Hello from the Executive Producer of D&D Insider

330 posts / 0 new
Last post
Hi. My name is Ken Troop. I work at Wizards of the Coast. Specifically, I am the executive producer for D&D Insider.

What does that mean?

It means I ultimately have the responsibility of leading and coordinating the various efforts of a lot of people here at Wizards who are getting D&D Insider off the ground and eventually into the hands of you, the D&D players who are eager to try D&D Insider. (If you're not interested in D&D Insider, then this message probably isn't for you).

In this first post on the boards in my official capacity, I want to address a few things, in the hopes of both giving all of you more information as well as being the start of what I hope and expect to be a fruitful dialogue between the D&D Insider team and the community.

First, a few ground rules --

1) Flaming -- I don't mind being flamed. I don't mind people venting their anger. I've been on the other side of the fence many times. I know what it feels like to be a player, a fan, a devotee of a game and occasionally think, "those numbskulls...they have no idea what they're doing...arrgh!" I know what it feels like to care passionately and to wonder how, if Person-In-Charge had any clue, could they make such a wrong decision on Issue Y. (Note I don't speak for our moderators or our moderation policy. I'm only saying for me, personally, I understand that flaming happens)

2) Constructive Feedback -- That said, while I can understand expressions of anger and frustration, it doesn't mean it's going to lead to better results for D&D Insider. What will most help D&D Insider evolve the fastest into its ultimate awesome state is constructive feedback. Of the content that is up there, what's working well and what's not? Of the content/features that you know we have planned, what do you like and what don't you? Remember that positive feedback is just as important as negative...most of the people who like something don't bother to tell us...until we decide that "oh, random feature Z must not be that important, because we don't hear about it, so we can cut/change/'improve' it."

3) The Contract -- I look at D&D Insider and whether people should like it or not, believe in it or not, pay for it or not, very simply...at a certain point we will decide D&D Insider is ready. Or enough elements of it are ready that we think have enough value to players to charge them for it. At that point, players will decide if, indeed, those elements do have value. They will then pay for it. Or they won't. It's a fairly simple calculation.

As above in ground rule #1, I don't mind being flamed. Or D&D Insider being flamed. And if D&D Insider isn't for you, for whatever reason, I respect that. I wish you luck in whatever you find that is for you. Truly. But, if what you truly want to say is, "Ken, D&D Insider should be for me. I want it to be for me. But it isn't because of X, Y, and/or Z..." then say that. Because that's a conversation I want to have.

4) The Truth -- I like being straight and honest in my communications to an audience. Not only do I like it, it's good business practice -- having nothing you say be respected or trusted is not good business practice. I also love explaining details...writing long, copious messages that go into great detail about why we did what we did. That said, there will be times, perhaps plenty of times, when I can't go into that detail. Where I can't explain all the reasons why we're doing what we're doing. And not because we're engaged in anything nefarious or diabolical, but simply because those are the realities of working inside a large corporate structure.

So I'm not asking you to give me a free pass...but I want to be upfront that there will be times that we will do things that, on the surface, make less sense than they would if I were able to explain everything...and I will not be able to explain everything. C'est la vie. (There will also be times in which we just made a bad decision...in this, alas, we are not immune to being, like the rest of you, human)

5) Responses. Pretty much everything that gets posted gets read around here...whether by me, another producer, community, R&D, Brand, etc...we have a lot of people who are very interested in what you have to say. That said, we usually don't have time to respond to most of the posts we see. At times we'll be very present on the boards, at other times, less so. Again, this is not to get you to accept it, but just to be clear that is reality, and that reality is not likely to change.

Hmm, those ground rules seemed very simple inside my head...already a lot of text here. I'll post another message right below.

Ken
Sorry for the long context above, but context is important to me. The more shared premises that exist between two people, the more likely productive conversation will follow. And that productive conversation is why we're here.

I want to start by trying to summarize what I see as the largest questions/concerns on the forums over the last two days and my perspective on them. I'm not going to cover every issue, and these are also paraphrases, not actual quotations (I think) --

1) "How could Wizards not have D&D Insider ready for the launch of 4th edition?"

From the very beginning of this project our goal had been to launch the full suite of D&D Insider tools and applications with the launch of 4th edition. How could we want to do anything else?

But to mangle a quote from the Princess Bride -- "Software Development is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something." And for those of you who want to tell me how your company does software at perfect quality and on perfect schedule and budget -- thank you for sharing. I'm truly glad it is so easy for you. It makes me happy to know those stories exist.

This is one of those times where I won't go into all the details. See G.R. #4 (the Ground Rules in the above post). And G.R. #3 is even more relevant...at a date sometime in the future we're going to decide D&D Insider is ready and that we can charge for it. That's our decision. After our decision is made, then it becomes your decision. Are you going to pay for it? Of course I want and hope for that answer to be yes, and we're all working very hard here to make sure that answer is yes. But it is still a simple set comprised of two decisions...and if we can make that transaction of decisions as painless and drama-free as possible, I think we'll both be happier for it.

2) "Why weren't we told about this?"

My first answer to that is, "We did."

See Bill Slavicsek's Ampersand column from a month ago -- http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dramp/20080507a

My second answer to that is, "Yes, even though we did, we could have done a better job overall."

Part of that is all of us have had our heads down in the trenches over the last few months trying to get as much of D&D Insider as possible ready to use and deploy for launch, or failing that, as soon as possible thereafter. With such tunnel vision, it can be difficult to remember to put down the code and the content and talk with your audience.

But regardless, we didn't do a very good job here of keeping up good lines of communication with the community. We're trying to get better at it. We'll appreciate hearing when we do better, and when we still miss the mark.

3) "I'm very sad that Game Table/[insert your favorite app here] isn't ready today."

We are, too. Very much so. In the meantime, 4th edition D&D is a wonderful game, and able to enjoyed on its own merits...just like D&D has always been.

