March update to DDI tools?

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• When are the prices of DDI decreasing in order to reflect the decrease in customer service?

I don't currently know of any plans for a price change.



Understand. The quality and timeliness of a service that we are paying for has decreased. We are understandably upset, and many of us are looking at alternate solutions. For example, HeroLabs is looking like a fine solution for me when my DDI sub runs out. I'll take a character builder in which I can add the crunchy bits myself over a character builder that I cannot edit that is not being updated on a regular basis.

Wizards stands to lose my D&D dollars for good.

Lack of updates were fine when the crunch was limited to a few items and monsters a month. However, recent months have given us some material to get excited about (Hobgoblins, Draconians and yes, God help me, Tinker Gnomes), and now we are left in anticipation of when these might appear in the Builder, if ever.

On the other hand, May's Dragon seems to be pretty anemic when it comes to crunch, hopefully it does not signal another drought of content that no one cares about.

• How long will the 4e tools continue to be available online?

I don't know, but I haven't heard any plans to end the service.

• What options are going to be presented to people once the tool are no longer available?

I don't know, but again, I haven't seen/heard any plans to end the service.



Wizards has a horrible track record when it comes to supporting fans of a previous edition. Forgive us if we are a little leery of vague promises. I am sure that there is some Hasbro executive who will decide that the availability of 4E tools is a block in the way of some of us converting to Next. Be assured that this is not the case. Those of us who will convert to Next will do so regardless of the 4E tools, and those of us who have no interest in Next will not suddenly convert if our 4E tools are taken away. Wizards will make far more money by publishing a "complete" offline 4E builder than they will recover in Next sales should they pull the plug on the 4E tools.

• When is someone from Wizards of the Coast and/or Hasbro going to actually address the customers about these issues, instead of us banging our heads against the door repeatedly?

When we have more concrete info to share, I'll be back to share it.



We understand that you can only reveal information that you are authorized to reveal. Please roll up to your superiors that your customers have legitimate concerns, and that there are potential financial repurcussions of leaving us to linger too long in the dark. If potential loss of revenue does not beckon a response, then nothing will.

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Understand. The quality and timeliness of a service that we are paying for has decreased. We are understandably upset, and many of us are looking at alternate solutions. For example, HeroLabs is looking like a fine solution for me when my DDI sub runs out. I'll take a character builder in which I can add the crunchy bits myself over a character builder that I cannot edit that is not being updated on a regular basis.

Wizards stands to lose my D&D dollars for good.



^This.

My D&DI sub is no longer set to auto-renew. The 4e support has been lacking so much that I see it better to invest in a 3rd party tool that I'll have indefinitely than to keep paying for the online service that's steadily losing support and is still a bit of a pain to use. (Who thought Silverlight was a good idea?)
Yup - I'm disappointed that I found this out after I resubscribed.  If I had known the product I paid for was going to drop away so rapidly, I would have had second thoughts about putting money down for another year's worth.
Anyway, here is the response I recently gave svendj.


Since our conversation is public anyway, let me thank you for taking the time to reply. I hope you will continue to adress the community's questions and concerns, since we obviously feel like they are legitimate.
My sub is good until October.  I don't plan on renewing it, but then again, I don't think we will even have had any updates by then either.  If we even have any 4e tools left by then.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/26.jpg)

I have a bit more information that I picked up in a recent meeting and wanted to share with you all. They are working on the next update, which should have all the crunchy information from the magazines up to that point. Unfortunately I don't have a firm date for that update yet, so I don't want to put out a guess or speculate. When I get confirmation on a date, I'll drop back in here.

Trevor Kidd Community Manager

I have a bit more information that I picked up in a recent meeting and wanted to share with you all. They are working on the next update, which should have all the crunchy information from the magazines up to that point. Unfortunately I don't have a firm date for that update yet, so I don't want to put out a guess or speculate. When I get confirmation on a date, I'll drop back in here.

Thanks for the heads up Trevor. If the update includes up to Dragon 422/Dungeon 213, at least it will end up being a good catch up.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Fantastic news. Thanks!

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They are working on the next update, which should have all the crunchy information from the magazines up to that point.

Thanks! Any word on if bug fixes for current content will also be included?
I have a bit more information that I picked up in a recent meeting and wanted to share with you all. They are working on the next update, which should have all the crunchy information from the magazines up to that point. Unfortunately I don't have a firm date for that update yet, so I don't want to put out a guess or speculate. When I get confirmation on a date, I'll drop back in here.



There is also demand for an official statement. You can't just treat paying customers like this. It's basic PR, for God's sake. Tell your superiors to take a look into the Neverwinter MMO Facebook page. That's a good handling of communication.

As for the upcoming -I won't used "next", because that word is becoming more and more despicable to me- DDI update, I suggest the content from Cairn of the Winter King is finally included.

It is very clear that D&D is transitioning from 4E to Next. That ship has sailed, and it is sailing well (Though 4E is my favorite edition, Next is clearly appealing to many gamers and is creating a lot of excitement).

