You’re a Designer, Harry! #10 – Banging My Head Against a 0/8 Defender

Welcome to the tenth installment of “You’re a Designer, Harry!” Before I begin: Well, where should I even begin?

Do I mention what may be on my devoted readers’ minds (Don’t worry, I’m not having a delusion of a bunch of readers eagerly awaiting my article on Fridays like some people do on a Sunday night for a new Mark Rosewater article. I’m just not also selling myself short with the fact that I may have a dude or dudette enjoying what I put out there. I’m not a terrible person to read, I think. Just maybe not so great. Yet. Anyway…), which would be “Why did Brad miss another week again last week? What happened, yo?” Do I talk about how I feel at the moment about my personal experience with taking the helm here and writing “You’re a Designer, Harry!”? Or, do I do what I usually do and just talk about Magic: The Gathering design? I’ll talk about each of these except for talk about our set’s design.

Shortly before taking on the honorable duty of writing for Red Site Wins, I worked for a major retail store and participated in The Great Designer Search 2 while living on my friends’ couch. Time passed, the Great Designer Search 2 ended, and the apartment I was staying at had its lease expire, and everyone was going their separate ways. Actually, funnily enough, everyone went back to live with their mother (It’s not as sad as reading about it makes it seem to be). Due to a silly technicality (and tragic, since if it weren’t for my good nature, this wouldn’t have happened), I couldn’t transfer stores. So, I had no choice but to quit.

The next stage of my life involved living at my mother’s house and looking for a job. And, this time, I would look for one that might do the fact that I have a B.S. degree some justice (in case you’re curious: game and simulation programming is what I majored in).

It was during this time of job-searching that there was the opportunity to write for Red Site Wins. I had been writing in my blog as well as on the wiki for the Great Designer Search 2. I placed in the top 101 of hopeful-finalists of the Great Designer Search 2. I also believe that I write a bit better than the average bear in the sense that my writing would need less editing than others’ (Though, this doesn’t make me a great writer just because I can write something how it should be written. …It’s like saying being good at templating the text of Magic cards means you’re good at designing. Also, I know that some of my writing is technically breaking the rules for how to write English, but I know that I’m aware that I’m doing so. I’m being more relaxed about it while delivering something clean and polished).

Even though I felt like I was in over my head, the answer was clear: I had to try writing about design for Red Site Wins. If one of the ways of getting in to Wizards’ headquarters as an employee was to write and let your voice be heard, then this was one potential road that I had to start down. Also, I’m intent on becoming a better writer and changing the mindset that I had which was “I’m no writer.” What better way to improve my Magic design skills, my writing skills, and to make myself known than to be a Magic design writer? So, I went for it.

Obviously, I got my privilege as a writer of Magic design. The thing was, I knew that there was a chance that I would get a great (full-time) job at around the same time I was trying to be a writer. That job search I was doing? Well, it paid off. I now work full time for a social games publisher in San Francisco, California. …And I also write a weekly (at least, supposed to be weekly) article about Magic design. Argh! I have to do set design and article writing all within a week? Hold on to your thought-processes for a moment, though, because I’m going to go on an aside before I get to talking about something else that may do away with some of your guys’ thoughts in your head right now.

Aside: I was contemplating making this article a biweekly one, just in case. But, I decided that making it weekly would be better for readers since they could always associate a given day for new content from me. I just needed to make sure I stayed on top of it which proved to be difficult. Which leads to…

If I had just a full-time job to worry about beside my article-writing, I would have been fine. But, that’s not my only obligation. I have a girlfriend who lives in another city. And she has two children (1 and 2 1/2); and, due to the impact I’m making on their lives and my intent to stick around long-term, are effectively mine as well. As such, my weekends are devoted completely to visiting and spending time with them. I travel by train (because I don’t have a car, at the moment). Over the weekend, it is not design and writing time.

And when it comes to the week, I commute to work my forty-hour-a-week job. My daily commute is around two hours and forty minutes. However, about one hour and thirty minutes of that can be spent doing article work in my composition notebooks (not a laptop, mind you). And, since my job is currently an internship, I lose time when I take lunch (sometimes I take a full hour, sometimes just thirty minutes) because it doesn’t contribute toward the that magical forty-hour total. And then there’s sleep, breakfast, dinner, gas, laundry, bills, and talking with the girlfriend over the phone (and occasionally, a child or two).