And we'll be offering more info over the next several weeks on the applications and where they're at...for example, check out this thread where Wotc_DM gives a sneak peek at a screenshot for the Character Visualizer
http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1041844
(Wotc_DM is the producer in charge of developing the various applications, reporting to me, and his posts are usually full of great detail about the current state of the applications).

4) "When will everything be ready?"

A very important question. Also one of the hardest to answer.

The baseline here, and please understand it's not a flippant response -- Everything will be ready when we decide it's ready. Software development planning is still an inexact process...far more so when you deal with such a subjective experience as entertainment software...all the budgets and schedules and process in the world can't guarantee a given experience is "fun." So we're not going to release this until we decide it's ready to release.

I could give you a tentative set of dates, but those dates are likely to change. In fact, it's generally accepted practice in this industry not to mention dates at all.

The very next focused goal for us is to get the Compendium, in its first iteration, up and running as soon as possible. Expect a more formal note from me about the Compendium posted onto the website soon. The first iteration may go live in a couple of weeks, it may be longer than that.

As for the rest of the applications (Game Table, Character Builder, Character Creator), I'd say a safe bet is at least a few months from now, probably longer. Either way, we're very likely going to be rolling out one application at a time, to ensure as smooth and quality a launch as possible. Also take it as a given that each application will get roughly a "month-window" to launch in, meaning there would be at least a month in-between launches.

I'm giving you this context because I understand how frustrating it is to have no information. But ultimately, if you go back to the line of, "We'll launch them when they're ready", then you have your best and most succinct understanding of the situation.

5) "Dragon and Dungeon articles look great."

Thank you, we agree. Chris Youngs and his team have done a fantastic job getting the magazines ready...we're glad you liked what you saw on Friday, and expect a lot more of it over the weeks and months to come. And also continue with your specific feedback...I saw the response asking about improving the readability -- keep those comments, both good and bad, coming.

If you haven't already seen one of the articles, go here for the link to a great Dragon article by Chris Sims about the Warforged --

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/20080606b

At this point, I'll wrap up for now. I'm excited about 4th edition. I'm excited about the re-launch of Dragon and Dungeon magazines and the soon-to-be launch of the Compendium. I'm excited about the eventual launch of D&D Insider. As I said at the very beginning of this, I wrote all this to both give everyone some more information, as well as kick off the first of what I hope will be many, many productive conversations about the shape and nature of what D&D Insider can and should be.

I may not be able to post responses to this thread next week, but please know I, and others here, will read every response.

Thank you for giving me some of your time.

Ken
I'm going to say this now: Duck. This will probably become a mini-war field within minutes.:D

But thanks for this. Although it's frustrating to know that we probably won't have everything till at least late summer, probably early or even mid-autumn, it is at least nice to know you guys are definitely acknowledging this fact.

You're still going to want to duck though.
But thanks for this. Although it's frustrating to know that we probably won't have everything till at least late summer, probably early or even mid-autumn, it is at least nice to know you guys are definitely acknowledging this fact.

You're still going to want to duck though.

Agreed, thanks for taking the time to post here and let us in on what is going on with the DnDi. Hopefully you will get more constructive comments than just negative ones. I for one am happy that someone is willing to face the firing squad. ;)
I have a question, do you guys plan on starting to charge with the launch of the first app, or when they are all out?

Other than that, this was a very informative post, and I'm thankful you took the time to post it for us.
Welcome to the arena, Ken. I advise a broadsword and heavy shield, along with at LEAST three healing potions.

Now, I understand that you want to have everything 'perfect' before launch, but can I make some advice?

Release it alpha. Build a feedback and bug reporting system. Use your fanbase to correct glitches AS you add features. Make the software show a splashscreen for 10 seconds saying "THIS IS BETA!".

And then use that to improve and upgrade it all.

Now, I know that your servers are going to have to be up to do this, and those cost money. Of course, you can't charge for beta, since it's not a finished product. That costs money.

So beta the tools that will work WITHOUT the net connection to the servers.

honestly. This is D&D. It's been a work-in-progress since the 70's.

And which is better? So offer the beta to appease those coming in and asking 'where do I get the software?', or to just tell them that it does not exist yet, no matter what they were told.


Either way, it's possibly not even your decision, but the actions now are not building a lot of consumer trust. We really want D&DI to work, and many of us are willing to put forward effort to make sure it does. We just want that effort to actually HELP.
I would like to thank Ken for some very informative and well communicated posts. That said and in light of Ken's request for constructive feedback I would like to post my number one concern regarding D&D Insider.

I am concerned that the pricing policy for D&D Insider will leave me and many other potential users frustrated and alienated. There is great merit to the concept of full access for a fixed monthly price but I fear that WotC will chose to flood the users with add-on components at high prices. While I understand the liberal approach that everyone should be required to pay for only what he or she is going to use the case regarding online subscription based content is somewhat special. Basically what ensures that I will never purchase extra options for my subscription is that those investments are bound in the sense that they become useless if I at some point chose to end my subscription. This is very much unlike the case of D&D expansion books that will serve me very well without a monthly fee.

Holding this in mind there are two concepts that would not alienate me as a subscriber:

1) Have a flat monthly fee that gives access to all content. This is not an outrageous request. Many online services regularly provide their loyal customers with new content that is included in the subscription fee.

2) Let access to D&D Insider be gained through a larger one time fee with the option of purchasing expansions for one time fees as well. This option would ensure that you are not b inding yourself to a monthly expense in order not to have lost your investments.

Cynically I understand the idea behind making subscribers feel that they are "bound" since they have invested money that they do not want to lose but to me it is a very shady business model and one that will make me feel very alienated and saddened. I suppose my hope is that you and the rest of WotC wish to earn money through the loyalty of fans rather than through customers who in the end will feel used.

Thanks for listening. I hope for a reply but understand if time does not allow such.
Well, too bad that the apps, especially the game table, won't be out for a few months. In a few months I'll be very busy. I don't have a group of friends to play with in my area, and am not interested in getting a group together, because that would most likely mean I'd be DMing. I was looking forward to being able to play online with friends from the internet and those I've moved away from.

