Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 – Bryan Chu

Following the triumphant release of Magic The Gathering: Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 we sat down with Bryan Chu, Sr. Business Manager at Wizards of the Coast, to talk about what’s new in the latest installment of their fantastic card’em up.

With the previous releases of Duels of the Planeswalkers selling well was there an understandable reluctance to leave the formula unchanged for 2013?

I can honestly say that the thought never even came up. From the outset, the team challenged themselves with the question “what can we do to make the game better.” The real question was how we make the game compelling to players who’ve played previous versions of Duels, but not make the game so complex that it wasn’t accessible for new players. I’m extremely happy with what the team came up with.

Can you tell us more about the multiplayer features in 2013?

Certainly. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 has the best multiplayer features the franchise has ever seen. Not only are there standard multiplayer modes and fan favorites like the Two Headed Giant mode where players play as a team with a shared life total, but this time we also introduce Planechase to the franchise. In Planechase, up to 4 players can do battle across multiple planes of the Magic Multiverse. As the game unfolds, players will cross over to new planes, each of which has a new effect that could dramatically change the strategies players take.

Themed decks have always been at the core of the previous game, can you tell us what new decks feature in 2013?

There are 10 new decks in Duels 2013, and giving full credit to the team I think they’ve really outdone themselves this time. Each one plays in a way that is unique and fun. My personal favourite is the white life gain deck, but there are
burn decks, aggro decks and mill decks, something for everyone really. The black/white exalted deck is a favorite of many people here. I would probably be a bigger fan of it were I not always on the receiving end. They seem to enjoy themselves immensely as they crush me though.

Although notoriously tricky to achieve, have you considered adding cross platform play to the titles?

You’re right, it’s tricky and not something that we want to stumble into blindly, but I can tell you that we’ve certainly considered it. The overall player experience is of paramount importance to us, and we put that as our first priority. When we think about challenges like cross platform play, our mission is to make sure that it measurably enhances the game experience and that we’re not just doing it for our egos or to check off a box that says we have a shiny new feature.

That card may be shiny, but it's also dead!

Will there be the possibility to trade cards of the same rarity with other players?

Duels of the Planeswalkers doesn’t offer trading functionality for the same reason that we don’t put full deck customization in the game. We are trying to keep the environment clean and friendly for new players. Players who really want to be able to trade would want to head to their local game store for the latest paper release or onto Magic Online.

Compared to the physical game of Magic the level of deck customisation offered in Planeswalkers is relatively low, do you think you will ever allow full deck building in the series?

The challenge with customization is how to do it without increasing complexity unnecessarily. We are extremely mindful of the player experience with Duels, and want to ensure that it continues to be the best place for a new player to
learn Magic in addition to being a fun and rewarding experience for players of all levels. As I mentioned earlier, making a digital Magic game more complex is a relatively easy thing to do. There’s a lot of complexity to be found in Magic.
Scaling that complexity the right way, in a way that’s entertaining and engaging for everyone that plays is a never ending challenge.

Deck building aside, how do you think players of the physical game take to Planeswalkers?

We’ve had great feedback from the community and from players of all levels. I think that Duels fills a need for Magic players that is different from our other products. There’s a different feel to playing Duels versus playing the analogue game, or Magic Online. It’s still undeniably Magic and it’s difficult to put into words, but it’s an experience of its own and I think that is something that resonates with players.

Duels fits into your life differently than other Magic games, and I feel it meets a different need for players. For example, there are many people who used to play the paper game but had to stop because of changes in their lives. They’re
play group moves away, work gets busy, they have kids. They still love Magic, but they haven’t been able to set aside the time to play. We find many of these players coming into Duels. They can play a quick game of Magic again without
having to know about the latest cards, finding people to play with, or building a deck. With the Duels 2013 coming to iPad they can get a quick match in on the train ride into work.

Duels also lets us do things that would be difficult to do on paper to say the least. For example, in Duels 2013 we introduce “Encounters.” They’re fun challenges played against the AI that use Magic as a frame work, but don’t fit into the existing rules. For example, in one encounter the AI opponent plays a Suntail Hawk every turn, and never rests until you are dead. It flies in the face of the rules that say a deck can have a most 4 of a given card, but it’s fun and presents a great challenge to players.

PlaneChase twists the rules as you progress

What feedback you received from Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 has an influence the changes made to 2013?

Our fans have always been great about telling us what they think. We’ve had a lot of feedback on Duels 2012 and that was front of mind as the team designed Duels 2013.

The thing that jumps to mind immediately is optional manual mana tapping. It’s a great example of a feature that we didn’t want to introduce until we knew that it was done right. The way it’s implemented in Duels 2013 is a very elegant solution. It isn’t intrusive, so players who don’t want to tap their own lands never need to worry about it, but it’s there for the players who want it. It’s done in a way that fits nicely into the flow, look and feel of the game. We knew how badly some of our players wanted it, and we’re thrilled to finally be able to provide it.

Do you have any plans for ongoing updates and DLC you can tell us about?

Robust DLC has been a part of the Duels franchise since the very beginning and we have every intention of continuing to support Duels 2013 with DLC throughout the life of the product.

Thanks for your time, is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013?

I’d just like to thank those that have been with us since previous versions of the game and invite those who haven’t played it yet to pick it up and give it a try. The team here is proud of results. There’s a lot under the hood so to speak, from the new modes to the “Encounters” in the campaign. With Duels 2013 we have had the opportunity to try new things that we never would have been able to do with paper Magic. So I encourage everyone to give it a try.

Magic 2013 is avalable now on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, Steam and iOS.







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