Wizards continues to lag behind in the electronic age
Edit: I forgot to include Gleemax in my list of electronic products. Gleemax is another example of Wizards aiming high and failing at fulfilling their promises to their fans.
In 2000, Wizards of the Coast released the 3rd edition of D&D. In the back of the Player’s Handbook was a CD and on that CD was a character generator. It was very basic but very simple to use. It was especially good for those who had never played D&D before. Wizards promised that the full version of the character generator, which would include more options, would be released shortly thereafter. What you got in the PHB was just a taste. A few months later, version 1.2 of the character generator was released. And then….. nothing.
For whatever reason, Wizards failed to release the character generator. Whether it was money problems, employee issues, whatever, they had to farm it out to a third party called Code Monkey Publishing (it was originally supposed to be released by Fluid). CMP released what I thought was an “ok” character generator but it was very unwieldy and non-user friendly. The other problem I had with it were the costs. I can understand charging for the character generator but they also charged a fee for each data set. Each book released by Wizards, Song and Silence, Sword and Fist, etc., had information that was placed into a data set and sold by CMP. But even if you purchased the book, you had to purchase the data set. I never understood why since you had already paid anywhere from $10 to $30 for the book. And because the character generator was so non-user friendly, it was hard to add/edit the information included with the basic generator. So buying the data set was a must.
A lot of fans felt as I did; Wizards had promised an electronic product and failed to deliver on that promise. To add insult to injury, they gave it to a third-party who decided that you should pay, again, for information you’d already paid for. And Wizards did nothing to alleviate that extra cost with codes to get it free or at a substantial discount.
Edit: It has come to my attention that Wizards was responsible for the pricing of the data sets and for the programming code given to CMP. Wizards dictated the cost and CMP added an amount to cover the cost of development. Once again, however, this further goes to support my opinion that Wizards was failing on the electronic front. I still think that they should have included codes in the book, or given a code to a person who registered their books online, to negate the cost set by Wizards for the data sets and a person would only have to pay to cover CMP’s cost.
Fast-forward to 2008 when Wizards released the 4th edition of D&D. Prior to the release, they promised that their magazines, Dragon and Dungeon, would be available online in electronic format. They promised we would also see a full rules compendium along with a character generator, dice roller, and a game table to allow a person to play D&D with friends across the globe. In the back of both the PHB and DMG were advertisements for the D&D Insider, which would provide all of these tools.
But, again, Wizards fell short on its promises. While Dragon and Dungeon magazines were available online, nothing else was. No rules compendium. No character generator. No dice roller. No game table. Nothing else that was promised. When the rules compendium was finally released, it was but a shadow of what was expected. While it did have some information from the PHB, it did not have everything. You can read my review here. Recently, a new pricing structured was announced. While I do think that the price is fair, they are asking people to pay for what is essentially an incomplete product. While Wizards recently posted an encounter generator and an ability generator, it’s still not what we were promised nor what was advertised originally. Once again, Wizards fell through on their promises regarding electronic tools.
Which brings me to Tiny Adventures. Tiny Adventures is a new application on Facebook that allows you to choose a character, give it a name, and run through very basic adventures. It’s a really cool concept but here’s the problem: It keeps crashing. Two days after it was released, a note was posted by Wizards telling folks that they were upgrading the server and that it would be back online by that Friday afternoon. By Friday evening, it was finally back online. It worked welll for a while but then errors started popping up. Most of the time, it was an “[e]rror while loading page from Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures” A few time, it was an SQL error. Regardless, it’s been down 75% of the time I try to get into it. It is extremely frustrating.
Once again, Wizards has failed to make good on its electronic product. No, they didn’t promise anything with Tiny Adventures but it’s indicitave of their plans regarding electronic products. I don’t know if they set unrealistic goals internally or just don’t understand their own popularity but, either way, they really need to get their act together. As it stands, they look nothing more than incompetent and like a company that is having problems catching up to the electronic age.