My schedule is light this time of year. In a few months, it won't be. If I had started playing now, I would likely make sure I set aside time when my schedule got busy to continue. But because I can't start now, I can't really set aside time for some undetermined future date. So when my schedule gets busy, if I'm not already playing, it'll be very difficult to start.

I planned on buying the books when the online component was up. The delay may have cost you a customer.
I have been one of DDI's biggest critics-I thought the silence regarding the DM table (the thing I really need) was deafening.
These posts, on the other hand, actually give (hoped for) milestones, what comes first, etc. I'm glad to see it. I hope you have good luck in the glitch-stomping department over the next few months.
My only advice/need is that it be user-friendly, since counter-intuitive software is beyond my ken.
Ken, thank you for the post and possible time line. Precision timelines in any corporate structure are hard to project, even worse with software and delays, as you said, are not only possible but pretty much expected across the industry. These delays, you really have little if any control over, but communication, that you have pretty much full control over. It is nice to see the communication starting to become two-sided. It is also nice to see that input from the community is not only read but wanted.

My concern for the suite of tools your team is creating is the customizability for those that run more detailed or slightly differing game worlds. Allowing input into the downloaded tools of custom designed items, feats, skills, etc. If you could share your team's vision on that aspect, I would appreciate it. As a GM, if a tool won't allow that, I have to continue to use other tools that will.

Good luck and I hope your skin is thick. There will be a lot of frustration and anger thrust your way.
My concerns have, for the most part, always been on the financial end. I have felt, that using the proposed example of being comparative to a MMORPG, that those types of games involve continued development as well but don't tend to work on a micro-purchasing system. If there are higher costs, those costs are spread to all subscribers as are all the benefits whether taken full advantage of or not. This seems like a more acceptable system to me, then again I do not have a degree nor experience in finance so can only speak from a consumer's point of view.

The slow rollout, though disappointing, is understandable and in the end I would rather have a reliable and effective product. I would agree with foolish_frost and say a beta period should be given so you can be get vital feedback and bug reports. Course, I also assume that this will be the case, but it will be limited, similar to how playtests were done, and not for general visitors. If so, count me in, I didn't get to contribute to the 4e development, but can certainly find issues with programs, have years of being a Windows user to prepare me for it. ;)

Like the rest of the folks on here, thank you for this thread and at least attempting to answer our questions and concerns.
I agree with the above poster.

Release the app as a beta stage, and insert a bug reporting system. Theres no reason to have 20 or 30 people test these in house when there could be a thousand testers at the ready and more than willing to put the program through the paces.

Faster bug reporting, means you guys get to do your jobs faster, and concentrate LESS on finding the bugs, and more time fixing them.

A public beta will also appease the masses quite alot compared to the outcries that are going on right now.
Hi Ken and Welcome to the Meat Grinder.

I have to say that my natural tendencies as a forum reader towards righteous indignation were mollified greatly by the fact that someone at WotC, and the person in charge of DDI nonetheless, was willing to come forward and tell the rabid sub-race of fan that lives on message boards what is going on.

Allow me to add my 2 coppers worth of constructive feedback.

1. You did right by us by coming on here and telling it to us straight. Please keep doing that. Most of us are actually nice understanding folks who just happen to suffer from information addiction. I am happy as long as i know the broad outline of what is going on. A nice Blog or Sticky or Possibly Dragon Article thread would fix the problem.

2. I am also happy to mooch free content off of you until the date that you decide that DDI is complete enough to start charging for. Please give me plenty of advance warning when that will be. I will allow that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Warforged article. If I continue to be impressed by the content during this free period you may well have gotten yourself a customer. You will surely lose me if the lines of communication dry up and the Paid Content wall goes up unexpectedly.

3. I would also like to third or fourth or whatever number we are up to now..the beta testing idea. Forumites are a good pool for the kind of software beta testers you will need for a few reasons. We are active fans. We like to write about what we like and what we dont like. and most importantly we don't always agree with you and are not afraid to tell you so. I have been through conversions in many other gaming systems and often the Playtesting pool gets muddied by Kool-aid drinkers. This can easily happen in Beta-testing as well. You said you are not afraid of Flaming well then get some loud angry flaming trolls for beta testers. If you can get them to the point where they will only grumble instead of loudly declaiming the software then you probably have a winner.

4. And lastly, though I am sure you have thought of this...
Since all the shiny bells and whistles of software goodness are gone from DDI you really better start pushing content out like there is no tomorrow or else you lose the window. I have already downloaded 4 character sheets and I have seen screen shots of one really cool Java app for Dms. 3e was known for lots of player created goodness out here on the web and without a print presence and with no tech toys to play with on the site the longer you go without added value the Harder it will be to sell DDI as a pay service when it actually launches.

So heres to seeing if you can make me actually need you Ken!

Cheers!
Thank you for the information on the status. As a developer and engineer I know about over estimating the time it will take on something. But on the other hand, ever heard of beta or as Microsoft likes to call them these days, CTPs?

I would gladly start paying right now, $50 a month just to have beta quality tools to use. I don't have an in person group of people to play with and frankly all other tools require too much configuration to run a campaign on since they do not integrate tight enough with the rule set.

I want to meet people online, and start playing a DND session instead of games like Vanguard or DDO or Everquest.
So the marketing people were able to hold you off till after the release date before mentioning that we're probably gonna wait a year before you can play this game online with your friends? Hopefully they don't decided to can the whole idea before then.

The online part is what got most of us to buy it. That was the big inovation that got us to even look at a pen and paper game again.

The old gamers who now have wives and kids were going to be able to get back to the table to roll some dice after the rug-rats went to bed.

It's good of you to put this is writing so we can stop checking the webpage every day. This post should be stickied a few places and be the front page of dndinsider.com.

