MOL stands for “Magic Online” and it isn’t doing too well. Version 3 is fresh out of the gates but is lagging way behind. Version 2.5 looked fine to me but I guess it had server issues and maybe couldn’t handle the newer card mechanics. Version 3 seems very stable, but worse at everything else.
The user interface, which is critically important, is getting many complaints. The number one criticism seems to be that the cards are hard to read. While this is a very specific complaint, it might be very hard to fix. And by “very hard” I mean it could take weeks to fix or it may be unfixable. A bad user interface can break an application, that is the reason many videogames look so good but play so badly. The number one complaint I’ve received about MTG Forge has been about the interface.
Designing the “next version” of a piece of software is difficult. For each great new feature that you want to add, it comes with added complexity and complexity is very, very bad. Complicated code takes about twice as long to write. It takes more time to write and more effort to debug. Personally I was amazed that version 2.5 supported multiplayer games since so many cards had to be updated or changed for group play. Version 3 probably should have kept everything the same and just improved the server stability.
Version 3 is the first version that Wizards has developed internally. While most people may think this is a minor point, it is actually very important. Developing your own internal version of Magic Online is like asking a car fix-it place to design a new car engine from scratch.
Version 2.5 was developed externally by the now defunct Leaping Lizards (their logo was very annoying) and Wizards just modified the existing code. Wizards has gone from just making cards and games to developing software. There will be some growing pains as Wizards becomes a better software company. And while version 3 won’t win any awards, Magic Online will continue to improve.
There is an old programmer’s joke that goes like this. “You can have software that is easy to use, cheap, or reliable. Pick any 2 out of 3.” Easy to use, cheap code won’t be reliable. Easy to use, reliable code will be very expensive. And cheap, reliable code will be hard to use. MTG Forge falls into this last category :)
This is probably the funniest article about software development that you are going to read.
Scouse of Cards - The Trouble With Version 3