Randy Buehler laid off--What now?

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According to numerous confirmed reports on enworld.org, a number of individuals have been let go.

Solice and Randy Buehler are two of the important names I noticed, especially in terms of these forums.

I'd like to take a moment to applaud Randy's communication efforts and make D&DI's release schedule and other ins and outs more transparent to us here in the forums.

I'd also like to mention that Solice has done a great job in her short time managing the forums, and cleaning up a pretty big mess.


SO WHAT NOW? I'm going to miss Randy's updates both on the forums and on webpage.

These two WotC employees were the only major outreach/communication with us fans. There have been some major lines of communication opened. It seems tragic 1. that these great people were let go, 2. that these positions are presumably being closed, and 3. that these lines of communication are being cut.

To someone who frequents the forums, especially D&DI (I was a former News Guide for Mudbunny), this feels a bit like a slap in the face. I don't mean that personally, but it does seem to undervalue the desires for communication and the work that went into that.


So I ask, with this new information, what now? What should we expect in terms of communication from WotC, if any?
Note that while this is a reply to Aberzanzorax's, this is a reply to the general DDI forum users, and is not directed at him directly. Any instances of "you", etc, are to be taken in the general sense, and not in the specific sense.

All I can tell you[1] is the reports that are already out there on ENWorld and various RPG blogs.

As far as I know, there has been no official statement from WotC on the situation, nor has there been any comment or statement on how it affects D&D, DDI or any other WotC products.

I have poked some people to see if I can get some information, but I don't know how much of a reponse I will get.

All I can do is ask for your patience. WotC is a pacific time zone company, so they are just getting itno work as I type this. My educated guess is that any public statement that gets released will be this afternoon (Pacific time) at the earliest. As soon as I get any information that I am allowed to share, I will pass it along.

I will also ask for your restriant. While it may be tempting to unleash your rage at WotC/Hasbro, please do not. It would serve no purpose other than to make the channels of communication that much harder to keep open.

[1]I have no other information that I can share. This is not "I have info, I just can't talk about it because of an NDA", this is "I have no info".
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Another article from ICV2.
http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/13847.html

Digital Consolidation at WotC Results in Layoffs
Published: 12/03/2008 12:18pm

The fallout from Wizards of the Coast’s consolidation of its digital initiatives (see “WotC Pulls the Plug on Gleemax”) has become apparent in a new round of layoffs that reportedly includes VP of Digital Gaming Randy Buehler, Director of Digital Games Andrew Finch, Creative Manager of Digital Design William Meyers, and Online Community Manager Jennifer Paige.

Reached for comment by ICv2, a WotC spokesperson noted “Wizards of the Coast consolidated its digital game organizations to streamline execution of digital growth strategies for core brands,” and WotC President Greg Leeds added: “Consolidating internal resources coupled with improved outsourcing allows us to gain efficiencies in executing against our major digital initiatives Magic Online and D&D Insider. Wizards of the Coast is well positioned to maximize future opportunities, including further brand development on digital platforms. The result of this consolidation is a more streamlined approach to driving core brands.”

The newly announced layoffs represent the second wave of dismissals at WotC in 2008—an earlier round was announced in August (see “Restructuring at WotC”). According to a posting at EN World by Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens, the current layoffs also include Art Director Stacy Longstreet, Editor Julia Martin, Game Designers Dave Noonan and Jonathan Tweet, and Jennifer Powers (marketing). A WotC spokesperson declined to reveal the total number of employees let go, but told ICv2: “While this move results in some job eliminations, Wizards of the Coast continues to fill open positions in other areas of the company.”

Well well well.

Yeah. Thats just great. Fire the two people that are actually talking to us. Faith in DDi is hitting rock bottom... again.

Not only that.. but according to Digital Insider 17, we won't even have the COMPLETE character builder in JANUARY? WTH...