Can you get a mailing list together and let us know when new things are ready for us to take a look at?
First off i would like to thank you for telling us the status, sort of. But when you say "when it is ready" what is that exactly? Did you just let the developers have at it and have no time lines for when the applications are due? I am not trying to be rude im just confused why its not ready, and not even close by what it seems like, if this was supposedly in the workings last year. I can understand the game table not being ready yet and that being pushed back a few months, but the compedium was not even ready to be added, and now you say it will be a few weeks if not a month before its up and running?
Sorry if this seems to be a little harsh but my entire group was looking forward to playing together this summer over D&DI, and now it seems as if development has just been started and might be released sometime this year.
As i said, thank you for replying to this chaos that has been occuring on these boards, i was wondering when someone would come forward and accept questions, and i thank you for doing so in a timely manner.
Thanks
Positive Comment: 4e Dungeon and Dragon stuff looks good, keep it coming.

Constructive criticism: The dungeon article for Ebberon mentions the Shifter and Warforged characters, but they are actually in the Dragon article. The should have a link to tie them together. Similarly the Dungeon table of contents page should link into each article.

Question: What is the status of purchasing pdf versions of the books? I haven't heard anything about that in a while. Technically it should be doable now. I'm afraid this feature has been abandoned.

Random gripes: The usability of the web site is really pretty bad, and it doesn't look that good either. It's definitely rooted in the 3e era. The whole gleemax thing is clunky too. I when I came to insider it said I was logged in, but then when I went to post it prompted me to log in. Keep on the Shadowfell should of had it's pregens as downloads.

Good luck with the digital initiative, I'm in software development too so I know you'll need it.
"My second answer to that is, "Yes, even though we did, we could have done a better job overall.""

I think if you made it a bit more clear that they are due out soon it would help. Three people were looking with me at the site today while doing the 4th edition game day. They saw that the links were there and furiously clicked each picture trying to find how to start the applications. I know that the search engine isnt working yet, because it said "coming soon."

After some searching i found this article. But the fellows had already gotten their hopes up and had them dashed.

Might i suggest just a small line at the top of each page that says "application coming soon."
Well...I only have one thing to say about how things are going.

I personally have no interest in -any- of the tools that are being offered. My friends and I have played through IRC since I first got interested in D&D, and we have no qualms about continuing to do so either. Really, we'd -like- to, being as we're all in random IRC channels in the first place, and adding one for D&D is nothing big.

The only worry I have is regarding Dragon and Dungeon. From what I've gleaned over the past few days from various sources, there doesn't seem to be any plans in offering D & D alone. If this is true, I think it's an absolutely -horrible- idea.

Not only am I a huge magazine addict, but from what I've seen in the Warforged article, even the pdf format of Dragon looks excellently done. I'd have no qualms about continuing to pay for them alone.

HOWEVER. And this is a -big- however.

If I'm going to pay for one or both of these, they've got to be cheaper than it would cost to buy monthly at the news stand. I have no interest (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) in paying for a heavily limited pdf file that costs the same as a magazine that requires printing costs, distribution costs, etc, etc.

So, yes. Please consider (or confirm) that Dragon and/or Dungeon will be purchasable on their own, and hopefully without a silly limited plan like only getting access at the end of each month when the whole issue is out.

I'd really like to give Wizards my money for making a good product, but I can guarantee it won't happen if I'm stuck with $15/mo, or even $10/mo for one of the magazines.
Constructive Feedback:

It seems you are having much pain with software development. I can understand as I am a coder myself and realize how painstakingly difficult fixing and finding bugs can be and resisting the temptation of feature creep. So here is some simple advice: make sure you hire software developers with much experience who know what they are doing. I hope you aren't hiring software developers straight out of undergraduate college.

And for gosh sakes, let the software developer's SLEEP! If they don't sleep and you force them to crunch all night, that will make things worse!

One more thing, PLEASE, tell us in text on the front page about these things. I hope your web developer is not also the person developing the DDi tools?
"My second answer to that is, "Yes, even though we did, we could have done a better job overall.""

I think if you made it a bit more clear that they are due out soon it would help. Three people were looking with me at the site today while doing the 4th edition game day. They saw that the links were there and furiously clicked each picture trying to find how to start the applications. I know that the search engine isnt working yet, because it said "coming soon."

After some searching i found this article. But the fellows had already gotten their hopes up and had them dashed.

Might i suggest just a small line at the top of each page that says "application coming soon."

That would take all the fun out of it. Finding this post hidden on the boards is like an online quest.
Thanks Ken for the information. I like pretty much everyone was disappointed at the delay however I prefer that you follow in general Blizzards product development examples. Its done when its done, but as long as its good.

That being said, and someone correct me if I am wrong, I was under the impression that DDI was going to be like $15 a month and that got you access to Dungeon AND Dragon as well as the app tools and whatever else. I was not under the impression that it cost more (and if it does, thats a different story) for the apps. However, $15 a month is not THAT much and for if nothing else the two magazines and a little of other content its not that bad. If its $15 for everything, and the apps go as advertised and work well, $15 is squat. Two magazines and tools that make playing with people who are across the country easier and things are better laid out, to me is a great value.

Sadly im surprised that I seem to be one of the few that thinks $15 is worth it and I would be curious on what they think they should get for $15 a month or what they would be willing to pay for.
I won't try to make it sound like a polite or casual greeting so....Welcome to Hell. Because that is what you will likely catch from people as the months go on here.

Thanks for stopping by at the request of G_Z, or whomever, and giving this information and opening a dialogue with the consumer base about the future of the product that is/will be DDI.

More of that here on these forums would go a long way to strengthen the communications beteen the community and the customers.

I figured Compendium would be the first to launch, and liked a bit of what I saw of it before it went down. (Should have kept my mouth shut and just played with it more rather than tell everyone it was live.) well I hope it did give a stress test to see what to expect when it or any of the other tools go live in the way of how many people will rush to try each one.

I do have a question/reques about the compendium. Even though it will not have full rules, but "rules elements" why were page numbers taken out?