Ideally, the transition from 4E to D&D Next includes supporting those that want to remain on 4E for as long as is financially viable. This is an impossible calculation for a company, but involves trying to estimate how many people use the 4E tools, how expensive it is to maintain the tools, how many resources it draws away from other tasks, and when it makes sense to move fully to Next.

The first part, use, is known to Wizards. They can see how often people are using the CB and the other tools. Is there anyone that doubts that the number of users will have plummeted over the last 6-12 months? In the past year many have turned to Next or have otherwise decreased their 4E play. It is clear listening to many game groups that this is happening. So, it becomes an issue of how long to support those still using the tools.

Hopefully, it isn't too expensive to keep things going. I honestly feel 4E is a pretty complete game. I'm okay with DDI providing only a few new mechanics over time for 4E, especially as it transitions to D&D Next. That seems to make sense based on what the majority will want and on how WotC should use its resources effectively. I hope that by having fewer new 4E mechanics the team can focus on creating great tools for Next while still affording to leave the old tools running.

I know that doesn't please hardcore 4E fans, but I think it makes the most sense for the company and the majority of gamers.

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The thing is the way WotC is handling 4E players. Clever PR would keep the CB and other DDI tools up and running and while it also includes 5E options. As a 4E player and DM I'd be curious to check a 5E character in the builder and perhaps interested in trying the edition. Wouldn't that be more effective than the hostile, we-don't-give-a-damn about you anymore approach?

My point is that there seems to be no professional in charge of PR in WotC. That is all basic PR stuff, taught during the first year of the career. Please tell me, is is that hard to write a simple thread in this forum with news on the non-monthly updates matter? Is it expensive? Is it painful?
You cannot honestly tell me it is expensive to keep the tools up. The only thing that takes any real effort or money is updating them....and they haven't been updating them. I am sure there are less subscribers. Hell, I myself have let my own sub lapse, but not bc of 5e. It is bc it isnt worth it to me, and I do not want to support Wizards.

The reality that they need to consider is that it isnt good business to make enemies out of your former customers. That didnt work out well for them before. Its why they are getting their ass handed to them by Paizo.

5e fans should pay close attention to how they are treating their 4e customers. This is what is going to happen to you when they inevitably switch editions again in a few years. And before you say that 'Mearls said they are going to stick with this edition for a long time', he once called Essentials evergreen. Like three years ago. These guys will say anything to get your money.

In the end, 4e players will have updated tools one way or the other. Wizards can make that money, or they can lose the money, just like they did when they discontinued pdfs. That did nothing but lose them money. Piracy was not affected at all. Same thing here.
They should keep the 4th edition character builder up forever.    They should also publish "Classic" versions for 3rd edition, 2nd edition and 1st edtion.
They are reprinting the books with errata.    Why not let people make characters online too? 
Clever PR would keep the CB and other DDI tools up and running and while it also includes 5E options. As a 4E player and DM I'd be curious to check a 5E character in the builder and perhaps interested in trying the edition.

For a little bit I kind of gave up and I've adopted a "wait and see and get ticked off, probably" attitude, but this post made me have to scream agreement.  This is just what I was thinking.

If this isn't EXACTLY what WoTC is planning on doing, then there is something seriously wrong with the leadership/vision at that corporation.  This is a no-brainer, seriously.  There's literally nothing to lose by leveraging what you already have to help you to keep your existing customers AND bring in new customers as well. 

Hearing that this is what they're planning would make me VERY happy because I get to keep using the 4e tools I love (please keep the Compendium and Monster Builder up too) AND it would make me much more likely to try Next as well, because it's right there in front of me and I can see all the fun I'm missing every time I don't try playing Next.  Hell, I might even consider paying MORE for my subscription if they let me keep my 4e tools and also gave me tools for Next that made it easier and more fun for me to play Next. 

Please, WoTC, think about this.  I think a lot of people would like to see DDi continue support for 4e after Next is released and also add support for older editions if possible.  After all, I have the CB for 2e ... it's pretty simple stuff.  To improve it would be a good amount of work, but nothing near what it took for 4e, probably.  

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

They should keep the 4th edition character builder up forever.    They should also publish "Classic" versions for 3rd edition, 2nd edition and 1st edtion.
They are reprinting the books with errata.    Why not let people make characters online too? 

See, this is what I'm talking about.  I don't really have as much interest in playing older versions anymore (B/X, 1e, 2e, 3e) but if there were tools available for them, I could easily see it piquing my interest and making me interesting in buying some older materials, and the people I play with would then also be more likely to buy that stuff.  After all, it's been years since I last played 2e or earlier, but lately ... I've had ... urges.


OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

• How long will the 4e tools continue to be available online?

I don't know, but I haven't heard any plans to end the service.

• What options are going to be presented to people once the tool are no longer available?

I don't know, but again, I haven't seen/heard any plans to end the service.


Can Wizards/Hasbro give any sort of guarantee of how long these services will be kept, and that if they are to come down that subscribers will be given an opportunity at a viable alternative?

The problem is that y'all intentionally set it up this way (whether you, Trevor, were part of that conversation or not is immaterial).  According to Ryan Dancey, the reliance of 4e upon the DDI Online Tools such as the Character was intentional from the very beginning.

