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R&D is an abbreviation for Research & Design, formerly Research & Development. It is the section of Wizards of the Coast that creates upcoming sets and cards for Magic: The Gathering.

Since 2018, Magic R&D is incorporated in Studio X.

General[ | ]

There are several teams within R&D. Design creates the vision, while development upholds that vision even if it has to make some changes to get it there.[1] The design/development split is a very important facet to Wizards R&D. It ensures that each set has two different sets of eyes overlooking each decision to make sure that what we end up with is the best the set can be.[2][3] Other teams in Magic R&D are creative, editing and digital. Despite the R in R&D, there is no research team.[4]

From the release of Magic 2014 until Dominaria, design and development teams were officially referred to as "Initial Concept and Game Design" and "Final Game Design and Development" teams, respectively. Although these names had previously been in use at Wizards of the Coast internally, the announcement for M14 was the first to use them in public.[5] Starting with Dominaria they were officially referred to as Vision Design and Set Design, with the added Play Design team.

In 2018, Wizards of the Coast went through a reorganization. They shifted to what is known as a studio model, where teams are built around supporting a particular product. The section known as R&D along with a few other sections of the company (including art, design, and production) were combined to become Studio X, the studio for tabletop Magic.[6] There are different studios associated with other aspects of Magic, such as Digital Games and Franchise.

R&D principles[ | ]


A poster detailing R&D's declared principles.[7]

As posted in job advertisements, R&D upholds the following principles:

  • We are stewards of Magic.
  • We are passionate about Magic.
  • We believe Magic makes a difference.
  • We focus on growing Magic’s audience.
  • We believe in discovery, surprise, and strategy.
  • We listen.
  • We improve.
  • We collaborate.
  • We debate.
  • We are inclusive and respectful.
  • We expect greatness.

F.I.R.E.[ | ]

In 2019, the core goals of R&D were refined, leading to the generation of F.I.R.E. "Fire" is an acronym that holds the tenants of the new philosophy.[8]

  • F Is for Fun – Above all else, the game should be fun to play.
  • I Is for Inviting – The game should be accessible to many people.
  • R Is for Replayable – The key aspects of replayablility are balance and diversity in game play.
  • E Is for Exciting – Players should be excited to read cards and play with them.

One of the major shifts that came out of our F.I.R.E. discussions was how R&D designed commons. Starting with War of the Spark, they pushed to make more commons exciting.

Process[ | ]

It takes about two years from start to finish to make a Magic set, and a set is finalized by R&D six to eight months prior to release.[9][10][11] The creation process moves through several steps on the way to a final product. These steps are not strictly sequential, and overlap.[12]

Design[ | ]

Main article: Design

The designers create new cards, mechanics, and themes for Magic sets. Every set should do something innovative that hasn't been done before. It also should bring back something from the past and present it in a new light, it should add new elements to old ideas.

Vision Design[ | ]

Starting with the Dominaria set, the design team was rebranded as Vision Design, with a shortened and more creative focused task.[13]

Development[ | ]

At its essence, design is responsible for vision, and development for execution.[14][15] Many think that development's job is to just tweak numbers and correctly cost things, but the main job for developers is to make Magic as fun as it can be for all the different types of players.[16] Most of the time is spent working on game-play design to ensure the play experience is as good as it can possibly be.[17][18] This means that the mechanics and themes and overall feel of a design file should express themselves satisfyingly when actual games are played. The developers try to find the most fun parts of the design and bring them to the forefront of the set, and kill unwanted elements.[19][20][21] Casting costs and other balance issues for both Limited and Constructed are still considered.[3] To assess the strength of a card or card set, development uses a process called "pointing".[22][23][24][25][26]

One of the most important parts to developing sets today is to create cross-block synergies so the sets within Standard play well with each other, but also so that there is enough of a change when Standard rotates to change things up. A diverse and shifting metagame is a healthy metagame.[27] After structural development, there is format development. By the time format development begins, most of the previous set is locked down, and the new set has to integrate with it for both Limited and Constructed.[28]