Just let us know when you're going to ditch the rest of the products you told us you'd have ready. I mean, this way I can figure out when to stop paying for stuff I won't be getting... like I am now.
the usual D&D, TSR, WoTC problem...

Promise computer support for 20+years, but it's all unfinished vaporware. full of glorious promises, but never fulfilling.

the only good D&D computer product was pool of radiance gold box circa 80's. D&D computer support is like trying to find a decent Star Treck video game.

I hope not, but I know the track history.
Amazed at how obtuse people can be since 1972.
As far as I know, there has been no official statement from WotC on the situation, nor has there been any comment or statement on how it affects D&D, DDI or any other WotC products.

No surpise that WOTC would not commiuncate with its customers. With the exeptions of the people WOTC just let go, right before xmas time. We have gotten NOTHING from them.

Sorry, I am very sick and tired of the empty promises and half truths WOTC has feed us for 4th ed DDi. Why should we show restraint on this matter when WOTC has not, IMO, shown respect and been open with its customer base?

From the total lack of info on where DDi was right after launch and then Ken Troop posting saying "I'm going to be the guy that handles the info on DDi and commincate better". Then he basically did not post anything else after that. Why should we keep giving WOTC our money? How can we trust WOTC with anything they say? They have 2 people handle the info on the devolpment of DDi. They were doing a great job, everyone on the boards liked them. So WOTC makes the move of letting them go.
Please not that this is not intended as a flame or an attack on WotC. We don't know what the reasons for the lay-offs are.

That said, I find the statement a hilarious example of near-Dilbert levels of Corp Speak. I have highlighted relevant passages:

Reached for comment by ICv2, a WotC spokesperson noted “Wizards of the Coast consolidated its digital game organizations to streamline execution of digital growth strategies for core brands,” and WotC President Greg Leeds added: “Consolidating internal resources coupled with improved outsourcing allows us to gain efficiencies in executing against our major digital initiatives Magic Online and D&D Insider. Wizards of the Coast is well positioned to maximize future opportunities, including further brand development on digital platforms. The result of this consolidation is a more streamlined approach to driving core brands.”

I see a positive side in the layoffs related to DDi (not talking about the editors here).
Randy Buehler was the VP of digital gaming. His layoff probably means that the top management is not happy about his performance. They seem to really want to push the digital initiatives, as stated multiple times, and Randy in his last news item even states himself that the whole last 6 months were disappointing.
I just hope that somebody who really understands digital project management takes over the post and we'll finally see the products. I personally only really care for the character builder.
I just hope that somebody who really understands digital project management takes over the post and we'll finally see the products. I personally only really care for the character builder.

this is a step that should have been done long before. even if someone 1000% more competent than randy steps in now(which i doubt, maybe they just canceled that post alltogether), he'll have the same problems - no single person can fix such a mess within some months.

that's why i believe this step, at the current moment, is the single most stupid thing they can do. at least randy provided some face to the community, giving it a way to vent their anger and to get some feedback. i wonder how this will go on?
Here be dragons: IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cydyvkj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c54g6ac/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/csw6fhj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cbxbgmp/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cz7v5bd/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/ccg9eld/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c8szhnn/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cp68b5u/.gif)
56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.
When you read Randy's last official post:
I’ll be honest, it feels good to deliver a product that’s so well received after a year in which we failed to accomplish all the goals we set for ourselves in the digital space. Between this product and the new Magic game for XBox Live Arcade, I think Wizards of the Coast is well on its way to reversing that trend and growing up to be a for-real digital gaming company. I don’t actually expect you to believe me until you see the quality for yourselves, but that’s why I’m so excited to get the Character Builder into everyone’s hands.

you realize he basically admits his own shortcomings.
It could be of course that he simply didn't have the right team to do it right.
He's clearly unhappy about the broken promises. But being unhappy is not enough... I've been involved in software development myself, and I can say it's quite a challenge.
For D&D, you need a project manager who understands:
- the business side of the product (the technological impact of the subscription model for instance)
- the product itself (he/she needs to understand D&D, the rules, the philosophy, meaning, the person must be a D&D enthusiast)
- the technology side (coding, system environment, the web)
- human resource management (hiring/firing coders)

