D&D Insider

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WotC has announced they are entering the technology arena with gaming and have proiven themselves incapable of delivering on their promises. This is undeniable given the evidence.

Here's a better one. Some new widget is placed oin the site, word travels virally through the net about said widget and everybody wants it. D&D Insider crumbels under the increased traffic. What penalties must WotC now pay the subscriber base?

The marketing hypoe is I can play on the D&D Insider Tabletop 24X7. Thqt infers a service level agreement of 100% up time. What happens if WotC fails to meet that inferred agreement? My cable company has to deduct money from my bill on a pro rata basis for outages. I expect at a minimum the same from WotC.

HEre's another one. I spend hours upon hours creating my campaign setting on D&D Insider. I subscribe and I can store this data as I'm paying for the service. Server crashes due to hard drive failures. What guarantees do I have that WotC can recover my data? I'm paying for a hosted service and expect 100% data retention or I expect those guarantees to be spelled out in the subscription agreement. With no guarantees, you might as well flush your subscription money down the toilet.

My expectations are high but this is because I work in an industry that hosts services for customers and I know what expectaions should be for this sort of a proposed online initiative.

NOte: By the very nature of it being a PAY subscription, you will probably NEVER have as many people logging in at once to it as you had logging in at once to this.
Yeah but DnDInsider is meant to be free until 2008.
Okay I have to rant alittle then I'll say the posative in my opinion. Rant: This remindes me of a CHEAP NWN game and may kill off the tabletop, I thought D&D was about playing a fun game face to face with people not a computer that is why I got D&D-End of Rant. The posative is it will alow people to play over long distince. So incunclition I will get 4E(most likely).
It's a VERY fair assessment, since I've been called upon to make such projections for requirements of server resources and bandwidth requirements to support similar marketing campaigns. I've been successful at this very thing multiple times over the past seven years and my expectations may be high, but they are very achievable.

Not to claim any inside personal expertise on this, but my experience is that even very large corporate websites can be killed by fans trying to load a page simultaneously. Amazon, Apple are two that I've seen go down immediately following something new being added. Many of the tax filing websites go down on April 15th.

And certainly its questionable business practice to purchase server capacity to handle the load that will only be in place for a few hours and that is relatively unrelated to directly making money.
Okay I have to rant alittle then I'll say the posative in my opinion. Rant: This remindes me of a CHEAP NWN game and may kill off the tabletop, I thought D&D was about playing a fun game face to face with people not a computer that is why I got D&D-End of Rant. The posative is it will alow people to play over long distince. So incunclition I will get 4E(most likely).

I doubt it will replace tabletop games, but what it will do is encourage players that can't find a local group to still purchase DnD products and play on a virtual table top, rather than drift away from the hobby completely.
The marketing hypoe is I can play on the D&D Insider Tabletop 24X7. Thqt infers a service level agreement of 100% up time. What happens if WotC fails to meet that inferred agreement? My cable company has to deduct money from my bill on a pro rata basis for outages. I expect at a minimum the same from WotC.

As with World of Warcraft, you'll most certainly sign an agreement that says they can take the servers down whenever they want and not give you a cent. My WoW server was offline for 48 hours this week. Did I get any credit? Nope -- it's just business as usual.
What the company does describe as revolutionary is the method of product delivery, which will incorporate online play for the first time. WotC is incorporating online components into the game through a new Website, DnDInsider.com. Each paper product will include codes to unlock digital versions on the site for a "nominal" activation fee. Players will also be able to use DnDInsider tools and access regular new content similar to the material that was previously released in Dragon and Dungeon magazines (see "Interview with Liz Schuh") for a monthly fee (as yet undetermined) greater than the old subscription price, but less than a MMORPG subscription. Magazine-style content will be added to the site three times a week and compiled into digital "issues" monthly.

Am I reading this correctly? We'll have to pay a monthly fee somewhere between $5 - $15 dollars to have a DnDInsider account, plus a nominal activation fee for each real world book we want to register with our account?
Yeah the monthly fee is $9.95 according to the press pack. I've not seen mention of the "nominal fee" in anything official as yet. Just here http://www.icv2.com/articles/home/11123.html

How they activate the additional DnDInsider content concerns me most, because if they make each book have a unique serial number like PC games, then it is going to mean every player in the group will need to buy their own copy of the book to use the DnDInsider stuff, which I think will mean a lot less people bother with the monthly subscription.

Currently our group shares it's copy of the Eberron Campaign Setting when designing characters, we won't be able to do this and use DnDInsiders character generator software if that's the case, we would each need a copy of the book, or just have to use pencil and paper traditional methods. I know which method would be most popular (the cheap one).

