Character Builder in Silverlight?

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Don't get me wrong - I am thrilled that Character Builder is going to a web app. There were tons of problems with the downloadable version, top-most being programmed in dotnet3.5s2 which made it as portable as a grand piano, not to mention having an awkward, slow interface typical of .net windows applications. Silverlight is at least compatible with Mac, and Linux users can cross their fingers in hopes that it will work with Moonlight (an arguably superior open-source alternative to Silverlight).

But really, why are we seemingly obsessed with making Character builder in C#? At it's base, it's a DB application with lots of table interdependencies and calculations. Silverlight is basically Miscrosoft C# wrapped up in a nasty hacked version of Flash with a Miscosoft trademark. Is this really a good idea?

In all, I'm hopeful for cross-platform compatibility, but I'm also leary and expect lots of problems.
I'm guessing because it's a quick port of the downloadable version?

I don't have the first clue how their internal development team is organized, but I'm guessing with the whole community website being housed on IIS/ASP.NET that perhaps they're trying to use as few platforms as possible (that is, Visual Studio).

C# seems like a perfectly reasonable choice to drive a UI over top of a (relatively small) database, so I'm not sure if there's an obviously better answer.

As far as problems, I think that's a given.  Running .NET in a plugin is not going to magically solve all of the CB issues, and will likely yield a few more.
Silverlight makes me shudder just a little, but I'm still cheering.

Over-all, I still think it's a step in the right direction. Silverlight is still more portable than .net (That's my own pet issue b/c my main OS is Linux). I am still very excited that I will at least be able to run it on my MacBook if not my Favourite Linux flauvour running Moonlight. Honestly this is great. My own personal preference would be that they make it with something like python or php with html5 and mysql or postgresql - because that would just mean they have awesome coders working on the project. 'Course they would have to start over completely.

(evil) Now, how about an ANDROID app? (/evil)
The "problem" is that the devs at WotC are focused on C#/.NET so it would be very risky to switch to any other technology because of lacking expertise. With Silverlight all devs can continue to use the programming language they are most familiar with and lose next to no productivity. Also, HTML5 is not yet feature complete and even the W3C recommends not using it yet for production.
The core things my group and I care about are functionality at the game table (things like iplay4e and in-combat which are not fancy graphics wise but make excelent use of their space and the process flow of playing a game).  The second most important thing is functionality for the DM prepping for a sessions encounters (In-Combat is fantastic for fight prep due to its import of parties in iplay4e and monster entries from the compendium with the exception of story/map integration).  These sorts of things are what we want out of our tools.  Some simple things could improve the adventures in dungeon magazines too (the full compendium monster link included at the bottom of the stat block would be handy to avoid having to search for each monster name when I set up an encounter)...  All of these things make compendium and DDI access more desireable not less.  If DDI had all of this functionality that the third party gamer developters have built for free then people might come back, but right now there is a big functionality gap that needs to be filled and good will that needs to be patched.  The most favored tools are also compatible with phones and any browser/OS my PC's may want (which is prety much the whole gambit from windows to mac to linux, to iphones, androids etc.).
I'm not really happy with the switch, but I'll stick with it for the first couple months at least. If I see that it is causing more problems than the benefits I reap from it, then I'll pass judgement and cancel.

My biggest concern is that I know next to nothing about Silverlight. From what I have heard 64 bit Vista does not run well with it. Is that true? because if it is, I may be cancelling my subscription outright out of necessity. I'm not gonna pay for something I can't use.
Quite a surprise for me to look at the WotC's decision to switch to web-based version only. I would rather move to a direction of introducing multiple kinds of client apps with generalized access to content. For example, Windows-based Character Builder could still pull content updates and work offline. Web-based Silverlight client could take always actual content online. Mobile-device clients - probably in mixed mode. Secured access to subscription content is not an issue for any of the ways.

The group I played before meets in a place where no Internet access will ever be possible. What shell they do now?..

So, why did they decide to web-based version only?
@SewerDragon:
On my desktop I'm running Vista 64bit and so far haven't had any problems using Silverlight. Perhaps you should check out the Silverlight Showcase (www.silverlight.net/showcase/) and see for yourself if it is giving you trouble?