A person who combines all this is hard to find, and if the company doesn't provide the right environment, even the best person can't do it right.
yes, he admits it, but it is far from his own fault.

whatever went wrong, it definitely is not the sole responsibility of those who were freed. whoever sent randy to his place up there, made a mistake.

whoever allowed to hire gamers first, programmers second (look at mdonais' track record, for example) is to blame.

you can't release a major software product with that financial impact on enthusiasm (which all of them have in great amounts) alone. sure, some of them have experience in the field of software, but it strikes me as odd that many of them would be meddling mostly in game design before starting to be a programmer at WOTC's Digital Initiative.

btw: your descrition sounds like me :D (well, except for firing people, and relocating to the us is quite a setback)
Here be dragons: IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cydyvkj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c54g6ac/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/csw6fhj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cbxbgmp/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cz7v5bd/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/ccg9eld/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c8szhnn/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cp68b5u/.gif)
56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.
yes, he admits it, but it is far from his own fault.

whatever went wrong, it definitely is not the sole responsibility of those who were freed. whoever sent randy to his place up there, made a mistake.

whoever allowed to hire gamers first, programmers second (look at mdonais' track record, for example) is to blame.

you can't release a major software product with that financial impact on enthusiasm (which all of them have in great amounts) alone. sure, some of them have experience in the field of software, but it strikes me as odd that many of them would be meddling mostly in game design before starting to be a programmer at WOTC's Digital Initiative.

btw: your descrition sounds like me :D (well, except for firing people, and relocating to the us is quite a setback)

I agree with what you write.
It's living hell to try and write good software if you are dealing with an inept project manager OR an inept/slow/learning coder, or both (ugh).
Unfortunately you can't just hire "the best programmer". If it's not somebody who also understands the ins and outs of D&D, you have another problem.

I noted the success of the Tiny Adventures facebook app. They should perhaps get those folks involved in the DDi projects.
The problem WOTC has had over the years, ties directly into the way business is done in the RPG industry. The RPG industry is a nepotists dream come true. This unfortunately might be alright when it comes to designing and writing games, but when it comes to making movies (yes lets not forget that abortion of a movie and the curse of snails), and designing computer software hiring your friends who happen to know how to code, or did "some" project management is not the way to go. Plus who was the douche who decided it would come out the same time as the game? You might think that a lot would depend on the finalized version of the rules. So essentially whoever was in charge of DDI was going to get sacked because we know nothing is finalized until it goes to print. The street date should have been a year later to begin with. Also it does not require someone understands gaming to program, it might help, but I would rather have someone research D&D and learn it and really excel at the meat of the job. Hopefully they unscrew themselves and hire people who can do the job.
Also it does not require someone understands gaming to program, it might help, but I would rather have someone research D&D and learn it and really excel at the meat of the job.

Yeah, that's my thoughts as well. I've been involved in programming projects where I knew absolutely nothing of the subject matter beforehand but with good contact with the people who did that wasn't a problem. Sometimes it can be an advantage to have an outsider's view so you can ask the stupid questions without risk of embarrasment.
I still see a lot of parallels to the development of MasterTools when 3e was first released.
The coders don't necessarily need to understand D&D, but the project manager or VIP of digital gaming definitely does.

Anyway, my vision for digital gaming would be that the whole process of developing material (rules, handbooks, monsters, adventures) is based on a software application and a database that's shared by all game designers, playtesters, and eventually the end users.

This means, new material doesn't come from some scribbled notes on James Wyatt's desk, but are developed from template in a software that's designed to create new material.

