Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dungeonscape and the issues with online play.

Let's talk about DungeonScape for a while taking a short break from Exalted.

If you haven't heard, WOTC and Trapdoor have gone splitsville and DungeonScape the online app/tool set for D&D 5E has been put on hiatus if not cancelled outright. Feed back from the beta of the tool was 'less than stellar' and the issue seems to be the same thing that caused issues back in 4E with D&D tool. Lack of utility, clunky interface, etc.

The key problem is this:

Roleplayers are notoriously picky and usually each play group has their 'sweet spot' when it comes to utilizing online or digital resources. A great many just want WOTC to release the 5E books in a pdf format they can ready using their tablet, laptop, PC and then call it a day. Others want a fully graphical interface like roll 20 but with optional 3D or at least robust 2D dungeon building tools. I could list off a dozen examples but it was call caused by the balkanization of the hobby with the advent of 4E.

That's WOTC's biggest weakness here. D&D is a 'for the people' game. And while I think the writing staff gets this with the inclusive nature of  books and support for prior editions, I don't think WOTC's general management and Hasbro have internalized this lesson in how to handle their product. I can understand their fear of OGL, and the desire to monatise online tools for the game...but the genie is out of the bottle. d20 resources can be retooled to handle 5E easily. I've used Roll20, IRC, and Skype to run games. It's all I need. If WOTC want's my money they need to offer me something new.

I think if they could come up with the equivalent of STEAM for RPGs they might have something. A combined easy to use digital distro mixed with a robust online play space, real time communication, forum, and pbp/wiki interface. And the sad thing? There are at least 3 other companies ahead of them in the game. I wouldn't be surprised that Drivethrurpg enters into a partnership with a Roll20 like service and blamo. We have market dominance. Paizo see the writing on the wall and seems to be hammering hard to cook up their own version of this before they run out of time. I don't think WOTC management gets the whole picture.

Personally I find Pathfinder (3E D&D bulky and problematic past level 10.) 5E is a much more punchy and easier to use system mechanically, but if the tools don't get up to date fast enough I may go where the ease of play is. It's the nature of the market and well frankly where the gamers are.

That's the catch, go where the gamers are. WOTC needs to focus on improving their community tools. Their forums are a joke, the RGPA was never inclusive for those that couldn't make conventions, etc. I see glimmers of hope with this...then stuff like the DungeonScape setback happens. Let's hope WOTC gets their head int to the game soon or well, D&D 5E may not matter, no matter how good it is.