@PhantomPalmer:
Uhhh... I don't know... perhaps, print their characters to PDF and use that instead? ;)

Really, you don't level up during a session that often (actually, as a DM I prefer to hand out XP after the fights and allow level up only in between sessions so that the game doesn't grind to a full stop while everbody drools over a new feat or something) and found items can be put on cards before.

Imho there is actually very little reason to have access to the full CB during the session.

Why they decided to go with a web application? Because some people subscribed only for one or two months per year but shared the full content with the rest of the group. It's pretty obvious that they needed to stop this - why should I buy the books for 900$ or so when I can get a one-time subscription for 10$ to get everything and even share all the stuff with the rest of the group?
@SewerDragon:
@PhantomPalmer:
Uhhh... I don't know... perhaps, print their characters to PDF and use that instead? ;)

Really, you don't level up during a session that often (actually, as a DM I prefer to hand out XP after the fights and allow level up only in between sessions so that the game doesn't grind to a full stop while everbody drools over a new feat or something) and found items can be put on cards before.

Imho there is actually very little reason to have access to the full CB during the session.

Why they decided to go with a web application? Because some people subscribed only for one or two months per year but shared the full content with the rest of the group. It's pretty obvious that they needed to stop this - why should I buy the books for 900$ or so when I can get a one-time subscription for 10$ to get everything and even share all the stuff with the rest of the group?



They are crazy debaters and the CB was helping to solve some questions by direct referencing in actual content, specially when new books release and appear as powers in CB prior they got printed versions.

The commercial issue matters, no doubts. But maybe it is a matter of finding an approach for sales? E.g. a light-cost subscription with web access only and full-version with offline access? I believe that many groups use a single shared subscription due to the subscription costs that not everybody from the group can afford. From other hand, without those people group may not exist at all. 

How moving only to the web will solve the issue of preventing content sharing within the group? Will new Silverlight CB track IPs and sessions?

I personally prefer digital references rather paper ones, because I simply search faster there. For just reading on a couch, the paper books win for sure.
My IT friends tell me that MS is considering discontinuing Silverlight in the relatively near time-frame. If true, why use it for this application?

They need to have something available off-line so that you can get to, print, and/or use your character when no connection is available. Add in how often the Wizard servers seem to be down or blow a fuse, and some sort of offline version (even if it is simply storage of your character and a print interface) is absolutely necessary. It is my understanding that Silverlight can be used in this fashion, too, so it would seem fairly easy.

Wizards makes it SO hard to like them.
Balance = Equally effective, but different, ways of reaching a goal or overcoming an obstacle.
if i may add my 2 cents...my guess is that is that wotc wanted to reach the market that couldnt/wouldnt do anything with a .net based product (myself included) and make the cb cross platform.  well whats the most cost effective way to do this...use the code they already have (c# based on prev comments) and create a silverlight application because it is straightforward.

PhantomPalmer, u bring up a good point, but i just think the market that might not have internet at the gaming table is smaller than the market of mac or linux users.  i.e., it comes down to numbers.

finally, as a linux user. im glad they took this step in the right direction and i hope to god it works with moonlight, but either way silverlight is a waning technology.  if web-based, go with php,flash,html5 or some combo of these.
@jcheraz: Silverlight serves as the application layer on the newly released Windows Phone 7, so it's not going anywhere soon. That said, MS announced on PDC (a developer conference) that they were focusing on HTML5 for web interoperability, so the web plugin that wizards are using is probably waning. Not that MS ever leaves a dying platform (ehem, IE6...)

@crosst:  Why php? Wizards could use ASP.NET and take advantage of all their in-house C# expertise for the backend logic and then build a lightweight frontend in javascript and HTML5. Using the local storage provided in modern browser, they could easily make it offline capable.

My firm belief is that Wizards will add several new ways to access the character files and that most of the heavy lifting is done on the server side in the new character builder, meaning that an iOS, Android or HTML5 app would probably be pretty easy to implement.

The next tool I'm waiting for is a subscription based, self-updating archive of Wizard's published content, by using the Kindle store or by rolling their own. The amount of errata published make the books barely usable and the compendium is good for searching, but obviously doesn't fill the role of the books.

Give me autoupdating pdf's or give me death!