Couldn't those be included? IF space requirements are of concern from what I was able to use of the compendium a quick reduction of lettering from Monster Manual to MM would allow plenty of space to not only include the book number when later renditions of the core books are released yearly, but page numbers as well and still allow for sorting by the book.

In the case of Dragon or Dungeon "elements" links to the actual issue or article for subscribers would be helpful moreso than jsut a page numebr. However that may cause some problem when searching for an issue that was prior to subscription date, but should easily work the same way as viewing the issue would to get the full rules text.

This will make the Compendium much more functional as a super-index of D&D 4th Edition as well as offering the tibdits of actual game data that was present in the accidental sneak peek.

In the unlikely event of errata for any of the books, the same format used for Dragon and Dungeon could be used to link to the latest updated form that the "rules element" points to on the website.

On the front of the display of the elements itself, it may be needed to have some sort of advanced search where you can find all items matching both Elf and Wizard, or matching either Elf or Wizard for example so you can make a more defined search with multiple terms.

Also the number of results displayed per "page" should be a setting individual users can coose like the forums with all being a possibility.

When sorting the sneak peak did not do a reverse alphanumeric sort, but only forward. I would think the reverse is already something in the works.

Well there are some ideas of what oculd be helpful for the compendium, but I am sure they have already been thought of, and at least one user has now stated them here for consideration.
Sadly im surprised that I seem to be one of the few that thinks $15 is worth it and I would be curious on what they think they should get for $15 a month or what they would be willing to pay for.

Given that most MMOs offer an entire game's worth of content, providing something that many people can play hours daily for $15 or less, it's pretty obvious what we're expecting.

When many people play D&D only once or maybe twice a week, depending on game size/number of games/etc, $15 for a small suite of tools and a couple magazines is ridiculous.

Hell, I could buy an entirely new book off Amazon or another cheap retailer for only about $5 more.
Given that most MMOs offer an entire game's worth of content, providing something that many people can play hours daily for $15 or less, it's pretty obvious what we're expecting.

When many people play D&D only once or maybe twice a week, depending on game size/number of games/etc, $15 for a small suite of tools and a couple magazines is ridiculous.

Hell, I could buy an entirely new book off Amazon or another cheap retailer for only about $5 more.

I agree that an MMO thats $15 a month certainly can offer far more value (at least in content and whatnot) that perhaps DDI. However a few things, one you have to usually buy the game for $50. Also, and this I don't know cause sadly I did not have it but I would suspect that a Dungeon and Dragon subscription came close to $15 a month anyways. Even says it was half, assuming you either had a subscription or would not mind having one now that the other $7-8ish is not worth access to the other apps that they have listed, nevermind the ability later to add new ones or other content.

Obviously it all comes down to if its worth it to you. Obviously if everyone or a very large chunk of people deem that its not worth it to them, then either Wizards will evaluate and either lower the price or drop the project all together.

My issue is seeing several on the forums (not necessarily in this thread or even on Wizards forums but on others) are the people who are like "OMG HOW DARE THEY !!!111!". First of all, Wizards is trying something new, so delays and what not are expected (at least by anyone who has dealt with software and games). Also, Wizards is trying to find a way to make some money (lets face it, they are a company and profit is good for shareholders as well as consumers as the more money generated by a brand such as D&D, the more likely new products will be allowed to be published and created). As Ken stated, he hopes that people see that its worth it for the $15 a month. And if not, then there is no law that says you have to get it. But as I saw in a previous post, people need something to complain about.
Dear Ken,

To be honest I am not likely to be a D&DI customer. My husband and I are both students subsisting on government loans, and we have a regular group that plays face-to-face. Our group is not even sure at this point that we will switch to 4e. I am nonetheless interested in seeing what the website will eventually offer, and free preview content is exactly what will sway an undecided customer like me.

What I would like to provide feedback on is your posts -- and the fact that you posted here at all. Like many other fans, D&D has been an important part of my leisure time for many years. When I heard a new edition was coming out, I was very excited. As time wore on, however, I felt there were many growing problems that were independent of the product itself. I was very disgruntled with the way WotC was marketing (or lack thereof) to their customer base, and the way they were handling the message boards.

It was enough to drive me away from the product -- through no fault of 4e itself. I did not want to give WotC a penny of my money because I thought the company's representatives were acting like bags. I wondered how brand and community managers -- whose job involves being in the spotlight, marketing, and dealing with customers -- managed to regularly alienate and irritate those people who ultimately paid their salaries. I wondered why developers who blog about their work were surprised at the negative (and often personal) feedback they received -- and then further wondered why management allowed them to snark back at the customers directly and publicly.

It was, therefore, with great amazement and gratitude that I came across your posts here. I don't know if you used to work on the Magic side of this company, but I find your straightforward tone and call for open communication reminiscent of many of the articles I've read on that part of the website. It is refreshing to deal with -- and completely unexpected on the D&D side of things. This level of professionalism from a D&D employee does a lot to restore my faith in the company. At the very least, it means I'm more willing to consider 4e and, ultimately, the D&DI.

You, sir, have a lot to teach the rest of the D&D team, and I hope they are willing to send whoever's in charge of the GSL/SRD, not to mention Mike Lescault and/or his boss, your way for a day or two so they can learn how to handle customer service like a competent professional. Even Sara Girard and Scott Rouse could pick up a few tips from your posts in this thread.

So basically, this is just positive feedback to let you know I really really really appreciate you taking the time to post this, and I think it would be great if this sort of communication could be implemented on a brand-wide/company-wide basis. I'm sure someone reading these posts compiles the comments and sends them off to your boss. I want your boss to know this was a really excellent move that may have saved a 4e customer, and hooked me as a potential D&DI customer, and I think you deserve a lot of accolades. I also want the ultimate head boss person, whoever they are, to know that the D&D brand needs more representatives like you as their front-facing staff.
I agree that an MMO thats $15 a month certainly can offer far more value (at least in content and whatnot) that perhaps DDI. However a few things, one you have to usually buy the game for $50. Also, and this I don't know cause sadly I did not have it but I would suspect that a Dungeon and Dragon subscription came close to $15 a month anyways. Even says it was half, assuming you either had a subscription or would not mind having one now that the other $7-8ish is not worth access to the other apps that they have listed, nevermind the ability later to add new ones or other content.