To that end, I currently have a yearly subscription to DDI; I've had it for three years now, and the sole reason I have it is for the tools; the magazines are fine, but they're worth as much if I wait a couple years for the free copies.  Chances are that as long as the tools are available, I will continue to pay for the service.  And when they aren't, I won't.

• When is someone from Wizards of the Coast and/or Hasbro going to actually address the customers about these issues, instead of us banging our heads against the door repeatedly?

When we have more concrete info to share, I'll be back to share it.



The problem is that, in the past, y'all have made these decisions without any input from or warning to the customers.  The Offline Character Builder?  Y'all kept saying an update would come up until it got dropped.  The Virtual Table?  Constant promises of its imminent arrival; I personally found out that it was gone when the 3rd party that picked it up made the announcement.  The recent "missing" updates?  There have been multiple dates given; in each case, they've been ignored with handwaving from you.

Is anyone actually employed by your company who has any comprehension of PR? In all seriousness, is there?  Because whoever it is needs to be fired.  My 3 year old daughter could do a better job, because she at least is willing to state the obvious loud and clear for all the world to hear.  We've been lied to repeatedly, whether it was intentional or not, and things we should have been at least warned about to give us time to warm up to them have been hidden repeatedly in the shadows.

So, my subscription comes up in July.  I would appreciate someone from your company explaining to me why I should renew.  I would appreciate someone from your company not lying passing on intentional misinformation.  I am trying to be polite about it, really I am, but I've given your company a rather lot of money the past few years, and I would really like an excuse to not stop doing so.  But, frankly, y'all keep giving me reasons to look elsewhere; heck, Wizards/Hasbro was what convinced me to make an investment in 13th Age.  Sad, isn't it?
Is anyone actually employed by your company who has any comprehension of PR? In all seriousness, is there?  Because whoever it is needs to be fired.  My 3 year old daughter could do a better job



Constructively, what do you think Wizards' plan should be, given that they likely want people to transition from 4E to D&D Next?

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5e fans should pay close attention to how they are treating their 4e customers. This is what is going to happen to you when they inevitably switch editions again in a few years.


Yes, but that's why you ended up with an awesome 4th edition. You had a 4E for the same reasons you had a 1E, 2E, and 3E. The economics of the industry requires, so far, issuing a new edition every so often for any major RPG.

The good side is that you get great new editions. The bad side is that you have to deal with the periodic change. I'm really happy to have had each edition, once I made it past the changes.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

5e fans should pay close attention to how they are treating their 4e customers. This is what is going to happen to you when they inevitably switch editions again in a few years.


Yes, but that's why you ended up with an awesome 4th edition. You had a 4E for the same reasons you had a 1E, 2E, and 3E. The economics of the industry requires, so far, issuing a new edition every so often for any major RPG.

The good side is that you get great new editions. The bad side is that you have to deal with the periodic change. I'm really happy to have had each edition, once I made it past the changes.



I accept the need to do new editions, and I love classic editions, etc. My point was more about the way they are treating 4e customers. The communication is abysmal, and it is repeating the same mistakes they made before. It breeds resentment bc you do not feel like a valued customer. This happened before and if they are smart, they wont let it happen again. Just be honest, dont completely forget about 4e players then tweet about updates as an afterthought. It sends the message that you dont want my business. This isnt hard to grasp stuff here.
The other issue is that, of course, people like different things.  People enjoyed 3e, and didn't like 4e, and thus left to play Pathfinder.  People still play 2e and 1e, never wanting to move forward.  And from what I've seen of 5e, it's changes from 4e are all the big points of 4e that I like, so I want to keep playing the edition I've put time and money into.
Is anyone actually employed by your company who has any comprehension of PR? In all seriousness, is there?  Because whoever it is needs to be fired.  My 3 year old daughter could do a better job



Constructively, what do you think Wizards' plan should be, given that they likely want people to transition from 4E to D&D Next?



In answering this, I would have to change the question to what Wizards' plan should have been as I think they have seriously missed the boat in getting people to transition to D&D Next and learned the wrong lessons from the switch to 4E. Here's what I would have liked to have seen:

1) A playtest of D&D Next when the game was in a good and relatively complete state. I've had a look at the various playtest packages and whilst I saw some interesting things in them, the repeated iterations and articles about monsters feels like they have no plan. They have reacted to the schism that 4E created by lurching too far in the other direction and now it feels directionless. I am uninspired by D&D Next at the moment as I have no idea what the final game will look like (and neither do Wizards as far as I can see). Paizo (and I make no apologies for referencing them several times here as they are the chief competition) put out a complete game system as a Beta, albeit a modified version of 3.5E rather than an entirely new design, and then incorporated playtest feedback in the final version.

2) Continue publishing 4E books. It was far too early to abandon 4E when they did in 2011 and that means, if my experience is anything to go by, that disposable income that people once spent on D&D books is now being spent elsewhere. I have been a Pathfinder Adventure Path subscriber for some time but now I am not buying D&D books I have subscribed to other product lines of theirs. Will D&D Next tempt me back? Doubtful at the moment.

