Dragon 394 - Houston Rockets vs. The Transit Board

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I read the editorial, and I have to say, I'm a little split as to how I responded to it.

On one hand, I like the fact that they will use the data that they are able to collect from the OCB, to try and produce articles that players and DMs might find more useful.  On the other hand, I'm not so sure that I would like the fact that the less "popular" classes/builds may get less "face time" now because they might concentrate on what is more popular (but Steve did add the caveat that they could also use it to boost the classes that "need" it).  Being a player who LOVES the runepriest class, I would LOVE to see more support for the class (and yes, I'm am excited about the article coming out Friday...hope it doesn't get moved!). 

The only only other "reaction" I had to the article is this:  they are using the data that we are paying to provide them to direct the magazines, but I'm not sure I'm happy paying to do their research for them.  On one hand this is fine, since it COULD help them produce more relevant articles, but on the other hand, I'm sure there are (like me) plenty of people who just create random characters of differing levels, classes and builds.
The only only other "reaction" I had to the article is this:  they are using the data that we are paying to provide them to direct the magazines, but I'm not sure I'm happy paying to do their research for them.  On one hand this is fine, since it COULD help them produce more relevant articles, but on the other hand, I'm sure there are (like me) plenty of people who just create random characters of differing levels, classes and builds.


anything that assists wotc to produce better d&d products is a good thing.  i am very excited about the growing mountain of data.  i only hope that wotc analyzes it correctly.  not an easy task, i suspect.

p.s., even randomly created characters usually are a reflection of interest and/or curiosity. 
I read the editorial, and I have to say, I'm a little split as to how I responded to it.

On one hand, I like the fact that they will use the data that they are able to collect from the OCB, to try and produce articles that players and DMs might find more useful.  On the other hand, I'm not so sure that I would like the fact that the less "popular" classes/builds may get less "face time" now because they might concentrate on what is more popular (but Steve did add the caveat that they could also use it to boost the classes that "need" it).  Being a player who LOVES the runepriest class, I would LOVE to see more support for the class (and yes, I'm am excited about the article coming out Friday...hope it doesn't get moved!).  


Can't make everyone happy all the time, unfortunately. 

The only only other "reaction" I had to the article is this:  they are using the data that we are paying to provide them to direct the magazines, but I'm not sure I'm happy paying to do their research for them.  On one hand this is fine, since it COULD help them produce more relevant articles, but on the other hand, I'm sure there are (like me) plenty of people who just create random characters of differing levels, classes and builds.


Think about it this way: if they didn't have the data from the OCB, then they would have to hire someone to do that research for them. Who do you think pays for that person? Exactly - you do, through your subscription. So please, don't whine about the way WotC spends the money you paid. Like MaximumHavoc says, this data will be used to make a better product - what more do you want?

PS with this slow-as-molasses CB, I'm not sure how long people can suffer creating random characters before they quit out of sheer frustration. (yes I'm pissed about its slowness, sue me ;) )



I've linked to this thread as the official discussion thread for the editorial.  Thank you for starting it, Aaron.  However, I'd like to ask a favor.  Next time, can you please use the standard format for starting a thread?  Thank you very much.


Dragon 394
Editorial: Houston Rockets vs the Transit Board

by Steve Winter

We are forever caught in the struggle between what we want and what we need.

Talk about this Article here.




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With regards to what Steve Winters wants to know, in my experience many players avoid certain classes because they are undersupported. Many, many times I have had players that tell me they were going to make a new character of x class but showed up the next week with y class. When I asked why they switced, they said because y class had more options. This happened last week when a player of mine became very excited about the seeker after reading PHB3 but laughed out loud when he saw how little options there are. Players like choice and will move towards choice.

I will boldly state right now that the vast majority of classes you find in the CB data will be fighters, wizards, rogues, and rangers.  The majority of races will be humans. It's no surprise that these are the most supported options.

Directing more support to the most supported classes will only serve to alienate those players who do play unsupported classes. For example the artificer. Most people I know who play this class feel totally abandoned, especially after the Essentials rule changes make them less needed (no limits on magic item daily use). In my main campaign, a player wants me to kill off his artificer because he has so few options, especially at higher levels. This is a character that he has played all the way through heroic tier and has huge role play investment in it, but he feels that his build options are railroading him into building one type of character he's not interested in playing.

