This year's Dungeons and Dragons presentation at Gen Con was kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand they really didn't have anything concrete to drop on us that might get a rise out of the crowd, like say the release date for the new edition of the product. But there was quite a bit of interesting information.
Interesting Tid Bits:
- The Playtest packets have given the Research and Development teams an incite into how actual players and Dungeon Masters are playing Dungeons and Dragons.
- The Final Playtest packet will be done in September of 2013
- The Playtest has been considered wildly successful within Wizards of the Coast with more than 150,000 people sign up and download the rules
- The next edition is entering into the Quality and Assurance process
- The Sundering Event is using a form of player development to determine the outcome of the event and its impact on the Forgotten Realms
- Gale Force 9 will be producing two unpainted miniture figures for each of the six books produced for the Sundering
- The Isteval video (see below) is really interesting and actually has even me interested in the Forgotten Realms
- Balder's Gate Enhanced Edition released
The Boring Stuff:
- Kre-O figures are being produced for Dungeons and Dragons (6 as of now, more later)
- Playdek is releasing a computerized version of the Lords of Waterdeep board game
- DeNA is producing a free to play mobile game titled Arena of War (will influence outcome of the Sundering)
- Chronicles of Mystara by Capcom (actually two games but under the same brand)
- Dungeons and Dragons Online Shadowfell Conspiracy released August 19, 2013
- Neverwinter Online released a video to celebrate 2 million players and their video was complete trash due to server issues. Below is what the video should have looked like:
Things to Mull Over:
- Wizards is actively trying to expand the Dungeons and Dragons brand to other media in an effort to expand the game's influence
- Why was the crowd so quite throughout the program
Thoughts on the Presentation:
I found the overall presentation to better than a stick in the eye. It was dry, as Mike Mearls tends to be when he's speaking to the public, and someone made the mistake of muting the crowd noise to the point where you can just barely hear them (if you watch that first video and listen for the applause when Mike's introduced you'll really notice what I'm talking about). Now normally that would be the right move but when you're presenting the future of a brand you really need some crowd noise to express the excitement of those watching. Watch the corporate presentation videos from Apple or Walmart and you'll see what I mean.
The Sundering Event is really intriguing to me. I like the interplay between the adventures, books, and video games and their impact on the overall narrative; but I have a hard time accepting that there is really as much room within the narrative for my actions to matter as Mike presents. I find it difficult to believe with the video games in particular as there are only so many variables that game narratives can allow and to believe that my choice of two or three outcomes is really a good way to incorporate my actions seems a folly. The books are a typical move from Wizards (and even TSR back when they had the brand) so that's nothing new. But the adventure is different. Adventures are unpredictable. Adventures ask for something new and I wonder how much of that they'll let us have.
The 150,000 individuals is a neat bit of information that Mike dropped on us. From their research, as he says, they know that the majority of downloads are done by Dungeon Masters for their groups. If we extrapolate that number by four (the traditionally accepted average group size) then we can assume that around 600,000 people have participated, at some point, in the playtest. That's definitely a success in my book. Of course even if that number is inflated 150,000 unique individuals who have signed up and downloaded the playtest is impressive nonetheless.
After watching the video I noticed two complaints being issued over, and over again, and both were summed up by the blog Tenkar's Tavern (which is a pretty good read):
Sadly, after watching this video I now know what "Dungeons & Dragons" means - recycled fiction, 2 MMORPGS, lego like ugly ass crap with one recognizable character from the Drizzt series of books and it isnt even him, iOS Battlegames, iOS Boardgames, re-released 20+ year old computer games and if you are lucky there might be an RPG - but that's just to drive sales for all of the previously listed money makers.
Yes, I know this shit is a business, but WotC has gotten so corporate it's scary.
They will never sell the D&D trademark, but perhaps, one day, an RPG titled Dungeons & Dragons will live up to it's heritage in the hands of others. [Dungeons & Dragons the RPG - Alas, I Knew You Well (D&D GenCon 2013 Presentation)]
Complaint No. 1: Wizards of the Coast is ruining the purity of the Dungeons and Dragons Brand
No, they are not.
The Dungeons and Dragons property has always meant more than just the role-playing game. Gary Gygax himself brought the property to books, cartoons and action figures. TSR would go on after Gary to bring the property to video games, boardgames, books, comics, collectible cards, magazines, and toys. And yes, they recycled fiction just like the current era of dungeons and dragons products. Wizards of the Coast has followed that tradition with video games, MMORPGs, books, magazines, toys, comic books, audio books, and movies. So why get upset about the company continuing to do what has been done with the brand for nearly forty years?
Complaint No. 2: Wizards of the Coast has gone corporate and is ruining the game!
Wizards isn't publishing from Peter Adkison's basement any longer - nor would you really want it to be doing so if you like the material they're publishing. Basement publishers are great because you can have an intimate relationship with them but when it comes to sending me my shit on time they suck. They can't meet the demands of an incredibly successful business and for proof of that you need to look no further than the hundreds of late and terminal Kickstarters that have sprung up recently in the hobby.
But ignore that and just consider this: the Dungeons and Dragons property has been attached to a corporation since the TSR days. Being a part of a corporation has meant that the hobby has continued on even after TSR was mismanaged into bankruptcy and almost killed the game completely. It has allowed for the open gaming license which in turn allowed for the Old School Renascence movement that has captured my imagination and that of so many other gamers. It has allowed for new partnerships with groups like Paizo, White Wolf Games, Gale Force 9, DC comics, and so many others. It has kept our hobby flush with new materials for play and to inspire the minds of new Dungeon Masters. It has increased the quality of our products by allowing the company to generate more revenue than straight sales would allow. It has allowed for five editions of the game to be published in the mass market (Basic/Expert/Companion, Advanced, Second Edition Advanced, Third Edition, and Fourth Edition). In many ways being a corporation is the only reason why any of us were ever able to encounter the niche product in the first place.
So I'm asking this for anyone reading: what's so bad about Wizards of the Coast being a corporation?