3) Be honest about the future of the 4E tools. Set dates for updates and even announce when they are likely to be taken down and stick to them as far as reasonably possible. These announcements should be made as sticky posts in the forums at least or sent as broadcast messages to subscribers (or both). I have cancelled my D&DI subscription because of the disingenuous and seemingly unplanned way the "announcement" about the cancellation of regular updates was made. Based on the strong feelings expressed on these boards, I am not the only one this has upset.

4) Develop and announce plans for D&D Next electronic tools if there are going to be any or tell people if there are not. Again, this (and point 3 above) show where Wizards learned the wrong lesson from 4E and lurched too far in the opposite direction. Now, they are nervous of saying anything about the future in case they cannot deliver so people feel that everything is happening behind the scenes and announcements such as the one about updates are poorly handled as a result. 

5) Set a date for the release of D&D Next and stick to it, come hell or high water. This is the one non-negotiable deadline they should set and rope everyone in the company into meeting it if need be. Again, speaking from my own experience, I would have liked to know when D&D Next is out so that I had an idea when 4E content and tools might be pulled. I may then even start getting excited about what the new game has to offer. Right now, I have no idea when it will be released or what it will look like.

6) Finally, I would have put all of this into a communications / PR handling plan including dates for releasing previews of final content and dates of all announcements to be made. I would even include in this guidance on what people can say on Twitter and other social media and when (after the official announcement would be preferable). An announcement should not be broken publicly by Trevor in a Twitter conversation with someone. That is an uncontrolled announcement and the anger on these boards is the natural result.

One other point I would make that I doubt anyone could have planned for except with hindsight is about the consequences of the 3E/3.5E OGL. This has hurt Wizards perhaps more than anything else as, building from the platform of running Dragon and Dungeon, Paizo created a viable and now extremely successful alternative. The schism in the community would, I would argue, have had significantly less of an impact on Wizards' bottom line if those who did not start playing 4E straight away did not have a fully functioning well-designed alternative. Pathfinder is not the game for me, I hasten to add, as I prefer 4E but many of their products are adaptable and of consistently high quality. They also have a very clever subscription based business model that provides regular content without drowning the system in new rules and updates. 4E started this way with a plan for a setting a year, a PHB, MM and DMG a year and numerous splat books that added new content without fundamentally changing the system but that was abandoned after just two years. It was a good plan and they should have stuck to it. If they had, I for one would still be spending my money with them.
If this gets carried on till the 19th of May offically 3 months without update or word.
If this gets carried on till the 19th of May offically 3 months without update or word.



There's word, see trevor's post above. Unfortunately the word is just "soon".


They take so long compared to people who can do it for free....  
as I think they have seriously missed the boat in getting people to transition to D&D Next



We could argue that many people seem to be transitioning from 4E to Next, and that the process has also brough gamers that favor different editions. It is hard to say what is worth doing for 4E fans who don't immediately like Next, because it can be hard to make gains. It can feel like tremendous resources could be expended for very little benefit.

I work on large software rollouts. On every project, about 90% of the users will say they don't want the change; they want their old system. Ask them about the system they used to have before the current one and they say "yeah, I guess I felt that way initially - I didn't like my current system at first." Then try and suggest this should mean they should be more positive about the new system... it is very seldom they can see it, even after pointing this out. In the large software business, most advocate ignoring the users. I don't, but I can see where they are coming from. It is very hard to make progress and get constructive criticism when they want to criticize everything and can't be won over.

1) A playtest of D&D Next when the game was in a good and relatively complete state.


I don't disagree, but objectively they are in uncharted waters. There were plenty of criticisms regarding Paizo's 'playtest'. Many felt they never had a chance to provide feedback. This might be a time when we end up looking back and saying it was too long, starting too early. But it isn't clear. A lot of people are enjoying Next. In a world of constant internet criticism, a surprising amount of people spend time praising Next (for good reason, but usually we would expect people to only complain).

It is my opinion that we really won't know for years, if ever, whether this was effective. If I had to guess, I would say the next time an RPG company does a large playtest they will probably try something a bit different but still experimenting and with no actual knowledge that the concept is good or bad. There are too many unknowns.

2) Continue publishing 4E books. It was far too early to abandon 4E when they did in 2011


We can hopefully agree that this is likely to be a business decisions. Essentials seems to indicate that the 4E model did not work. Martial Power 3 would likely have been a flop. (Look at the results of the survey Perkins had for DMs... most DMs own MM but not Monster Vault... that's criminal!!!!)

Essentials giving way to Next must indicate that Essentials didn't work either. While many think Essentials was actually really good, and 4E brilliant (I agree on both counts, though I take issues with the marketing message clarity), it simply must be that the numbers were not good. I suspect here that again, RPG companies will try variations without actually knowing what to really do. There is no clarity other than this: all major RPG companies see their sales drop after their initial core books. The sales plummet precipitously with every new book. Every hardcore fan asks for more, but less income comes in. Keep going and you operate at a loss. (For a small RPG company, operating at a loss can happen with the 2nd or 3rd sourcebook! However, Kickstarter may change that).