If the book had a code we could share like we can share the books I can see more folks wanting to use the DnDInsider content.
Yes, God forbid we have to pay for something valuable. People pay $10-20/month for WoW and every other MMO out there.

The questions are:

a) How many players pay more than one MMOG at the same time

b) How many of the 9 million WoW players are D&D players

c) How many would stop WoW for a D&D subscription?


I play WoW, I play D&D, I would never pay two subscription like that at the same time, I won't stop playing WoW for a D&D subscription
Okay I have to rant alittle then I'll say the posative in my opinion. Rant: This remindes me of a CHEAP NWN game and may kill off the tabletop, I thought D&D was about playing a fun game face to face with people not a computer that is why I got D&D-End of Rant. The posative is it will alow people to play over long distince. So incunclition I will get 4E(most likely).

You don't have to play 4e using the online tools. The online tools are completely optional. I don't understand why individuals are so against this idea.
As with World of Warcraft, you'll most certainly sign an agreement that says they can take the servers down whenever they want and not give you a cent. My WoW server was offline for 48 hours this week. Did I get any credit? Nope -- it's just business as usual.

That's a deal breaker for me, then. This isn't WoW, this is a hosted content delivery service and as such, my expectations are higher. If they cannot give me a guarantee in the form of an SLA, I won't be doing business with them for the service.
So, I guess that the life-sized beholder and troll at GenCon are the new incarnation of the creatures, haha.

New edition = new appearance, how ****** funny is that.

So, which creatures are going to be revamped too ?
Will elfs be tall in this edition ?
Small sized dwarf ?
Will dragons keep their appearance is will they be as bad looking as they were in the past ?
Will vampire finally no more look like retarded goth-ish sex machine that everyone want to be biten by?
Will the Mind Flayer turn into small sized, green-ish humanoid that use the 'force' ?
What will be the future surprise in the next Monster Manual ?

And what an awesome idea for their new dragon magasine.
Yes, God forbid we have to pay for something valuable. People pay $10-20/month for WoW and every other MMO out there.

I'd GLADLY dish out a few bucks a month for the ability to play REAL D&D online, using an officially supported and continuously improved application.

Imagine an interface like DDO or NWN, with integrated voice-over-IP, turn-based combat on a 5' grid, with characters adventuring together in a module that was created by the DM or downloaded from WotC or Paizo or some other 3rd party developer.

The mind boggles at the possibilities!

We need a platform-agnostic approach to this. There is no way I'm ditching my Mac for a Winbox for this. If WOW can support my Mac, this should as well.
I had been wondering how the DI would provide content from the books you own, and just read on ENWorld that there will be a code in the physical books you buy that will unlock all of that content in the DI.

That's a pretty cool idea; we certainly needed some way to get access to our content online if the DI is going to work. But I hope that WotC has a clever way of hiding this code inside the books, or of somehow activating those codes only when they're purchased.

If the codes are too easily accessible, evil-doers won't have a hard time stealing codes from books in the back of a bookstore or comic shop. If the codes are hidden underneath a scratch-off film like the numbers on gift cards, you'd at least know that a book had been compromised; but then who'd want to buy the book if the code had been exposed already? Most gift cards are kept at the front of the store near the cashiers to prevent scammers from stealing the numbers. Bookstores provide far too many corners and opportunities for examining books and cracking seals.

Does anyone know how they're going to protect the codes? I'm excited at the prospect of instantly getting all my book information online with the DI; I just hope it will all work right
Has anyone got to see dndinsider.com yet? Or just snap shots of what it is going to be. 10 bucks a month isn't too bad if there is actually something worth while there and you can actually get to it when you want.
I am actually excited about being able to play D&D over the internet. The groups around here just do not mesh with my style of play. So either I end up feeling bored or like an outsider.

The character creation tool looks interesting as well. I can't wait to mess around with that.
My main requests for D&D Insider:

- Make it platform-independent. It should work in Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, or any other operating system with a modern web browser.

- Make key parts of it available offline. You should be able to save important reference material for offline viewing and not have to "call home" to satisfy DRM.
I had been wondering how the DI would provide content from the books you own, and just read on ENWorld that there will be a code in the physical books you buy that will unlock all of that content in the DI.

That's a pretty cool idea; we certainly needed some way to get access to our content online if the DI is going to work. But I hope that WotC has a clever way of hiding this code inside the books, or of somehow activating those codes only when they're purchased.