True, you usually have to buy the game. But again, here -we- have to buy the books. Assuming you get even two, that's covering the price of the most expensive of MMOs (I don't know -any- that run for $50, maybe AoC...), and then you're back where you started with paying $15/mo for a little suite of content.

As for Dragon and Dungeon, there is no -way- they came close to $15/mo for a subscription, even if you ordered BOTH of them. You'd have to buy both magazines only off the newsstand to reach the same price they're charging for D&Di.
Ken, thank you for sharing your thoughts and input as well as your candid estimates of where we're at in this endeavor.

However...

With all due respect, as a returning player (haven't played since 2E!) I feel completely railroaded by a large corporate money machine that allowed me to purchase their product while at the same time knowing full well that the tools they said I would have at release would NOT be available to me. And what happened?

You took my money with one hand, then with the other gave me the finger and showed me the door.

I have purchased the 4E Core Rule Books set and did so with the understanding that I would be able to very quickly learn it and get online with my geographically disparate buddies and start enjoying adventures in little time. But no... because I don't troll your forums every day and read every damned article I wasn't "in the know" about the delay of the DDI tools.

For heaven's sake, Ken... I just read an article that is STILL UP that clearly says we'll get the tools with the release of the Player's Handbook! Don't believe me? Go to: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drdd/20071024a and read it yourself. For those who don't want to click away, here's a direct quote from Didier Monin: "D&D Insider will launch in June 2008 with the new Player’s Handbook"....

Now how do you expect me as a paying customer to understand that article to mean, "Delayed until it's done"?

What I honestly think is happening here, and God help me if I'm right, is that you developers and programmers are doing your damndest to get it done and get it done right BUT you've been told by marketing to NOT make it abundantly clear before release that our promised tools aren't here as promised. Oh sure, there was that one "Ampersand" article... give me a break man! You could have easily put something on the front page of the site to let people know.

Aah, but wait... if you did THAT, if you actually informed your paying public up front about this then shoot, you might not have sold nearly as many books, right? Isn't that the truth? Had you been open and honest and up-front with us from the start you would have lost a huge chunk of your sales. I think you know this and I for damned sure know your bean counters know this as well.

All told, I may be jumping at shadows, Ken, but you have to admit that it's pretty ****** to let us all get so excited about this, watch the mountain of book sale money roll in and then say, "Oh, right, by the way...."

I feel so angry and disgusted by this. It's not the fact that I don't get the tools yet. I can live with that. It's the principle. In a day and age when all of us gamers are REGULARLY **** upon by game companies with their false promises, it cuts to the quick when a company I respected so much as Wizards appears to be up to the same game.

One last thing... I'm keeping my books. I'm going to play. You have my money but don't ever think that means you have my trust. Your company will have to earn that back, Ken. And trust me when I say I'm not the only one. Not by a very long shot.

All the best,

Blackflagon
True, you usually have to buy the game. But again, here -we- have to buy the books. Assuming you get even two, that's covering the price of the most expensive of MMOs (I don't know -any- that run for $50, maybe AoC...), and then you're back where you started with paying $15/mo for a little suite of content.

As for Dragon and Dungeon, there is no -way- they came close to $15/mo for a subscription, even if you ordered BOTH of them. You'd have to buy both magazines only off the newsstand to reach the same price they're charging for D&Di.

well just about every game when first released is $50. Wow, Ultima Online, Age of Conan, The Matrix just to name ones off the top of my head. True, many will lower their prices after the initial launch.

And you may be right, and it comes down to two things (tho somewhat related). It really comes down to is $15 worth it. For some (and in some cases from what I have seen from the forums, assuming it was a good cross-section of the public, many) it may not be. If Dungeon and Dragon continue to be good and the apps do what they are advertised to do and are decent to good, I personally don't mind kicking down the $15 a month. And this coming from someone who bought all three of the new books.
*passes Ken my 3.5 Edition suit of +5 full plate armor of major fortification, back from an edition where armor magically resized itself to fit the wearer* You'll be glad for this later...

My suggestion is a simple one, and one that I think would make the most people happy. Price-value each component that DDI will offer and sell it on a cost-per month itemized basis. Here's a suggestion; not knowing the costs for you, only you will know how feasible it is. With your business model at $15 for the whole service, I'd suggest for monthly expenses:

$2 - Dragon Magazine access (no printing costs means lower prices!)
$2 - Dungeon Magazine access (see above!)
$1.50 - Character Builder access
$2 - Dungeon Builder access
$7.50 - Character Visualizer/Virtual Game Table
Free - Access to the Compendium for subscribers to other services

With this model in place, you'll make everyone happy (or happier, you'll never make EVERYONE happy). DMs like me will go full-suite (I'd only trim out Dungeon Magazine, as I make my own worlds). Players might like access to Dragon Magazine and the Character Builder. Anyone who wants to play D&D like a limited-run MMO or get together with friends over the table will find the half-pricing of the Game Table more palatable. You'll be incorporating everyone at some level or another, and I'm sure this wouldn't be a difficult transition to put into your software development. This will also allow you to roll out DDI one step at a time, putting all your resources into each project and finishing it faster.

Without this adjustment to the model, I'm afraid I'd have a very hard time selling DDI to my players, and would therefore lose out on some of the opportunities DDI really promises to provide. I don't think it's unreasonable, and as I said, it'd serve to inflate your user base with subscribers who otherwise wouldn't even consider it.

So sayeth Omnus.
Am I right in reading that it'll be a month before the compendium is up, then another month (at least) before the first app, then another month (at least) before the next app etc.???