If you mostly support the most played you know what will happen... Do we really need more fighter powers?
*discretely places his Guide Hat in view, but doesn't actually put it on*

Svendj, I wouldn't call what he is doing whining. He's discussing the article at hand, and how he feels about the research specifically mentioned in the article.  Its certainly less whiney than bringing up the speed of the new CB in a discussion thread that has nothing to do with it, no? Laughing  Regardless, lets just avoid accusing anyone of whining in any fashion, if possible.

Anyways, Aaron, I wouldn't worry about paying from your wallet to do WotC's research.  We aren't actually doing any of the research. We are just making characters.  The people who look at the data resulting from our actions are the actual researchers.
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I don't see why you can't support both?  Put a few articles each month towards the popular classes and a few towards the unsupported classes.  I'm guessing that the point here is what ratio to use.

Do the well-supported classes eventually reach a saturation point?  Where they've got so much material, that adding more is just pointless?  I don't know if this happens, but it seems like at that point, you'd shift away from that and add more options for the undersupported classes, hopefully generating more interest in them.
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Nice article. Some thoughts.

• Make the character building selection statistics publically available so we can all analyze the data.
• If something is 'too' popular it is probably broken and may need a nerf. Oppositely, if something remains 'too' neglected it is probably 'red' bad and needs a rewrite to make it more powerful.
• Everything depends on context. Sometimes there really is only one choice available that is reasonable, surrounded by several options that are truly terrible.
• Spikes in popularity or lack thereof should only serve as a warning flag. It requires people to go in and evaluate the context of the spike to determine its cause.
• It is possible the spikes themselves may produce meaningful patterns that can help monitor the future health of the game. This makes it so important to have as many people as possible looking at these numbers.
• Public discussions on why certain classes, races, feats, powers, or items get more attention than others is critical.
• Create a permanent webpage that lists the current data in live time. (Like a stockmarket.)
• This is exciting.
Nice article. Some thoughts.

• Make the character building selection statistics publically available so we can all analyze the data.



+1 to this. Why keep this stuff a secret? Seriously, if WotC wants to improve its image regarding bizarre secrecy and lack of communication, this would score you a lot of points AND potentially boost the popularity of the online CB (or at least make it less negative)

• If something is 'too' popular it is probably broken and may need a nerf. Oppositely, if something remains 'too' neglected it is probably 'red' bad and needs a rewrite to make it more powerful.



In some cases, but in many cases not. There are some really great powers that people avoid because they aren't the typical power for that class. There's nothing wrong with them, they just add some flavor that many people don't like. I do not see a requirement for all powers to be equally powerful, many are just different and give players options to make different builds.


• Create a permanent webpage that lists the current data in live time. (Like a stockmarket.)
• This is exciting.



Awesome idea! This would be fantastic and I think WotC should do this ASAP. Why not?
Make the character building selection statistics publically available so we can all analyze the data.


That would be loads of fun, but I would be concerned about skewing the data.  I could see powergamers watching the data, seeing that their favorite combo might get nerfed and start a campaign to make sham characters with other powers of that level to save their combo.  I admit it's not a huge concern, but it is a concern.
I think it is very silly for Wizards not to support other classes based on what is most popular (I can tell you what that would be right now without having any "Research Data" at all - it's pretty obvious). 3/4 of the reason I see PCs not play a class is because it sucks or has no options. When a player looks at a class, see's tons of interesting options and imaginative ideas they want to play it (in my experience). When someone looks at something that is quirky and interesting, but is so poorly supported it is left well behind other options it gets passed over more often than not.
I think it's great that the data is available. I second the motion to make it publicly available on a live web page. It will curb speculation and start a couple of interesting discussions in the community.

At the end of the day, the results might not be conclusive though. For example, folks might be surprised to see that the archer ranger is not very popular. And then we speculate, it's powerful, but boring, or what?

It would also be interesting to see what kind of characters the players actually works on consistently, and levels him up, as opposed to characters that are just level 1 try outs. I certainly have plenty of those.