In this world of digital gaming, new stuff is digital BEFORE it goes to print. Right now it's the other way around. It also means that bugs, and unbalanced power creep are much easier to detect in playtesting. Think of the character builder as the core tool to develop a new class or race or weapon, or even a 5th edition of D&D. It's very easy to try all kinds of crazy combinations, and for example quickly find the problem of double weapons in the hands of rogues.

At its core is a database. All applications draw content from the same unified source. Encounter builder, Compendium, Character Builder, Treasure generator, and so on. New monsters, items, NPC's etc. from adventure modules or magazine articles are FIRST created in the database and then referenced to from the published material. The print products also draw their content from it. No more reversed data entry from printed stuff, with the potential of errors. No more weird issues with items categorized wrongly in the AV tables.

Damn, perhaps I should apply for Randy's job... too bad I live in NYC.
The coders don't necessarily need to understand D&D, but the project manager or VIP of digital gaming definitely does.

Anyway, my vision for digital gaming would be that the whole process of developing material (rules, handbooks, monsters, adventures) is based on a software application and a database that's shared by all game designers, playtesters, and eventually the end users.

This means, new material doesn't come from some scribbled notes on James Wyatt's desk, but are developed from template in a software that's designed to create new material.

In this world of digital gaming, new stuff is digital BEFORE it goes to print. Right now it's the other way around. It also means that bugs, and unbalanced power creep are much easier to detect in playtesting. Think of the character builder as the core tool to develop a new class or race or weapon, or even a 5th edition of D&D. It's very easy to try all kinds of crazy combinations, and for example quickly find the problem of double weapons in the hands of rogues.

At its core is a database. All applications draw content from the same unified source. Encounter builder, Compendium, Character Builder, Treasure generator, and so on. New monsters, items, NPC's etc. from adventure modules or magazine articles are FIRST created in the database and then referenced to from the published material. The print products also draw their content from it. No more reversed data entry from printed stuff, with the potential of errors. No more weird issues with items categorized wrongly in the AV tables.

Damn, perhaps I should apply for Randy's job... too bad I live in NYC.

This is actually what made programming a database for 3e so damned difficult. There were all these weird unique exceptions and alternatives that it threw off any commonly assumed logic. In one moment X + Y is never to be allowed in any circumstance and the system would be hardcoded as such. Then a supplement would come out granting the ability or creating a new subsystem that changed everything.

When ToB came out, all I could think of was how much of a pain in the neck it would be to program.
Yes. The core challenge is to program an exception based database system BEFORE all kinds of people start coming up with the exceptions, and then you have to try to reverse engineer this weird stuff.
I'm assuming that the developers of the character builder have found an architecture that deals with this issue successfully. That's why I admire their work.
The coders don't necessarily need to understand D&D,

I think it is pretty important that they do. Programmers are the fellas who turn the ideas into usable reality. If they have a solid understanding of the game, gamers and what gamers would do with the tool, they will make a better tool. What would you think of an armorsmith who doesn't use armor?

That's why I'm sad to see that Tweet got let go, that monster builder was a fine little tool. He seemed like a cool guy too.

Laid off WoTC mens (and womens!): You're in Seattle, you can't swing a dead cat without smacking into a game development studio. I'm sure there's plenty of outfits who'd be tripping over themselves to get their hands on some of you. Good luck.
When ToB came out, all I could think of was how much of a pain in the neck it would be to program.

actually, it is pretty easy to do, as spells, in PCGEN. i did some writeups for a friend of mine for the swordmage class, almost everything could be done with feats or spells.