In the end, I don't think anything indicates that WotC should have kept on producing 4E content. The sales numbers could not have supported it or they would not have changed to Next.

3) Be honest about the future of the 4E tools. Set dates for updates and even announce when they are likely to be taken down and stick to them as far as reasonably possible. These announcements should be made as sticky posts in the forums at least or sent as broadcast messages to subscribers (or both).


I agree. I do think this is a better way to operate. However, they may not have an answer. They can see how often we use the tools. Despite 4E being my favorite edition, I use the tools less often than once a month. I'm having fun playtesting Next, and I'm eager to make it better. I think many are in that boat. But, looking at big-time bloggers I communicate, they were all growing a bit tired of 4E. Looking at LFR, the numbers seemed to be dropping even as the adventure quality was increasing... and all before Next was announced. I just can't argue with WotC monitoring the updates and having an answer of "not monthly, will let you know more when we can".

If I had their ear, I would argue that they should publicly go to an every other month schedule, with the ability to skip updates if none were needed. I would also argue they should provide new 4E rules content sparingly - maybe once per 2 months. That keeps the workload down and lets the digital team focus on Next (assuming they will have digital tools).

4) Develop and announce plans for D&D Next electronic tools if there are going to be any or tell people if there are not.


I think I've been fairly critical of WotC's digital initiatives. But, I again have to conclude that they probably don't know yet what the tools should look like. How do you sell a module digitally? Should you change the makeup of DDI? Should you sell things differently (not unlimited access but perhaps with a menu of prices based on what you decide to buy, such that books are still attractive)? I would urge them to take their time here.

5) Set a date for the release of D&D Next and stick to it, come hell or high water.


I just hope they release it when it is done. 4E was rushed, and it suffered for it. Had they properly playtested and iteratively refined 4E, we might have had proper monster math and encounter guidance from the very beginning! We might have had feedback on proper adventure style from the beginning. Similarly, I am very glad they didn't decide to release Next they way it started or even the way it is today. With the changes being discussed to skills, feats, levels 1-3... I hope those get tested! The other thing is that there is no saying that the 4E tools will be turned off when the Next ones are turned on. They might both be kept for a long time.

6) Finally, I would have put all of this into a communications / PR handling plan including dates for releasing previews of final content and dates of all announcements to be made.


My guess is that Wizards (and most RPG corps) would conclude that you can't please the masses. The way people respond on the Internet colors this, and does so poorly. Why invest heavily when anything you communicate is criticized? Look at how nearly anything Mearls communicates has someone say "fire him" and another say "thank goodness Mearls is there, I totally agree".

One other point I would make that I doubt anyone could have planned for except with hindsight is about the consequences of the 3E/3.5E OGL. This has hurt Wizards perhaps more than anything else as, building from the platform of running Dragon and Dungeon, Paizo created a viable and now extremely successful alternative. The schism in the community would, I would argue, have had significantly less of an impact on Wizards' bottom line if those who did not start playing 4E straight away did not have a fully functioning well-designed alternative. Pathfinder is not the game for me, I hasten to add, as I prefer 4E but many of their products are adaptable and of consistently high quality. They also have a very clever subscription based business model that provides regular content without drowning the system in new rules and updates. 4E started this way with a plan for a setting a year, a PHB, MM and DMG a year and numerous splat books that added new content without fundamentally changing the system but that was abandoned after just two years. It was a good plan and they should have stuck to it. If they had, I for one would still be spending my money with them.


I agree with your comments on the OGL. But, many don't. And I don't agree with your assessment of how 4E should be sold. That model would have continued had it been proffitable. I think the certainty is that a DMG3 would have sold poorly. The same for a MV3. It's a shame, but I think that's the reality.

It is hard to know how Paizo's model works... how much is digital or subscription or stores. It just isn't clear enough to compare. Suffice to say the model needs to change... but how?

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).


... We can hopefully agree that this is likely to be a business decisions. Essentials seems to indicate that the 4E model did not work. ...

... And I don't agree with your assessment of how 4E should be sold. That model would have continued had it been proffitable. ...


Actually, we have no idea whether it was profitable or not, and if it was profitable to what degree it was.

The only thing we do know is that Hasbro, in 2006 or so, had expectations of each unit of the corporation producing $50M.  A number which someone in Wizards actually convinced them they could achieve.

Assuming that is true — and everything indicates that it is, and nothing indicates that it is not — then everything else is moot.  The economy collapsed.  Hasbro/Wizards screwed up the whole thing on so many levels it isn't funny.  Paizo came up with a viable alternative (I'm not claiming it was more or less profitable; it was competition, and the fact that they did right everything that Hasbro/Wizards did wrong doesn't much help).  Every couple of months someone in Hasbro/Wizards decides that the current plan isn't working and changes direction without following through on the old or the new.

