Monday, March 3, 2008

Some D&D4 Impressions

I'm reading a lot of the information that came back from D&D Experience. Now that the cat is out of the bag, more people are posting their 4E impressions. Some things that have struck me as interesting or important over the last couple of days:

Keith Baker, creator of Eberron, compares 4E to World of Warcraft and MMORPGs on his blog. He has design experience with both so he has some insight.

Jason Buhlman, from Paizo Publishing, gave some criticism of combat in 4E in an Enworld interview. The first real criticism I've seen:

Jason contended that the new edition's apparent focus on adding variety to player options and keeping people engaged at the table at all times had seemed to him, after 2 preview sessions, to be a "partial success." While the "Encounter" and "Daily" powers on the sheet were interesting, it seemed like PCs were once more reduced to "doing the same thing over and over again" after they had burned through them, something that the 4e designers had at least ostensibly attempted to avoid. He confirmed that, in one of the previews he played, a final combat had lasted for nearly 40 rounds(!) (apparently against the 280 hit point Black Dragon mentioned elsewhere).

Finally, one of the D&D Experience participants, Mike Shea, was able to reconstruct the second adventure that was played. He posted it here. So we've got sample characters now and a full adventure.

The D&D Insider interview on Enworld revealed a few details that I think are wrong with the product. These are all things that have been done for business reasons. First, you have to purchase the electronic miniatures beyond a base set. This might makes sense with a stand alone, retail product, but with a subscription service, this kind of stuff should come for free. If they really want to go this route, they should print codes on the D&D miniature products that allow use in Insider. Second, you can't do any of your own 3D modeling and custom import stuff. They were surprised that they had so many requests for this. Third, and most importantly, you can't print your fancy maps, since it would compete with their Dungeon Tile products. I'm not about to create a fancy map so that guy across the country can play with us, but not have the same map available to my players in front of me. I'm hoping they go back home with some clearer ideas on how players intend to use this thing.


  1. Sounds like they need to pick a model:

    1) Subscription based ala most US based MMOGs where you pay one fee and everything is included
    2) Free to use, but with a fee for extras ala most Asian based MMOGs where anyone can play for free, but if you want the cool specialized stuff you have to pay extra.

    It sounds like they're trying to double-dip, which is just going to piss everyone off.

    BTW, your idea of codes with the collectible minis sounds ok, but would probably be a nightmare in practice. For example, how did you get most of your collectible minis? IIRC, you got them as singles. When you buy as singles theres a good chance that the code is already used by someone else.

    They simply need to ditch the idea of charging more for extras and just raise subscription fees if they really need the extra revenue to justify development.

  2. That's a good point. Pick a business model and stick with it.

    Codes on collectibles is all the rage right now, with various models, usually in the CCG market.

    I'm with you however. If you're charging $11.95/month, mostly to keep the servers up and you can't add new content without charging for it, just charge $14.95/month and add some value on a regular basis.

    From what I've seen so far, they seem a bit out of their league with their digital initiatives. I can understand how this might seem new to them, but there are millions of customers here and they need to step up.

  3. I suppose you could put the code on the stat card under a rub-off coating like with the CCGs, but I still think it would turn into a headache.

    The subscription model is still the best. Then you simply have a binary setting for every account it's either on (subscription current) or off (subscription canceled). With premium add-ons you have the hassle of every account being different. Of course, the computers are supposed to keep track of all that, but as I'm sure you know, shit happens and things get screwed up. Either through human error or equipment failure. It's much easier to recover from such situations if every account is essentially identical.

    Also, there's no additional perceived barrier to entry with a subscription model. Let's say that WotC adds one $5 premium addition to the online service every month. What happens if I don't start playing until next year? Now I'm looking at $60 to catch up. Two years from now and it's $120! To the hardcore that may be reasonable, but the hardcore have been playing all along. The more casual gamers, the ones that you're hoping to add over the lifetime of the line, they are going to be very turned off by that.

    You're much more likely to get new people into the system if they can start paying their subscription fees and immediately have all the content available to them that everyone else has.