If the codes are too easily accessible, evil-doers won't have a hard time stealing codes from books in the back of a bookstore or comic shop. If the codes are hidden underneath a scratch-off film like the numbers on gift cards, you'd at least know that a book had been compromised; but then who'd want to buy the book if the code had been exposed already? Most gift cards are kept at the front of the store near the cashiers to prevent scammers from stealing the numbers. Bookstores provide far too many corners and opportunities for examining books and cracking seals.

Does anyone know how they're going to protect the codes? I'm excited at the prospect of instantly getting all my book information online with the DI; I just hope it will all work right

The easy way to do it would be to shrink wrap the sale copies and have a neutered book for people to peruse before purchase.
The easy way to do it would be to shrink wrap the sale copies and have a neutered book for people to peruse before purchase.

That would work all right, except that they can just tear off the shrink wrap. Essentially, the shrink wrap is like that scratch off film they could cover the code with - if it's been tampered with, you'll know about it, but that means people in the store could render the books unsellable. Plus, you know plenty of people are going to end up unknowingly buying the compromised books.

As a side thought, this means that future D&D books may not be returnable or resellable. If it's shrink wrapped, the code would be compromised as soon as you break that seal, and after that a bookstore probably wouldn't want it back, since other players won't want to buy an unwrapped book. Similar to DVDs and computer media nowadays.
Personally, I'd rather WotC recognize that with SN cracks, bit torrent, and the analog hole, its impossible to prevent pirating of content. And once a book/article has been pirated, you'll not prevent those who don't care about piracy laws from stealing it anyway. Therefor, the goal of these sorts of things should be to keep honest people mostly honest, rather than making it easier to pirate a work than to legitimately obtain it.
Personally, I'd rather WotC recognize that with SN cracks, bit torrent, and the analog hole, its impossible to prevent pirating of content. And once a book/article has been pirated, you'll not prevent those who don't care about piracy laws from stealing it anyway. Therefor, the goal of these sorts of things should be to keep honest people mostly honest, rather than making it easier to pirate a work than to legitimately obtain it.

True enough. If people are able to steal codes and activate them for their own DI experience, at the expense of people who actually buy the books, there's going to be a big problem sorting it all out (trying to determine who is the real owner of the code and who is stealing it, etc).

You could almost do it more easily the other way around. Buy your book through the DI - you pay the cost of the book directly to WotC through the website, which unlocks your content, and you get a voucher or coupon to pick up the physical book at the bookstore. That way, you don't have to prove to the website that you own a physical book. Physical books would be on sale just like they are now, and wouldn't have any codes.

While its easy and will always probably be easy to pirate the physical books by scanning them, I think the DI offers a powerful incentive, because it's not just the content, but the way it's organized and accessed. WotC is in a position to deliver your PHB not just in book form, but in the form of a cross-referenced wiki-type format. Like www.d20srd.org but with more than just the SRD. That's worth money to me.
Protecting the code is easy:

Microsoft sells their XBox Live Microsoft points on physical, in store cards. These cards have a code on it. To prevent you from stealing the card and getting free points, the card has to be activated (it has a magnetic strip like a credit card) at the register.

Wizards could do the exact same thing. You take the book to the counter, the clerk opens the back cover, pulls out a card, swipes it to activate it, puts it back in the cover, and hands you the book.
I am actually excited about being able to play D&D over the internet. The groups around here just do not mesh with my style of play. So either I end up feeling bored or like an outsider.

The character creation tool looks interesting as well. I can't wait to mess around with that.

Your party of adventurers are on the virtual tabletop, heading to the room that houses the BBEG. They walk cautiously to the door. The Mage casts a silence spell, and the Rogue picks the lock. The door is carefully opened and in the center of a 60' X 60' room you see...

SERVICE UNAVAILABLE
That would work all right, except that they can just tear off the shrink wrap. Essentially, the shrink wrap is like that scratch off film they could cover the code with - if it's been tampered with, you'll know about it, but that means people in the store could render the books unsellable. Plus, you know plenty of people are going to end up unknowingly buying the compromised books.

As a side thought, this means that future D&D books may not be returnable or resellable. If it's shrink wrapped, the code would be compromised as soon as you break that seal, and after that a bookstore probably wouldn't want it back, since other players won't want to buy an unwrapped book. Similar to DVDs and computer media nowadays.

That'll make the books really cheap second hand, though.
Protecting the code is easy:

Microsoft sells their XBox Live Microsoft points on physical, in store cards. These cards have a code on it. To prevent you from stealing the card and getting free points, the card has to be activated (it has a magnetic strip like a credit card) at the register.

Wizards could do the exact same thing. You take the book to the counter, the clerk opens the back cover, pulls out a card, swipes it to activate it, puts it back in the cover, and hands you the book.

