‘The first feature in the social suite’
[Update: The friends list feature is no longer being included in the November update due to “scaling issues.” No further timeline has been provided, but all of the other changes, including the much-needed performance update, are still coming this month.]
A lack of social features and client stability were my biggest gripes with Magic: Arena‘s 1.0 launch, but it looks like an impending November patch is going to address both of those to some degree.
Bound for a November update, Wizards is doing a “performance check-in,” which will encompass a whole lot of bugs like “gameplay hitches, FPS drops, memory allocation and crashes.” As someone who plays this digital card game on a top-end machine and has seen all of the above, these fixes couldn’t come soon enough.
The other big thing Wizards is toying with soon is adding actual social features to Arena. First up is the friends list, which will allow you to add other people, see who is online, then challenge them directly to friend matches (direct challenges). The development team is calling this the first part of the “social suite,” with more features like deck sharing and messaging to come later.
Another notable bit of their November fireside chat is that Arena is committing to supporting the new beloved Pioneer format (a different way to play old cards) long term. It’s important to take heed of the wording: “This is a long-term commitment that will eventually lead to additional format support beyond Standard and Historic. Pioneer is one of the formats that we’re working towards, but it’ll be a longer journey before we can talk specifics. As we head towards that goal, we’ll be focusing on delivering the best play experiences that these iconic card sets can offer.”
Emphasis on “longer journey” here, it could be a long while until it arrives. But the fact that Wizards is trying to solve two of the biggest current problems with Arena and bring an actually good legacy format in (sorry, Historic) is good news for the future of the game.
State of the Game – November 2019 [Wizards]
Gameplay Hitches, FPS Drops, Unresponsiveness – In Progress
We’ve begun the code refactor (i.e. restructuring our current code) of our asset system, with the first batch of changes coming with this update. We primarily focused on reducing the frequency and severity of times the game would appear to “stutter” or “hang” during matches, though you may also experience better performance whenever you’re viewing a lot of cards (such as during deckbuilding).
Memory Allocation and Management – In Progress
Aka “memory leaks.” We’ve made some improvements to how we handle asset cleanup, which should lead to less memory usage during longer gameplay sessions. We believe this may also reduce spikes in memory allocation and CPU utilization, particularly during matches.
A Note on Game Crashes
From what we can tell, most of the recent game crash reports we’ve received are correlated to the issues we’ve outlined above. As we improve our memory usage, CPU utilization, and overall game optimization, these types of crashes should decrease in frequency as well.
Social features 1.0: Friends List
Now that significant progress is being made with gameplay performance, we felt more comfortable introducing new features, namely the highly anticipated Friends List functionality.
We’re labeling this as “social features 1.0” because it’s only the first feature in the social suite we have planned for MTG Arena, and we’ll continue working on the functionality that the Friends List will offer. With this game update, you’ll be able to add other players to your Friends List (as well as remove and/or block them, if necessary). Through your Friends List, you’ll be able to see whether your friends are online and challenge them to Direct Challenge matches through the Friends List interface.
Next on our to-do list is the ability to directly message your friends in the client, as well as the ability to share decks when playing Direct Challenge matches.