Development has many interactions with the other teams within Magic R&D, but also with Brand (the people in charge of marketing, advertising, products, the website, and Organized Play).[29]

Set Design[ | ]

Starting with the Dominaria set, the development team was rebranded as Set Design, with an extended task to take the design from a set from concept all the way to the finished product.[13]

Play Design[ | ]

Main article: Play Design

Play Design is a team introduced in 2017, dedicated to the health of tournament environments. This expands on a task previously performed by development. The first set to have Play Design input is Dominaria, the first set to have a full Play Design focus is War of the Spark, and the first set to have Play Design input in vision is Throne of Eldraine.[13]

Product Architecture[ | ]

The Product Architecture or product design team was created in 2017. Led by Mark Globus, it tries to create a cohesive message and goal in the wide range of Magic sets and releases.[30] Other members are Gavin Verhey, Mark Heggen and Mike Turian.[31][32] The product architect is the manager the oversees the product from start to finish. They interconnect with all the various teams working on it.[33]

Creative[ | ]

The R&D Narrative Team begins work on the card's creative elements once the card is in its near-final state (ideally).[34]

  • Concepting — Creative looks at the card's mechanics and decides what kind of creature/spell/location/object it should be within the setting.[35]
  • Art Description — Creative writes an art description for the artist based on the concept.
  • Art — The art director commissions a freelance artist to illustrate the card. The artist illustrates it to the art description with feedback from the art director and the creative team.
  • Name and flavor text — Creative solicits and selects from contributing writers' names and flavor text submissions for the card. Keywords are also given their final name by this group of people.[35]
  • Packaging text — Very short summaries which capture the essence of product and flavor.

At the very beginning of the creative process there is a concept push of world-building, where a specially picked team of Magic artists are flown in for a couple of weeks to generate sketches and ideas for what a brand new world looks like.[36][37] This results in a style guide [38][39]

The creative team also contributes to articles (Uncharted Realms), webcomics, player guides and the occasional book.[40] As off 2016, the team who oversee all things Vorthos is:

Creative writers:

In 2018, Nic Kelman became the Entertainment Designer, the overall manager of the team. Acknowledged writers like Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, and Cassandra Khaw were hired to create content for Magic Story.[41]

Editing[ | ]

While the design is going on, the editing team of Del Laugel has a check-in with the rules manager to make sure that what they are doing will work. The team is constantly monitoring the card file as it goes along. They start editing it usually at some point during development. And even in design sometimes they'll make notes on general wordings. Then further in development, templating starts. Each set has a lead editor. Together with the rules manager (who may be the same person) and the development lead, they try to figure out how the cards have to read. Editing also involves writing reminder text.[35] Furthermore, it is Editing's job to make sure the art comes in and the names and flavor text get done and takes care of collector numbers and other information below the text box. After the cards are physically laid out by the CAPS team (Creative and Professional Services), Editing gives the final go-ahead to create the print sheets.

The team is also responsible for the full editing and proofing of Magic packaging, inserts, rules materials, and other ancillary items. Since 2018, they are combined with the Rules Manager and the Graphic designers in the Delta Team.[42]

Digital[ | ]

The Magic Digital R&D team, not to be confused with the Magic Online team, is responsible for coordinating game design resources for digital projects, like building decks for Duels of the Planeswalkers or creating the list for the Magic Online Cube.[3] In January 2017, both the Digital team and the Magic Online team were incorporated in the Digital Game Studio.[43]

Studio X[ | ]

Since 2019, the teams of Wizards of the Coast are built around products rather than services.[44] Studio X is dedicated to tabletop play. This includes Duel Masters R&D, Magic Creative, Magic R&D, and Magic Product Management. The group was supposed to get a name with Studio X being the temporary fill-in, but so far, it has remained Studio X.[45][46]

Trivia[ | ]

  • Look at Me, I'm R&D from Unhinged is a parody of R&Ds playtesting process. The card looks like the card Moat with a sticker pasted on top of it, which R&D uses for playtesting. The cost, card type, and the rules on the card have also been modified with a pen during the playtest, presumably because the printed rules proved counter-intuitive or overpowered. The card is also the successor to Look at me, I'm the DCI from Unglued.

