WotC’s series of tubes still clogged 14 hours later; video trickles out

(For those of you just joining us, Wizards of the Coast announced D&D 4th Edition and their web server turned into a small pile of crisped meat. Also, the new edition will be accompanied by a big online product, which is sort of a part of this other Gleemax thing.)

Well, it’s more articulate than “Service Unavailable” now, but still, the idea that they didn’t think to invest in a short-term bandwidth solution is just embarrassing. However, I think we can trust this video of the D&D Insider gameplay screen, seeing as how it comes from the same YouTube user that posted all this other stuff including the complete Gen Con presentation.

I’m disappointed in the approach they took to online play, although not for the reasons you’re seeing all over – “Oh, boo hoo, D&D is just a video game now.” And what, Mr. Bitter McNostalgiapants? – but for reasons of practicality. There’s a shift now starting in online gaming, away from downloads and 3D and toward in-browser games that can be developed more quickly and reach more people faster. It worries me that WotC is throwing more software at the problem of an authoritative online-play experience than they really need to, instead of taking this more agile, less-software approach; I fear another Master Tools debacle.

At the same time, it’s incredibly clear that we’re not looking at the final version of the software. So I reserve judgment. I also hope to see more of the social aspects of the D&D Insider product, and how they’ll be integrating their online supplements into this whole thing.


  1. So, now the core D&D website is feeling a little better, and it has a Playtest Report linked from the front page, and I find this:

    And Dave spent nearly 10 minutes constructing (using Dungeon Tiles!) an ominous, crypt-lined ruin complete with three golden sarcophagi that emanated magic. Dave did a good job laying out the floor plan of the room. Such a good job that we lingered in the door looking into the shadow-lined mausoleum for a minute, then, another . . . then decided as a group that, loot or no loot, perhaps it would be better to let whatever lay in the deathly quite of the tomb alone. So, we closed the door and continued down the main hallway.

    Sorry, Dave.

    I’m not saying D&D4 should necessarily do anything about these sorts of cases, or that anything can necessarily be done reliably. But putting it in your marketing materials? Weak Sauce. “Hey kids, come play D&D so your friends can waste your time, effort, and contribution for you!” Hopefully something’s in the game that makes the DM’s job a little less thankless.

  2. As a Mr. Bitter McNostalgiapants I am simply not thrilled with what they’re doing. I think when I look at this overall it just seems like the direction they are taking the game in is being dictated by, “Hey guys, you know what the kids are into these days? The Internet! Let’s get in on that!” as opposed to, “Let’s build a better game system.” When I see D&D Insider I don’t see the future, I see WOTC being ticked off that there are already third party applications that facilitate online gaming and they want to get their fingers into that pie.

    And ultimately it just feels like instead of trying to figure out how to get people together around a table in RL, it’s easier for them to throw up their hands and just slap together an online game system. Look, if you have five people who have enough time on their hands to sit in front of their computer and play then they have enough time to get together face-to-face and play.

    Of course as long as the core books is all that is needed to play I guess all the online stuff won’t matter to gamers such as myself, whose games are strongly homebrewed. And hey, there’s plenty of other game systems out there. I’ve been loving Castles and Crusades, and I’m guessing that when ’08 rolls around I’ll still be loving it.

  3. Mike, I also noticed that passage but it was remarkable to me for a different reason.

    These guys were supposed to be playtesting the game, and yet they didn’t enter the elaborate room? Shouldn’t their characters’ ultimate safety be unimportant next to the opportunity the room provides for, you know, playtesting the new rules? Heck, even if they weren’t playtesting, it’s a game of adventure, not a game of avoiding any potential risk!

    That said, maybe the DM should simply have described what they saw and waited to see if they were entering the room before setting it all up…

  4. I’m not excited by what they showed of the online stuff either. Providing tools to make the DMs life easier is ok, but I’d prefer that they made the DMs life easier by simplifying and/or fixing the game systems. The tool for creating character art looks fun though.

    The approach they are taking to the online play table seems to be to try and match the visual quality of computer roleplaying games, and I have very mixed feelings about that. I guess it might make D&D more tempting to people who are really into computer games, and that would be a huge win if they pull it off. On the other hand it’s an approach that’s very expensive to develop, and as you’ve pointed out, not very agile. It also ties them in to the video-game graphics “arms race”: it may look good right now, but in 3 years time it will look old and sad and tired compared to the latest computer games.

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