Critique of database

General ideas, features requests, comments, concerns, complaints about MTG Studio desktop application

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Critique of database

Postby gleavitt » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:24 pm

The following critique is given out of frustration and a desire to see improvement. MTGStudio could be the best collection managing app on the market. It is simple in its layout and elegant in its features. Although built on the shoulders of similar applications that came before it, MTGStudio has evolved over the years while staying true to it's original vision and is one of the few offline databases still being supported. Barely.

Today is Nov 22, 2015. It has been exactly one month since the last update to the database. When the last update was pushed, it was with the latest Duel Deck still missing. Duel Decks: Zendikar vs. Eldrazi was released August 28, 2015. That product was also missing from two other updates before that and is now almost 3 months out of sync. Since the last update, we have seen the releases of the Commander 2015 and the 2015 Holiday Gift Box. Per the version history page, there are no indications these later products will be included in the next update, although given past updates it is likely that page won't be updated until the next version is actually pushed, so who knows? We are still missing the tokens from Commander 2014, Dragons of Tarkir, Modern Masters 2015, and Origins; the most extreme case of which is now more than a year out of sync. The extended sequence number Origins cards from starter packs have been missing for more than 4 months and 3 updates. There are missing critical promotional cards from set releases and FNM going back over two years too numerous to list to say nothing of the more obscure promotional cards also missing. Factual errors and inconsistencies such as color and naming styles are common and go without correction despite redundant posts pointing them out and requests to fix them.

Pricing features, trade management, proxy printing, and online only set features aside, MTGStudio is first and foremost a collection management tool for real players with real cards in real collections. Critical to that purpose, the database must be designed to keep track of those cards in real time. That means the most important feature of the app is accurate, complete, on-time updates as the pool of real cards grows. This is the *most* important thing. If only one thing can be done to make this app better, it's to update the card pool with complete card lists and on time. We can debate whether 'on time' means when prereleases occur or when boxes are put on shelves for sale and whether decklist products like duel and commander decks are as important as new expansions and core sets, but slow, incomplete updates are easily the top source of frustration to users currently.

Also critical is the ability to turn a collection of cards into actual deck lists. This means working filters and sorting options should take priority over flashy gimmicks. There are currently problems with grouping where groups don't include card names with numbering or characteristic comments (e.g. "(1)" or "[foil]"), Name ordering that does not follow alphabetical order for names starting lower case letters, and Sequence ordering for sequence numbers with alphanumeric entries instead of just numeric. Grouping by color for colorless and artifact cards is also broken because of colorless cards marked as artifacts and vice versa, but this is a problem with the data rather than the code. These should be fixed with a sense of urgency and have all been pointed out in this forum in the past.

A less critical, but still important feature is the card image. Users want to be able to look at their card and match it against what they see on the screen. This is probably why errors in actual data such color or card text go unnoticed. High quality images are best to accommodate large screen resolutions, but I hope the reason we wait weeks for data updates isn't because we are waiting for the high quality images to become available. An on time update with low res images from Gatherer is better than a 2 week+ wait for someone to make high res images.

After those three things, we can debate about the importance of other features. I think most users would agree the above are what they want first. Automated price updates would be a high priority for many people who also trading into and out of their collections. Importing and exporting of collection and decklist files are important, although I think most of us would be willing to give up the obscure older formats like the Microprose game. A revamp of how tokens and promotional cards are handled is probably way over due, but those issues can still be worked around as long as they are already in the database to start with. I would like to see a filter option that would allow advanced users to filter and sort by writing their own SQL statements. The list goes on, but the top three improvements are as mentioned above.

Again, I only bother bringing up these issues because MTGStudio would otherwise be the only offline database worth using. I don't want to abandon the time and work I've already put into building my collection with MTGStudio and learning it's features and nuances, but I find myself more and more frustrated with long waits for updates, inaccuracies, and lack of communication with each new set that is released. I realize it is a chore to maintain a database of every Magic card ever printed with new major releases every 3 months and smaller product releases on an almost monthly basis to say nothing of the near continuous stream of promotional cards, but that's what this product is about. Maybe some users don't mind these waits and bugs, but I suspect I am among the majority with these concerns. Many people wouldn't bother to complain and will just "vote with their feet" by moving onto to something that offers the features they want, even if they are giving up some otherwise great features that are less important to them. I walk that line myself, and have even written my own database. I only lack the experience to design an interface for Windows as elegant as MTGStudio's or I would have already moved on.

I don't know if this will go anywhere or if Gadlord even reads this forum anymore. I'm obviously not dictating how things have to be, just how they should be if you want to keep a viable user base. I'm even willing to contribute by writing updates if Gadlord would take the help.

Thanks for reading.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby CptDobey » Mon Nov 23, 2015 6:05 am

Hello,

I do strongly approve that message.

Even if I clearly understand the Gaddlord's situation - MTGStudio is not his main activity. He has a job and a family - I also perfectly understand and share the opinion expressed above.

I've also tried many, many MTG:S alternatives - either web site or application - and two things prevent me to move on:
- the application/site is just rubbish,
and/or
- I'm unable to import my MtG:S collection efficiently.

The situation is even more frustrating when you compare it to Magic Workstation: That application has not been update since Augustus 2005 - no there is no tipo, see http://www.magicworkstation.com/news.php - but its database is most of the time updated faster than the one of MtG:S.

There are certainly many good reasons for this - MtG:S is richer, more complex and has features absent from MW - but from the customer point of view it is very hard to understand.

