An odd thought occurred to me recently. It was a combination of three things, which, as Mark Rosewater is fond of pointing out that Roger von Oech is fond of pointing out, is often where the best ideas come from. And in this case it may be a good idea. Then again, it may not be a good idea. We’ll see.
The first incident was that years ago Nathan loaned me “If Chins Could Kill” by Bruce Campbell. There is a line in that book that uses the phrase “our Draconian world,” which made me think of Neal’s Draconian Banned List. This in turn made me think, “What if I designed cards based on concepts and phrases in this book. I even started to do just that. I’d have to look through the play-test list, but we’ve been play-testing a few of them since I created them.
The problem is that I often get sidetracked, and I stopped reading the book. Then it ended up in my storage, and there it stayed for a few years.
I found the book a couple of months ago, and since I was reading books during the daylight hours of my guard post, I decided I should read it and give it back to Nathan. I decided to do the card thing again too. This time, rather than sporadically pick out ideas, I decided that at the end of every page I read, I would write down a card idea. If it could be tied to the concepts or phrases in the book, all the better, but the point was just to have an idea written down. In a couple of cases, I merely wrote down a name for a card, and in one case I wrote down some flavor text. I got distracted when I got to the chapter about Brisco County Jr., when I decided to watch the show before I read the chapter, but that will probably give my thoughts a chance to shift gears. I have almost 200 ideas that I wrote down in that time.
The second incident was when someone on the Yahoo! Net Runner Group pointed out that between official cards and virtual expansions; we have over 3,000 Net Runner cards. He doubled up some cards in his count, but it’s ok, because I’ve designed a significant amount of cards that for one reason or another haven’t been posted online. Usually that reason is that they are written in notebooks, because when I used to deliver pizza, I would keep a notebook on my seat and write down thoughts I had while driving… that is, I had the thoughts while driving and then wrote them down when I was at a stoplight, or after I’d given a customer a pizza, or when I got back to the store. Safety first!
I thought that the statement about over 3,000 cards was interesting. I know that we’ve actually played with some of the VE cards that other people created, and we’ve played with a number of ours enough to see what’s fun and what’s not. Even still, I know that I’ve not played with everything that’s out there, and as I pointed out, I have a large amount that we’ve never tested. I also remember Mark Rosewater, almost a decade ago, said that there were over 15,000 individual Magic cards, not counting reprints (I’m estimating his estimation, cos I don’t really remember, I just know it was around there). That means that there is probably twice that many now, and here we have Net Runner, the poor neglected brainchild of Richard Garfield.
The third incident is when I was curious about when the new Magic set was coming out. They were doing this odd teaser where there was a war on and I was a soldier… um, sorry. There was a war between the Mirrans and the Phyrexians. If the Mirran won, the set would be called “Mirrodin Pure” and if the Phyrexians won, it would be called “New Phyrexia.” This was all a storyline based thing, but I was still curious. I realized that the release dates, card count, and even spoilers of each and every set could be found online if I looked hard enough. It was then that it occurred to me. Between August 1993 and December of 1993, there were only 295 official Magic cards, which was the Alpha set. If I created about three Net Runner cards a day for three months, I could match that. There would be two months between New Phyrexia and Magic 2012. I could create the 170 something cards in that set also by doing three Net Runner ideas a day. If I used the release dates of the sets as my gauge, I could conceivably create a play-test card for Net Runner for every Magic card in existence, and it would only take me around eighteen years.
Like I said, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not.
I do realize a few things about this. The first is that I while I would like to try to create as many play-test cards for Net Runner as there are official cards for Magic, I will never create as many play-test cards for Net Runner as there are official and play-test cards for Magic. It would be interesting to know how many there are of those in existence, and I’m sure it’s an insane amount.
I also realize that the official Magic cards have the distinction of being play-tested and crosschecked to make sure that aside from intentional functional reprints, they don’t recreate the same card. I realize that there is no way I will ever be able to play-test each of these cards, and that it is possible I might come up with the same idea twice or more. I’m not so worried about that though.
A functional reprint is a card that is exactly like another card, but is given another name. The idea is that it allows you to run more than four of a card in a legal deck, and sometimes they do it for flavor reasons. Realizing that there are cards that are functional reprints, I won’t sweat it too much if I come up with the same idea a few times over the course of the next eighteen years.
