DraftCap - The Easy Way to Record Your Drafts!
Have you ever finished a draft on Magic Online that leaves you completely mystified? Where you have no idea how you're going to assemble a “deck” out of the pile of cards sitting before you? Where you just have to wonder "where the hell did that go wrong?"
I certainly have. I suspect that most people have. It's frustrating, because most of us want to believe that if the draft went wrong, then we must've done something wrong - and hopefully something we can learn from, so that it doesn't happen (or happens less) in the future. We want to go back in time, to see what we didn't see the first time through, and figure out what we would've done differently had we just noticed that one card, or thought about the direction of our deck just a little bit more.
Of course, you could always record your drafts, the way walkthrough writers often do. You could take screenshots of every pick, and write them down later, or quickly take note of the cards in each pack. But that's a lot of work. Who wants to go through all of that every time they do a draft?
What if there was a simple way to record all of your drafts, one that required virtually no work on your part? What if you could easily save these recordings, and review them whenever you liked? What if you could share them with other people, to ask for their opinions?
Now you can.
My name is Mark Schmit. I've been playing Magic in some capacity since Fallen Empires, but it wasn't until a Mirrodin Sealed Pro Tour Qualifier that I attended my first non-prerelease sanctioned event. Soon after that I finally started seriously drafting with the people at CMU (where I was by that time a senior). After I graduated, I moved to New York, where I began working as a programmer. Since then I've been drafting and playing a lot at Neutral Ground, to some success (including a Limited PTQ win, a Nationals grinder slot and a Champs Top-8). I've only been drafting in some capacity for a little over two years now, and would say that I've gotten quite a bit better in that time. Nonetheless, I feel that I still have plenty of room for improvement.
As everyone knows, when it comes to drafting, one of the best ways to get better is through discussion. While simple situations are easy to talk about ("What would you pick first-pick-first-pack out of these X cards?"), later picks become increasingly difficult because of an almost complete lack of context. You can describe the parts of the draft you remember as being relevant, but there will probably be details missing. This is part of the appeal of draft walkthroughs - you get to see the whole context, to understand (or question) the logic at every pick, for a very detailed and specific situation. Meanwhile, the person who did the walkthrough gets useful outside opinions that take the whole situation into account. Everybody wins.
Last year, while I was home visiting my parents for Christmas, I was discussing this with a friend of mine from school, and we decided it would be great to have no-work draft recording. Within a week I had developed a script that could take a screenshot of a draft and recognize the names on the cards. Over the course of the next many months (between working, playing, and traveling) I developed this further, fixing bugs with “odd” cards (like flip-cards), adding more output capabilities, and most importantly making the program easier to use.
The end result is a program called “MTGO DraftCap.” (Creative, eh?) The program is designed to make recording of drafts as easy as possible. To use it, simply start the program, double-click its icon in the Windows System Tray (down by the clock) when you start a draft, and double-click the icon again when you're done. That's it! Once you're finished, a recording of the draft should pop up on your screen.
Some details on how it works: DraftCap, once activated, essentially “listens” for mouse clicks, and if they are going to MTGO, it takes a screenshot of MTGO and tries to read the card title of every card in the pack. If you clicked within one of the card's borders, it will add the list of cards and what you picked to the recording. At the end of the draft, it simply writes this information out to a file and opens it up.
(Note that because DraftCap has to recognize card names on the screen, you don't want anything obscuring the cards, so it's best to disable any “always-on-top” applications and set MTGO's “Pop-Up Card Text Delay” to maximum before you draft, and also to make sure that MTGO is the foreground window before you make your pick.)
Of course, there are more options you can use within DraftCap. To see them, right-click on its icon and select “Preferences.” Here's a quick run-down of what they do:
Sound: Toggle the default “old-style camera” click that plays whenever a pick is recorded. The sound lets you know that a pick was recorded successfully.
Show Final Deck: Include your final decklist in the draft recording. This requires you to tell DraftCap where you've installed MTGO, so it can find your draft decklists. If you have this enabled, you should wait until after you have submitted your decklist to end the draft recording.
Send Error Email: Allow the program to send “broken” screenshots (those where a name doesn't parse correctly) back to me via email. This helps me find bugs that are difficult to see by simply doing drafts on my own. It's disabled by default, to allay any potential privacy concerns. However, it only captures the area of the screen taken up by MTGO, and I get no identifying information except for the list of people in the draft. I hope that people turn this on, because it will help the program improve in the future.
Draft-Recording Directory: Specify where the draft recordings are saved. By default this is DraftCap's install directory, but you can choose another location.
Note that the standard DraftCap install supports only Champions through Dissension, Mirage/Visions, plus Ninth Edition. For additional set support, download the appropriate card lists from Blargware.com and install them into the DraftCap directory. Note that "old" set support (i.e. Mirage/Visions) is brand new and only slightly tested, so there may be bugs with that. Obviously DraftCap won't initially work with MTGO 3.0, but hopefully making it work won't be out of the question - I won't know for sure until we see some screenshots of the drafting interface.
Finally, I want to warn people that DraftCap currently uses a decent amount of RAM. This is part of the reason that only current MTGO sets are supported – the more card lists installed, the more RAM it takes. If you don't have much RAM, running DraftCap might slow your computer down significantly. While I don't expect this to be a problem for most people, it is something to keep in mind. (For reference, I usually play on my 1Ghz laptop with 320MB of RAM with all 54 sets installed, and have no problems. Your mileage may vary.)
So there it is – an easier way to record your drafts.
My hope is that DraftCap will prove useful to a lot of people, and will facilitate a lot of good discussion (and draft walkthroughs) as we play with Ravnica block and its unique drafting environment. Creating it was a lot of work, and I'd like to thank everyone that helped contribute to its development, particularly Philip Yam and Rich Fein for their diligent beta testing.
MTGO DraftCap is currently free to use and distribute, so long as all appropriate documentation remains with it. StarCityGames.com has generously offered to host the DraftCap download (~7MB). To get a copy, click here.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me. Or post in the forums and I'll try to answer them ASAP.
blargster [at] blargware [dot] com
rKane in the forums and on MTGO