Monday, January 7, 2013

Random Observations on 4e

Over on, there's some talk about Paizo Pathfinder and WoTC 4e.

Here's what I posted there and my take on it.

Why 4e 'failed'? Well, it failed WoTC that's for sure. For anyone else it would probably have been like Nirvana but here's my 'gamer' theories.

1. Reputation. Firings every X-Mas. Taking down the DDI and claiming about 6 different reasons why but boiling it down to "thieves in the temple!", calling your consumers thieves on the PDF front and taking your toys and going home with them. Minor things but...

2. PDF Consumption. While we can say that the DDI takes the place of PDF that's not quite true. After WoTC sold out of PHB2 they claimed to have suffered damages by PDF files that were released into the wild that were legally bought and cancelled that line of revenue NEVER to replace it directly.

3. Adventure Support. There was one print adventure path and it was not viewed well. There was Dungeon online and it's one adventure path... also not viewed well. In print adventurers, especially towards the tail end?

4. OGL. While Paizo is the big dog, they've done a lot of enhance the OGL and have been very friendly towards 3rd party publishers. This includes putting their products on the front page of their own web site and talking them up. WoTC took interest in the GLS out back and shot it in the face. When Necromancer Games goes, "I will support 4e or nothing at all" and it turns out to be nothing at all? You know WoTC done fucked up.

5. Setting Support: That solution they had of fire and forget wasn't going to make a lot of people happy.

6. Setting Support 2: Trashing the Forgotten Realms YET AGAIN did nothing to help convince older players that may be coming back that this is what was needed.

7. Rule Mastery Failure. The first printings of the first few books are compatible with later books but there are a ton of errata's and updates and the monster math changed greatly from the original MM to MM2 to MM3. People felt robbed. It's been a while but I also believe there was some flubbing with the new introductory boxed set with the Larry Elmore cover of classic days.

8. Essentials or "Which way am I walking?" Initially announced the changing of product lines to smaller books that lasted for about ten seconds.

9. Release Schedule Panic: People like some steady releases and like to know when they're coming out. Cancelling books left and right and reshuffling them looks like something a small third party company would do, not the leader of the pack.

10. Novel/Tie in Support. The comics weren't bad but not huge sellers. Their book selection has bounced a bit and while there were a few series set after the Spellplauge, it was nothing like it was when it was at its peak.

11. Dungeon and Dragon Utility = m'eh: When they took the DDI off the download, I still had like two months on it. I was NOT impressed with it as it lost a lot of utility it used to have. I understand that came back but in the meanwhile, for a while Dragon and Dungeon were simply put, not good values in and of themselves. The adventurers were okay, the format kept changing, the focus keept changing, the magazines had articles late, and hey by the way, for "your convenience" we've gotten rid of the compiled issue and you have to download articles individual one by one. I think they've back pedaled on that one too.

12. DDI Misses: I went to an interview with the guys doing the DDI before 4e launched. You can read about it on EN World from back in the day. But there were a ton of things that were supposed to be there at ground zero that I think are only NOW starting to pop up like the VTT.

13. Miniature Mishaps: Hey, we're going to introduce two brand new races to the game and make almost all the miniatures for at least one of them super hard to get. Sure, you can sub for them but really, is that what the consumer wants to do? What? They don't want to pay inflated prices for repaints? What? They're not happy with the massive drop in quality that accompanied several price increases? They want to know why the adventurers never have miniatures to go with them and that those miniatures come out months or years later? Foolish mortals! It's hard keeping communication lines open in a big company. We have no idea what games are being written or what core races are in the book.

14. Holding back material to boost further sales. In the 3.5 era, the PHB2 was a massive seller. MM2 and others... not quite so much. In order to boost sales of future core books, Gnomes, barbarians, frost giants, and a host of other material was deliberately split from the 'normal' core material and put into future volumes. Nothing like forcing people to pay for a few monsters more eh? Anyone remember the old 1st edition Monster Manual where you had Orcus and Asmoedus? Dispather and Demogorgon? Stop holding back the goodies dudes.

WoTC as a company has been handicapped in competitng in what is a niche industry. Their main benefits are useless when the main competition has access to all the same resources as you. Wayne Reynods? Monte Cook? Other fan favorites? Being the people who saved D&D only gets you so far when you showcase that hey, you're not a niche industry provider, you're a corporate entity that must met X, Y, and Z goals and your lengths gone to to protect your IP are hurting you among the people in the niche fandom. You know, the very same people you're trying to sell to? Yeah, them!

But again, those are gut shots from a fan, nothing more.