What do I expect of them?  To act like a company with competent employees.  We're not asking them to support 4e indefinitely.  Hell, I don't blame them for coming up with new editions — it happened before Hasbro got into the RPG business and it will happen again after they divest themselves of the whole thing.  Games that don't get new editions tend to gather dust on peoples' shelves, there is no money in it, and that's what they're in the business for, to make money.  (And I will note that I actually liked the first playtest packet, and supported them strongly with the direction they were going at the time.  It was when they changed direction — yet again — and started the lies and double-talk — yet again — that they lost me.)

My point, and what I expect of them, is to actually earn my money, instead of treating it as an entitlement.  I pay for DDI.  I pay for customer service.  I pay for up-to-date electronic tools.  I pay for quality product.  They have been failing to deliver most of these with any sort of consistency whatsoever.  I'm not asking for them to support indefinitely.  I'm asking them to give a straight bloody answer.

Heck, Teos, you know about this sort of stuff as much as anyone.  How long did Hasbro/Wizards spend jerking Baldman Games about, for no reason whatsoever, with every red-tape-wielding bureaucrat passing along a "We don't know why you can't, but you can't until we know it" sort of response?  What's wrong with asking for straight answers, when that's what we're actually paying for?
Actually, we have no idea whether it was profitable or not, and if it was profitable to what degree it was.

The only thing we do know is that Hasbro, in 2006 or so, had expectations of each unit of the corporation producing $50M.  A number which someone in Wizards actually convinced them they could achieve.


Are we talking about Dancey's report on how units within Hasbro could gain great internal support and security if they hit a certain large revenue number? I don't recall that being an expectation/necessity. Shooting for big targets is great. Missing them is lousy. Wizards missed their target because they fumbled the start of 4E with insufficient playtesting and non-functioning DDI... when DDI was supposed to be what enabled a new type of play creating new consumption patterns (every LFR adventure available on the VTT, every Dungeon magazine adventure on the VTT, tons of people trying out the VTT instead of WoW, etc.).

In many ways, 4E did admirably. It was far easier for new players. Encounters has been a huge hit, bringing in tons of new/casual/inactive players (though creating insufficient revenue). The initial model seemed great. It felt like players couldn't have too many powers, etc. But there were many missteps. DDI flooded players with options, adding to the deluge of class options and treasure in books like Adventurer's Vault (really, did we need any more magic items after that) and Martial Power (let alone MP2). The end result was the same. If you look at Chris Perkins' poll results, DMs own the first core books and then stopped buying. And that's DMs... and DMs that are hardcore enough to read Perkins' column!

I would underscore how DDI played a part in 4E being shaky. It really added to the woes of how poorly prepared 4E was for launch as a rules system. Consider this:
- Just prior to release they still didn't know what to do with magic items. They completely reversed from no magic items or just a few to giving freelancers free reign with Adv Vault and flooding the system, forever destroying magic item balance and turning it into cold mechanics (Mordenkainen's was too little, too late).
- Plenty of grumblings about some staff that wrote certain parts of rules having that taken away and rewritten... and not in the usual healthy development pass model.
- It seems they had not playtested high level well enough.
- Monsters were completely off mathematically. It took years for the fixes to be applied.
- Skill challenges were poorly tested and poorly implemented. The DMG just about sunk the skill challenge system from the start. Despite a very large errata rewrite, it was probably the worst set of pages in 4E and undermined how play felt at countless tables.

Wizards should want to avoid repeating those mistakes. They should want more playtesting, not to force themselves into meeting a certain deadline, and not to waste resources on one project when they should be focused on the new rules. But, these things also make it hard to decide what to do with 4E tools - especially if the data shows fewer people using them every day.

What do I expect of them?  To act like a company with competent employees.


I want that of any company I've ever worked for (and as a consultant I've worked for hundreds). Such companies are a rarity. It isn't that they don't have great employees (just about all companies do), or great managers (same). It is that we as humans have trouble working in large groups effectively. The blunders of WotC are not very different from what I see at tons of companies with which I work.

It is also hard because as gamers we want 'our way' to be represented, and it kills us when we don't see it. It kills me when I look at D&D Next stat blocks... though other people think they are great. But, I don't think WotC is exceptional in their incompetence, as compared to other companies with whom I work, and especially not compared to the RPG industry. The average RPG company can't figure out how to afford to drive to Gen Con, how to have more than 1 table at Gen Con, how to manage a budget, how to advertise, how to publish on a schedule, etc.

My point, and what I expect of them, is to actually earn my money, instead of treating it as an entitlement.  I pay for DDI.  I pay for customer service.  I pay for up-to-date electronic tools.  I pay for quality product.  They have been failing to deliver most of these with any sort of consistency whatsoever.  I'm not asking for them to support indefinitely.  I'm asking them to give a straight bloody answer.


How can they give you an answer if they don't have one? Okay, maybe they do. Maybe internally they have tacked up on a wall: "Secret plan: destroy 4E DDI tools on January 1, 2014. Don't tell anyone. String the suckers along as long as possible. - Scrooge McWotCDuck"

I doubt that. More likely, like any company, they aren't sure. Some people say "this is a drain on resources, practically no one is using the DDI tools," while others say, "are you kidding, supporting every edition should be our motto, and closing down the tools would hurt our customers and us". And a manager probably concludes, rightly, that it isn't the time yet to make that decision. A middle ground is to keep going but not commit to monthly updates (especially when most months there is so little to add). That's my guess, and far more likely than some evil plan or incompetence.