Yes. The core challenge is to program an exception based database system BEFORE all kinds of people start coming up with the exceptions, and then you have to try to reverse engineer this weird stuff.
I'm assuming that the developers of the character builder have found an architecture that deals with this issue successfully. That's why I admire their work.

agree, exception based design is the way to go. what does this essentially mean, though? that you need a system that's as flexible as a gelatinous cube. hard to do, pretty close to impossible. you need a team as flexible as possible, with fast changes enabled by the surrounding system. by the sounds of it, tiamat as well as beast companions, spellscarred powers and the like will not that easily and not that fast be implemented. which means their system is not at all flexible. so, for rules developing, this database is obviously inept.

also, keep in mind: the most creative people usually hate using software or more than pencil&paper. ideas have to be written fast, before they go away for the next one. but for playtesting, that idea is great.

simply put: the development of ddi, cb etc would be a 100% case for extreme programming, adapted a bit so the R&D staff is more involved with the actual programming and testing.

---
@madjack:
simply put: you're wrong.

programmers need to know nothing UPFRONT. it helps if they do, but it doesn't do any bad to the project if they don't. the important task is teaching them what and how the non-programming staff is thinking, what are the ideas behind their designs, and formulating what they really need.
Here be dragons: IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cydyvkj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c54g6ac/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/csw6fhj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cbxbgmp/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cz7v5bd/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/ccg9eld/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c8szhnn/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cp68b5u/.gif)
56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.
actually, it is pretty easy to do, as spells, in PCGEN. i did some writeups for a friend of mine for the swordmage class, almost everything could be done with feats or spells.

I was referring to the feats in the book more than the maneuvers. They just seemed to enable more twists to the already dynamic rules. I could be wrong though.

But anyway, we're digressing.

Seriously, I see the slow development of DDI apps and these layoffs and think about how MasterTools became E-Tools as well as the employees laid off shortly after 3e's launch.
the most creative people usually hate using software or more than pencil&paper. ideas have to be written fast, before they go away for the next one. but for playtesting, that idea is great.

The character builder is such a strong tool, I'm sure the game designers have it running all the time to play around with it.
The software I envision allows to easily add new items and exceptions right from the character builder (or other apps) and test them. I'm sure that even the most technophobic designer couldn't resist using this.
You are rightfully pointing out that this system would need to be flexible to the point of resembling a gelatinous cube, particularly if the designer comes up with an exception that completely overthrows the whole architecture. And if he can't implement the change before the coders make it possible, he will return to pen and paper again.
I guess open source is the only way to deal with this. A dream...
The coders don't necessarily need to understand D&D, but the project manager or VIP of digital gaming definitely does.

Oh, absolutely.
---
@madjack:
simply put: you're wrong.

programmers need to know nothing UPFRONT.

@whitebaron:
no you?

Well I don't want to get into a crazy argument. Here's my experience: I've been programming games for a few years now and I can tell you, without exception, programmers who enjoy and understand video games do better than those who don't. There is no circumstance where someone who doesn't like or care about the game he is engineering will do better than someone who really understands it and gives a damn. That's how it goes in the real world.
For historical record...
http://www.enworld.org/forum/software-computers-video-games-d-d-utilities/7373-mastertools.html#post111403
If you followed the launch of Star Wars D20 you may be familiar with me. I have worked on the RPG Team at Wizards since the ancient days of Ryan Dancey and Keith Strohm. Anthony Valterra and I currently hold the fort. During the reorganization we unfortunately lost the valued services of Ryan. He has been a great asset on this project. I have been working on this project in the background with Fluid. I have been reading the forums and been keeping track of all the concerns and suggestions everyone has.

In addition to managing the day to day operations for all Wizards RPGs, I will be taking over Ryan's duties on Master Tools. Producing D&D interactive programs and keeping everyone informed of new developments will take me a few days to ramp up to speed, but I will hopefully try to fill the footprints left by those infamously clean white sneakers.

The Master Tools Beta is currently under way and we are making progress fixing bugs and wrapping up this project. We had an open beta call a few weeks ago. We are no longer accepting any new beta testers, but I'd like to thank everyone who expressed interest. I'll post some new specs and news after I finish my review of the current build.

Many thanks to all those who have worked, suggested, rebuilt, and created such a vibrant community around Dungeons and Dragons.