So, it'll be about 7-9 months before we get the set?
Playing Scales of War

Rogue.jpg

First off, thanx for the post, I thought it was a sham at first so it is nice to see that the big wigs come down to the feeding troff every once in a while.

I understand the software side and hope others do as well. I think an Alpha would be good also, but I would not just open it to everyone as that may turn folks away that dont understand it's an 'alpha'.

Here is my 'constructive criticism', one that so far has the most common subject on this tread (and those reading, if you agree with this, please post it, dont 'not' post because it has been said, the only way WoTC will know how big an issue it is will be by volume.

I like the layout so far of the DDI, and the 'potential'. I must say that this is what got me first interested in the 4e and got my brother excited as well (we have not played together for years). My kids (they are my group) are excited as well due to the fact that that they can 'see' their guys and the monsters.

So I 'want' to love this product, but the price has to corrected in my mind. Like I mentioned above, I currently play with my three little kids (and my wife when I can convince her), the online table has got us excited about playing with my brother and his two little ones (we can convince our wives to play since the 'kids' are spending time together.

Now I think $15 a month is a lot for an online game like DDO, I canceled my sons as well as my own because we were not playing it enough to justify the cost. Now the online game I can play at any time, I am not dependent on another, this lends itself to being able to play more often than your DDI table.

I dont mind paying a yearly fee, or a one time shot for good software, but a high ($15) fee for software that is by its nature limited (no animation, no auto calculations, and for all intense and purposes a 'table') just cannot be justified for myself and my family. Now $15 a month for a table space that covers my entire group (my family), that is doable, but me paying $15, my kids sharing a computer and thus paying $15 as well as my brother forking over $15 for us to play 1-2x a month is hard to justify. (My son has been trying to save up his money, but do I really want him to spend his entire allowance on something we will use 1-2x a month?)

There are a lot of game tables out there (something I was not aware of until I started reading these forums, most charge, but they charge a flat fee, not a high monthly fee. I would rather use yours, frankly because I like supporting those I do business with, and yours will be designed for D&D, and I would be willing to pay a 'little' more than what those tables charge, so instead of paying $20-30 a year, $40-50 would work. The good thing about the delay is that it gives me a chance to try out these other tables and hope that the price strategy from you guys changes by the time the apps are out.

Also, charging on top of this high fee for v-minis just seems like robbery, that should really be re-considered.


So that is my request, please reconsider the pricing, and think about families when you do this, we get hit double hard.


Thanx for the drop in.

MacPharlan
$2 - Dragon Magazine access (no printing costs means lower prices!)
$2 - Dungeon Magazine access (see above!)
$1.50 - Character Builder access
$2 - Dungeon Builder access
$7.50 - Character Visualizer/Virtual Game Table
Free - Access to the Compendium for subscribers to other services



So sayeth Omnus.

From what I have gathered from the latest u-tube video, the reason the are including the mags is due to the fact that everyone 'shares' their characters, anyone can pull your character and use it.

So the problem is trying to track who has what. If you have a mag or book that gives you a cool item/feat and I dont, the character is messed up when I take it and try and play with it.

I understand the dilemma, and if this is truly the main reason for this, I say scrap the character sharing, I dont want to have to pay for someone else's groceries
Well Ken, you have to understand that the customer base is used to nothing short of epic incompetence from WotC/Hasbro when it comes to software. The third edition character generator suite. Magic the Gathering Online 3.0. It comes out late, it comes out broken, it wastes our time and our money. Your employers have laid a groundwork of broken glass and rabid weasels for you to do your work upon, and even if you performed flawlessly it would be to a skeptical audience thanks to the previous track record. Not fair to your team that the failures of others should poison the well, but the customers really can't be blamed for healthy skepticism at this point.

That said, here are the red flags in my mind when it comes to D&Di as a specific product.

1. Shady pricing plans.
Fifteen dollars a month per player, and you pay extra for minis/monsters/tiles? That's double-dipping; you'll notice that online games will charge per month or charge you for items, never both. The online games that nickel and dime you for goodies are free to play, and the online games that charge for play don't make you pay for your character's equipment. There's also no sort of granularity in those plans; I don't know a single player who's at all interested in Dungeon or Dragon magazines, and tacking them on as a mandatory part of the monthly cost is irksome when the magazines have been fairly useless for years. Having something fun (and more useful) like monthly adventure modules that can be easily loaded into the game table would get you much more mileage.

2. It's late.
Not so much for the fact that it's late, but from the fact that being late is following the trends of the previous catastrophic failures of software to come from Wizards.

3. It's shallow.
'No rules arbitration.' That's a killer of a sentence right there. That sentence tells me that your wallet-draining service isn't offering me anything more than currently-available freeware for online roleplaying. If I'm going to pay for an online D&D application, I want it to know the rules and make life easier for the DM by giving the option of automating basic tasks.
There should of course be the option for the DM to handle things manually to account for house-ruled stuff, but if Ragnar the barbarian has a 2d6+8 damage weapon and wants to hit a goblin with it, I as a DM do not want to have to start manually rolling dice and adjusting health on the goblin. What on earth am I paying your software to do if I have to spend ten seconds clicking around for every time a barbarian hits a goblin?
I want the software to ask me whether I want to allow Ragnar to perform his attack with standard rules, I want to click 'Yes', and then I want the software to roll the dice and apply the damage for me. I want to be alerted when a creature can take an opportunity attack. I want marked creatures to be highlighted for easy reference. I want to be told whether a target has cover from an attack. If I'm going to pay for a monthly service, I expect the service to do things that make life more convenient for me.


A good online gaming service is something that I'm very willing to pay for. D&Di, at its current proposed price point and feature set, is not. This is not an irrevocable situation, of course; I'm perfectly willing to reassess my opinion if the future should improve D&Di's value to me and my group.
The Stepperjep speaks and will be honest, Ken.

I've been so excited to see 4e come out for a while now. Months on end have I looked at articles about 4e and read up and got me more thrilled that it was coming out. I never really cared about the forums about such, but visited it every now and then only to see trolls and flamers. I would like to throw in my 2 Astral Diamonds about the issues I have about 4e and D&Di.

