Monday, July 26, 2010

Is Forge Legal?

I’ll summarize the whole article right now, “Forge is probably illegal and could be taken down my Wizards of the Coast.”

The “devil is in the details” and there are always details when it comes to programming and life. “Is Forge Legal” is a complicated question and truthfully only a trial with a jury could rightfully make that decision. Even if Forge was technically legal, it doesn’t mean that Wizards could sue me or Google.

In my opinion Forge is probably not legal because Wizards owns everything related to Magic. They own the rules, the card names, the artwork, and anything else that I forgot. (As I understand it, a game’s rules are not copyright-able in Europe, so Forge might be legal over there.)

On the other hand, Forge tries not to be “very illegal”. The card pictures aren’t included. Wizards seems to care about this since they complained about this issue to Wagic, another Magic program like Forge. Forge also does not implement a whole bunch of new cards, so Forge tries not to steal money from Wizards. (Granted, Forge can’t implement many complicated cards because of its primitive architecture which I designed.)

I doubt Forge prevents people from spending their money on Magic cards. I believe that Forge actually encourages people to spend money because they can “use the card” and see how good it is. Magic is a social game and Forge is purposefully non-social.

Even if Forge is illegal, Wizards does not seem to be hunting me down. When Forge was hosted on, I did receive one DMCA notice which bummed me out until I figured that I could just change servers. (This happened after I applied for a job at Wizards, thinking that they would be impressed with Forge. I only got as far as the phone interview.) In the last 6 months I received another DMCA notice about my blog, so I removed the link to Forge from my “What is Forge?” article. Somehow having a link to the program in the right corner of my blog doesn’t matter, go figure?

(DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright. The DMCA is supposed to fight piracy but in reality it allows anyone to shut down someone’s webpage or server by sending their ISP a notice saying that the information on that webpage is copyrighted and therefore illegal. The problem is that the sender does not have to prove that the information is copyrighted and illegal.)

Like many derivative works, Forge was written because I enjoyed Magic very much. I liked Magic Online but I was constantly annoyed at the high prices for good cards like Wrath of God and irritated at people who would drop their Internet connection in the middle of a game. I didn’t know anything about programming a good AI, so I created one to the best of my abilities, which is another reason that I don’t think Forge is stealing money away from Wizards, because Forge’s AI is very basic and not nearly as intelligent as a human opponent. (Having a weak AI is good in a sense because people enjoy winning.)

I’m glad Forge exists because it allows players to use a great bunch of older Magic cards. Where else could you get your hands on Juzam Djinn or Ali from Cairo? Where else can you create a Necropotence deck? Most of the cards in Forge are eating dust, even good cards like Meloku the Clouded Mirror which is really fun.

In my phone interview with Wizards I was asked why did I program Forge and I answered, “Because I wanted to use expensive cards that I didn’t own” and the guy said, “Randy Buehler would have a cow if he heard that.” Ha!

I have this insane idea about creating a new card game. The biggest difference is that you would choose which of your opponent’s creatures that you are attacking. The goal would be something like Magic Online and instead of buying individual cards, you would have access to all of the cards for your $5 monthly fee.

Since the whole card game is online you could do crazy things like allow the weekly tournament winner to ban 10 cards which would shake up the metagame. (The banning would only last a week until the next tournament and the winner would choose 10 different cards to ban.)

Since you have access to all the cards, drafting and sealed deck would be free.

Friday, July 23, 2010

High Quality Pictures for Forge

Forge isn't very good at downloading pictures.  (I can say that because I wrote the code.)  Here are the high quality pictures for Forge.  Enjoy the earth-shattering detail.

Thanks to Kersed (from the forums) for uploading his pictures.

The pictures are compressed using rar so you need to have Winzip or Winrar.

Part 1 (180Mb):

Part 2 (180Mb):

Part 3 (180Mb):

Part 4 (80.36Mb):

Monday, July 19, 2010

10 Huge Creatures

Magic is really all about the creatures and here are 10 fearsome creatures that Forge has. (I feel like this article is all "fluff" since it isn't technical or goes over any new ideas but at least it is about Magic and Magic is well...interesting.)

