Update 11/18/2010: I’ve added a review of the online Character Builder now that it’s available.
I don’t tend to write many posts about “news” in the role playing game community, but since I go by “Online Dungeon Master” I thought I should chime in with my thoughts on the news that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is changing their fantastic Character Builder program from something you can download into something that you use within a web site.
The good news:
- You will be able to access the Character Builder on any computer with web access and Silverlight installed. If you’re visiting a friend or family member and want to help them create a character or something, boom, you’re rolling.
- Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Dark Sun will be included on the November 16 launch date
- Macintosh users will be able to access Character Builder without having to boot to Windows
The bad news:
- If you have no internet access, you can’t use Character Builder. No more building characters during boring plane trips or anywhere without reliable WiFi.
- You can’t (at launch) export your character file and send it to your DM. This is a pain in the butt for me as a DM – it really helps me plan sessions when I can see my players’ character files.
- You have to rely on WotC to store your characters for you and to make the application available. Server crash = no character for you.
- For those cheapskates who liked to pay for a one-month subscription to D&D Insider in order to download the Character Builder and its updates, that’s not going to work any more.
I’m sure that combating people who only would pay for the occasional month of DDI in order to get the updates is a big part of why WotC is making this change. I’m sure some of those people will say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll pony up for a regular subscription now.” But for people like me, who gladly support the company by subscribing to DDI all the time, there is nothing meaningful in this news that is good.
- I don’t care about being able to access the Character Builder on a machine without having to download it. I really only use it on my laptop to begin with.
- I don’t have a Macintosh.
- Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Dark Sun should have already been in the downloadable Character Builder by now.
From my perspective, in an effort to combat piracy / cheapskatedness, Wizards of the Coast has diminished the value of their best program for their best customers.
I’m not one to say that I’m canceling my subscription or will never play D&D again or anything like that – I really enjoy the game and want the company to keep making it. I’m guessing this is why this strategy will work for WotC – their good customers, like me, will be disappointed but will keep subscribing. Still, it feels like a bad business decision to take value away from your best customers (offline access being the main one) without giving them anything in return.
Now, the expectation is that WotC will be making other online tools available for DDI subscribers, so it may be worth it in the end. But for now, it’s bad news for good customers. Bummer.