D&DI Update & Commentary
Wizard’s Randy Buehler posted an update on the D&DI product set yesterday. Although it is disheartening that none of the unreleased major products is ready for release, I want to thank Randy and Wizards for providing what seems like an honest assessment of the current situation. Leaving customers in the dark is the worst thing you can do, so regular, realistic updates are critical to not pissing off your potential customer base — particularly for a new product.
Let’s look at each element of D&DI:
1) Dragon and Dungeon magazines. These are up and running and I have been happy with the content and presentation. I really like the landscape page layout because it minimized column length and allows for better inclusion of sidebars, stat blocks, and resources. Good work Wizards!
2) The D&D Compendium. This has been a bit of a let down, but they are making improvements (posted by our favorite gnome) and soliciting feedback. But it looks like you still can’t search by keyword — such as “at-will”. [CORRECTION: You can! This makes the compendium much more useful.] Doing search right and satisfying everyone is hard as long as Wizards keeps improving the functionality, I won’t get too ranty.
3) The Bonus Tools. I suppose for “bonus items” I shouldn’t complain, but both the Encounter Builder and Ability Generator while having some limited usefulness are pretty clunky and not very friendly. If I had made them for myself I would be satisfied, but for a product for customers they need some more work.
4a) The Character Visualizer. I have never cared about the Visualizer. Creating a portrait of my character really isn’t important to me. I only have the vaguest impression of what my characters look like — it is the personality and effectiveness that I care about. Additionally since this is a Windows client application, I won’t be using it.
4b) The Character Generator. This is the application that I have been fairly excited about — to simplify my desire to find an build for optimal flavor and efficacy, and to simplify the process for those that I play with so that they don’t have to invest time into meticulously copying powers and computing bonuses. But the latest update dashed my hopes. I finally noticed that this is a Windows client application. WTF?!?! There is nothing about generating a character sheet and power cards that prevent this from being a web application. This also explains why this isn’t ready yet. Looks like I may be using what I learned creating spellbook to create a character generator of my own (for my personal, not public, use).
5) Dungeon Builder. It would be nice if this was also a web app, but since it isn’t I probably won’t be using it. Wizards believes that it is “mostly done” but since the Game Table (below) isn’t ready the primary use of the application is negated. Wizards should let people give this a try so that DMs can discover bugs now so they can be resolved before there is a crush of bug reports for the Game Table.
6) The Game Table. Another Windows client application that seems could be significantly more simple as a 2D web application. The minimum set of functionality for on-line playing of D&D is chat (voice chat would be great), a 2D map that players can interact with via their character and DM can add monsters, traps, etc. While 3D is neat-o, it is entirely unnecessary and is only add-on eye candy. But since this is a Windows client app, I doubt I’ll ever use it.
7) Pricing. Since none of the client applications are ready they’ll be staring with a “web-only” price of $4.95/month (with a 12 month commitment). This price is fair (for Dragon and Dungeon alone) and I will pony up the cash. I do hope that Wizards has thoroughly though out on-line payment — they don’t want a crush of people trying to subscribe only to fail because of some bug in the process. If after the client applications are available the web-only option is eliminated it is highly likely that I will be unwilling to pay $9.95/month (with a 12 month commitment) for D&DI — there is just too much that I won’t be able to use.