Magic: The Gathering

This is a discussion on Magic: The Gathering within the Game Programming forums, part of the General Programming Boards category; (FORWARD: Complete n00b to this type of stuff, looking for your feedback. Googled MTG + testing + balancing and others ...

  1. #1
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    Magic: The Gathering

    (FORWARD: Complete n00b to this type of stuff, looking for your feedback. Googled MTG + testing + balancing and others and didn't get any info about the super Magic-making program or professional testing process--other than speculation. )

    Not directly related to any programming, but of course I'm interested in how such a range of variables and abilities are balanced, which is certainly relatable.

    So, does anybody know how they balance this game? Or a good guess?

    I was mainly wondering if there is some kind of program they can use to start to organize and balance cards? Or, is it too much, and they need to get the human or intuitive factor involved...play games, experiment, and slowly balance it out? Both?

    I guess you can just "program in" each card with it's function and see how they stack up against each other, but you'd still need to tell the computer that doing this is good and doing that is bad, and what to do when faced with a myriad of different problems. It seems a little unwieldy.

    If anybody has played Duels of the Planeswalkers for the console, they have a campaign where you play against the computer while it uses increasingly difficult decks and your resources are somewhat more limited. I wonder if they had to work with these specific decks in combination and feel it out to find the balance, or if they do have some kind of program that will find the optimal result no matter what group of decks you throw at it.

    It just seems like this kind of thing is a lot harder to control than a simple, very linear game like chess.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    Simple: use the right math formulas to arrive at the desired results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    Simple: use the right math formulas to arrive at the desired results.
    I know a lot of players, even good ones, experiment and play with different combinations. If it was that easy to encompass magic with a formula, wouldn't some smarties be using or selling programs to "maximize your deck" or whatever? There are programs to build and test decks, but I've never heard of anything to say do something like, "Here are 100 green and black cards, make me the best deck with these."

    I ask, just because I haven't heard anything concrete to indicate this is exactly how it is done.

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    Magic software to create the ULTIMATE decks!!!! Possible?

    I found an interesting thread out there that mentions it.

    Here is a good post, specifically mentioning the console (xbox) game:

    Remind him he's about the seventeen thousandth computer programmer to think he could crack this particular nut. I knew a olden days judge who worked for Sega on their big games (eg. Sonic The Hedgehog) and he was thoroughly defeated by trying to create a definitive Magic AI.

    It's at least an order of magnitude tougher than creating a Chess AI, if not more.

    The new X-Box 360 Magic game has 7 processors each running their own AI simultaneously to find the best play against you, and that AI is strictly designed to work with preconstructed 60-card decks so it doesn't have to worry about the complexities of deck construction, either of making it's own deck or trying to guess what cards it's opponent has in their deck.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    The creators of the game definitely balance it with mathematics. It is no different than an RTS and how it is balanced.

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    Aye. Magic The Gathering was almost exclusively conceived by mathematics. The author himself is a mathematics professor. I remember reading about it many years ago in a games magazine. Not sure which anymore though, but some of the concepts behind building a game like this were even being described.

    Of course, an AI for this game is much harder to come by. The same with any game. Magic author would feel it much harder to devise an AI for his own game. Computers and programming language limitations being the biggest obstacles to emulate a good player, given the complexity of the game rules, the game mechanics and the large number of variables involved. But here mathematics play a more limited role. They may be useful for deck building, but the actual act of playing the deck is probably managed by any AI with more simplistic mathematical formulas (although I hear of a branch of AI, statistical AI, which may be more mathematical intensive).

    The trick to any AI (assuming one knows how to program them already) is to find the right paradigm that both recognizes the problem and solves it. I suspect an AI for Magic The Gathering is particularly difficult. Although the late 90s MicroProse video game was particularly good... even though I've since heard the AI cheated badly.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    This is a rhetorical question. If someone cracked this the advancements in Robotic AI learning would dramaticly increase.

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    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    The AI for a game like this is not as complex as it sounds. And crazy as it may sound since the game is based on mathematics there is a point at which the AI will lose regardless of it's intelligence simply b/c the math doesn't work. Just as in any game there is a point at which there is no possible way to win regardless of skill or luck simply b/c the math isn't there.

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    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Why would you want a balanced deck? I guess I understand the desire if you are playing with friends who also have a balanced deck. It would probably be a lot more fun and require more skill and less luck. But does this happen in the world at large?

    I've got an incredibly overpowered deck.* (It comes from spending way to much cash on a silly hobby.) It is the only set I have that can compete with all the people I know who also have overpowered decks.

    With so many cards being based around a level of a utility I can't imagine that the AI would really be that difficult. (A "level 1" card might represent retrieving a single card from the "graveyard" while a "level 3" might represent drawing a single card from your opponent's"graveyard" or three cards from your own.) It isn't like chess where both players have the same hand. An AI would almost certainly be built around exploiting certain kinds of utility against certain kinds of utility factoring in the level only as a last resort. (A "harvester" deck would compete with a "summoner" deck fairly well I think.**)

    The potential or requirement for a "lucky draw" would determine the usefulness of a particular card. That isn't mathematics. (The "chance" of drawing any one card out of a deck is certainly mathematics. That isn't what I'm saying.) The only way you can balance that sort of thing is with a lot of play testing. A card that may seem only slightly above average during development may become overpowered once it is exploited by the community. You can't just depend on mathematics for this sort of thing.

    [Edit]
    O_o

    Wait? What makes you think "Magic The Gathering" is balanced? I would agree that the average card is balanced. Overall? It isn't even close.

    You don't even want balance in a "TCG". You want to make money. You need some balance over the standard issue cards to lure new players, but to make crazy money with a "TCG" you need a strong stay to keep the collectors and "heavy gamers" interested. You need unique and rare cards. To be unique and rare, cards need to represent the unique and rare. That doesn't exactly say "balance" does it?
    [/Edit]

    Soma

    * It is technically an illegal deck. I have a few "forbidden" cards. ^_^

    ** I haven't played in a long time. I'm sure my technical terms are long out of vogue.

  10. #10
    Registered User NeonBlack's Avatar
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    There was a thread a few weeks ago at tdwtf Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Bugwalkers - TDWTF Forums which I thought was interesting. It looks like in one recent version, it just balanced AI matches by stacking the deck.
    I copied it from the last program in which I passed a parameter, which would have been pre-1989 I guess. - esbo

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    Well if the ai had a static memory of all the cards in his deck and was aware of the amount of cards on the field in his hand and in his graveyard, He could comtemplate the chance of him getting a certain card , But also if the AI new the opponents deck too then it could count cards in his hand deck and graveyard to see the chance of his actions being countered.He would then play according to the way that gave the highest win chance at that time.
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    But Humans dont think like that humans have "Tactics and Strategies" Which dont use math but instead implement certain plays to manipulate the situation. In chess a chess professional doesn't contemplate win chance he plays with his set of moves and knowledge of situations.
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  13. #13
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    O_o

    How do you think "Tactics and Strategies" are derived?

    A human chess master will "weigh" the "value" of the pieces, the "material" they have, the "value" of loss or gain, and the potential for future loss or gain of "material".

    What do you think that is if not mathematics?

    Soma

  14. #14
    ATH0 quzah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    What do you think that is if not mathematics?

    Soma
    Play whatever card looks cooler.


    Quzah.
    Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.

  15. #15
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Oh...

    That explains why I underutilized my bishops. ;_;

    Soma

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