People scam gift cards that use this principle all the time. They swipe the numbers, leave the books on the shelf, and try to activate the numbers periodically, hoping to beat the real life purchaser to the activation.

I doubt this would happen with D&D books. People usually do it for gift cards and cash cards. Activation at the time of purchase might very well work - but it's definitely not infallible.
People scam gift cards that use this principle all the time. They swipe the numbers, leave the books on the shelf, and try to activate the numbers periodically, hoping to beat the real life purchaser to the activation.

I doubt this would happen with D&D books. People usually do it for gift cards and cash cards. Activation at the time of purchase might very well work - but it's definitely not infallible.

Plus, that's extra work for a book/gaming store, which might not have equipment for such a thing.
People scam gift cards that use this principle all the time. They swipe the numbers, leave the books on the shelf, and try to activate the numbers periodically, hoping to beat the real life purchaser to the activation.

I doubt this would happen with D&D books. People usually do it for gift cards and cash cards. Activation at the time of purchase might very well work - but it's definitely not infallible.

The purchase of the book would be what activates the card. You could leave the book behind and just keep the card, but that would be rather stupid of you.

And every store has the ability to do this. It uses the same machine that credit/debit cards use. So unless you're buying it from some backwater Mom and Pop store (how they got DnD books is beyond me), the point is moot.
We could go back to the 80s business model of "Please send your proof of purchase and address, together with a cheque or postal order for £1.99 to..."
The purchase of the book would be what activates the card. You could leave the book behind and just keep the card, but that would be rather stupid of you.

And every store has the ability to do this. It uses the same machine that credit/debit cards use. So unless you're buying it from some backwater Mom and Pop store (how they got DnD books is beyond me), the point is moot.

If someone was trying to scam the book, they would leave the card in the book after stealing the code number. Then they'd go online and periodically try the code number. When someone buys the book in the store, it activates the card, enabling someone (presumably the owner of the book) to go online, input the number, and associate the new book content with their DI account. This is how it works with gift card scams; they don't steal gift cards. They steal the numbers, then wait for someone else to buy the cards, thus activating them. Then they use the cards to make purchases online before the actual card owner can.
My biggest gripe with this D&DI stuff is that its not really because WotC really wants to put out content this way. I know, I don't have any real evidence.

I think Hasbro probably gave WotC an ultimatum "Either make consistent income or change the way you make income". So, WotC cut off everyone's licenses and implements an online initiative that requires a subscription fee. Now its consistent and they will know roughly how much money they will make each month. They don't have to depend on quality or quantity of the books they put out.

They probably could have made more money more consistently by printing books that didn't suck.

Thats just my guess though.
My biggest gripe with this D&DI stuff is that its not really because WotC really wants to put out content this way. I know, I don't have any real evidence.

I think Hasbro probably gave WotC an ultimatum "Either make consistent income or change the way you make income". So, WotC cut off everyone's licenses and implements an online initiative that requires a subscription fee. Now its consistent and they will know roughly how much money they will make each month. They don't have to depend on quality or quantity of the books they put out.

They probably could have made more money more consistently by printing books that didn't suck.

Thats just my guess though.

You may be right, but I disagree. I believe that digital gaming is the future, or at least a large chunk of it. I certainly prefer playing with my real-life friends at a real-life table, but that doesn't mean the potential for extremely fun online play doesn't exist. Technology is coming up to snuff, and it's starting to be possible to gain a great benefit from computers in D&D, whether you game at a table or online. WotC would be foolish not to jump at this opportunity.

That doesn't mean the DI is an example of what digital gaming should be, or will be. It doesn't mean they're getting it right or wrong. But nobody does it perfect right out of the gate, and often the only way to learn is to try (and to make plenty of mistakes). If WotC wants to be ready for the inevitable day when we all have access to cheap laptops and endless bandwidth, they have to start creating these tools today. We'll see how they do
So, WotC cut off everyone's licenses and implements an online initiative that requires a subscription fee. Now its consistent and they will know roughly how much money they will make each month. They don't have to depend on quality or quantity of the books they put out.

They probably could have made more money more consistently by printing books that didn't suck.

Your conspiracy-fed paranoia is astonishing. Plus it ignores the possibility of people canceling their subscriptions over quality.
Your conspiracy-fed paranoia is astonishing. Plus it ignores the possibility of people canceling their subscriptions over quality.