Also interesting to see how widespread blatant optimizing really is.

This is a great step forwards to more online collaboration among designers, and hopefully players too.
• Make the character building selection statistics publically available so we can all analyze the data.


i like this idea.  perhaps, an occasional dungeon article to that end.

that being said, i can see why wotc might be hesitant to disclose that information:  in short, it might be giving up too much power and/or creating an enormous can of worms.  granted, this is a rather defensive view, and one i do not support, but it is not altogether unfathomable.
In response to Steve's actual question... I'm a fan of using the data to find unsupported classes, races, and other options that need support.

Additionally, perhaps once enough data has been gathered... it might also serve as a good way to find out what options don't see any use at all. Feats that no one takes. And other items that might then be worth updating to make them more useful. Or, perhaps a better approach, simply to serve as an example going forward of what feats not to create.
One problem with making it public is that it's likely a helluva lot of data.  Do they release just data on the classes, classes and builds, classes, builds, and powers, classes, builds, powers, and feats, classes, builds, powers, feats, ability score increases, paragon paths, epic destinies, equipment, rituals, backgrounds, themes, familiars & companions, etc.?
One problem with making it public is that it's likely a helluva lot of data.  Do they release just data on the classes, classes and builds, classes, builds, and powers, classes, builds, powers, and feats, classes, builds, powers, feats, ability score increases, paragon paths, epic destinies, equipment, rituals, backgrounds, themes, familiars & companions, etc.?



Hell yeah. Give us all of the data, but make it searchable and give us filter controls. Lots of very, very smart people play D&D (lets face it, it's a game for geeks) and many of us know how to do stats. Personally, I can think of a half dozen things I would run right now if I had the data.

Seriously, if WotC wants to get people on board with the new CB, this would be a fantastic way. I bet more people would be more willing to use the web service if they knew their character data could help the game overall.

By giving us access to the data, then WotC gets an army of FREE analysts to help them do their job for them. Yes, some of the analysis posted on these boards will be total junk, but those will be very obvious to those of us who know what we're doing and we can set the record straight. I can guarantee that many of us here can put together some great reports in no time flat that WotC would have to pay a lot of money for. And why would we do this for free? Because we love the game and care about making it better. Unless I'm missing something here, WotC would be crazy not to jump at this.
In response to Steve's actual question... I'm a fan of using the data to find unsupported classes, races, and other options that need support.

Additionally, perhaps once enough data has been gathered... it might also serve as a good way to find out what options don't see any use at all. Feats that no one takes. And other items that might then be worth updating to make them more useful. Or, perhaps a better approach, simply to serve as an example going forward of what feats not to create.



More excellent ideas. See? When many people who care about something take on a problem then good ideas pop up everywhere. Open the taps Wizards and let the data flow.
I don't think they should, nor would they be able to make all of the data available and live.  I think it would be neat just to see some annual or semiannual reports on the state of the classes and races, maybe at build level.  But we don't need powers/feats/items information available, other than maybe a top 10 list or something.

I'd find the data interesting, and I'd love to dig through it.  But frankly it'd be nothing but trouble to have it all available.  I'd hope Wizards would have their own analysts, that they wouldn't think to sift through 99% of weighted/skewed/just plain wrong analysis done by people on the forums, to find the 1% that might actually know what they are doing.  Yes I'm sure many people are great, and know what they are doing and they'll be the first to say so...  But the vast majority that would try, don't. 

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I've linked to this thread as the official discussion thread for the editorial.  Thank you for starting it, Aaron.  However, I'd like to ask a favor.  Next time, can you please use the standard format for starting a thread?  Thank you very much.







Sorry AL, I didn't even look to see if there was another one.  Frown

And I wasn't "whining" about anything, just stating how I felt.

This type of data usually just fubars the issues.  Gathering data is for bean counters.  Creating a great game is about artistry.

These types of numbers usually do not more than explain why you failed after a failure occurs.  They don't help you prevent failure.

Let's say that the numbers prove that Invokers are nearly ignored by the D&D commons.  What do you do?  Make more Invoker features to encourage more Invoker play?  Shy away from providing Invoker material because it doesn't see enough play?  Either seems like a reasonable response.

Let's say you make more Invoker materials.  Regardless fo whether Invokers see more play: Suddenly, everyone points at the data and tells you that you're a horrible person for ignoring the classes that actually get play in favor of a class that nobody wants.  A small minority of Invoker players thanks you, but the majority hates you and calls you a failure.

Let's say you make less materials for Invokers and focus on the popular classes.  Suddenly, anyone that plays any of these less common classes points to the lack of Invoker support and accuses you of abandoning most of the classes in the game in favor of your pet 'popular' classes.  The data shows that these classes needed more support, and you ignored them!  Failure!

In the end, this type of data does more harm than good.  It creates lovely little hindsight pictures to support an argument that you're a horrible person, but it doesn't really help you solve problems.  This isn't true of all industries, but it is certainly true of those industries where the product is more art than science - and is especially true when there is an emotional stake in the product. 

So why doesn't WotC just keep the data secret?  Because then people start to claim that keeping the data secret is proof that their opinion of what the data is true - after all, why hide the data if it supports WotC's actions? 

If someone says that the Invoker isn't getting enough support, they might say WotC knows it needs more support because nobody thinks it is worth playing - and WotC is hiding that fact by keeping their data secret.  Obviously, WotC is hiding their inability to fix the class.

Or, if somone thinks the Invoker doesn't deserve so much support in favor of other classes, they'll just accuse WotC of hiding the fact that nobody is bothering to play the class anyways.  Perhaps they'll claim WotC is just filling DRagon up with clases that nobody uses to keep us waiting for material on the 'good classes'.

IMHO: Just forget data and focus on the artistic side of things, not the science side of the creative process.  Don't arm your critics unnecesarily with the rope to hang you.

D&D & Boardgames If I have everything I need to run great games for many years without repeating stuff, why do I need to buy anything right now?
The editorial is interesting because, once again, WotC is very cleverly attempting us to focus on something other than the real issue.

The real issue is the lack of content in Dungeon and Dragon. As this is a Dragon editorial I won't rant about how Dungeon has been reduced to two or three delves with an adventure every two or three months. I won't add a further rant that the title of Dungeon needs to be renamed Delve (or Sidetrek) to better reflect the (lack of) content.

Dragon, too, is a shadow of its former self. If data-mining the character builder will result in ADDITIONAL levels of content then that's a good thing as far as I am concerned. But it won't. The paucity of content will continue, just better targetted to what people are playing.

When will we see a DDi editorial that acknowledges the ball has been dropped, the magazines are not what they were (and I won't even mention the execrable electronic tools at this point) and committing to bringing them back to greatness? Never, of course. The current WotC leadership just doesn't respect the legacy of this brand.


Cheers Imruphel aka Scrivener of Doom

IMHO: Just forget data and focus on the artistic side of things, not the science side of the creative process.  Don't arm your critics unnecesarily with the rope to hang you.




If you don't deal with the science of gaming at least sometimes, you end up with a very a loose system that allows players to exploit loophole after loophole and you end up with one-shot killing machines or magic users with the "I win" spell. That was my experience with 3.x where there was far too much focus on art and no where near enough on the science. People might complain about the errata in 4e, but it has kept the game balanced to some degree. One of the great advantages I see with the data mining is the ability to spot certain game elements that everyone is taking. This could tip off the developers that they need to take a look at it to see what's going on. It might be nothing, but it could be a broken mechanic.

I agree that a good game needs to be creative, but you can't ignore the science.
Honestly, when I see an article like this I wonder what the heck these guys are doing.
The community speaks loudly enough on the boards.  The community speaks loudly enough at CONs.  Are these people really not listening.  Based on this article, I'd say so.  If WoTC would just start listening to their customer base, they'd have all the information they need. 

I am willing to bet that most average gamers can tell you without blinking who the 5 most played classes/builds and races are and why.  If WoTC starts looking at hard data alone, they're going to end up where they left off with 3.5, where dwarves and clerics got funky boosts because they weren't "played enough".  Next thing you know, the system goes into major power creep mode as they tried to rebalance everything against the advantages they were handing out to make the "uncool" cool again.

