Digital Insider #1

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This is a repost of an old article due to housekeeping requirements.


Randy has posted an article about D&D Insider.

The text is included below:

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Welcome to Digital Insider!

by Randy Buehler


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Hi folks,

Every week I’ll be posting an update here about the ongoing progress of D&DI. I’ll also be doing my best to give you guys sneak peeks about what’s coming down the line, glimpses at how things are getting done, and visibility into the flavor of what it’s like to work on such an awesome game. This week I’m just going to focus on facts since I know you guys are starved for information right now. In the future, I look forward to sharing some of my own D&D resume because I’m sure those of you who know me at all know me mostly as a “Magic guy.” (I was really tempted to begin this column with “Let me tell you about my character …” but I think I’ll save that for a week or two.)

First, some clarifications of the big picture: D&D Insider is a collection of distinct components, all of which are designed to help you enjoy D&D even more than you already do. Our current vision for the product includes:

The new online versions of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines.


A D&D Compendium that provides searchable access to rules elements from all of our published material.


A suite of small “bonus tools” that live on the web and help automate some basic tasks of being a player or DM.


A Character Builder with all the rules built in.


A Character Visualizer that lets you build a 3D model of your character, either so you can take a screen shot for your character sheet or turn it into a miniature that you will then use on the D&D Game Table.


A Dungeon Builder that allows you to construct maps to play with either on the kitchen table or on the D&D Game Table described below.


The D&D Game Table, which allows you to play D&D over the Internet. It’s a fully 3D environment that allows you to move mini’s around a map, communicate with others via voice chat, and all in all simulate the kitchen table D&D experience.
We will be charging a monthly subscription for access to all of the above after the Free Trial mode has completed (the free trial will last for at least one more month).

Here’s where we are right now:

Dragon and Dungeon Magazines are up and running and are now 100 percent driven by the D&D R&D team. We’re using in-house design and development resources to make sure every article is worthy of being an official part of D&D and we feel really good about the quality of the product that we’re publishing. The way it works is that multiple times per week new articles are published (as PDFs so that they can look every bit as good as our physical book product). By the end of the month a complete issue has now been unveiled, one article at a time, and that content gets collected together into an official issue of Dragon or Dungeon Magazine. These magazines are currently in free trial mode, but we intend to start charging for them in the near future. (See below for discussion of pricing.)


The D&D Compendium is up and running in free trial mode. Right now the Compendium has data from the Player’s Handbook. Before we move to subscription mode, the Compendium will also include Dragon and Dungeon Magazine content. In addition, all of this data will be updated whenever Wizards issues official errata. (In fact, PH errata is already reflected in the current free trial.)


A couple of small bonus tools are ready to go live so you guys can mess around with them. The Ability Generator is useful for playing around with new characters. Meanwhile if you’re a DM, the Encounter Generator might be quite useful to you depending on your style. In addition, we’ve got a monster building tool in development right now that we hope will be ready before the Insider free trial ends.


The Character Builder and the Character Visualizer are our current priority when it comes to the suite of client applications. Each will be available for the public to try out at Gen Con as we’ll have them installed on computer kiosks both in our booth and possibly also in the Sagamore Ballroom (the main hall for actual RPG gaming). Each is functional if a little bit buggy at this stage – plenty good enough for me to use for building my character for my current campaign and almost good enough for me to authorize external playtesting. The Builder UI is probably not quite as polished as the Visualizer right now, but that’s what the current round of iteration and polish is focused on. The good news is that once we finish polishing it, the Builder will be exactly what you’re hoping it will be: a way to generate a character sheet that both makes you aware of all your choices and also does all the math for you so the resulting sheet is accurate. Like I said, they’ll be available to anyone in Indianapolis next week who wants to try them out and I’m looking forward to hearing what you guys think about them.


The current version of the Dungeon Builder is mostly done, but it’s only truly useful if you have the Game Table so you can load up your dungeon and see it, 3D terrain tiles and all.


The Game Table is the biggest, most complicated piece of the whole package and it’s going to take the longest to get right. The good news is that it’s far enough along that it’s being used by a Tuesday night campaign being run at the office. The bad news is that the players take bets on how many times it will crash each week. That’s just the way digital game development works … we’ll get there, but like I said before the Builder is currently our #1 priority. If you time things right, you might be able to get a peek at the Game Table in Indianapolis as we’ll be doing some demonstrations of it, but it’s not yet ready for general use.
I know there has been a lot of discussion of our business model and our pricing plan. We’ve been paying attention to those conversations and have decided to tweak a few things. Our current plan is to start charging for subscriptions before we have the client applications ready. That means the initial Insider subscription package will include exactly those parts that are currently in free trial mode: the magazines, the Compendium, and the bonus tools. The price tag for this subscription is as low as $4.95 per month, depending on how many months you are willing to sign up for. Specifically:

Web-Content Only Subscription Package:
12 Months = $59.40 ($4.95 per month)
3 Months = $19.95 ($6.65 per month)
1 Month = $7.95 ($7.95 per month)

We aren’t ready to discuss our medium or long-term pricing plans, but this is what the short-term looks like.

Hopefully this answers a lot of your questions about D&DI. I’m sure it also raised some more and feel free to ask those in the forums. I’m particularly interested to understand what topics I should cover in future weeks of this column. Alternately, I’ll be at Gen Con next week so feel free to come up to me there and tell me what you think of D&DI directly.

--Randy Buehler


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