To compete in the GDS2, I will need to design an interesting world that leads to fun mechanics and gameplay. I'm not going to commit myself to anything this early, but I wanted to share my thought process for a first attempt at a concept.
Step 1: What do I Like?
My favorite conceptual aspect of Magic is the color wheel. I love the philosophical and idealogical aspects of each color, and how that translates into mechanics.
My favorite set theme was Shards of Alara. It explored the color pie in a way that had never been done before, giving us five worlds that embodied different aspects (and absences) of each color. I like the way it gave each segment a distinct mechanical identity.
My favorite unexplored space in Magic is the color wheel aspects outside of their stereotypes. People forget that red is the color of passion and love, and black is the color of open-mindedness and dealmaking.
Step 2: World Concept
Imagine, if you will, a world where each color has found peace and lives in harmony with its ideals. Red is the color of artists and lovers. Blue is the color of teachers and philosophers. Black is the color of idealized Randian capitalists, living in a mutually-beneficial society of enlightened self-interest. Magic is powerful and widespread, but not used for violence.
Now, this world comes under attack by some horrible outside force, shattering the peace and prosperity. Utopia is under attack by violent forces they do not understand. Finally, here is the lynchpin of the theme: They fight back.
Step 3: Thematic Concept
In two words, "Weaponized Paradise."
What does it look like when red mages kill you with love and creativity rather than rage? How does blue act when it outthinks you with benevolent wisdom instead of callous arrogance? How do I get around the fact that black has been stereotyped as a bad guy for 17 years?
Each color has aspects rarely seen in Magic because they don't make much sense in a game that is fundamentally about conflict and combat. I want to take these aspects, and force them to fit. Let's make art and creativity and wisdom badass.
Step 4: Mechanics
"The colors like you've never seen them before."
I want to explore the boundaries of the color pie as thoroughly as possible without breaking them. I want the colors to explore new space in a way that fits with their ideas. All sounds good and shiny, but what the hell does that mean in terms of the actual game?
I want to take a page out of the Shards playbook and give each color a recognizable keyword or mechanic that really summarizes what I'm trying to show with the color.
Enemy color hybrid seems like it might be a good to show off some of their non-stereotypical interpretations. Improvisation and creativity represented by blue/red spells that draw cards with an emphasis on randomness, or black/white spells about power and authority.
Step 5: Skepticism
I'm not sure I'll stick with this idea. I'm in love with it right now, but I recognize that ideas have a honeymoon period before you start recognizing their flaws. Feedback is encouraged.