Thats were I think WotC's planned to make consistent income is flawed. They probably gave it a good shot though. I'm not saying it will be crap, I'm just saying I might need to go to the doomsayers thread and join in on the rabble rabble.
As far as an activation code for each book goes...let's be realistic. When a book goes to print, how many changes can you have in each copy? Exactly. Unless it's something removeable from the book (activation card sealed in a MtG wrapper) there will not likely be unique "printed" codes in the books. Having it in card form makes it too easy to steal and that leads us to option 2 which is totally possible and much more likely will be "Go to page 5, paragraph 3, first letter of third word" etc so that they know you physically have to book in front of you. Can you use the same book to activate multiple people? Likely answer is yes but it probably wont be the same code (different pages, etc).
IMAGE(http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y239/SoulCatcher78/techdevil78.jpg)
I would gladly pay $50-$60 for a solid set of DM/Player digital management tools that are standalone, installable on my system and work on PC and Mac.

I will absolutely NOT pay any monthly fee for a similar set of tools. With a one time investment I know that, come what may, I will have access to those tools I need no matter what happens. With an online subscription, I'm tied to internet access, the whims of WotC changing the software, and just a general lack of control that I don't like when it comes to my software.

I don't care about anything else the subscription comes with. I don't subscribe to Dungeon or Dragon, and I don't care about the virtual tabletop. By bundling all of this stuff together, sure you can offer it at a slight discount, but you will also turn away a lot of people who don't care for most of the service. Most of my gaming group feels the same way.

Kudos for trying to move forward with the whole digital age thing, but I think you're dropping the ball on this. No matter how cool it is, it's not what I want.

My 2 cents.
As far as an activation code for each book goes...let's be realistic. When a book goes to print, how many changes can you have in each copy? Exactly. Unless it's something removeable from the book (activation card sealed in a MtG wrapper) there will not likely be unique "printed" codes in the books. Having it in card form makes it too easy to steal and that leads us to option 2 which is totally possible and much more likely will be "Go to page 5, paragraph 3, first letter of third word" etc so that they know you physically have to book in front of you. Can you use the same book to activate multiple people? Likely answer is yes but it probably wont be the same code (different pages, etc).

That sounds ridiculous. I simply believe they won't have any book codes or anything of the like. I don't have a better idea though.

Edit: Oh wait... I just watched one of the videos. I have no idea how they are going to do this code thing without it being impossible to read the book before you buy it. I bet it would help sell crappy fluff books (I really like mechanics in my books, sorry).
actually the code COULD be provided as a seperate handout at the counter after purchasing the book, just like they do with cd/dvd at your music/game store. If they are serial marked then it will be no sweat to cancel access for any stolen ones and it might even be possible to track down the thief logging the IP that is being used to activate the card.
Your party of adventurers are on the virtual tabletop, heading to the room that houses the BBEG. They walk cautiously to the door. The Mage casts a silence spell, and the Rogue picks the lock. The door is carefully opened and in the center of a 60' X 60' room you see...

SERVICE UNAVAILABLE

Exactly. As I said, I'd gladly pay a premium price for a stand alone, desktop product. Make it the client for the online tabletop, I don't care, but I don't want to be tied to problems with WotC's servers, or my own internet connection.
I'm a web developer and a DM and I've given LOTS of thought to an online tool. There are plenty of great DM's helper tools out there. Managing an entire game online gets tricky, though. After all, part of the beauty of these role playing game is that they are so open ended, while a computer game must have some boundaries.
A good online tool might be something like an online collaboration tool with web-phone capabilities. It might allow a DM to manage maps, make quick calculations, etc. It might even go further in managing tactical situations and prompt for attacks of opportunity, etc.
However, picture this example: "I cram a peanut-butter sandwich in the wizard's mouth." A good DM can require the player to grapple his opponent, and rule that the opponent (wizard) cannot cast spells with verbal components for, say, 1d6 rounds.
Maybe an online version of the game would allow the DM to essentially track the effects of such actions to accomodate the program's management on the game mechanic, but I think at that point the tool is starting to get in they way of the game.
There is one aspect of the game that I believe will be even more difficult to handle digitally.
Hint: It's part of what might be called the traditional role playing game interface.
Give up?

DICE!

Sure, you can use "digital dice," or you could have someone roll and enter the results, but I don't think either will be satisfying to players. Completely ignoring any post-Freudian analysis of why members of D&D's core gaming demographic might enjoy the action of rolling dice, it's so fundamental to the notion of the role playing game that stripping it would make the game seem alien to many players. I think back to Gary Gygax's appearance on Futurama: "It's a... (rolls dice) pleasure to meet you!"
I remember many attempts to launch role playing games without dice, but I don't think I ever played one. A good random number generator could simulate the outcome of dice, but I believe it would drastically change the feel of the game.
Best of luck to the people at WotC. I hope their innovation may overcome my concerns.
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