 
Don't get me wrong - I am thrilled that Character Builder is going to a web app. There were tons of problems with the downloadable version, top-most being programmed in dotnet3.5s2 which made it as portable as a grand piano, not to mention having an awkward, slow interface typical of .net windows applications. Silverlight is at least compatible with Mac, and Linux users can cross their fingers in hopes that it will work with Moonlight (an arguably superior open-source alternative to Silverlight).

But really, why are we seemingly obsessed with making Character builder in C#? At it's base, it's a DB application with lots of table interdependencies and calculations. Silverlight is basically Miscrosoft C# wrapped up in a nasty hacked version of Flash with a Miscosoft trademark. Is this really a good idea?

In all, I'm hopeful for cross-platform compatibility, but I'm also leary and expect lots of problems.


Anti-Microsoft much?  I don't know what C# applications you're using, but I do it for a living, and no, the UI's do not have to be non-responsive, and C# is actually very nice to program in coming from other applications.  And no, Silverlight is not the same as "C# wrapped up in a nasty hacked version of Flash", but actually a very credible development environment (that doesn't have to use C#) that allows for rich-web interfaces that support lightweight implementations of an application framework.

My IT friends tell me that MS is considering discontinuing Silverlight in the relatively near time-frame. If true, why use it for this application?

They need to have something available off-line so that you can get to, print, and/or use your character when no connection is available. Add in how often the Wizard servers seem to be down or blow a fuse, and some sort of offline version (even if it is simply storage of your character and a print interface) is absolutely necessary. It is my understanding that Silverlight can be used in this fashion, too, so it would seem fairly easy.

Wizards makes it SO hard to like them.



MS isn't considering discontinuing Silverlight- at least not as far as they've made any public indication.  What they are doing is placing a lot of emphasis on HTML5, which is the big buzzword now, even though it's not really proven yet.

A lot of uninformed FUD going on here... 

Imho there is actually very little reason to have access to the full CB during the session.



How about not killing trees?  CB at the table means less printouts (that also means less toner/ink used).  Additionally it means quick minor updates to characters (I just found a new weapon - glad I don't have to hand update all those power cards!).  Oh and then there is that 'journal' section that lets you log experience gain, and events of the session.  It is really convenient to have the offline CB sitting at the table.  Just because you haven't thought of any reasons doesn't mean that there are not any.  I use the CB at the table every week.  I lookup items quickly for the DM and other players and also look up feats/powers when I don't have access to the compendium (no net connection). It is super convenient when someone has a power that only appears in a dragon issue. I keep track of character notes and inventory changes on the fly.  I also use the actual character sheet to keep track of hps and healing surges.  Also, sometimes we do level up during a session, and it is quick and painless to do so on the CB (Once a year we have an epic holiday weekend marathon game and we level up a few times per day sometimes! Having the CB this year made things super easy).  Oh, and then there is that other aspect of being able to keep copies of other player's characters so that they can be looked at in case the player forgets their character.  So, there.  A ton of reasons to use it at the table.  Don't argue your own lack of imagination/ingenuity/usage as a reason to support taking something away from everyone else.  

Oh, and don't assume I must be a pirate for being opposed to an online only version - I buy my account yearly, and I've paid for it since the start of DDI.  I've also bought close to every 4ed and 3ed book wotc ever put out  (Thats right, I've paid TWICE for the same information). I just want offline access to the character builder.  I don't care if they want to make an online version too, but I want the offline support and I don't want to have to loose all the features that I already get!  


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More platform incompatibility Cry no linux, android tablets or phones, ipod, iphone.  This is not unreasonable to expect for a supposed web app.

Hopefully they will at least have a character viewer that works on most platforms and will not require a subscription.
I recently listened to the new DnD podcast because they covered the new Character Builder. The interviewed the director of DnD digital affairs (or something like that) and what struck me most was his comment about Flash. He said (literally) that they reviewed different options, but Flash wasn't a good choice because it's not available for the iPad. I was stunned by that remark, because to me it proved that this guy has no idea what he is talking about.

