Cryptic are making a Magic: The Gathering MMORPG

Cryptic Studios, the creators of superhero MMORPG City of Heroes, are making a free-to-play “action MMORPG” [official site] based on Wizards of the Coasts’ mega-hit collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. Publishers Perfect World Entertainment, who announced the game this week, don’t have a name for it yet, they don’t have anything to show of it (all the artwork in this post is from cards), and they can’t tell us anything about it, but… huh!

Update: Oh for… I’d missed Cryptic’s follow-up information that yep, it is an MMORPG, what a silly sausage I am.

Cryptic’s blurb says:

“Experience stunning visuals and sound as we bring Magic to life in this next generation MMORPG. As a Planeswalker, you explore amazing worlds, combat powerful creatures, and meet the legendary beings that shape the fate of the multiverse.”

That’s about all they have to say, though.

Magic: The Gathering’s setup is that hugely powerful wizards, who have the ability to step across the planes of the metaverse, are throwing down. Sometimes these ‘planeswalkers’ scrap with each other, and sometimes they become chums to fight bigger threats. Across Magic’s 24-year history, it’s had pretty much every story permutation of ‘wizards do fighting’. In the card game, wizards can summon creatures which range from goblins to reality-devouring titans like that lot ↑ up there, and they can cast all sorts of weird ↓ wizardly spells.

I adore playing Magic so much that I have to avoid it now, having spent far too much money. It’s a great game and I’m so impressed that Wizards of the Coasts have kept it fresh through all these years and expansions (some duffers aside). The story, yeah, sure, it’s fun for something told across card artwork and little snippets of flavour text. In a full computer RPG? Dunno, mate.

Magic seems a curious one to adapt. The Magic of my imagination is a world with creatures both teeny and vast, dramatic landscapes, strange objects and curious, intricate details, styles differing wildly between planes (not to mention artists), and so very many colourful spells, all clashing. Across thousands of cards and pretty pictures, it builds a multiverse which is always too big and weird to be coherent. I dig that.

A single deck will contain a mish-mash of creatures, spells, story beats, mechanical devices, and goodness knows what else. One recent tournament deck included a mighty fire wizard, an indestructible world-devouring titan, police confiscations, rogue magic refiners, mastercrafted bonsai, a shrine to false gods, and a waterfall which comes to life. Those don’t form a coherent story — they aren’t supposed to — but every deck presents weird facets of this world. A regulation-issue video game would seem small and drab in comparison.

But, y’know, Magic does have established core characters and locations and story arcs and all that, so I suppose you could make an RPG out of it if you’re into that sort of thing, ugh, jeez.

Sid Meier and MicroProse released a Magic sorta-action-RPG in 1997, embedding actual Magic card battles into a 2D open-world with some boring story about wizards. It works a bit like that Witcher 3 Gwent combat mod. That game focused on the early sets of Magic before many of the stories and weirder bits started, mind.

No word yet on when this game might be released. Or its name. Or if it’s an MMO. Or multiplayer at all. Or free-to-play. Or… anything, really.

Perfect World do have some interesting things coming along. They’re also publishing a mysterious free-to-play cooperative FPS from Turtle Rock, the creators of Left 4 Dead.


  1. Pich says:

    Let’s hope it is about the earlier stuff and not the Jacetice League.

  2. brucethemoose says:

    Ugh, I hate how everything has to be either an MMO (hollow hotbar-mashing combat, excessive grinding, strict level system etc), or an RPG (strictly single player).

    Planetside 2 broke that pattern in the FPS world. I dearly hope they do the same.

    EDIT: ESO was a step in the right direction, I suppose, but it still feels like WoW in sheep’s clothing to me.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      ESO plays surprisingly well in single-player but I got bored once I reached the 19 hour-mark.

    • Rindan says:

      I’m with you. You can take a kid playing EverQuest 15 years ago, dump them into a modern MMORPG, and they won’t even blink. Everything will be familiar, if a bit less janky. Honestly, I think they would be depressed what 15 years has brought, especially when compared to other genera.

      It isn’t that we can’t have hotbar + levels + exp/loot + theme park MMORPG, just that there should be other flavors. How many people need to fail to make money off of EverQuest/WoW clones before they give up?

  3. Infinitron says:

    It’s an MMO. I don’t know why that initial press release was coy about it.

  4. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Too bad if it’s an MMO. I’d loved an RPG in the planeswalker setting with warring wizard brothers destroying their homeworld, trips to Giger-dreamland Phyrexia, all-powerful planewalker mages, eternal dragon legends, angels, deadly artefacts.
    I missed the story in all their PC card battle game releases.
    Some of the books are good too given they just took the card illustrations and texts and had to build a story around.