Same company, same mistakes.  I'm losing faith, fast, in these people.  They seem to do all they can to alienate swathes of people at every (mis)step.
The editorial is interesting because, once again, WotC is very cleverly attempting us to focus on something other than the real issue.

The real issue is the lack of content in Dungeon and Dragon. As this is a Dragon editorial I won't rant about how Dungeon has been reduced to two or three delves with an adventure every two or three months. I won't add a further rant that the title of Dungeon needs to be renamed Delve (or Sidetrek) to better reflect the (lack of) content.

Dragon, too, is a shadow of its former self. If data-mining the character builder will result in ADDITIONAL levels of content then that's a good thing as far as I am concerned. But it won't. The paucity of content will continue, just better targetted to what people are playing.

When will we see a DDi editorial that acknowledges the ball has been dropped, the magazines are not what they were (and I won't even mention the execrable electronic tools at this point) and committing to bringing them back to greatness? Never, of course. The current WotC leadership just doesn't respect the legacy of this brand.






If they wanted to know what areas needed more work, then perhaps they should have asked...
Oh wait... community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

It's been a month; and from what I've heard, you've not responded to proposals like the one Kilpatd's posted that tried to fix issues on the list in that topic. This makes me very disappointed.
One problem with making it public is that it's likely a helluva lot of data.  Do they release just data on the classes, classes and builds, classes, builds, and powers, classes, builds, powers, and feats, classes, builds, powers, feats, ability score increases, paragon paths, epic destinies, equipment, rituals, backgrounds, themes, familiars & companions, etc.?



Release ALL of the data. Let people figure out and discuss what it means.

Its raw data. I dont think the D&DI has an obligation to make it look pretty. At least not unless there is strong popular interest.

Maybe set up a pretty way to display the relative popularity of races and classes, as a kind of overview that casual readers can enjoy.

But the details? Let those people who need to answer questions about obscure data find it for themselves.
It's probably already been said, but anyway: IMO, if a class or race is poorly played, that means it needs better support.  If a class or race is well played, that means it's got plenty of support, and probably doesn't need more until others have parity.

It's also worth bearing in mind that some roles are simply more popular.  A large party can get by with one controller and one leader, but will often have two strikers and/or defenders.

Being able to tell what PARTIES rather than individual players, are doing would be far more useful, I suspect.  Sadly it's not possible with the current architecture.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.

I am willing to bet that most average gamers can tell you without blinking who the 5 most played classes/builds and races are and why.  If WoTC starts looking at hard data alone, they're going to end up where they left off with 3.5, where dwarves and clerics got funky boosts because they weren't "played enough".  Next thing you know, the system goes into major power creep mode as they tried to rebalance everything against the advantages they were handing out to make the "uncool" cool again.



I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say here.  Are you suggesting that WotC should not support the underplayed classes and instead focus on the "cool" ones? With regards to what the community is saying, I've been on these boards for a while now and attended a few cons and the vast majority of what I read and hear is that WotC needs to give undersupported classes more options. I'm not hearing people begging for more fighter powers or racial feets for humans.

I also don't think anyone is suggesting that WotC must increase the number of people playing underused classes. I don't think there is any situation that will make Runepriests more popular than fighters or rangers.

I'm not hearing anyone asking for power creep and I'm not hearing WotC say they're going to give it. We all know where that leads. I don't think that giving classes like the Runepriest and Seeker more build options causes power creep. Power creep comes when the new options are clearly superior to all other options, the "funky boosts" you mentioned. I don't hear anyone asking for that. What I hear is people asking for balanced options.
When will we see a DDi editorial that acknowledges the ball has been dropped,



Even if this were true; why, in god's name, would they ever do this? Or a better question, why should they? If there's less content, or it's not targetted right or whatever then the only way to fix it would be to add more content or to target it better. Some "admission" or "acknowledgement" won't solve anything.

Also, what do you even mean by "drop the ball"? Do you know what that phrase means?
I'm pleasantly suprised that noone has cried invasion of privacy.
I am very hopeful that the data will provide insight into what people are doing (ie do people build a character the day after an article or book is released).

