With D&D 3 we got streamlining, we tried to please veteran players, who tried to reduce the work involved with playing D&D / AD&D. Things changed. Instead of using Core Rules CD-Rom for 15 minutes for characte creation, we visit forums, research build options, and optimize characters, often for days. We tried to make combat faster by reducing the amound of math you do. Yet, currently a combat round takes more time than in 1E or 2E. Much more time. And you do more math to compare your options. And at the same time, creating background stories for PCs, creating maps, NPCs, their stories, stories for your adventure, etc. as DM is just as time consuming.
D&D failed to meet two of its goals for 3E, 3.5E, 4E, and Essentials. And often you can't just jump into the game when you want, so still assembling groups, finding more players is just as bad as before. If it isn't even worse due to the more work involved. The approach WOTC / Hasbro took with streamlining is risky. Why? Because all you tried to do is to streamline combat. And forgot about core value of D&D: Roleplaying. You designed the game to revolve about combat and maybe skill challenges. Forgot about the life of the adventurers. D&D doesn't speak about what our character would see, what our characters would feel, how would our character think?
We forgot about the flowers in the field, we forgot about the sweet mead they enjoy in the tavern. And D&D is streamlined so well, that while in AD&D 2, we spent about 15% of our time with preparation 20% with compbat, and 75% with experiencing the wonderful worlds described in setting books, and we roleplayed. Now if I visit some store where I can play D&D, I spend about 40% of my time reseacrhing builds, optimization options, new abilities, about 15% with actual characer design. 40% with combat / skill challenges, which are about using the system to our benefit.
5% with an empty and void point of light setting.
At this rate, I can compare D&D with Wargames, with PC based strategy games, etc. light story and set of tactical challenges. But I wouldn't compare it to PC based RPGs like Mass Effect 3, Skyrim, etc. because D&D offers less. Less story, less immersion, less roleplaying.
So if some newbie comes to me, and tells me, he wants to try tabletop RPGs because they offer more depth, immersion and story than video games, I would look elsewhere. Because the structure of D&D game is designed around series of challenges.
As experienced roleplayers we can **** the system and try to roleplay there. Hey, we can do that with or without a system, and a good DM can turn even chess into a roleplaying game, but it isn't a redeeming factor. If you go to a store to try D&D in an encounters group, you won't roleplay much.
And if and when some young student says, he / she wants to experience the stories he / she read in some novels firsthand, when a newbie wants to make his / her first life like character, D&D will be a huge disappointment. Not because of the preparation time. But because if a such newbie would want Dungeon Crawl, there is Diablo. Newbies aren't attached to D&D brand, so they could and should seek Dungeon Crawl elsewhere.
But they get a new rulebook in hand.
Where nimble and graceful races get less dexterity than humans. Hey, a nible and graceful elf isn't much different in racial averages from a bulky dwarf in terms of dexterity. Yet, a human is 1.1666 point higher in dex average, so its likely that a human has higher dex modifier, and performs better.
Come on, you create a graceful elf, as you imagine her based on novels, and try to be connected toyour character, etc. and try to roleplay. You go and try D&D.
Your first surprise will be that you will compete with the "clumsy dwarf" who just wanted some dex for AC. Ouch.
The next surprise will be that you will be considerably weaker in this aspect than the "average joe" human, so D&D doesn't represent your character. You look at what happened. Others choosen dex for AC, you choosen it because you are a graceful elf. Yet, you have no chance to ever catch up with the human who isn't even focused on dex.
You see that due to higher bonus of humans, and because people will value their dex for system reasons, in D&D you will never be able to create the elf, who "shines" in dex based task to reflect their natural grace.
And as we see what would happen if we would run contested tests by the book: If your characters compete to impress a lady, who "ties" in a strenght check achieves nothing. Why? Because even if they are strong, the fact they are in a contest prevents them from doing the most basic things. If you try to get a ring, and you tie... You don't just arrive at same time. But nothing happened, you didn't even lose. - So we either forget this part of core mechanics, or we just laugh at how bad D&D is, and forget it.