So, what I’m getting at is that I really don’t have a lot of time. But, despite all this, I expect myself to be able to deliver a weekly article. It’s just really difficult. At least, for me. I think about everyone else writing weekly Magic articles and how some of them must also have a significant other, kids, and a full-time job to deal with on top of writing.

Mark Rosewater does, and he’s writing about the same subject as I am! Granted, his job is related to what he writes about, and his family lives under the same roof as him; but he’s still got to be a bit heroic in managing all this. That’s what I haven’t been used to until now: time management. In the past, being a bachelor and not having a full-time job meant having lots of room for time to waste. I’m afraid that won’t work for me this time. …I’ll need to run a tighter ship.

My plan for this tight-ship-running was to have Monday night be the time when I respond back to the initial comments that accumulated over the weekend and for idea-generating (helped by these discussions from my readers and conveniently after right after a Mark Rosewater article). Tuesday night is for designing. Wednesday night is for my rough draft. Thursday night is for revision and editing then posting. Friday night, I’m gone to see family. And the cycle repeats. Well, this is what’s supposed to happen. In theory.

However, I believe I can do it. I just need to start kicking butt at doing it. I just also wanted you to know what it is that I do during the week and how that may pertain to the delivery of these articles.

In the beginning, writing these articles was more of a piece of cake. It was more about whether I would be able to get two-thousand words in. That’s because the idea of designing a set with my readers was easy when there weren’t a lot of issues to be aware of, yet. This was the time of discovery and fresh possibilities. Granted, you can still say that about now since there isn’t really anything mechanically in place, yet; and the flavor of the five closed-off-from-each-other-by-barriers worlds still has much detail to be penciled in. It was easier to do because I hadn’t reached the hard-hitting questions, yet.

The issues that came up about doing a four-color set are difficult to solve. At least, by me alone. That’s why I have you guys to help me out. And, perhaps, it may even be more difficult with you guys around, which is a good thing. You’ll be able to point out things I missed which makes me go back the drawing board sometimes. To where I sometimes get stuck at a brick wall and bang my head against it.

I don’t know why this happens, but I wonder sometimes if it’s because I’m just not that cut out to be a “real” Magic designer. This is a dark thought that gets into my head as I get impressed by the smart observations made by my also-hardcore-into-Magic-design. However, I don’t let these dark thoughts stop me. Because I know that I will never succeed at designing Magic if I do. Will I ever? I don’t know. I hope so. But will I stop writing this article series? Nope. I will not stop trying to get better at writing and design, even if it takes me a bit longer than others to arrive at the same level of expertise.

…Don’t stop trying to accomplish your dreams, I guess.

Anyway, it gets more difficult to write when I’m stuck behind a brick wall still banging my head against it. I suppose I could write about how I’m banging my head against it, but that wouldn’t be the greatest thing for an article that’s supposed to be about Magic design. Oh, wait a minute – I just did that. You read it just now. That’s O.K. It’s not like I’ll do this every time.

So, I’m running out of time now, but before I go, I want to say that I don’t want this to be an excuse for why I’m coming up short on my article-writing. I want you to see what’s going on in the background of my life that is causing this to happen. I believe it’s possible to deliver every week despite all my challenges. I just need to get better at it. For this incident, I guess I just want you all to forgive me. And for me to forgive myself, most of all. Thanks, guys.

I want to safeguard myself from coming up short again for next week’s article, so I’ll say that I’ll see you in two weeks. And deep apologies for having not gotten to those comments posted for the last installment of “You’re a Designer, Harry!” …For next time, I’ve got some brainstormed mechanics for each faction. See ya, and thanks for reading this unusual article this week.