See also[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (January 16, 2017). "I think there is a lot of confusion between the difference in responsibilities of designers and developers. Could you clarify?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  2. Mark Rosewater (July 12, 2010). "Know How, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. a b c Zac Hill (August 24, 2012). "Developing Development". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (April 25, 2015). "An article about divisions that have happened between Research, Development, Design and Creative?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  5. Mark Rosewater (January 07, 2013). "What prompted the change in departmental titles for announcement articles?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  6. Mark Rosewater (July 21, 2019). "Project Booster Fun". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater (November 23, 2015). "This is the sign by my desk that was in the video.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Andrew Brown (June 21, 2019). "Fire It Up". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Sam Stoddard (February 11, 2016). "Using Real-World Data". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Sam Stoddard (April 21, 2017). "Long Hard Road to Print". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (February 17, 2017). "How long before its release is a set completely finalized?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  12. Mark Rosewater (November 28, 2015). "Can you remind us what the order is...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  13. a b c author(s) (Mark Rosewater). "Vision Design, Set Design, and Play Design". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Shawn Main (April 04, 2014). "Designing for Development". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Sam Stoddard (February 20, 2015). "Presidents, Kings, Role of the Leads". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Mark Rosewater (April 18, 2005). "Fun, Fun, Fun". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Tom LaPille (July 15, 2011). "Engineering Tolerance". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Zac Hill (December 09, 2011). "What Developers Do". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Mark Rosewater (April 04, 2005). "The Answer Lies Within". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Mark Rosewater (January 10, 2011). "Let's See What Develops". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Tom LaPille (February 20, 2012). "The Problems That Wouldn't Die". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Randy Buehler (February 01, 2002). "Limited Pointing". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Randy Buehler (February 08, 2002). "Limited Pointing II". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Aaron Forsythe (November 18, 2005). "Pointing Out the Obvious". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Sam Stoddard (March 4, 2016). "Balancing the Top Commons". Wizards of the Coast.
  26. Mark Rosewater (January 10, 2022). "Even More Words From R&D". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Sam Stoddard (October 11, 2013). "Cross-Block Synergies in Theros". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Sam Stoddard (March 21, 2014). "Playtesting Constructed". Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Sam Stoddard (March 11, 2016). "Working with Other Teams". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Gavin Verhey (August 8, 2017). "Dragons, Dragons, and . . . Cat Dragons". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Gavin Verhey (September 27, 2017). "Building a Better Magic Set". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. Gavin Verhey (December 6, 2017). "Product Architecture: How a Product Is Made". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Mark Rosewater (August 26, 2021). "What is the product architect and how do they relate to vision design?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  34. Doug Beyer (June 17, 2009). "Flavor Driven". Wizards of the Coast.
  35. a b c Mark Rosewater (January 9, 2015) "Life of a Card" ,Drive to Work (transcript)
  36. Doug Beyer (February 29, 2012). "Theme-Driven Worldbuilding". Wizards of the Coast.
  37. Magic Creative Team (November 9, 2016). "The Making of Kaladesh". Wizards of the Coast.
  38. Adam Lee (August 25, 2010). "Slime, Trials, and the Inner Garruk". Wizards of the Coast.
  39. Doug Beyer (September 29, 2010). "Rotation Season". Wizards of the Coast.
  40. Doug Beyer (May 05, 2010). "Form of the Writer". Wizards of the Coast.
  41. Aidan Moher (September 12, 2018). "Spellbound : The Familiar Faces Creating the Story for Magic: The Gathering".
  42. Mark Rosewater (March 16, 2018). "there is a "delta team" in the credits for 'Masters 25". What's that?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  43. Chris Cocks (January 12, 2017). "Making Moves". Wizards of the Coast.
  44. Mark Rosewater (December 12, 2019). "You said WOTC now works under the "Studio System". Can you explain what that means?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  45. Mark Rosewater (May 12, 2021). "What's Studio X?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  46. Mark Rosewater (September 7, 2021). "What's Studio X?". Blogatog. Tumblr.