Posted on February 21st, 2018 / Arthur
Much like tabletop Magic, Magic: Puzzle Quest’s gameplay revolves around the intricacies and strengths of the unique decks players create. It’s no surprise then that players will seek out informative sources that contain details about the plethora of cards available to them.
Many are familiar with our official card gallery, however one player from our forum wanted to take that concept even further. They envisioned a resource that not only showed you the cards and their abilities, but also granular search functionality, Planeswalker details at all levels, and even a database to store your deck creations!
If you’re a frequent forum-goer, you probably already know that this person is none other than Octal9 and his website, mtgpq.info
D3 Go: For those who don’t know you yet, could you please introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about your background, skills, and interests?
Octal9: Hi! I’m Jermaine, or as I’m better known – octal9. For some reason my employer pays me to write buggy code – mtgpq.info is actually an extension of what I do professionally as a Java developer. When I’m not doing that I can be found playing hockey, working on my computer, or fussing about with LEGO. I… could probably use some cheaper hobbies, like maybe paper airplanes or something?
D3 Go: What intrigued you about Magic: The Gathering, and eventually led you to Magic: Puzzle Quest?
Octal9: Oh boy. Okay, I guess it’s confession time: I’ve never once played Magic: The Gathering and actually had to receive a crash course in Tapping/Untapping from matthew & Tilwin in the Alliance’s slack. I’ve always had a love for card & table top games, but just never had the time (nor budget!) for MTG.
I started playing Magic: Puzzle Quest at release when it was listed on the New section of Google’s Play Store. Even without an MTG background I loved it – that’s part of what makes it such a great game. It’s the blend of strategy and the ever-so-popular Match-3 mechanic that sucked me in. In fact, Magic: Puzzle Quest does something that very few Match-3 games do: as long as you have a healthy Planeswalker, it allows you to play without running out of “energy.” This was another draw for me.
Unfortunately I took a bit of time off from it (my tablet decided it’d rather be a fancy brick), and then came back to the game around July 2016. At the time I was a heavy user of another site for Magic: Puzzle Quest called Decktester, but I noticed something was amiss when I couldn’t find an entry for Geier Reach Bandit…
D3 Go: Your website, mtgpq.info, is a wealth of information for players. Is it true that you developed the entire site yourself?
Octal9: It’s true: I personally coded both the front and back ends of the website. It’s basically an API wrapped around a database, which has allowed me to create other useful tools like mtgpq_bot for Discord & Slack, and has allowed other users to generate tools for their coalitions.
With that said, the actual hard work has been performed by the Magic: Puzzle Quest community. The one thing you can’t get anywhere but mtgpq.info is Planeswalker Level-By-Level data, and a significant portion of that has been generously provided to me by the hard work of countless players – and a mysterious benefactor at D3 Go! that I won’t name.
Oh! I mentioned Decktester earlier. Without Decktester, I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to create mtgpq.info.
D3 Go: Most players just see the final result of your effort, but many are unaware of the intricacies involved in updating your site’s database with new cards. Would you mind explaining a bit of the process and the hard-work involved in doing so?
Octal9: Honestly the biggest issue is just the sheer amount of data that needs to be parsed. Many people don’t realize it but 180+ cards is a lot for any one person to do, so the first thing I did was set out to automate as much of the process as I could. This meant doing what I do best: writing a program (well, maybe not best, but I do well enough at it).
That initial program (called a “scraper”) downloads all of the data from the official card preview on D3 Go’s website. It picks up the card name, details (i.e. card text), type, rarity, and deck (e.g. Ixalan). It also downloads the cards’ renderings – the same images we see in game. I decided that wasn’t enough, so I modified the scraper further – it is now capable of performing analysis on the card art to pick up its colors and mana costs. When all is said and done, I have the bulk of my data in about 20 seconds.
The next step is the actual hard part. I manually pore over each and every single card in the release and catalog it; I store the cards Evergreens (e.g. Flying, Vigilance), Secondary Types (e.g. Angel), and Abilities (e.g. Exert, Exile) – also, name that card. This step takes about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the set – sometimes I have to add new Subtypes (Dinosaurs!) or Abilities to the database. I have an optical character recognition implementation in place to aid in this step but it’s not ready and needs some tuning. I plan to have that completed soon, hopefully by Rivals of Ixalan.
After that, I review all of the changes in my testing environment. This step takes 2-4 hours, because I’m a “Measure Twice, Cut Once” kind of person.
Once testing is complete, I perform the database import and refresh the website’s cache for the rest of the world to see.
It’s a pretty simple process!
D3 Go: What are some of your goals or ambitions for mtgpq.info? Anything new on the horizon?
Octal9: Right now the goal is just to be the most complete and most accurate source for information about Magic: Puzzle Quest. I have a long way to go to get there – there are various errata all over, zero information about events, abilities need to be revamped, there’s no glossary, and all cards older than the site (from Origins through Shadows Over Innistrad) still need to be fully cataloged!
As for the horizon – when I have free time, I’ve been hard at work on the events section of the site. When it’s complete it’ll allow the user to view all details about an event – what the rewards are, objectives, when the nodes recharge, that kind of thing.
D3 Go: Do you have any final remarks?
Octal9: It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of the community that has banded together around this game. The passion and dedication is very surprising for a mobile game.
Like many others, I’m also very excited to see what Oktagon brings to the table. I was very happy with how the Booster Crafting system has worked; it’s brought a new difficulty to the game among veteran players. With Ixalan and the upcoming planeswalkers, it’s going to be fun to craft new decks to smash more face with!
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Octal9! If you want to take a closer look, and try out his Magic: Puzzle Quest website, then head on over to mtgpq.info