How long did Hasbro/Wizards spend jerking Baldman Games about, for no reason whatsoever, with every red-tape-wielding bureaucrat passing along a "We don't know why you can't, but you can't until we know it" sort of response?


As with many things, things happen behind the scenes that aren't obvious. In all truth, Wizards had a tough call here for various reasons I can't share. Yeah, I wish they had made the decision sooner. But I'm tremendously grateful that in the end Wizards decided to allow the distribution of Ashes of Athas. It wasn't a simple decision, even if the outcome has been positive for everyone. I would guess that more than 70% of the companies I work with would never have even considered the topic, let alone supported it. That's another reason why whenever any 'fan' talks about firing someone at Wizards or "incompetent employees", I bristle. It just isn't right.

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We could argue that many people seem to be transitioning from 4E to Next......



I can't refute anything you've said here Alpha and you may know more about the profitability of the 4E initial model than I do but from my point of view, this succession of bad decisions has ultimately meant that I am no longer a Wizards customer and an instead a customer of their biggest rival. That, in the end, is how I have judged the business decisions they have taken. They have lost my business and I don't think, anecdotally, I am alone. You mention resistance to change above and I very much understand the concept but every change needs to be managed and this one does not feel like it is being managed very well from where I'm sitting. I was open-minded about Next when the playtest began and I liked some of what I saw but the process has gone on far too long and frankly made too little progress to make me excited about the new edition. I don't think that's as a result of me refusing to change, it's as a result of Wizards failing to persuade me that the new system will be worth me parting with my hard-earned money for.

As to the 4E business model, I continued to buy 4E even after the original  model was abandoned and as the products started to dry up, with the Neverwinter Campaign Setting being IMHO one of the best RPG products ever produced, but nothing followed it (apart from Mensoberranzan which was disappointing in comparison).

I can only speak from my point of view and I've set out above things the company could have done differently to have kept me as a customer. They didn't do those things and so, with a great deal of regret, I have taken my business elsewhere.

this succession of bad decisions has ultimately meant that I am no longer a Wizards customer and an instead a customer of their biggest rival. That, in the end, is how I have judged the business decisions they have taken.


I fully understand and sympathize on several levels. But, at some point Paizo has to consider a new edition. Their splatbooks are showing the well-traveled path we've seen countless times. They've done undead, Asian, pirates/ships, books with 'ultimate' and 'advanced' in the title, the fourth monster book, etc., and all on top of this being a retread of 3.5. At some point Paizo has to get back to core book sales and release a new edition, because the books become increasingly less applicable to every single customer (not everyone wants a celestial character, or a pirate, etc.).

I honestly think that every other way that Wizards could have approached Next would have produced the same hard feelings (though perhaps from other people). Shoot for a very short playtest and people would say it wasn't long enough (as was said of Paizo's playtest). Shoot for only releasing the playtest once it was further along and people would say they never had a chance to truly guide the game (as was said of Paizo's playtest).

As to the 4E business model, I continued to buy 4E even after the original  model was abandoned and as the products started to dry up, with the Neverwinter Campaign Setting being IMHO one of the best RPG products ever produced, but nothing followed it (apart from Mensoberranzan which was disappointing in comparison).

I can only speak from my point of view and I've set out above things the company could have done differently to have kept me as a customer. They didn't do those things and so, with a great deal of regret, I have taken my business elsewhere.


I do very much love that Neverwinter Campaign Setting - but doesn't the upcoming Baldur's Gate adventure/setting product sound like it is from the same mold? It sure sounds that way to me. I hope that we get you back once the playtest wraps up and the game products start to release. The gameday on June 15 should be a lot of fun, and the Gen Con events as well.

I hear what you have said, though. You clearly aren't alone in your perspective.

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To bring things back to the main topic, it does sound like a more definite update schedule, such as every other month, would help restore some confidence.

Any other ideas on concrete changes that would improve things? (They need to be reasonable, keeping in mind that the main focus is likely encouraging people to transition to D&D Next, and for WotC resources to be focused as much as possible on Next).

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

To bring things back to the main topic, it does sound like a more definite update schedule, such as every other month, would help restore some confidence.


It doesn't even have to be every other month — though going longer than 3 or 4 months is probably pushing it.  But actually giving specific dates for these updates (instead of three months of "soon," as they've been doing) would be very nice.  And keeping those dates would be even nicer.

Any other ideas on concrete changes that would improve things? (They need to be reasonable, keeping in mind that the main focus is likely encouraging people to transition to D&D Next, and for WotC resources to be focused as much as possible on Next).


Sure. 

•  Ask for Volunteers to maintain the less code-intensive parts of DDI.  Some of the stuff for Character Builder might be hard to pull off, but volunteers can build the monsters for the Monster Builder, or write up the updates for the Compendium, or compiling updates for the magazines.  Heck, there's probably enough geeks to handle the Character Builder coding.  I'd be more than happy to work on the Compendium, or to add stuff to the Monster Builder, without making a dime.