  5. piddy565 says:

    While I have been out of the MtG loop for a long time and have no idea where the story is at these days, I remember the Brothers’ War, Yawgmoth, and the Phyrexia arc, as being really standout storytelling (based on the books that is). Great stuff I haven’t thought about in years that I’d love to see in video game form.

  6. SaintAn says:

    If it’s an MMO I’ll pass. The genre is dead, and all that’s left is a rotting corpse, so it would be just another scam F2P/B2P that’s poorly made like all the other scams. If it’s a well made RPG I’d be interested though, I’ve read a small bit about the lore behind that card game in some io9 articles and it sounds like an interesting world.

  7. Someoldguy says:

    “Cryptic Studios is developing a new free-to-play, action MMORPG based on Magic: The Gathering, the acclaimed strategic card game.
    Experience stunning visuals and sound as we bring Magic to life in this next generation MMORPG. As a Planeswalker, you explore amazing worlds, combat powerful creatures, and meet the legendary beings that shape the fate of the multiverse.”

    I was a big fan of MtG back in the 90’s and enjoyed the flawed but fun MicroProse game. I really can’t see how you can translate that tactical card play into an MMO so this sounds much less exciting at first impression.

  8. Koozer says:

    Why can’t they get it into their collectively thick heads that all anyone wants from them is a decent digital version of the card game?

    MTGO is utterly dire to use and Duels of the Doofers has a completely ridiculous card acquisition model that prevents you building a specific deck unless you get lucky or own practically an entire set. Oh, and it also doesn’t include all of the cards from a set or adhere to the normal rules of Standard for some ungodly reason.

  9. malkav11 says:

    I’ll be interested to see what they do with it, but for my money it’ll be hard to top what Hex: Shards of Fate is doing with their PvE campaign. It’s not free-roaming in the way the old Microprose Shandalar game(s) were, but there’s a lot of interesting combinations you can pull off with the class system and the crazy array of cards full of digital-specific design, not to mention the PvE-only equipment system and the awesome mercenaries (who have specific deckbuilding restrictions but also really powerful passive and triggered abilities and are one of the types of loot you can get). Some of the fights are quite challenging, too. And there’s a lot more content and systems coming.

  10. gtb says:

    Looking forward to 16 currencies and weird real-time things that can be sped up with real money.

  11. elevown says:

    Cryptic are making ‘A’ Magic: The Gathering MMORPG you mean.

  12. Thirdrail says:

    It’s tough to be optimistic about new MMOs these days, but we are long overdue for something in that genre worth playing, and this is the people who did City of Heroes, arguably the best MMO in the history of MMOs. I look forward to trying it.

  13. indigochill says:

    There are official D&D supplement PDFs (using the prefix “Plane Shift”) for D&Ding it up on some of the Magic planes. A quick web search turns up Plane Shift supplements for Innistrad, Kaladesh, and Zendikar. The Zendikar one in particular was just released February this year.

    So it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility they intend to do a more standard MMO using material like that to construct some sort of coherent setting.

  14. TheKillerNacho says:

    If only it wasn’t Cryptic.. they suck

    • likefunbutnot says:

      I’ll never forgive the loss of City of Heroes. Never.

  15. c-Row says:

    Still having fond memories of the 1997 game. Wish somebody would pick up that “explore the world to build up your deck, then battle monsters” mechanic.

    • malkav11 says:

      Hex: Shards of Fate’s campaign mode isn’t quite the same, but it’s definitely analogous and worth a look. For my tastes it’s a bit better because of the expanded card design space over Magic and the various ways your character levelling choices and racial deck restrictions, available equipment and the mercenary system (with more wrinkles coming, probably with the third part of the campaign) interact with your available card pool.

      But it does have the arguable disadvantage that it’s operating within the context of a larger card game with periodic set releases and real money cost for card packs. If you’re willing to spend a little money it makes a much richer range of possibilities available, but it does mean you’re not constrained by just what drops through campaign play like you were in the Shandalar game(s), and if you’re a collector at heart it could get expensive. (You certainly don’t -need- to shell out for the big dollar cards to have a good time, but they are tempting.)

    • ProfessorDetective says:

      Give ‘Card City Nights’ (link to a look sometime. It’s a point-and-click adventure comedy game wrapped around a grid-based card game. It plays more like a puzzle game than a CCG and it was worth the $4 I paid for it.

  16. Captain Narol says:

    Alice, you should really try MAGIC DUELS ORIGINS, it’s a great way to play Magic entirely for FREE, as you can collect all the cards with gold you get in game (through daily quests and wins).

    Some people complain that you don’t have access to all the cards and are limited in format, but it’s still Magic and great fun, just a different format with its own metagame.

    • ProfessorDetective says:

      And you even get to play through the storylines of all of the recent blocks (‘Origins’ onward). If you can’t afford real cards, Duels is the best way to play.