Regards,
Dob'
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Re: Critique of database

Postby Halistar » Tue Nov 24, 2015 5:51 pm

I think the number 1 way to improve MTG Studio would be to simplify how new cards are added, to the point that they can be user added. Magic players tend to be very intelligent people, so even if there were a fairly complex process, I bet we could figure it out.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby Clansman » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:16 am

Greetings all,

First of all the post Gleavitt wrote is well written. But I do not agree. MTG Studio is good program for a (I think) very low price. There are no unual fees or hidden costs at all. For me as a casual player that doesn't buy too many cards anymore it is doable to wait for the new sets to enter. I can understand if piles of cards are waiting to be filed it is something different. If all should be up to date asap than an anual fee might be required. If enough people pay for update to be on time it might be worth to do so for Gaddlord (if he would be willing to give up his current career etc). But at this time , as I see it, you buy a good program for a very decent price and the updates are a nice bonus (and also keep the program usable).

As for the Halistar post. Somehow people tend to overrate the intelligence of the group that they are part of. Yes some very intelligent people play magic but on the other hand so do I.

Cheers,
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Re: Critique of database

Postby bdaddy » Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:57 pm

Here is the problem as I see it. I agree that the program needs to be updated in a timely manner. The biggest problem in my eyes is that Gadd has been online and has not addressed this issue at all. It is almost as if he has an attitude that he already has our money and doesn't care about making timely updates. For a developer that is inexcusable and a slap in the face to everyone who is using this program and has been waiting on updates since August now.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby Brettweer » Wed Dec 02, 2015 10:07 am

bdaddy wrote:Here is the problem as I see it. I agree that the program needs to be updated in a timely manner. The biggest problem in my eyes is that Gadd has been online and has not addressed this issue at all. It is almost as if he has an attitude that he already has our money and doesn't care about making timely updates. For a developer that is inexcusable and a slap in the face to everyone who is using this program and has been waiting on updates since August now.

Agreed. Gadd can you at least give us a reply on the topic? No response at all on your part tells us that you just don't care and are not willing to support product anymore. I would be willing to pay some kind of annual subscription if that would help, love the product but it is no good without updates and support. Your unwillingness to give any type of response lately is worrying to say the least.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby waynem37 » Fri Dec 04, 2015 7:37 am

Also missing now from ONE YEAR AGO - Duel Decks: Anthology.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby Halistar » Fri Dec 04, 2015 8:32 am

He did just approve my other post soliciting feedback for other databases. Not exactly a post which will do him any good. My guess is that he sees that this is falling apart.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby CptDobey » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:07 pm

It will be easier for everyone if there are some kind of update rule as: updates are only done for large sets - ie 4 times per year - and will include any supplemental products release between them (such as Commander, pre-build decks, FNM....

This is the implicit rule for years...most of the time. But it will be nice to officialise it.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby Moosesjr » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:22 pm

You click on Gadd's name and it shows that he has not been online since 3 December so he has not seen any of this at all. It is just like after MM2 when we received nothing from him for months.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby gaddlord » Fri Jan 01, 2016 6:44 am

Very good comments and suggestions. Thank you for bringing those in the light of productive conversation.

I do believe a reply which will partially answer your concerns is available at http://www.mtgstudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4328.

Please submit all of your feature improvements as separate threads. This way I can track them easier.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby gaddlord » Fri Jan 01, 2016 9:39 am

MTG Studio 3.39 just got released. Check http://www.mtgstudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4329.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby gaddlord » Fri Jan 01, 2016 9:41 am

Moosesjr wrote:You click on Gadd's name and it shows that he has not been online since 3 December so he has not seen any of this at all. It is just like after MM2 when we received nothing from him for months.

I mostly read the forum from Feedly through RSS integration. You cannot judge for my activity through the phpBB metrics. But I agree it has been a while since I posted.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby bdaddy » Sat Jan 02, 2016 6:13 pm

gaddlord wrote:
Moosesjr wrote:You click on Gadd's name and it shows that he has not been online since 3 December so he has not seen any of this at all. It is just like after MM2 when we received nothing from him for months.

I mostly read the forum from Feedly through RSS integration. You cannot judge for my activity through the phpBB metrics. But I agree it has been a while since I posted.


Therein lies the problem. As the only developer for the product you need to actually be visible. This topic started 4 December and now we have a reply. You should have seen this post and others and actually replied. You might read it some other way but it should be through this website so we can actually see you care. In the last month mtgcollectionbuilder.com has released more than you have in months.

It is also highly unprofessional to make customers wait for updates especially if you were notified and linked to WOTC's announcements.
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Re: Critique of database

Postby gaddlord » Sun Jan 03, 2016 3:26 pm

I am working on adding some missing sets and promos as we speak. In fact I admit that the last months some set and promos come in delay.

Yet if we speak of professionalism does not measure with the number of cards supported. If that was the measure you should be aware that MTG Studio is by far the most richest in terms of cards Deck and Collection editor. Here are the numbers of a of today 03 Jan 2016:

Number of supported cards
33711 - MTG Studio
28662 - Magic Workstation
15440 - Gatherer
26957 - MTG Collection Builder
26737 - MTG Online
27067 - Magic Assistant
23917 - Magic Homebrew
15106 - Forge
21201 - Magic Suitcase

Yet I agree on the point that the set updates for recently released sets and promos should come first in priority and released as soon as possible.
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