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What would you like to do?
comprehension complexity and lenticular design
there’s actually a couple different types of comprehension complexity.
So number one is, I just use terminology you don’t know.
That’s another important thing to understand, which is, one of the
goals of teaching somebody to play a game, any game but Magic in
particular, is you don’t need them to know everything. You need them
to know enough to play.
So one of our strategies has been -- because Magic is such a hard game to
learn is, only teach people what they have to know.
So anyway, number one is just vocabulary. We have to be careful with
vocabulary. Some vocabulary I worth it. Some vocabulary. If done
correctly, such as flying, could actually help you. Because the
vocabulary comes with outside meaning, and that outside meaning can
help you understand what’s going on.
So anyway, number one of comprehension complexity is just
vocabulary. Number two is just having things that don’t -- like one of
the rules I said in the article is, if you read a card and you go,
“I’ve got to read that again,” that’s a sign there’s something going
on. That it’s complex.
Number three comprehension complexity is -- I think I used suspend as
the example, which is sometimes, when you write it out, that there’s
so much going on that just it’s hard to grok it all.
But beginners really, really struggled. There was a lot going
on. There was multiple zone changes, there was dealing with counters
and countdowns and upkeep effects and things happening, and -- holy
moly, there was a lot going on. It just was overwhelming.
Now the fourth type of comprehension complexity, I used One with
Nothing as an example. So One with Nothing is from -- what is it, from
Scourge, I think? [NLH -- Saviors of Kamigawa.] Anyway, it’s a card
that says, “Discard your hand.”
So you’re like “How can there be comprehension complexity? There’s
three words on it. ‘Discard’ ‘Your’ ‘Hand.’ How tough is that? Take
your hand, discard it.” The reason that this has comprehension
complexity is it doesn’t make sense. Players read it, they go “Discard
your hand -- I understand what it’s saying. Take my hand, throw it
away. That makes no sense, so what is it really saying?”
So that’s another big part I’m going to talk about today in lenticular
design is, people -- a lot of confusion comes from people not
understanding what it’s doing, and when people don’t understand, they
just start making things up to try to make it understand.
And One with Nothing’s a perfect example where the card is crystal,
crystal clear what it does. But it’s so non-intuitive that you would
ever want to do that, that people like would not understand
it. Because they understood the base definition, and said, “Oh, that
can’t be right. What am I missing?” And they spent all this time and
energy trying to understand what they were missing.
So what we learned was, comprehension complexity is more -- for the
beginning player, comprehension complexity is greater than board
complexity, which is greater than strategic complexity. Which mean,
first and foremost, if you are a newer player, you are trying to
understand what cards do. Then you’re trying to understand what’s
going on on the board, and finally you’re understanding strategy. But
you have to learn the first before you get to the second, you have to
learn the second before you get to the third.
Okay. So the idea of lenticular design -- I’m halfway to work, and I
haven’t got to actually define lenticular design yet. So I was working
on New World Order, and I was trying to figure out how to lower
complexity. When I made the following discovery: you have to be very
careful about comprehension complexity, because if beginners don’t
understand the card, you’re doomed. So you have to be extra careful
about comprehension complexity.
Board complexity, well you’ve got to be careful because at some point
they get to board complexity, and that you’ll make states they don’t
understand. So you -- there’s certain types of board complexity you
can get, but in general you have to be careful with board complexity.
And so what I realized was that when I was thinking about complexity,
I started to realize that not everybody sees the cards the same. And
what that meant was that as people look at cards, they gauge them
based on the lenses they have of what they can understand. So what
that meant was, there were some cards that might be simple to one
player but difficult to another.
Now. Obviously, the more advanced player will see things
simpler. They’re better players. So I can take a card that for
beginners might be somewhat complex, but to an advanced player would
be pretty simple. But -- this is where lenticular design gets
interesting, I figured out something else. Some cards were seen by
advanced players as more complex than by beginning players.
And really, the lesson is understanding the vantage point. And by the
way, one thing about design that’s always cool is one thing leads to
another. New World Order made me try to make commons simple, or not
complex. Which, and what lenticular design made me realize, is that
I’m actually asking the question wrong. But by the way. That this is a
big, big part I find of the creative process is that a lot of times
the big discoveries come when you realize that you asked a question
that had more scope than you needed.
For example, I was asking, “How do you make common cards
complex-free?” And the real question I needed to ask was, “How do I
make them complex-free for beginners?”
So, the big question that this had led me to, that each thing opens
up -- my new discovery new is, lenticular design made me realize that
everybody views the game through their own set of lenses. In fact, the
very idea of lenses, in fact, Jesse Schell does a book on game design
where he talks about looking at your game design through different
And so I’m applying this in a different context, sort of a
psychological context, which is how does your player look at your
game? What are the means by which they look at your game? And that
when you are -- I believe when you’re designing things, you have to be
aware of who you’re designing for. And so part of the idea of lenses
is understanding in this particular aspect, what are you trying to do?
And who are you looking at?
And that what I’ve learned, and lenticular design has taught me this
is that different cards can be for different players. It’s not that
each card’s only for one player. Each card actually could be for
multiple players, as long as each player has a vantage point they
And so I’ll make my final point today, because I’m just about at work,
which is a big part of understanding lenticular design is the concept
of lenticular. So what lenticular means, I don’t think I’ve defined it
today, there’s the cards that they’re printed in such a way that when
you turn them, you see different images. And usually they’re done such
a way that the way the brain works, it looks like it’s moving. Because
it’s looking straight on. And looking to the side. And less to the
side. And straight on. Like, it creates motion. Sense of motion.
So lenticular design says, “You have to understand that different
people will look at the cards and see different movements of the
head.” And that you the designer kind of have to understand all the
different vantage points. That what does the beginner see when they
look at this card? What does the medium player when they look at the
card? What does an advanced player see when they look at this card?
What does a Johnny see? What does a Timmy see? What does a Spike see?
That’s the next level, by the way. Today’s level, because I’m doing
complexity, is about experience level.
But what I’ve learned from this is if you extrapolate out, what you
will learn is, you could apply the lenses of how people look at the
cards, and you can do that for other things. I’m looking at right now,
experience level, but imagine looking at it for a psychographic. Or
looking at it for Vorthos vs. Melvin. I mean, there’s a lot of
different ways you could look at something.
And that -- that’s pretty exciting, because it means that you can --
one of the problems we always have when doing design is, you only get
so many cards. But as soon as I say, “Imagine this, that you can
design two cards but have them fill one space,” that, my friends, is
quite exciting.
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