I do not think that articles should be focused on the most popular character types. Material was released with the expectation that it would be supported, and and if there are two ddi subcribers that play a wilden bard, they should get just as much support as the hundreds or thousands of elf rangers.

Also I think that long term data on what characters get updated repeatedly (ie they are in a campaign) is more important than the level 20 or level 30 characters created just to see what a particular class has available to it (ie playing the character builder).

Data mining a complex an ongoing process, and decisions based on apparent data should not be made hastily.
I wasn't going to bring it up, but here's one of my questions, amidst my joy about all this data-collecting:

HOW MUCH ARE THEY LOOKING AT OUR CHARACTERS?

WHO OWNS OUR CHARACTERS?

IF MY NAME IS ON MY CHARACTER SHEET, DOES THAT MEAN WOTC ARE LEARNING MY PERSONAL INFO?

These are questions I have.  Because, you know, what if this is a character I plan to publish in a different format?  Now WotC owns a version of my character, because it's saved on their data?  And they are looking at my stuff too, mostly for research, but what else are they looking at?

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

Four thoughts for WotC:

1) Correlation does not equal causation. 

The problem with looking at CB data is that it'll be too easy to gather very granular data, and then draw conclusions that don't necessarily follow. The result will be lots of interesting correlational data, but the question of causality will still be out there.  As a result, any course of action taken as a result of these correlations would be based on an assumption about causality of popularity of some choices that would be more or less impossible to prove.  This is not to say don't run the data, just be cautious about the meaning of your findings.  Heck, I've got good statistical software - I'd be happy to run some basic tests for WotC.

2) Want lots of data? Great! Put a simple rating system (like 1 to 5 stars per the WotC community blogs) on each article's individual page.  

This will make it easy to take the article's "temperature" and get quick, easy feedback from a broader swath of DDI subscribers; produce articles that are similar to articles that are well-received, and use data from multiple articles to determine what common things about each are well received.  The problem with looking at comments on community boards is that only the very passionate subset actually bother to comment on a given article, and because they're so passionate they represent a biased sample of the DDI community even if they are quite numerous.  A simple rating system that can be done on the page where you download the article will make it easy for your subscribers to give you feedback.

3) One of the core conceits of 4th edition (as reflected in the powers system) is that each race/class should be as good as every other, even if they are good in different ways.  

Gearing published articles to things that are already popular will simply make the popular choices better while leaving less-popular choices in the lurch.  I think that gearing magazine content to be exclusive to popular choices will have diminishing marginal returns when it comes to fostering subscriber interest (and thereby continued subscriptions); less popular choices appeal to a smaller and probably different subset of players, but these are the folks who WotC has the most opportunity to foster interest.  Focusing on popular choices will create the kind of wide variance of viability among different races/classes that hurt previous editions (particularly 3e) so much.

4) Consider focusing more on class and race-neutral crunch to appeal to the broadest possible range of players. 

The recent article on building characters who idealize ancient Nerath was one of the coolest articles Dragon has put out, and resulted in effective and flavorful crunch that virtually any character in most campaigns could take advantage of.  Other articles good for this reason were the Scoundrels article (Building Camaraderie is one of the most interesting skill-related feats), the Gladiators article, and the first assassins article (not the Assassin class articles, but the one with the guild feats and multiclass feats for the Bravo, Cutthroat, etc).  

I hope this helps reframe this discussion.  Good luck and keep up what I consider the good and improving work.

Aoi

Aoi: "2) Want lots of data? Great! Put a simple rating system (like 1 to 5 stars) on each article's individual page."

     Your other points are fine. I just wanted to qualify the above point.

Personally, I find the rating system useless for forums. What the readers are rating exactly is so ambiguous, the result is useless.

• For example, an article could be about a popular topic (the flavor is awesome!) so many readers will give the article 5 stars. Simultaneously, the actual crunch could be less good, even redundant for build that already has similar options, or worse is stealing the options that properly belong to another class (the mechanics fail!) so many readers will give the same article 1 star.

• Sometimes, a terrible article provokes important discussions.