1. I am at complete horror that the 4e "Keep on the Shadowfell" and "Core Books" are smearable. I love to have great quality D&D books and these visually look wonderful; however, when I placed my "clean" thumb on a page and slid it across as I was reading certain pages smeared at spots. The KotSF was worse, it smears almost on every page. Please inform who needs to be inform that these books are precious to us and would like them to be somewhat collectible to us. I still have AD&D books that have not a single smear and are in 67% condition due to wear and tear.

2. I agree with a few posts about not reading certain articles about D&Di being delayed. My goodness, I was on this site almost every minute trying to figure out how to activate the programs and such, but alas there was very little except for "View the trailer" or just descriptions about the product. I very much agree with the idea that "Application coming soon" should be in Large bold print above each section.

3. With #2 being said...prices. I agree that $15.00 a month for the whole outfit would be a wonderful price. I've played World of Warcraft for 3 years straight, and have recently gotten bored and canceled my account for good. For many of us "Hardcore Gamers" we want to be able to access some goods, and enjoy a firm product. I know that you and your staff are working diligently towards this, but for Bahumat's sake...inform us more often than afterwards. I agree with another person that many of us are information junkies, if you feed us some info more often, you'll have more permanant customers.

4. And finally, I want to thank you for coming on the forum yourself to tell us where D&Di stands. This is a large step and shouldn't be the final one for staff postings. You informed us to a level of understanding and I respect that. I am a full fledged customer and would like to continue to stay as such. Please keep things informed no matter how long the post is. I spent 40 minutes reading everyone's thoughts, and I'm sure after I post this there will be 10 more posts added. Again Thankyou.

::The Stepperjep bows and walks away::
Oh, I forgot another biggie.

I think that you should give a discount or other such incentive for those buying the books. The DM's seem to always be the ones that carry the brunt of the load.
Oh and on a small unrelated note not dealing with D&Di...someone needs to fix the Messageboards link on the mainpage. Everytime it is clicked it automatically puts you in the Previous Edition Message boards, I don't like that. :-p Anyhoo.
Ditto Blackflagon.

I'm also returning having not played since 2e. I feel exactly the same.

Also, I'm a software developer. (As I've noticed several people on these boards are) I'm going to go ahead and make myself a flash program to allow me to play with long distance friends. I'm sure many of your fans will do the same. For free. Seems like it will be hard to convince many of your most zealous players to subscribe after they've figured out their own work-arounds.

Its frustrating and disappointing.

Also, ****** that you have to pay for the book again to get a digital copy. It's 2008. Seriously.
Timing
Very disappointing. Of course delays can happen, how Wizards of the Coast handles them is disrespectful to the customers however. (This does not only apply to DnDi, but also to the restatting of the Unhallowed DDM set for example.)
If you know that delays will happen, post them as visible and transparent as possible. (you can't expect your customers to read every single news entry that gets posted opposed to a marketing that screams "...and the DnDi Tools will be there! And they will be so great!" every time I see a D&D 4th Edition product.)

Pros for DnDi
*) Podcasts - I like them a lot, if possible keep some of them public
*) periodically new content in "Dungeon" and "Dragon"
*) Hopefully the character generator

Cons for DnDi
*) Skill Cards / Monster Cards / Trap Cards not available in a prepared printable version. I heard that the character generator will offer me to print the skills my character has. I want to print a cardset for each class though. I want to do that for the monsters, want to do that for the items, want to do that for the traps. Currently I heard no plans of releasing electronic cards for printout.
If you are afraid that ppl will join for one month, print out all "viable data" and wander off again, tie those cards to the purchase of pdf manuals.
*) No support for fan-programmers
I would like to see the Data (again skills, monsters, traps, etc.) offered as XML. That way subscribers could use it in their own programs.
*) No user content integration
At the moment it seems that even IF I generate all the statcards mentioned above myself ready for printout, I am not allowed to share it with the community. I understand that you want to make money of your source material and therefore I can't share such fanprojects with the public, but I'd like to see a way to do that on DnD Insider.

No opinion on
Online Game Table
As a programmer myself, I actually do NOT want to play D&D 4th online whenever possible.

Wrapup (for lazy readers)
Good: Podcasts/Dungeon/Dragon
Bad: delay/no printable statcards/no fan-programmer support/no interface files (XML)
Thank you for your hard work.

Short and sweet comments:

* I am most interested in the character builder. The compendium doesn't interest me as much. The game table is cool, but I use Mac. Also, the GT is clearly going to take the most amount of work. The builder has a big "bang for the buck" for me.

* Please consider some iPhone interface to the builder / char sheets. I'd like to remove the pen and paper from my pen and paper RPG.

* Please add quality RSS feeds to the site... particular Dungeon/Dragon.

* Please get GrZ to update the RSS feeds so that it is truly a podcast and not an occasional YouTube posting.

* Hire the guy who did the DnD homepage redesign. It's awesome.

Best of luck,

Jay
Ken,

Thank you for stopping by and giving us the "bird's eye view" of where development stands.

Is there any chance that we could get a list of the order you hope/intend to release the assorted bits? You mentioned that the Compendium is next, which seems logical. How about the downloadable applications?

More to the point, is there a chance that customer feedback might influence any planned release schedule?

As someone who's very active in the RPGA, and with the launch of Living Forgotten Realms looming over us, I'd love to see a working version of the Character Generator sooner rather than later.

By all reports, GenCon sold 4,215 (or so) tickets to LFR events in 24-hours. Giving those players a standardized character sheet, complete with all their powers pre-calculated for hits, damage, etc would be a great boon to the players, the DMs, and the campaign as a whole.

While others may clamor for the Game Table first, or a Dungeon Build, or any other tool first, it would seem to me that all of those are of minimal utility until our Characters can be created and double-checked for accuracy in an even and consistent manner.

Just my questions and coppers.

Thank you for your time.
WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter