D&Di VTT - Pros & Cons

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Malkav666 had a good idea in the other D&Di DM Toolkit thread, so I'm taking the initiative on this one:

I have to say that, comparisons with MMOs aside, I'm a touch excited about the idea that I'll be able to play a REAL game of D&D with REAL gamers while I'm deployed, out of the country, or just otherwise unable to get with players in my area. I hate missing a year of the State of the Art/Hobby because I have to go play Army in a third world country (which is an argument for another place altogether).

I want to remain pleasantly optimistic about what WotC is doing, and I'm wholeheartedly behind the move to 4E. Besides, $10 is not much to ask for to keep funding the hobby. With the weight of a major company like Hasbro/WotC behind we, the bourgeoisie gaming community, it gives me hope that the game will go on.

Marketing is a powerful tool for guiding the feebleminded masses.
Ill be happy to participate in this.

Here is a list of the things I really like about VTT:

1. Official imagery of WotC miniatures and tiles. Myself and my group have really really enjoyed using the D&D miniatures and dungeon tiles in our tabletop game. Many of them especially the ones that get selected for use as representation of player characters get nick names and thier addition to a digital offering adds a level of nostalgia and familiarity that I really like.

2. The possibility of RPGA support. I have always liked the idea of RPGA and living campaigns. Being as my group is so large it is hard for us to participate as a group (we would have to split the group and run two seperate sessions). If the VTT gives me a better avenue to play RPGA content, then quite frankly im excited.

There are some other pros to the VTT, but I feel these elements are not above and beyond the current free or non subscription based competition. Not to say I dont think they are good features. But the two numbered points are what I like specifically about the VTT that WotC is offering.

Things I dont like:

To be quite honest there are only two aspects of DDI's offering that I realy dont like.

1. The double dip price point on the imagery for the product. Without comparing VTT to an MMO (which is the easiest thing to compare it to) id say its still an awful thing to charge your customer extra for the graphics for a program they are already paying you for. 3-d modeling is not as exspensive as 3-d animation, yet there is no video game type products in exsistance that charge extra for the graphics to enjoy the full experience that is boasts. I mean c'mon, the graphics I have seen in pictures of DDI VTT and the character generator arent even on par with video game graphics from 4 years ago.

Ill repeat something I said in another thread here: If five hundred thousand users sign up for a year (this is a very low prediction, even bad games usually enjoy higher numbers than this at the beginning of thier life cycle, and it also assumes they all sign up for year at the cheapest price point) thats still 60 million dollars annually. That should cover all of the writing for dungeon and dragon, a database administrator to add achanges to the rules database and a whole team of 3-d modelers with a LOT of profit still left over. That leaves me to wonder why they are charging extra for the graphics. I feel it is a blantant money grab just because it has a D&D logo on it. And as a customer I would sum it up that it really pisses me off.

2. The only other thing I dont like is the fact that the seem to be trying to sell me thier advertising. Webs support and design information should be given to the customer at no cost. It is called product promotion and support. Why I should have to pay my money to promote your product for you is beyond me. Why should your customers have to pay for information on a product you are asking them buy? It defies logic, and once again makes me feel like they are trying to see how low they can stoop before I just walk away in disgust. Product previews should never be sold as source material.

Ill close with a few suggestions.

1.If you want to sell content on top of the subscription, make it content I dont have in my current tabletop experience. My group uses your official minis. It is part of the tabletop experience for us. To try and sell a "D&D virtual table experience" those things should be included in the asking price. I should be able to run and play in player created content that has access to everything we have already paid you for in our real life groups.

If you want to sell premium stuff on top of that im fine with that. Want to sell me 3-d models of NEW miniatures made specifically for DDI VTT. Fine, im cool with that as long as the core product im subscribed to has ample minis built into its cost and new ones being added in a timely episodic manner then I feel that a perfectly legitmate way to make a few more bucks.

Want to sell me modules with special tiles or special NPC miniatures? Im fine with that too. If it costs a couple bucks to buy and play and RPGA module, im down for that. But these things should be truely optional. Tokens doesnt cut it. I get tokens with all of the free competition. Your paying subscribers should get a goodly amount of miniatures for just subscribing and paying you monthly. And they should have new ones added at regular intervals as part of thier subscriptions.

2. Support community made content. In a game like D&D your community is especially important. You should have submissions models set up for those that want to submit adventures and and easy to use way for your customers to share adventures, custom miniatures, and tile graphics with each other. This type of support has historically added lengthy periods of popularity to products, even after thier other features became dated. NWN (not including the sequel) is a perfect example of this idea in action.

3. Offer a stand alone package. The VTT software should be made available for individual purchase to be run on private servers. Then you could piecemeal and sell individually tile and miniature supplements as exspansions. And those cutomers that didnt care to read the web articles they used to get for free, and have thier own rulebooks and dont mind searching through them could be spared a subscription fee.

4. Im not sure how tied the VTT is to 4e rules. But it should be usable with other editions of D&D with ease. You should be able to make a character and have it be a 2nd ed, 3.5, or whatever ed. and save the character as such. This would simply mean having digital copies of those character sheets available on the service. I am not suggesting full rules database support for those products. But it sure would be nice as a long time customer to see that my previous investments still have a valid and real place in the new digital D&D world. In fact I think it would allow you to make more money with your customers that prefer playing older editions as they would likely be more inclined to subscribe as it would be a valueable tool for them to find groups. Then you get free advertising with them as all of the written content will be 4e. I think this will make them more likely to actually look at the new edition all the while enableing them to play editions they currently enjoy.

5. Offer cross promotional unlock content. dont drop the idea of using codes to unlock content. It is a viable way to use product synergy to support various products. And WotCs product line is large. It is also a way to reward your digital subscribers who buy printed source material. Because with the addition of the rules database, you really are lowering the value of that printed material to your subscribers. You may get extra subscribers because of the rules database giving out all of the crunchy bits, but have you really made a profit if your printed line suffers as a result?

Thanks to the OP for staring this thread. I have posted in many D&D VTT and insider threads, and as of yet I still feel like my concerns are being largely ignored. I guess this is what it feels like to own a Mac (lol just kidding, even if it is in poor taste).

Even though there are some really shiny points to the VTT, I cant help but feel alienated by the cut throat bleed em' till they are dry marketing model that is currently ascociated with it. And even though there are some things about the product that are pretty nice. I more than likely wont subscribe, nor will I advise any other person to do so. Its a matter of integrity. I wont support a video game styled product that sells its graphical components as options. Hell, I wouldnt even be surprised with WotCs current marketing piracy efforts, if they asked thier beta testers to pay for the right to test the product.

But dont mind me, Im just sharing my opinion with you because I want you to buy me a soda.

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