Peter Kim
Associate Business Manager

[email]Peter.Kim@wizards.com[/email]

Does anyone think it's possible to have all DDi apps developed as open source, without harming the revenue for WotC? Some of the brightest developers would gladly participate.
Here's some more history for reference:
http://web.archive.org/web/20041108010307/http://www.enworld.org/forums/article.php?a=84

  • February 2000: Fluid begins building 3E Char Gen, with plans to develop MT after completion.
  • March 2000: Hasbro finals on acquisition of WotC.
  • May 2000: 3E Char Gen ships with 1st and 2nd printings of 3E PH.
  • July 2000: Char Gen patched and upgraded to version 1.2
  • August 2000: Fluid starts building Master Tools. Here’s a kick-off quote from the then-producer, Jim Bishop. Note the product’s intent.
  • August 2000: We acquired the isometric Arcanum RPG video game engine from Troika to build MT.
  • January 2001: Hasbro Interactive, the division in charge of software, is acquired by Infogrames.
  • March 2001: WotC Master Tools Producer Jim Bishop resigns. Byrt Martinez replaces.
  • April 2001: WotC Master Tools Executive Producer Bill Dugan resigns. Ryan Dancey to take on executive responsibilities for Master Tools.
  • July 2001: Ryan Dancey explains ‘what’s happened to Master Tools.’ The worthiest read in the bunch.
  • August 2001: Byrt Martinez is released from WotC
  • October 2001: Ryan Dancey resigns.
  • December 2001: Master Tools is to be refurbished as a Character & Monster Generator.
  • May 2002: Master Tools renamed to eTools.
  • June 2002: eTools is released.
  • 2002: Code Monkey is hired by WotC to patch and take control of eTools. I believe v1.5 just shipped recently. The patches have made the product much better, in my opinion

How much of this looks familiar?
And another...
http://web.archive.org/web/20041011233348/www.fantaseum.com/editorials/showedit.asp?rec_id=13
The first thing to know about Master Tools is what it is and why we're making it. We envision a "hybridization" between computers and tabletop roleplaying in the years ahead. Sometimes when I say that people get worried that I'm suggesting that computer games will replace tabletop games - nothing could be further from the truth. What we imagine is that over time, more and more people will want to use a computer to help them play their tabletop roleplaying game better than they can with just paper and pencil. Master Tools is our committment to being involved in that process.

We concieved of the Master Tools product line at the same time as the core strategy for 3rd Edition was being finalized.

PS - If this is getting annoying, feel free to let me know. I'm merely revisiting history for the sake of perspective.
How much of this looks familiar?

I've been thinking the same thing for the last few months, with the difference being that Randy was providing much more responsive information and the product was late but good. The main thing I remember about 2000-2002 was how the main marketing guy would come on the forums and argue with us about everything from what kind of tools we wanted to software development processes.

I suppose I could go look through the archives, but I also remember his posts getting more and more manic and frustrated until one day he stopped posting--and then we read about the shake-up and saw the slow death of the future of the tools.
Maybe we should all get over ourselves about DDi and accept what we all are pretty sure is going to happen. They'll drop it off the map eventually, just like they did with Master Tools.

Its a good concept and a great dream, but the people who are working at the digital division of WOTC are, for lack of a better word, incompetent. If you want to change the minds of a lot of your customer base, then get your acts together because I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Maybe we should all get over ourselves about DDi and accept what we all are pretty sure is going to happen. They'll drop it off the map eventually, just like they did with Master Tools.

Its a good concept and a great dream, but the people who are working at the digital division of WOTC are, for lack of a better word, incompetent. If you want to change the minds of a lot of your customer base, then get your acts together because I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way.

In a way I trust the official announcement where they are saying that one reason of the layoffs is their goal to push the digital initiatives. They would phrase it differently if their real goal is something completely different.

Also, sacking the DDi would mean to have completely ripped off everyone who paid for the annual subscriptions already.

