Here is the first post by the Moderator WizO Jabberwock who uses a picture of Chuck Noris as his avatar:
Title: The “Is the Server Up?” Status ThreadYou get that? There was another thread, one that I gather had somewhere around 4000 posts was closed and this new one was started. I don’t know how many posts this one has but it is up to 27 pages already. Notice too that their “online status checker” is often wrong. I’d say what’s the point of having one then but since I can’t find any such thing on their page I guess it’s a moot point. If you find it please feel free to tell me where it is.
In an effort to help with the boards slow down and searching we have closed the old thread and starting a new one.
This thread is a running list to check and see if the server seems to be up or down.
Please remember that there is usually a planned downtime every Thursday and the server will be unavailable for a period of time.
Check the announcements forum for details on the planned downtimes.
Check this thread, usually the last couple of pages, and the dates of the posts to see if there are connection problems to the game server.
Also note that the online status checker on the Magic Online page seems to be contradictory in many cases. This is likely caused because it reports whether the server itself is up. Even if the server itself is up, it may not be accepting user logins. So rule of thumb:
The status thing says down = down for everyone
The status thing says up = may be up but you can't log in, give it time
So then there is a this post in the announcement forum which I probably should have gone to first.
It basically says there is a one hour downtime on Thursday at 8 AM PDT. It is Thursday for me… but I’m way ahead of PDT and I don’t’ think its 8 AM yet. It also said it would last only and hour and I have been trying to log in for several hours.
I did get another email from them giving me a $9.99 credit in their store that can be used to buy cards.
Okay so now here is the how I would do it differently part.
The zip file should be updated. As long as it is under 1 gig that is fine for somebody who wants to download it. It would really piss me off if I had started to download before going to bed or something thinking when I got back to it I could just install and run it only to have to wait another 2 hours for it to update.
At best I would build the purchase of the account into the client at worse I would at least remove it from the web store. It could still be a web store behind the scenes but hide that part from the user. Just have a special page where he can enter his billing information and click for the one time purchase of the account. The selecting of the item to buy from the store and being force to take useless survey are just hurdles to them getting my money and getting me addicted to the game. Remember currently you can play the trial game without buying an account so having it set up so that I can be playing the trial and instantly click the "buy a full account" link inside the client would be the easist for the user.
When I create my account, THAT is when you send me the survey in email and tell me that if I fill it out you will give me the store credit.
The launcher needs lots of work. First you need a link to your website which should have an actual working server status display right there on the main page. Second a “help” link that takes you to the customer service web page. It should also have a little news announcement section that has links to the latest news and happenings. These are all the standard things you find on the current MMO launchers.
I would also update their title and launcher artwork as it is looking a little early 90’s.
Okay I am done rambling. Its 11:30 and I still can’t log into the game… well let me try… nope still can’t get in.