Staying faithful to your source material sometimes means you need a few second opinions.
When you're converting something from one medium to another, it can be hard to preserve what made the thing special. That's exactly the challenge that SOE's Denver studio found itself facing when making Magic: The Gathering Tactics, an online tactical game based on the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. SOE decided that the best thing to do was to call in some of the most knowledgeable players around, and ask them for their opinions. In Issue 291 of The Escapist, Greg Tito talks about the strangest press event he's ever been to, and how it helped to shape a game.
"This is a labor of love for us," [SOE CEO John] Smedley told me. "I play a lot of Magic the Gathering Online, which I think is a great game. I prefer [playing Magic] face-to-face, but I like Magic the Gathering Online because I can play anytime." That didn't stop Smedley from pulling out a deck of Magic cards and offering to play anyone who had brought a deck to a match. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the success of SOE's game, we were all too busy playing [Magic: The Gathering Tactics] to oblige him.
I was there with about fifteen others, some of which came from major game outlets, but most of whom came from Magic fansites who know the game backwards and forwards. These guys not only knew how to use a Black Lotus to beat you on the first turn, they also knew about the economics and personalities of Magic players - from professional tournament players to those who just like to buy a few boosters to throw down with their friends. We were there not to report on this game to our audiences - although that would certainly be appreciated - we were there to report to the designers what we thought of MTGT.
The folks at SOE seemed to take all the feedback in, and Tito was pleasantly surprised to find that they'd implemented some of it in the beta he played not long after the event. You can read more about Tito's experiences at SOE in his article, "A Tactical Advantage."