• Sometimes, the article is ahead of its time. The article is brilliant and solves problems that the groupthink hasnt put their finger on yet and dont understand the significance.

• Many articles are interesting precisely because they touch on some controversial topic. Automatically, the readers will tend to divide into schools of thought, as they honestly assess the controversy. At that point, their rating of the article polarizes into a strictly political competition that has nothing to do with the article itself. Thus the number of stars is strictly useless.

Or whatever. There are so many reasons, a rating has no relevance to the value of the article.



If there is a rating system, there must be a brief questionaire to clarify what the reader is rating. Possibly helpful questions could include the following.

• The article is on a topic that I care about. Yes/No
• I like the way the article dealt with the topic. Yes/No 
• I really enjoyed the flavor of the article (vivid themes, fun narratives, intreaguing setting).
• I really enjoyed the mechanics in the article (solid rules, strong balance, effective abilities).
• The artwork is stunning.

Or something like that. Something useful.
Personally, I find the rating system useless for forums. What the readers are rating exactly is so ambiguous, the result is useless.

You're absolutely right, if you look at articles individually; you need to collect data over a number of articles.  Once you have a large sample size, you can compare popular and unpopular articles to figure out what works and what doesn't.  This would help address the issue of not knowing why a given article gets a rating.

• Sometimes, a terrible article provokes important discussions.
• Sometimes, the article is ahead of its time. The article is brilliant and solves problems that the groupthink hasnt put their finger on yet and dont understand the significance.
• Many articles are interesting precisely because they touch on some controversial topic. Automatically, the readers will tend to divide into schools of thought, as they honestly assess the controversy. At that point, their rating of the article polarizes into a strictly political competition that has nothing to do with the article itself. Thus the number of stars is strictly useless.

I totally agree with you that all of this is important to capture, and that the forums provide a... ahem... forum for those very worthy discussions.
If there is a rating system, there must be a brief questionaire to clarify what the reader is rating. Possibly helpful questions could include the following.
• The article is on a topic that I care about. Yes/No
• I like the way the article dealt with the topic. Yes/No 
• I really enjoyed the flavor of the article (vivid themes, fun narratives, intreaguing setting).
• I really enjoyed the mechanics in the article (solid rules, strong balance, effective abilities).
• The artwork is stunning.

That would be fine (especially if you kept it on the article's main page rather than buried somewhere in the forum), just keep in mind that the more questions you ask, the fewer the number of people who will take the time to answer them.  In your example, I would probably get rid of the art question for this reason, and would try to rework the questions so that there were no more than three total (people like things in threes).  The purpose of the rating system would be to take the article's "temperature" as it were and provide highly general information on the popularity of the article.
Here's the message I sent:

What I'd like to see is better mechanics that enable interesting combinations unusual choices, and to try and match other archetypes that you yet can't find in D&D.

Some examples:


  • Solid class feats for races without a +2 in the attack stat. Why is there only one drow fighter feat (and a poor one to boot)?

  • More support for unusual weapons. Flails, picks, and staffs even got snubbed in the Weapon Master's Strike. No more spear feats.

  • More support for exotic weapons. If I have to burn a multiclass to use a net, why is it little more than a short-range hand axe?


Right now, most of the support is focused around improving things race/class combinations that already work well (e.g. Dwarven Fighters, Eladrin Swordmages), but if that continues, it leads to fewer possible choices, as the Drow fighter just can't keep up, so you end up not seeing them.

If there is a rating system, there must be a brief questionaire to clarify what the reader is rating. Possibly helpful questions could include the following.
• The article is on a topic that I care about. Yes/No
• I like the way the article dealt with the topic. Yes/No 
• I really enjoyed the flavor of the article (vivid themes, fun narratives, intreaguing setting).
• I really enjoyed the mechanics in the article (solid rules, strong balance, effective abilities).
• The artwork is stunning.

That would be fine (especially if you kept it on the article's main page rather than buried somewhere in the forum), just keep in mind that the more questions you ask, the fewer the number of people who will take the time to answer them.  In your example, I would probably get rid of the art question for this reason, and would try to rework the questions so that there were no more than three total (people like things in threes).  The purpose of the rating system would be to take the article's "temperature" as it were and provide highly general information on the popularity of the article.



