Magic: The Gathering Arena enters open beta

Posted on

There’s something, well… magic about Magic: The Gathering.

For the past 25 years (!) it’s brought together players of all ages, casual and competitive, to tap the power from picturesque lands and to duel with cards depicting fantastic creatures, steampunk-ish artifacts, and the occasional gothic horror. It’s a game that encourages the skills of careful deck construction, knowing your opponent, and forming a strategy yet being able to adjust tactics on the fly.

I played it frequently when I was younger but drifted away around the time I went to college. Fast forward a decade-and-a-half to an invitation from Wizards of the Coast to contribute dialogue for new Planeswalker characters set to appear in Magic: The Gathering Arena, as well as help out on other forthcoming narrative features. Of course I said yes…

And then immediately had to look up what a “planeswalker” was.

While the core game remained largely the same, a lot of the details had changed — rules were expanded, robust lore was added with each expansion, and fierce competition emerged as other games tried to provide a similar experience. After I got thoroughly caught up, I worked closely with the team at Wizards Digital Games Studio, as well as a few former colleagues, to write and refine the dynamic voice-overs that would come from the virtual versions of these physical cards.

It was a fresh challenge from an old pastime, a chance to re-join the community, collect and build a deck, get beaten repeatedly by some really adept eleven-year-olds… and in the end it was a lot of fun.

Magic: The Gathering Arena is now in open beta for Windows PCs. Want to know more? Watch the trailer below or head over to the official website — magic.wizards.com/mtgarena — where you can download the game.

NBA Live 19 goes live

Posted on

I grew up in Chicago in the late 80s/early 90s, during the golden age of the Bulls. I wasn’t a die-hard fan, but I remember I pasted the front page of the Tribune on my bedroom wall after they won their first champsionship 3-peat. It was a singular era, and it seemed like those players had the power to electrify not just the nation but the world with their super-human athletic prowess.

The world of professional sports is full of compelling stories and over the past few years EA Sports has been integrating more narrative into their games. Individuals who rise from obscurity, train hard to become the best they can be, and build a personal brand that potentially benefits the community at large. Players and teams form friendships and rivalries. There are obvious financial elements as well, with fortunes to be won and lost, and fierce competition for top-tier sponsorships. At their core, sports can glorify the same values as an epic or saga; they can transcend nationality, ethnicity, class, and gender; they can inspire an entire generation.

So when the opportunity arose to contribute to NBA Live 19 — developed by EA Tiburon — I jumped at it.

I was fortunate to collaborate with Ross Berger (Senior Narrative Designer) and Anne Toole, as well as the rest of the dev team, on “The One,” a story that follows the journey of a player-created basketballer as they strive to become a legend. Together, we wrote interactive branching text conversations, broadcasts for both professional and enthusiast commentators, social media posts, and introductions for various Pro-Am venues (my favorite part).

Over the course of “The One” players will match up against current and former superstars of the WNBA and NBA, and take a tour around the world’s most vibrant street courts. They’ll be drafted into the League proper. They’ll interact with mentors, journalists, agents, fans, and their fellow players.

They’ll play. They’ll rise. They’ll become The One.

The game is out now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For more information, check out the official website — https://www.easports.com/nba-live — or watch the trailer below.