Listed in no particular order.

1. Death's Shadow - is insane since it only costs B. While the card is only playable if you have less than 13, just wait a few turns.

2. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre - while all of Eldrazi artifacts are tremendously powerful, I think Ulamog stands out with indestructible and annihilator 4. And when you cast Ulamog you get to destroy a permanent, well...that's just icing on the cake.
3. Supreme Exemplar - isn't very shocking but since he (is a flying lion a he?) is a flying 10/10, that is nothing to sneeze (or cough) at :=)

4. Lorthos, the Tidemaker - is another insane blue killing machine. It does cost a hefty 5UUU but when you attack with it, you can pay 8 and tap 8 of your opponents permanets (which includes creatures and land). As an added bonus, "Those permanents don't untap during their controllers' next untap steps."
5. Khalni Hydra - is gigantic. Like Lorthos, Khalni Hydra playfully uses the number 8. It has 8 G's in its cost and is a 8/8 creature. Khalni Hydra does have trample, so he is a real killing machine. (What good is a huge green creature if it doesn't have trample?)

6. Silvos, Rogue Elemental - is a prime example of an efficient fatty. It has trample AND regeneration, a lethal combination. Only a very few green creatures outrank Silvos.
7. Iona, Shield of Emeria - controls the board like few other creatures. What's better than countering spells, preventing your opponent from even _playing_ spells, ha.
8. Novablast Wurm - is very unique. It can act like an all-star blocker since it is a huge 7/7 or optionally act like a Wrath of God or Day of Judgment. (Does anyone know why Wizards renamed Wrath of God?) A very interesting card indeed. Combine it with cards like Rukh Egg that want to go to the graveyard for the best effect. 
(Rukh Egg was so fun that Wizards created a white version  for Magic 2011.)
9. Tectonic Fiend - is just a fun card. For 4RR you get a 7/7 but since the creature is "insane" it is always attacking. It isn't a game winner but it does shake things up.

10. Abyssal Persecutor - is a risky card but quite a deal, 2BB gives you a flying, trample 6/6. This card makes me smile since it is a black Platinum Angel. (By the way, flying and trample is my favorite combination, I also like flying and haste.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Version

The "new version" article is the easiest thing that I write each month. This version alone has 200 new cards and Forge now supports an amazing 3,428 cards. Thanks to Dennis, Rob, Chris, Beached As and everybody else for their effort. Thanks for donating your blood, sweat, and tears. While I generally consider programming to be fun, there are still times that I want to tear my hair out (really).

OK, the fun part, the new cards. Coat of Arms (Artifact, 5, Each creature gets +1/+1 for each other creature on the battlefield that shares at least one creature type with it) is a fan favorite that pumps up any tribal deck. Rite of Replication is bound to make a few blue mages happy. (2UU, Sorcery, Put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of target creature. Kicker 5: If Rite of Replication was kicked, put five of those tokens onto the battlefield instead.) Another powerful blue card is Fact or Fiction (3U, Instant, Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.)

Thrumming Stone is brimming with power. (Thrumming Stone, Artifact, 5, Spells you cast have ripple 4.) If you forget what ripple does (and I did), it means "Ripple N means that you reveal the top N cards and if you reveal a card that has the same name as the card you are currently playing, you may play that card for free." Basically you should put it in a deck where you have 4 copies of each card. Other ripple cards include Surging Might - 2G, Aura, Enchanted creature gets +2/+2, Ripple 4 and Surging Sentinels - 2/1, 2W, First Strike and Ripple 4.

The 5 card cycle from Judgment got an update that fixed the bug that made the game slow to a crawl: Brawn, Filth, Valor, Anger, and Wonder are now playable. Each card has an ongoing ability once it is sent to the grave. For example, if Wonder and an Island are you in grave, all of your creatures get flying, hooray. (Thanks to "Beached As" for the fix.)

