Saturday, April 16, 2011

Heroes of Shadow and DDI Update

Heroes of Shadow is due to be released this coming Tuesday (04/19/2011). The book goes back to the original hard cover and 8.5 x 11 size format of the DnD core books, but the content is to be a mix of original 4E and Essentials data. The next update for the on-line DDI Character Builder (CB) is to be released the same day and is supposed to include all of the data provided in Heroes of Shadow (read here). I have not seen any news concerning updates to the Adventure Tools and the monster builder tool. The next release of a new monster book, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, is due to be released in June, so hopefully we'll see significant updates and fixes before then.

There is still a lot of speculation as to what exactly Wizards is trying to do with the original 4E product and the new Essentials product. I understand that Essentials is a more "introduction friendly" version of the game and Wizards has a goal of expanding their player base beyond those of us that have been playing for ~25 years. Wizards insists this is not a repeat of "release Version 3 and then just a few years later release version 3.5" incident from a decade ago, but running and maintaining two almost identical versions of the game has got to be problematic, costly to some degree, and something I just don't think that can last in the long run.

As for the new book containing material for both versions here is a link where a player and blogger provides a product review (here) but then simultaneously (but separately) (here) asks the same questions about what exactly Wizards is trying to do. Having now played both versions I can honestly say I really don't care which version I play. Just give me a character sheet, a DM, and an adventure and I'm ready to go. Of course I'm pretty easy to please, although I would say the thing I would miss in the original 4E is the myriad of choices when it comes to character creation, but that's character creation, not actually playing the game.

Of course the real nut of this whole debate is money. After all, Wizards is billing users monthly for access to their on-line DDI tools for which they have openly admitted they have over-promised and under-delivered. Throwing in a change in platform in mid-stream didn't help matters either (although I still think it was a necessary step). Wizards is currently spending a lot of time (and money) trying to coordinate the production, testing, and release of their own virtual tabletop tool that has direct links into the monster and character builder tool. That will be a pretty nice tool when it is completed ... I just wish I was a little more optimistic.

The debate over the value of DDI continues. Here is a nice point and counter-point as to the value of the DDI tools and their associated cost. I suppose you could also make the argument that the existence of the myriad of choices I mentioned above would require a tool to ensure all of the features, powers, and corresponding math are correct, so I suppose there is a "chicken and egg" element to all this as well. As for me, well, despite all of its problems, who exactly has a better character builder tool than the one provided in DDI?

But is it worth it? Well, it's not for me to decide how you should spend your dollars, but yeah, I think it's an OK deal, and I am at least mildly optimistic Wizards will (finally) get their DDI tools straightened out over the course of this year ... at least until they realize they really should be migrating to an IPhone / IPad / Android-based platform.

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