The DnD DDI subscription model has always been controversial. The idea of having to pay a monthly fee for content was something new. The original DnD 4E character builder was a downloadable tool, and then switched to an on-line version based on MS-Silverlight so there was no tablet compatible version when new platforms came available, promised tools such as the character visualizer never materialized, and the tabletop tool was put out for beta testing and then cancelled. With the new 5E getting ready to roll-out next year (likely, anyway) ... well, I guess it can't get any worse.
Having said that, the character builder has finally worked out its bugs and has been a well maintained tool for the past few years. Of course now that the 4E line is essentially cancelled there really hasn't been any new content except for minor releases from Dungeon and Dragon magazine, so it really had no reason to be unstable. Oh, and by the way, both Dungeon and Dragon magazines will be going on hiatus for a little while as well, and while updates to the character builder tool have been coming, they have been coming quarterly instead of monthly (November).
The whole roll-out of 4E was not marketed well, poorly received, managed to alienate many in the larger gaming community, and their decision to keep all DnD content in-house further alienated the third-party product community. Instead of being able to recreate their dream of "one version to rule them all" the RPG community is now more split than ever. I am assuming at some point the DnD people at Wizards (and at Hasbro) saw the writing on the wall and decided to shift their emphasis to 5E and they have released several test packages over the last year plus, but I guess I am just not detecting a lot of excitement about it.
So the question has always been now that Wizards has announced that 5E is coming, what will happen with the 4E tools that are out there, specifically the character builder. There was finally an announcement today here, stating:
This month we want to share some upcoming changes to the DDI tool set and subscription. As we look to the future launch of D&D Next, we are shifting our focus to the development and support of the new rules set, which will impact the Dungeons & Dragons Insider subscription service.
- DDI will remain available to those who still wish to access all the great 4th Edition Magazines and Tools as part of the DDI subscription.
- Starting in March of 2014, the DDI tool set (Character Builder, Adventure Tools and Compendium), will no longer be updated with new 4th Edition game content.
- Existing issues of Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine will continue to be offered for viewing.
If you have questions about your DDI subscription, please contact customer service.
So they told us ... well, not much. The 4E tools will continue to exist, at least for a little while. Is something going to replace the 4E DDI tool set when 5E is officially released? There are still a lot of 4E players in the world and I am sure they would hate to be cut-off from the CB tool. Given the missteps taken so far, you can understand the trepidation the 4E fans have at this possibility, especially since no one is willing to stand up and make a real declarative statement about the future of the tools. Anybody have a good feeling about a "super character builder tool" that incorporates 4E and 5E rules, and maybe even 1E, 2E, and 3.5E rules as well? If the idea is with 5E that you can play any version of the game you want, well, surely this will be handled better this time around, won't it?