1. Will the program be usable?
2. Will a fast, stupid AI be fun?
Thankfully issue number one isn’t an issue. Forge is very usable by non-programmers. I know that Forge isn’t the prettiest piece of eye candy that you have ever seen but I’m very happy with it. 99% of the user interface complaints went away when Forge actually drew the cards in hand and on the battlefield, instead of only displaying the card picture on the right.
Issue number two hasn't been a problem. Having a simple, fast, stupid AI seems to be a major benefit instead of a weakness. I can play a Magic game in about 10 minutes which is about 3 times faster than a normal game against another player. The benefit is that I get to play 3 times the number of games in the same time, which equals 3 times the fun.
Forge minimizes the longest, most boring part of the game: waiting for your opponent. The gooey goodness of Magic is when I’m thinking about how to beat the computer into submission with some absurd combination of spells and abilities. Maybe I get to cast a crazy 7UU costed spell or use a nearly worthless card to win the game. The computer is just smart enough to keep me on my toes by using counter spells and punishing me for any foolish combat decisions.
I also worried that Forge would be dead meat compared to a program with a smarter AI but that didn’t happen. Magarena was released (for free) and it has a great AI that plays like a real person. I love playing Magarena because the computer will completely pound you into submission and will never say, “I’m sorry”. In like manner, it is great fun to win because you can feel the computer working against you. Magarena is absolutely brilliant but it hasn’t made Forge less fun. In a way, Magarena has allowed me to see how fun Forge really is and that having a better AI wouldn’t increase its fun factor. (You can read more about Magarena here and how to download it.)
Forge is absolutely fantastic with a fast, dumb AI.
One of the cheapest Magic players in the world,