Whats worse. When a newbie tries the encounters adventure ran somewhere, what more happens? Well, a newbie won't have an optimized character, so will be constantly outshined, will have a negative experience, and will hear how builds, etc. are important, and will criticized for character choice. And will see that there he / she should stick to builds more than in World of Warcraft or Neverwinter Nights, or Skyrim, or Mass Effect. So in addition to feeling "disconnected" from the character and setting due to D&D rules, our newbie will also see that "PC games offered more freedom in creating characters".
And most encounters sessions are short, but have a somewhat rigid but combat focused adventure, so our player will only see how a player in D&D has to use abilities designed in the book, so the endless freedom, and room for creativity wouldn't materialize. Yet, we will see grid based movements, instead freedom in movement PC games offer, so D&D would introduce itself with less freedom.
Less graphics. Less story. Less freedom in when to play, how to play. Less involvement. Less positive feedback.
D&D would be seen as an inferior product in each and every aspect.
It would mean: D&D would lose some old players due to both usual IRL reasons (No more party, no more time, etc), and to rapidly switching editions (high expenses, feeling next edition won't last forever), and fail to get most of the potential new players.
And as D&D would be a risky recommendation for a first game, many blogs, web sites, etc. would recommend Pathfinder, Vampire, Shadowrun 4, etc. for new gamers interested in roleplaying. And when new players start to focus on values presented by other setting, enjoy freedom, immersion, depth, etc. they wouldn't consider moving to D&D.
As for a veteran who got accustomed to many games, I see what D&D offers to me. A big brand name. A shrinking playerbase, which is already smaller than the playerbase of Pathfinder for example, so not even the biggest one. I see less immersion, less depth, less freedom, less fun, more issues. Why would I choose an inferior product?
You have many fans here, they have brand loyalty. They love some of your settings so much that they **** D&D system to roleplay in there. But you can't build a future on brand loyalty alone, and it is even harder if you erode that brand loyalty with inferior products.
You have a big, colorful website. Playtest dockets. Everything else. But you haven't even offered me a single selling point why should I choose D&D. And you don't have a selling point for your vision of tabletop RPGs either. You use the streamlining idea like a mantra, but most see how empty is that, and it isn't a selling point that would make people buy D&D.
If you don't have a selling point, you don't see the strength of RPGs, then I can speak about lack of vision and scope. And if I feel this, I have to ask: If you don't know what would turn a roleplaying game good, what would make me want to play it, how would you build an enjoyable game for me? After all: if you don't know what makes roleplaying games good, you can't focus on these values when designing rules. So your design decisions aren't backed up with solid reasoning, with a vision.
And this is a point where I see it pointless to even consider buying D&D products from the Next edition.
I see your Q&A. People ask about how skills are assigned to backgrounds. They feel this way they wouldn't be able to choose their skills freely from the skill list (considering their characters personality, class and cross class skills, training options) but would be limited to narrow categories. Ask about it.
And the leader of the development team posts a rant about how inventing your own skills shouldn't be core mechanic. A rant where he shows, he doesn't understand why people want to choose freely from the big skill list, what the issue is about. He shows he doesn't understand we want to create our imagined character. He shows that he is clueless about what roleplaying is.
D&D Next seems to be an inferior product developed by clueless folks at this point.
I don't like D&D 4. You can see why. But at this point I have to warn you: There are no reasons for players to choose D&D Next over D&D 4, and with this D&D Next will fail to draw in enough new players or veterans who avoided 4E. But due to a too early new edition it can lose a lot of current players.
So if you are clueless about how to make D&D better, stick with 4E. Your players will apreciate the years they can spend with using the edition they already enjoy, the value they can squeze out from purchases. And you can still sell plenty of material for D&D 4 / Essentials.