Personally I don't really care they use Silverlight. It's not a dying platform (like so many like to point out incorrectly), it's based on proven technology and their developers have at least somewhat experience with the platform (it's C# and XAML based on WPF, which is used for the current Character Builder).
I just hope they take all the rules and logic that was in the original Character Builder, put it all nicely on the server (where it belongs when you're talking about a web app) and only use Silverlight as a UI. Because then it would be possible to write an alternate UI (in say: HTML?) that does work on stuff like iPads and smartphones. And by nicely separating logic and UI (like any good developer would do) you can iterate them separately and roll out a lot of improvements without having to do big upgrades on the entire application.
I recently listened to the new DnD podcast because they covered the new Character Builder. The interviewed the director of DnD digital affairs (or something like that) and what struck me most was his comment about Flash. He said (literally) that they reviewed different options, but Flash wasn't a good choice because it's not available for the iPad. I was stunned by that remark, because to me it proved that this guy has no idea what he is talking about.

Personally I don't really care they use Silverlight. It's not a dying platform (like so many like to point out incorrectly), it's based on proven technology and their developers have at least somewhat experience with the platform (it's C# and XAML based on WPF, which is used for the current Character Builder).
I just hope they take all the rules and logic that was in the original Character Builder, put it all nicely on the server (where it belongs when you're talking about a web app) and only use Silverlight as a UI. Because then it would be possible to write an alternate UI (in say: HTML?) that does work on stuff like iPads and smartphones. And by nicely separating logic and UI (like any good developer would do) you can iterate them separately and roll out a lot of improvements without having to do big upgrades on the entire application.



It took them 1 year to put out the CBC what makes you think they'll have time to port to another platform in another language?
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
I recently listened to the new DnD podcast because they covered the new Character Builder. The interviewed the director of DnD digital affairs (or something like that) and what struck me most was his comment about Flash. He said (literally) that they reviewed different options, but Flash wasn't a good choice because it's not available for the iPad. I was stunned by that remark, because to me it proved that this guy has no idea what he is talking about.

Personally I don't really care they use Silverlight. It's not a dying platform (like so many like to point out incorrectly), it's based on proven technology and their developers have at least somewhat experience with the platform (it's C# and XAML based on WPF, which is used for the current Character Builder).
I just hope they take all the rules and logic that was in the original Character Builder, put it all nicely on the server (where it belongs when you're talking about a web app) and only use Silverlight as a UI. Because then it would be possible to write an alternate UI (in say: HTML?) that does work on stuff like iPads and smartphones. And by nicely separating logic and UI (like any good developer would do) you can iterate them separately and roll out a lot of improvements without having to do big upgrades on the entire application.



It took them 1 year to put out the CBC what makes you think they'll have time to port to another platform in another language?



For CBC they needed to create everything from scratch. I'd wager the most complex part of the whole CB(C) is the rules engine that implements all the different DnD rules and their exceptions. They have that now. If they'd built the new CB correctly that rules engine would be on the server, so all that is needed to use the rules engine is a UI. They currently have a Silverlight UI, but it should (theoretical) be trivial to add another UI, since all the UI needs to do is relay requests to the server and present the server responses in a nice, web 2.0, way.

If they don't encrypt the server requests I think some people will start building their own UI soon enough. 
If they don't encrypt the server requests I think some people will start building their own UI soon enough. 


You just HAD to give em that idea hah?

Seriously, I hope that WotC did in fact do what Yeep describes. If they used the time to make the transition to a more service oriented model that could be leveraged in a lot of ways to increase development speed and bring us new and cool tools. 

Unfortunately the underlying architecture is not something WotC is very open about.  If someone could shine a light on how the new model really works. There are a lot of IT people here that would probably be ok with some more in depth info Hint hint...

(and yes I understand, a lot of those IT people would also start langue wars, architecture wars, etc etc so I can understand the desire to keep that particular pandora's box closed.. but I can ask )


To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
If they don't encrypt the server requests I think some people will start building their own UI soon enough. 


You just HAD to give em that idea hah?  

 

It's something I'll be doing come next wednesday :-)

Unfortunately the underlying architecture is not something WotC is very open about.  If someone could shine a light on how the new model really works. There are a lot of IT people here that would probably be ok with some more in depth info Hint hint...

(and yes I understand, a lot of those IT people would also start langue wars, architecture wars, etc etc so I can understand the desire to keep that particular pandora's box closed.. but I can ask )



It's possible to describe architecture without detailing language or platform choices. Ofcourse I would prefer to see some source code, but that's not ever gonna happen :-)

WOTC:

Use HTML5, please. Then people not using Windows/OS X can have a chance as well.