Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Forced PvP

I need to start this post with some bragging. I have been playing Magic the Gathering for over 2 decades in one form or another. While I never was a pro player, I did win local tournaments. I learned all the intricacies of the complicated rules and passed an exam to become a DCI certified judge, and participated in a World Championship as judge for the side events. I know this game *very* well. And in the mobile format on Magic Duels I own all possible cards, I know the competitive decks, and I know how to play them well. All this to say that I don't suck at Magic Duels. Given the relatively casual competition, I can easily crush most players in PvP.

But I don't want to.

For me, whether I am good at it or bad at it is not the deciding factor in PvP, winning isn't all that important to me. The question rather is whether PvP for any reason is more enjoyable than PvE. I can think of some games where that would be the case, e.g. political games like Diplomacy or Junta. But Magic Duels has a quite decent AI playing reasonable decks with good consistency. PvE is a pleasure because you know what level of competency to expect from your opponent, and you can choose 3 levels of AI to tune it to your needs. PvP is far more inconsistent, and you can meet all sorts of players. And PvP allows for some behavior that only humans show, like throwing games at the first sign of difficulty or abandoning a game for real life reasons. It is very rare that a human opponent surprises you with a brilliant move that the AI wouldn't have thought of. So in general PvE is less hassle and more pleasant.

So with that preference for PvE I played Magic Duels since it came out happily until the latest expansion. I play nearly every day, doing the daily quest plus maybe a few more games. But since the latest expansion those daily quests have changed, and at least half of them now require me to do PvP. Okay, I can change one quest per day, so I'm trying to change all PvP quests in the hope of drawing a PvE quest instead. But sometimes that fails and yesterday I had the quest journal full (capacity is only 3 quests) with PvP quests and was forced to do a couple of PvP games to clear it. Opponents bailed out in both cases, one directly after the mulligan he took apparently didn't produce his dream hand.

That annoys me. I don't think games that have a perfectly good PvE part and AI should for some reason force their players into PvP. Yes, some players enjoy PvP, but many people don't. You don't magically make your game more attractive by shoving other player's potential bad behavior into the face of your customers who tried to avoid that. The "added content" that other players provide is a cheap game developers trick that doesn't really work in the long term. Don't force players into PvP!

I really wonder how you can find it challenging to play against the AI ?
I just started Magic recently. I can say that I am a really a noob at it.

The AI is plain stupid, run into all traps, never plays board sweep.

The point of the AI is just to farm gold quickly, as it is faster than playing against humans. And don't think that the AI teaches you how to play well.

I didn't achieve high rankings versus humans, but I doubt that players throw games between ranks 30-40. Did you try ?

I understand the theory behind PvP, that it allows for a lot greater strategy since if any one tactic was "the best," a human opponent could simply do whatever countered that. I can't really deny that the games with the richest and most diverse strategy are all PvP based. It is only recently that AI has become at all comparable to a human opponent, and not just easily exploitable, and if the AI in Magic Duels is as good as you say it is, it is still an outlier.

But I also have seen my own experience with PvP, and it has overwhelmingly been that my own efforts don't matter. What will decide the match is the opponent you are set against, or the drastic range of player skill distributed among the teams. Did your team get loaded with idiots, or did the other team? Either way the match will probably be a painful waste of time for at least one side, quite possibly both.
I really wonder how you can find it challenging to play against the AI ?

I'm not looking for challenge, I look for consistency. The AI is consistently mediocre. I can get a challenging game by using a crazy fun but suboptimal theme deck. I can't use that sort of deck in PvP, because I don't know if I get paired against a decent player or a blubbering idiot.

And I refuse to play PvP for a hundred hours in the meager hope that once I reach the highest rank the matchmaking system will finally provide me with consistently good players that don't throw matches. Honestly, I could well imagine top players throwing matches because Magic is a game based on randomness, and sometimes your hand just sucks. If you don't have the social contract going that comes from sitting across the table to somebody, even a good player might well quit early on bad luck.
I'm not looking for challenge, I look for consistency.

Ok, consistency and gold farming.

If low ranking players throw games, it doesn't take hundred of hours to get to the highest rank.

Anyway, I agree with you, Magic Duels in PvP is really mediocre, the ranking system is stupid, you can't sideboard, can't play best of three games. Two headed giants mode is fun but the game is so full of bugs I cannot play it with friends.
They don't usually try to make AIs decent. Consider Gems of War. It would be an almost trivial AI programming task to make it play considerably better in terms of selecting optimal matches.

And another way to make it play better would be to add a form of scripting that identifies probable good times to use a particular spell, and suggests how to use it. This is much less trivial, however, as every card has a unique ability, and a customised script would be needed for each one.

I'm not sure the majority of players *want* it to play better. But maybe they should.

Hahaha! Tobold rather plays with AI than with "a blubbering idiot".
I think your problem isn't that you are forced to PvP. Your problem is that you are forced to interact with "blubbering idiot" and want to play a game where you don't need to meet the M&S.

Hell Froze! Welcome to the club Tobold!
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