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Interview with a Maker of MTG: Battlegrounds
By Jason Madhosingh
1 - What is your name and position on the team? Could you give us a
little background of your company?

My name is Leif Jensen and I am the producer from Secret Level on Magic: The Gathering Ė Battlegrounds. Secret Level was founded in 1999 and has shipped game titles with publishing partners Atari and LucasArts, as well as, developed technology for partners such as Epic Games and Sony Computer Entertainment of America.

2 - How long has Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds been in development
for and, what stage is it at?

MTGB has been in development for the last two years and I am glad to say it will be out on its expected date for the holidays!

3 - Could you give us a rundown on the characters in the game and their
various skills and techniques?

The game consists of duelist Legends from the Magic Universe, in staying consistent with the Magic novels and card game. The characters possess their power through their spellbook which can be fully customized from all five colors in Magic.

4 - How would you describe Magic: The Gathering and, how does it differ
from other games in the genre?

Battlegrounds combines an arena fighter setup with real time strategic spellcasting. Duelists move around the arenas, picking up mana which can be used to cast powerful spells. The endless strategy in the game comes from the deep variety of spell attributes, the creature placement in the arenas, and the timing and spell combinations. So far, we haven't seen any games that combine all of these elements in real-time.

5 - How is the combat executed in the game and, how many attacks and
spells will we be able to master throughout?

Itís set up similar to traditional fighting games such as Soul Calibur or DOA, but instead of hitting your opponent with punches or kicks; damage is inflicted by casting spells. Spells are broken down into three categories, Creatures, Sorceries, and Enchantments which you can cast after you've collected a certain amount of mana. The more mana you collect, the bigger creature or stronger sorcery you can cast. Creature spells consist of different goblins, elves, demons and giants where sorceries are spells that instantly do damage to your opponent, his creatures or boost your own creatures. Sorceries can also do other stuff such as heal or sabotage your opponent. Enchantments are more like permanent sorceries. For example, there is an enchantment in the game called Gratuitous Violence, which doubles your creatures' power until the end of the match, unless your opponent destroys that enchantment with a counter spell. The spells in the game seem to have limitless combinations and strategies similar to the card game.

6 - How many levels/areas will we be able to take on in the final
version? Could you tell us about some?

There are 16 arenas in the shipped game, all based on the five colors of Magic (Red, Green, Black, Blue, and White). Of these five colors, they each represent a unique environment. For instance, the black arenas can be dark and swampy. The size of the arenas will be fairly larger than most fighting games as there will be times when 10 creatures will be in play at once, fighting it out in a huge brutal war. There is also a planned downloadable arena for release once the game has shipped that we are currently working on. A bunch of new spells for download too.

7 - What games have influenced Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds?

We play a lot of games here at Secret Level, so Iím sure there are an endless amount of games that have influenced MTGB. Obviously, the MTG card game had the most influence, though we really feel we are doing something absolutely unique.

8 - Could you describe your favorite part of the game?

To me, the best part of the game is the constant changing of strategies during a game. Youíll start a match with a strategy in your head and then your opponent does something totally different than what you were expecting. Everything is in real-time, so it gets intense. You got to remember to blink sometimes.

9 - What games are you looking forward to in the next year?

The two games that come to mind are really not anything too surprising, Halo 2 and Gran Turismo 4. Everything Iíve seen and read so far has been amazing.

10 - How have you found Microsoft? How do they fare with other companies
from a developers point of view?

Working with Microsoft has been good. Theyíve really pulled through with quick dev support feedback and have been helpful all around. They caught on to Battlegrounds early on and got excited when they saw how well the game is set up for Xbox Live. Itís the fighting game they had been hoping for on Live.

11 - What is the predicted release date for Magic: The Gathering in the
UK?

I pretty sure the game is going to come out around the same time as the US version. Whenever it is, it supposed to come out on time.

12 - What are your future plans? Will we see any more Xbox titles from
your team?

Secret Levelís got a large amount of experience with the Xbox and Playstation 2 so weíre excited to work on whatever comes next. Iíll keep you posted.

Read More Articles by Jason Madhosingh!

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