The only fear I have is that they decide sometime down the road (not now) that the business model (subscription) doesn't make a profit, and have no alternative, and shut it down.

So, I'm not giving up hope. If we see the updated beta next week, and the full version of the CB next month, all is good I think.
I will certainly miss Randy and Solice and the others.

Like some of you I am hoping that the open beta followed by some level 1-30 version will give people the confidence that I have in the character builder.

On a side not, our programmers are all experienced programmers with a background in programming. Unsurprisingly there are a lot of programmers that also play D&D and the ones working here are included.

We also have specific people whos job it is to represent the gamer's point of view and make sure that the software is for the players. I am one of those people, WotC_DM is one of those people, and to some extent so were Randy and Solice. None of us program though.

--
Mike.
Mike Donais. Cryptozoic R&D
If we see... the full version of the CB next month, all is good I think.

That is a big "if". I would be SHOCKED if they had the full version of the CB out next month.
did they say in a news article long ago that the CB open to the public will be only lvls 1-3? I don't think it will be anything else.
did they say in a news article long ago that the CB open to the public will be only lvls 1-3? I don't think it will be anything else.

Yes but it will be a full version, not the beta like it is now. Only the subscribers will get the full version with levels 1-30.
Yes but it will be a full version, not the beta like it is now. Only the subscribers will get the full version with levels 1-30.

Let's get a little perspective here: earlier this year (before 4e was released) WotC was telling up how D&Di would be ready for launch at the same time as 4e, that all of the digital tools would be ready to go. I think they should have noticed sometime around the time they shipped the books to the printers that D&Di wasn't ready.

So, if they were that off-track then, they can only be more off-track now. Sure, they've gotten the *BETA* version out the door. Woopie. If they weren't going to have the full thing ready by 4e launch, they should have *at least* had the *BETA* ready by that time.

From where I am sitting, it looks like they waited until after the books were published to even begin coding the character builder. Of course, someone working at WotC is going to come back to my post and say otherwise, but I think I know the truth....
agree, exception based design is the way to go. what does this essentially mean, though? that you need a system that's as flexible as a gelatinous cube. hard to do, pretty close to impossible.

It is difficult, but not that hard -- particularly with 4E. I drew up a proof of concept (web-based) character builder that uses XML documents that define each object (Class, Levelup, Race, Power, Modifiers, etc) and the relationship between these objects (Class grants you x,y,z and option of a,b,c, etc...). It took a few design reboots, but backend works fine and it is very easy to extend/modify.

Creating the User Interface is more difficult largely because you want to avoid statically defining the interrelationship of how things stack -- so you need to build in UI logic to figure out those details dynamically. I've largely abandoned the project because I re-evaluated my interest -- I don't need a tool to generate my character sheets (I have an excellent spreadsheet). Power cards are nice but not worth the effort to create the schema for each power...

The current character builder isn't too bad if you peak under the hood. The saved character file is just an XML document describing the choices you made and some of your stats. They did a nice job with much of the UI though I have some quibbles (but you can't satisfy everyone). My main complaint with the tool is the output. I don't like the Wizards' character sheet (though offering a landscape format is nice, and yes I know you can move/modify it), and the power cards need help for anything but the standard attack powers.

programmers need to know nothing UPFRONT. it helps if they do, but it doesn't do any bad to the project if they don't. the important task is teaching them what and how the non-programming staff is thinking, what are the ideas behind their designs, and formulating what they really need.

Yes it does. The #1 thing to do before you start is "GATHER REQUIREMENTS" -- even with XP you start with requirements. If you don't have a good understanding of the data and more importantly the desired output then you are pretty screwed. One of the worst things you can do is build a tool on some half baked ideas, then try to re-purpose that tool to do something different when the customer changes their mind -- I'm currently dealing with this right now. We have a tool designed to do effort reporting that sr. management wants to use for billing, but there is a serious disconnect between the data that the various groups are entering and the compiled data that the Finance people need.
Let's get a little perspective here: earlier this year (before 4e was released) WotC was telling up how D&Di would be ready for launch at the same time as 4e, that all of the digital tools would be ready to go. I think they should have noticed sometime around the time they shipped the books to the printers that D&Di wasn't ready.