A bunch of cards that lower the casting cost of spells like Thornscape Familiar (1G, 2/1, Red spells and white spells you cast cost 1 less to cast.) 16 affinity cards like Frogmite - artifact, 4, 2/2, Affinity for artifacts (This spell costs 1 less to cast for each artifact you control.) Forge also has the 5 card cycle of "affinity for basic lands" Oxidda Golem, Razor Golem, Spire Golem, Tangle Golem and Dross Golem - cost 5, 3/2, Fear, Affinity for Swamps (This spell costs 1 less to cast for each Swamp you control.).

And…I always forget something, Forge now has a exe file. It “finds” Java, so it solves a few problems. The exe file also has a splash screen with a nifty card picture which is shown above. (Splash screens are unnecessary but they do look nice.)

The list of new cards and features could go on and on. While Forge may not have your favorite card, it still has hundreds of other great cards to use.

Forge (10 MB) - version 06-28 because that is when it was released on the forums

Card Pictures (10 MB) - put in your /res/pics directory

Friday, July 9, 2010

Magic 2011 - Visual Spoiler

Make sure to check out Wizard's Magic 2011 visual spoiler: here

Monday, July 5, 2010

Forge's AI

Forge allows you to play against the computer. The computer AI isn't spectacular but it tries to provide a decent challenge. The AI plays the most expensive card it can because generally the more expensive the card, the better the effect. Then the AI asks each card, "Should I play you now?", SpellAbility.canPlayAI() which returns true or false. If the card says, "Yes" (true), the AI plays that card.

Each card has a few lines of code in the method canPlayAI(). Shock's canPlayAI() might theoretically only allow the computer to play it if you have a 2/2 flyer or 3/2 creature. Shock might ignore "regular" 2/2 creatures. Likewise the computer will only play Wrath of God if it has less than 7 life or if it would destroy more of your creatures than its own.

The downside is that the AI doesn't make plans or long term decisions. Each card is evaluated separately, which is why the computer will never use two Shocks to kill your 4/4 creature. Generally the AI makes decent decisions but sometimes it still looks like a moron, especially when the computer kills himself with a card because that card causes damage to himself, like Char. (I think the computer won't do that with Char but I've had it happen with similar cards.)

The attacking and blocking code is very general and just attacks or blocks using very broad rules like: attack if you have the biggest attacker or block 50% of the time unless you would die. The computer does not take into account activated abilities of creatures like Royal Assassin, so the computer makes less that ideal decisions. Also since the computer doesn't play instants during combat, you will never be afraid of cards like Giant Growth.

Even though Forge's AI is simple, I'm glad to say that it can use cards like Counterspell. While the computer still isn't "smart", it at least can be very annoying with a blue control deck. And sometimes even the dumb computer can still make a few surprising plays.

I don't really know how to program AI. I wanted Forge get to up and running so I just created my own AI, which wasn't great but it worked "good enough". Maybe in the future Forge can use the min-max or alpha-beta algorithm and be a more worthy opponent.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Deck Building Contest

Here is a deck building contest that is being held on the Forge forums.

DECK BUILDER CONTEST: June/July - Summertime!

Here we go ladies and gentlemen! The first official Forge Deck Builder Contest.

The subject is....... Summertime!

Yes, we'll kick this off with a Subject theme.

All decks created must address some aspect of summertime. All colors are open, use whatever you feel is appropriate and fun, but when we look over the deck, it should be obvious without reading flavor text it has something to do with summer. You may pick a summer holiday (Northern Hemisphere please. ;cD ) or maybe heat, hot summer weather, picnics or vacations or anything that says summer to you in the deck.

Remember, Decks must be:

60+ cards
4 same card max except basic/snow lands or otherwise noted.
All colors open

Any questions, fire them off here.

Deadline, 2nd week of July. I'll set it more firm when we get closer. Then voting commences.

Good luck, and I hope to see some fun ideas!

The deck building forum is here. You will need to select “Export Deck” from the Deck Builder and then post the file that is generated.