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About Bradley Rose

I'm a Timmy/Johnny Melthos red/white/blue kind of guy. And, no, that combination doesn't have anything to do with an affinity for the United States. Here's how I got into Magic: Once upon a time (let's say the year 2000), I bought my first Magic: The Gathering product in the form of a starter of ...Starter 2000. And that's when Trained Orgg's eyes and mine met for the first time. It was true love. Until I traded most of my Magic cards away for Pokemon ones. Whoops. O.K, so once upon a time (This time, 2001), I got into Magic: The Gathering with a shiny new One-Two Punch theme deck of the Odyssey set. And, surprisingly enough, I didn't trade away my ol' Trained Orgg, so in the deck it went, and we fell in love all over again. Flash-forward nearly a decade, and I've won the Bragster.com / Wizards of the Coast "Design Your Own Card" contest. That was neat, but then, a few months later, the Great Designer Search 2 happened. I managed to make it to the top 101 of the 1000 applicants. So, after years of reading Mark Rosewater's Making Magic column along with a rising interest in game design, I managed to prove that (while not the best) I'm more of a Magic designer than the average bear. I'll keep working on putting more ranks in my Magic design skill, and the design articles I write here will help me do just that. Hopefully, any of my readers with a serious interest in Magic design would feel inclined to pursue their interest as well, either by participating in my collaborative design articles or working on making Magic on their own. This effort toward improving my Magic design capabilities correlates somewhat with a single goal I would like to accomplish before I die: Have lunch with Mark Rosewater. Also, I still have that Trained Orgg, and we're still madly in love with each other.

Posted on June 24, 2011, in Articles, You're a Designer Harry!. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ve been trying to comment since this article came up, but I couldn’t find the right way to say it.

    I really enjoy this series and look forward to updates.

    I think it’s cool what you’re doing. If you can handle doing both your job and your articles at the same time, that would make you much more qualified for a game design job than writing articles alone would.

    I pointed out a lot of problems, but a lot of what I said would also apply to published sets like Mirrodin Besieged or New Phyrexia. I said something like “the mechanics don’t lead to real factions that you build around, only flavor factions” But even in real sets, Living Weapon gets used by Mirran Equipment decks, and War Cry gets used by Infect decks. I also said something like colorlessness breaking the color pie, but Phyrexian Mana also does that. I do mention these points because I think they are important to consider, but they’re not necessarily dead ends, so don’t let them stop you! During the GDS2, I pointed things out that turned out to be wrong on many, many occasions.

    I get the feeling that you, as a storyteller, like to present the readers with a master plan of what you’re going to do. But R&D stories are full of anecdotes where they explore a particular mechanic for months, only to find it’s a dead end and they have to find a new theme. Even the pros don’t always know what can be made to work and what can’t until they get to the stage of designing some test cards and playing with them. So don’t worry about reaching some dead ends. If you come against an unsolvable problem, that would be a good story to write about that we can all learn from. It doesn’t have to be about presenting “the answer” at that stage – you’ll have plenty to write about, such as what problems you’re currently facing, what cards you designed and what methods you attempted to try to get around it, etc.

    Finally, just as you are facing your personal challenges, I have mine. I can’t say I haven’t succumbed to the urge to say, “look at what cool cards I made!” at times. During the GDS2, I saw some people who weren’t just good at analyzing the situation, or providing individual ideas, but also good at finding ways to take the project forward. It will be my personal challenge to learn to give help in the way that is most wanted.

  2. I’ve been out of town, and just now am catching up on reading, so I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to comment on this before, but I’m going to echo Chah. You ought to be proud of this article series: it’s not just helping you further your dreams of Magic design, but also gives other people an opportunity to explore the same realm. The professional designers at WotC have a big leg up in that they have great designers there to train them, and only by collaborating and teaching each other what we’ve learned/discovered about design can we make something good.

    And as Chah said, Wizards runs into months that have to be scrapped, and they’re working full-time for those months. We’re going to have a lot of dead ends. That said, it shouldn’t be completely on your shoulders to solve the problems. I’m pretty good at shooting holes in things, but in order to contribute better I need to help find solutions as well…

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I think it’s more successful than you know.

  3. Hey Brad! This was an interesing read, and your experiences parallel my own! I just (2 months ago) started writing for quiet speculation, and still also try and do a blog entry or 2 on my own site (linked as my “website”) which is called “Don;t Train My Orgg”, so I totally love your little Orgg fetish :P. I’m more of a financial writer, but still run into difficulties balancing family / social life + writing articles while working a 9-5. I hope things have been getting easier for you, and best of luck in the new year as we both struggle with our individual commitments and obligations. Cheers, Carl Szalich

  1. Pingback: You’re a Designer, Harry! #15 – Comment Ketchup « Red Site Wins

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