As a quick aside, the reason I say eighteen years is because to pull this off, I would need to create new ideas each time a new Magic set came out, and I would need to create ideas for each past set that has come out. I figure that since Alpha came out in August 1993, I can set a goal of 295 ideas from August 2011 to December 2001. They did Beta and Unlimited in there too, but there were only two cards added, because they were accidentally omitted from the Alpha print sheets. I figure that if I emulate the release dates of Magic over the last eighteen years doing both current sets and past sets in tandem that in eighteen years I’ll have the output I’m looking for. Even doing fifteen card ideas a day it would take five and a half years to do 30,000 ideas. I might as well pace myself a little.
I do regret that it’s not likely that we’ll be able to play-test all of these cards. There is a part of me that thinks that if I’m going to be doing about fifteen ideas a day on the back of my To Do List, what would stop me from printing them, and slipping them into the sleeves of the uncommon and rare slots of a starter pack. With one game every two days, many of these cards could be tested. Surely between Nathan and Loren, I could do that much, right?
The problem is that just because you play a deck with fifteen play-test cards, doesn’t mean that each of those cards will see play. Furthermore, we are working on our actual Virtual Expansion, and that’s significantly fewer cards. Typically, the first time a card is tested and sees play, you learn a lot, but you never learn everything. The next so many times, you usually learn less, but what you do learn is often the important stuff. What I’m saying is that even playing a few games only tells us so much when testing a card, so the idea of actually testing 30,000 plus cards, even over the next eighteen years, isn’t likely unless we all get a job together that allows us to play games during downtime. I do realize that most of the cards will either be not fun or unplayable for one reason or another.
I decided to write about this in the hope that perhaps others will do something similar, even if not trying to match the exact count of the number of Magic cards out there, maybe just to shoot for a certain number. If ten different people came up with one card idea a day for a year, we would double the number of existing official and unofficial Net Runner cards out there. Most of them would be crap, but they would be out there. Just something to consider.
The rest of these thoughts are probably somewhat unimportant, but I’m going to put them down for my own point of reference.
New Phyrexia was released on May 13, 2011. It has 175 cards in the set. I will only come up with a Net Runner idea for each new card in the set. A search on the Gatherer will tell me how many cards were in previous sets in about five minutes. I will come up with a Net Runner idea for those cards when I do the original set they appeared in. For instance when I do Alpha, I will create ideas for the card slots that were the basic lands, but since there were ten basic land cards in Alpha, but only five unique names for those cards, I will only do ideas for five. Further I will ignore the five basic lands in every other set. There are 175 cards in New Phyrexia, but ten of them are basic lands. So that reduces the ideas I must come up with to 165, and it will be further reduced when I find out what reprints there are.
New Phyrexia has three reprints, I must do 162 ideas. Anyone wishing to also do this, if you do about three ideas a day between now and July 15, 2011, you will have as many new Net Runner ideas as there are new cards in Magic’s New Phyrexia expansion. One thing to keep in mind, many of the new cards in any given Magic expansion are basic card types that while different aren’t specifically innovative. While innovation is important for a game like Net Runner, if you’re going for a large amount of cards, just let the ideas flow. Don’t worry if they aren’t spectacularly new. The plain cards sometimes lead to the splashy, and the bad ideas sometimes lead to the good.
Alpha had 295 cards in it, but 10 of them were basic lands, so 285 plus 5 (since I’ll do a slot for each basic land once) and then plus 2 for the accidentally omitted cards and I’ll have to come up with 292 ideas between August 5, 2011, and December 1, 2011. It may seem odd to be worried about those few cards. Why not just do 295 ideas? Well the reason is because the Magic Core Sets were completely reprints for years. Beta, Unlimited, and Revised were completely reprints. It’s unnecessary to come up with 378 cards for the timeframe of 4th Edition, because even in Magic those weren’t new cards. In sets like Alpha and New Phyrexia cutting the card slots that belong to previously printed cards might seem nearly insignificant, but when you get into Core Sets, it’s hundreds of cards significant. Since I realize that this is not going to be a simple undertaking regardless of how I space it out, I figure that I should be conscious of not making it harder.
Magic 2012 will be out on July 15, 2011 That’s 63 days after New Phyrexia, which means that I will have to average two to three card ideas in that time. Then Innistrad will be out September 30, 2011, which will be 77 days to do non-reprint slots from Magic 2011. I estimate that will be 1 to 2 ideas a day. Meanwhile, there will be 116 days between the release date anniversary of Alpha and the approximate release date anniversary of Arabian Nights. That will be another two to three card ideas per day. So by the end of the year I may be at a point where I have to come up with six ideas a day. I’m going to get a head start this ten-weeks by doing fifteen card ideas a day, but as the project goes on, I will likely be more mindful of things.