Well, artwork is extremely important, especially from the point of view of the business that needs it to establish glamor, credibility, holistic appeal, and so on. It is irrelevant whether the readers are unconscious about how the artwork is manipulating them. Compare how many men consider a womans beauty extremely important, but are unable to notice if the woman changed her hairstyle or new clothing to achieve that beauty. Especially for D&D. D&D products sell imaginary universes. Compelling pictures to offer examples for what these universes can be like, is important to communicate the financial value of the product. Somewhere Id like to see ...

The art is stunning. Yes/Some/No/Not Sure
The art helps visualize the content of the article.



Anyway how about something like this ...

The article is on a topic that I care about. Yes/Some/No/Not Sure
I love the flavor that the article offers (compelling archetypes, vivid scenarios, fun stories, intriguing setting).
I love the mechanics that the article offers (effective options, strong balance, clear rules, efficient system).


Regarding the OP, I was one of the first a year or two ago to mention how the Character Builder can be used to track statistics to detect the unbalanced options that need nerfing or boosting. I am so happy to see this as a reality now!!!



More recently, I mentioned the need for the Character Builder to provide a way for each user to rate each option. This is necessary for many CB users who need to be able to sort out the options that they like from the options that they dont like, for their own character. This same information is extremely useful for the designers.

For example, there are verymanyfeats. Being able to rate certain feats between 10 (broken, too good, overpowerful) or as 0 (totally worthless), would allow a sorting button to push all the unwanted feats to the bottom of the list, thus making it easier to compare and choose between the feats that you do like. Often you may love a feat but feel it is more advantageous to take it later at a higher level. Meanwhile, you can mark your favorite feats to easily remind you later when your character reaches that level. You can also store your own personal ratings for your future characters. Each CB user needs to way to personally rate - thus organize - the CB options.


Meanwhile, aggregating your personal favorites with the personal favorites of other players is extremely useful data. It helps players who have no idea about which feats to take. It also helps designers know exactly which kinds of options are appealing and-or balanced.

Providing two columns, one for mechanics and one for flavor, may be worthwhile too.

IF MY NAME IS ON MY CHARACTER SHEET, DOES THAT MEAN WOTC ARE LEARNING MY PERSONAL INFO?

No, they're probably getting this from your credit card.

Because, you know, what if this is a character I plan to publish in a different format?

I guess this depends on your definition of "character." You'd have a hard time establishing anything published in a WotC Rulebook is yours. The values within plain text fields (name, personality, etc.) would be your copyright as soon as you write them, and I don't think any EULA could trump that.

Besides, the reality is that by the time the character was worth enough to make them risk such a thing in court, you'd be able to afford enough lawyers to send them home crying.
I'm really a proponent for Dragon supporting the outlier class/race combos. Dragon is supposed to be a supplement to my regular books. Keep your Dwarf Fighter and Eladrin Swordmage feats in print books where they belong, and give me Gnoll Ranger feats and Goblin PC stats (with feats for classes they're good at, maybe rogue or assassin, etc) in Dragon. That's what I want Dragon to be. 
Planes Wanderer

This is one of the things I was most looking forward to with cb going online.

I recently played with some strangers and every melee character had a badge of the berseker. Personally I must have flipped past that item and never really noticed it. Now seeing it, not just, in action but the overwhelming popularity of the item I realized that perhaps I should be looking into this item. 

I believe relasing the raw data would be cumbersome, as well as pointless; but alist treding options might be directly usefull. I'd also like to see those worhtless combos and the challenge to make them usefull as an article or contest.



also i'd like to see some halfling fighter support.

The raw data is necessary.

The data itself is ambiguous, so the very act of deciding which data is 'important' already skews the evidence. Let the data speak for itself. Let those who need to analyze it make their own sense out of it.

We, precisely, need to debate what the data actually means. Is something popular because of its flavor (archetype) or its mechanics (support)? The people who study the data need access to all of the data to make their cases accurately and comprehensively.

Everybody benefits. When analysis eventually identifies what people actually desire, then WotC can fulfill the needs of their customer base more excellently.