Reboots Usually Suck

Michael Bay saying it and then relenting.

Reboots Usually Suck

Money is almost always involved because using a preexisting intellectual property (IP) is so much cheaper to market than making a new concept. Let's save money by using fewer resources. I don't mind all reboots—comic books would cease to exist if a death would end a line; or worse, bad sales could slump a superhero.

I keep pounding my fist at this, and I will continue, but something happened at Wizards that is encouraging nostalgia. It happened about three to five years ago, and it’s not only apparent, there’s a larger overarching plan. We return to Mirrodin, take a year off, and then return to Ravnica. Now we get Slivers? I’m not saying Magic is out of ideas—far from it—but it’s just easier to appease veteran and alumni players to see something familiar. The trick is to not use outdated CGI and deviate too far from the set plot.

I always liked Slivers but didn't feel really that strongly about them. Seeing them in Future Sight was pretty damn cool, but that was six years ago. Holy. Crap. It's time they got a reboot. In Future Sight, one major thing allowed a strong visual context: Matt Cavotta, the senior art director at WotC working on brand packing and cohesiveness, among other things, was on the design team. Who was representing the design team on Magic 2014? Adam Lee. I like both members—they're both good people—but for creating a new depiction of a creature type, Matt trumps Adam here pretty handedly.

I’m not sure what came as a larger surprise, the fact that Slivers would be in M14 out of nowhere, moving to Magic’s “core” or that a “core creature” would be changed—dramatically. It’s a head-scratcher until you read this:

”[T]hese new slivers were going to appear in the core set. The core set is of course meant for everyone, but it’s the set that we especially like to put in front of newer players. It was felt that slivers’ appeal would be greater for a wider audience if they could be given more of a personality than the eyeless, beaked creatures could support.” – Doug Beyer, “Slivers Evolved

My bold addition shows what really happened.
Creative didn't make this change. Someone made it for them, and they adapted. It was probably in a meeting, entire departments were involved, and a few wide-eye looks were shot at each other. Creative members had doubts that they could keep Slivers fresh and interesting and satisfy the player base:

First, the thinking in Creative was that the earlier sliver anatomical design was not really adaptable enough to meet the art needs of another batch of slivers.

The core set cycles are closer together, allowing for faster reactions and less time to plan. I can understand how a ton of other Magic iconic creatures have been exhausted of concepts and ideas, too:

Uh, yeah . . . about that.

Magic can pick the top ninety-five percent of artists in this science-fiction/fantasy (imaginative realism) field combined with some of the most intelligent creative people I’ve ever met. Despite the talent pool, they ran out of ideas despite other Magic-invented creature types having a ton of space—even more similar-looking ones? C’mon. Having doubts is one thing, sure, being told, “This is happening,” is different:

So, that explains what Creative had to do.

They had to Tim Gunn it and “make it work.”

Hey, I get that. Sometimes, in a work setting, someone has the authority to make some decisions from a position of power or just through data. People have to rally around it or, well, not work there anymore. I just ask one thing of you. Please take it easier on the artists. Saying, “I hate the new Slivers,” to an artist’s face at a convention makes that person hate you. The illustrations are still very strong, they just differ from Magic’s history on what a Sliver is; that’s all.

After seeing the issue a bit closer, I blame Reddit for reanimating discussions that should’ve been long put to rest. Their necrothread upvoting allows nothing to be settled, nothing can be simply known, and nothing can die. Yes, that is the barrier, the entry line, and it sucks for new players. I get it. I think it’s a feature and not a bug. By using reboots, it allows new players to Google whatever the hell a “Magic Sliver” is and understand references. Instead, a player will find random images that look nothing like the M14 booster pack he or she just opened, and even worse, he or she will find vitriol from players. Having something saying, “Welcome to Magic; we gots planeswalkers. Also, you are one, and these Slivers fight for you—cool, huh?” might work as marketing material.

Things will percolate up then sink and jump up again. Compound that with game designers having no frickin' idea what their consumers are feeling. Entire market research efforts can and will be sunk. That costs serious paper.

The fact that Mark Rosewater and Aaron Forsythe have been on Twitter trying to understand why players are fired up over Twitter this past week, still, after weeks of discussions, is quite revealing.

It's not the such-and-such-thing-is-new issue. It just isn't.

Our confusion is about why multiple things change on a creature and yet keep the creature type. Totally changing the art is jarring and confusing. I'm not reeling in my basement, but Sliver Commander decks surely won't be as flavorful. Leaning on a concept is one thing; changing a concept to fill a gap in design is something different.

I do give Magic R&D members a helluva lot of credit. They put themselves out there. We have references and insight into what is going on. Doug tries like hell to tell us flavor people some insider baseball, and the design team interacts with us directly on Twitter, but it all feels as though we’re bandaging something that didn’t need to be poked, and they’re now wicked-confused as to why people would care so much.

Magic players aren’t stupid. We become fired up and due to references in other games; we know what’s coming.

Silver Lining

Our silver lining is the future:

It's not that Slivers are poorly designed or that they're rebooted irks us; we're geeks, and we're passionate people and care about our stuff. What's gotten under our skin is that this reboot doesn't fit, and we all just want to skip Batman nipples and cheesy Mr. Freeze one-liners and go directly to the nirvana of The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger.

– Mike