So, if they were that off-track then, they can only be more off-track now. Sure, they've gotten the *BETA* version out the door. Woopie. If they weren't going to have the full thing ready by 4e launch, they should have *at least* had the *BETA* ready by that time.

From where I am sitting, it looks like they waited until after the books were published to even begin coding the character builder. Of course, someone working at WotC is going to come back to my post and say otherwise, but I think I know the truth....

I agree with you that I feel WOTC has handled the whole DDi very badly. I was just saying what I heard before about how they will handle the character maker once its no longer in beta.

I am following what WOTC does with DDi and looking at it as a business model of what NOT to do. Totally misleading the customer base at 4th ed launch, total lack of commication for 2 months after. Having a staff member post on the fourms saying he will make things right, then disappear, ect..
Yes but it will be a full version, not the beta like it is now. Only the subscribers will get the full version with levels 1-30.

Source?

[EDIT to sound less snarky - which wasn't my intent]
I'm under the impression that the Open Beta is still a Beta of the "Trial".

This is a (rare) case where I'd be happy to be wrong, however, and would love to see where you're getting your information if its true.

[RE-Edit]

Found it in the DI 17 discussion thread.
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

Let's get a little perspective here: earlier this year (before 4e was released) WotC was telling up how D&Di would be ready for launch at the same time as 4e, that all of the digital tools would be ready to go. I think they should have noticed sometime around the time they shipped the books to the printers that D&Di wasn't ready.

So, if they were that off-track then, they can only be more off-track now.

How do you figure?

There's been a 7 month lagtime between the release and where we are today. That's 7 months of work on the various tools - for the sake of argument let's focus on the CB for the moment.

For 5 or 6 of those months they wouldn't say anything about the release because they didn't know how long it would take - as is evidenced by the original wishful thinking of "4E's release".

As they've pouned out code for 6-7 months, they can see their software taking shape, the features are locked in, now it's just matter of making rules work, or designing the buttons on the UI to not buy equipment when you double-click an arrow.

It's pretty easy to look at this list of "fixes" that need to be made and make short-term predictions as to when you'll be done.

Taking a look at how solid the CB Beta is, one can see where they're getting the confidence to make "next month" style predictions from.

By your analogy, the more they get done, the further they are from knowing when they'll release? How does that make sense?

Sure, they've gotten the *BETA* version out the door. Woopie. If they weren't going to have the full thing ready by 4e launch, they should have *at least* had the *BETA* ready by that time.

Why? If the software wasn't ready for release, and they let it out "as a beta" - how would that have improved confidence? As it is people are decrying the CB and DDI as "the new MasterTools debacle".

Releasing software that isn't ready for use wouldn't have made those claims go away - it would likely have fed them.

From where I am sitting, it looks like they waited until after the books were published to even begin coding the character builder. Of course, someone working at WotC is going to come back to my post and say otherwise, but I think I know the truth....

Well, it's true that you have an opinion on the matter. Be careful about confusing your opinions on what happened for facts. I've seen demo versions of the software back as far as DDXP in Feb/Mar of this year - hard to do that for software that wasn't started until June.
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

I've seen demo versions of the software back as far as DDXP in Feb/Mar of this year - hard to do that for software that wasn't started until June.

demos are very often mockups as well. or prototypes - things that simply emulate how it should work, instead of properly working.
Here be dragons: IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cydyvkj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c54g6ac/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/csw6fhj/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cbxbgmp/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cz7v5bd/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/ccg9eld/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/c8szhnn/.gif)IMAGE(http://tinyurl.com/cp68b5u/.gif)
56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.