• Work toward a contract with a 3rd party to take these resources over now.  Hasbro/Wizards gets a percentage, and 4e people get the support.  Heck, HeroLabs would be ideal — they already have an offline builder.  Don't relinquish 4e entirely — they'd just follow the Paizo path that way.  But letting someone expend the resources to do the work while still getting paid a percentage of the take?  Heck, they'd probably increase profits doing that, and be able to re-focus their current employees toward making a Next version of DDI.

• Put someone in charge of PR.  Anyone, at this point.  Heck, isn't Shelly Mazzanoble still employed there?  Last time I saw her name on the website was when they were promoting her new book months ago.  I'd much rather she be the source of the lies misinformation news about Next than the current L&L column writer.... ;)
Alphastream, your posts have been more insightful, intelligent, diplomatic, and inclusive than any "official" communication I've seen. They should hire you to do PR :P


I accept the need to do new editions, and I love classic editions, etc. My point was more about the way they are treating 4e customers. The communication is abysmal, and it is repeating the same mistakes they made before. It breeds resentment bc you do not feel like a valued customer. This happened before and if they are smart, they wont let it happen again. Just be honest, dont completely forget about 4e players then tweet about updates as an afterthought. It sends the message that you dont want my business. This isnt hard to grasp stuff here.



My thoughts exactly. I play a lot of older editions along with a lot of 4e (and D&D Next!). I'm the kind of customer WotC should be happy to keep, but treating customers this way is really shabby. Ignoring requests for information for months is bad form, especially considering those requests were for info on a service we were paying for but not receiving. Even worse was getting the actual bad news by twitter. That's just awful. The whole thing just leaves me with a feeling of frustration and simmering anger.
There's probably thousands of DDi subscribbers not reading WotC's Twitter or Forums who wonder what's happening with DDi updates i am sure, this because they failed to communicate with their customer about something as important as service update.  

Still to this date there was no broadcast or email sent their subscribbers. This could be something easily done that would help clarify the situation with their users. 

•  Ask for Volunteers to maintain the less code-intensive parts of DDI. 

That would be awesome but i fear it never gonna happen  : ((

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

I truly hope someone from Paizo -and other companies- is reading these threads and taking note of this lousy PR from WotC. It should go straight into the manuals for future reference.

Apparently, reprinting books from two decades ago is more important for the company than a simple paragraph communicating with current customers who have at least spent a few hundred dollars on D&D products.

And yes, I agree with the fact that some very good PR may be hired from these forums.


I know that doesn't please hardcore 4E fans, but I think it makes the most sense for the company and the majority of gamers.



This has been acknowledged by virtually everyone in this thread.  What is making people hot under the collar, is the lack of information about when and/or if the DDI tools will catch up with the published 4e materials.  The lack of a clear, authoritive statement makes people (not unreasonably) just assume the worst.

I feel sorry for Trevour, trying to fight fires here, without the detail to do the job.  PR disaster imo.
What is making people hot under the collar, is the lack of information about when and/or if the DDI tools will catch up with the published 4e materials.

Just when, since Trevor already confirmed if in post 87.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

What is making people hot under the collar, is the lack of information about when and/or if the DDI tools will catch up with the published 4e materials.

Just when, since Trevor already confirmed if in post 87.



It wasn't my post you were responding to, but....

Forgive my lack of trust on the subject, but a couple of years ago, when people asked when the offline Character & Monster Builders would be next updated, they pretty much gave the same response that Trevor did.  Same for when they were dropping the VTT tests; they didn't let anyone know it was happening until after it already happened.

So until they actually do so, or actually give a specific date for doing so, I for one will continue to insert "if/" in front of "when" when it comes to discussing the update(s).  For all we know — again, based on past behavior — they're dropping them tomorrow.

For the same reason, I insert "/Hasbro" whenever I use "Wizards" or "WotC."  We all know who's the bottom in that relationship.  And we can all pretty much figure out who's hand is forgetting to make the puppets' mouths move, when it comes to information.

Please note:  A good PR plan can save a whole lot of this sort of trouble.  Americans are a forgiving people (look at Sanford's election), as long as you come clean and apologize.  Wizards/Hasbro has a lot for which they ought to apologize, starting with the 3e years and still counting.  Heck, the M*A*S*H version of the Korean War didn't last as long as this edition war has.
Is there any dnd 4e character creator out there that is up to date since apparently they can't keep there character builder that i'm paying for up to date??
The only thing we do know is that Hasbro, in 2006 or so, had expectations of each unit of the corporation producing $50M.  A number which someone in Wizards actually convinced them they could achieve.



I would take that information with a *very* large grain of salt. Information like that is rarely, if ever, made public. Chances are it is known only at the higher levels of WotC and Hasbro, and I would be *extremely* surprised if WotC/Hasbro would ever release anything like that. Ryan Dancey has not been at that level for quite a while.
 
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere