Wizards of the Coast has been working on a new user interface/client for Magic Online for 180 years*, and this week they finally opened it to a public beta test. It vastly improves some aspects of the old client, but needs work in some key areas. Which sounds about right for a beta.
*actual time less than 180 years
The new client is in a week long sneak peek that will last until July 25. You can try it out yourself — you don’t have to uninstall the old client to try it out, but note that the new client is the real thing. Games, trades, and purchases made through it are for keeps.
I haven’t extensively tested the new client, but I’ve poked around the collection interface and played a few casual games. The absolute worst parts of the old client are mostly fixed. Browsing through your own collection and building decks, which is almost comically horrible in the old client, is infinitely better. It’s way easier to sort, search and look at your cards, and the collection/deck builder are combined into one interface.
It’s also a lot easier to navigate around Magic Online, and the graphics no longer look like they were found in a time capsule buried in 1996. The cards themselves look better and are easier to resize. Setting up trades is improved by the ability to create your own trade binders. You can select which binder to activate for a given trade, so you no longer have to go through your entire collection and change the trade setting card by card if you want to sell some junk rares instead of trading cards with a friend. Hopefully the marketplace will be improved at some point in the future so it’s no longer just an unwieldy, confusing list of bots and traders.
The lobby where you go to find matches has changed, too. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily better than the old list of rooms (it probably is, and I’m just used to the old way). You pick your format by selecting options on the left, and in constructed formats you pick your deck there, too. The draft interface got a huge upgrade, too, but I haven’t tried it out yet.
There are some interesting changes to the in-game interface. When you attack, you no longer get giant arrows pointing all across the screen. Instead, attackers move into the “red zone,” a literal red area in between the players. Blockers are then moved there as well, lined up with the creatures they’re blocking.
There seems to be an overall increase in space on the “table,” especially since the chat window is broken out into a separate window. That makes it much easier to expand and use chat without blocking off the playing area. Game zones (like exiled or revealed cards) are handled much more efficiently too.Looking through a graveyard is a lot easier as well.
Most of the problems I found with the new client were minor issues with the in-game interface. There were some things that seemed unintuitive and a little glitchy. Some players reported serious bugs, and multiplayer games seem pretty broken at this point. I’m not going to dwell on those issues because this is a beta preview, and they seem like things that won’t be too hard to fix. The core is there, and it will probably just take some tweaking and bug-stomping to get it ready for full release. They’ll be doing another, longer beta later this year.