Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Amazon + Wizards = More Disappointment

Well, it looks like gamers have been hit again. 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released this last weekend (June 6th). But gamers have been anticipating D&D 4.0 for quite a while now. So I, like most of them, preordered a full set of books from

I, like most gamers, misread what Amazon said on their website. The expected ship date was the 10th, however, most of us thought that would be the expected delivery date. It was a mistake on our part, there is no doubt of that. Of course Amazon wasn't shipping the books on the weekend, they only ship on weekdays. But why would it take until Tuesday to get the books shipped? Especially since they are preorders, couldn't they be packaged and ready to go?

It gets worse though. Here it is the 11th. And my books are not shipped yet. Most people I have talked to have not had their books shipped yet. I understand, an expected ship date is not a hard date, it can move. Currently anticipated delivery date is somewhere around the 23rd for my books.

But it gets even worse than that! Many gamers wanted there D&D books before the weekend, because that is when their group was planning on gaming. Realizing that their books wouldn't be here by then, they decided to upgrade their shipping, in hopes that it would get here by late Friday. Now comes an extremely important warning to all D&D gamers out there that might consider this: Changing your shipping appears to put you to the BACK of the shipping queue! There are people out there that upgraded their shipping to 2 day, but now their estimated ship date is in late July!

When Harry Potter books are released, everyone received their books on the day that the book was released. Except for the time that people received their books early. I understand that D&D books are not as popular as Harry Potter. A few days wait is understandable. However, some people are going to have to wait over a month before they get theirs. Right now I haven't heard anything to suggest if this mess is to blame on Amazon, Wizards, or both.

Our gaming group was lucky. I purchased a copy of the PH from Borders (we have two gamers in our house) and a full set from Amazon. The other half of our gaming group is halfway across the country (we play over the net), and it sounds like one of their books did ship and will hopefully get there before the weekend, so all of them get to share one book. If their book doesn't get there by Friday, then I guess we will have to cancel our session. Maybe I will play Wii Fit instead, if only I could find one in any of the stores... Whoa, deja vu...

Monday, June 9, 2008

4th Time's a Charm

I was very excited about the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, I pre-ordered the boxed set from Amazon. Unfortunately the delivery date was not the same as the release date. So I found myself buying a copy of the Player's Handbook from Border's (it never hurts to have multiple copies of the PH anyways).

One of the things I was looking forward to the most was the online table top. I don't like OpenRPG, which is why I helped co-develop d20 Chat. Both of course have their limitations, and I was hoping that the solution Wizards of the Coast was offering would bridge this gap, and more. I was looking forward to the character generator, the table top, the rules database, all of it! They called it D&D Insider.

When I got my PH, I saw in the back that there was a 10 day free trial of the tools. Which I thought was great (even though I planned on paying regardless, although I was not sure of the price at the time... but I was willing to pay quite a bit).

However, after much research, I could not figure out sign up for the tools. I have a forums account, I have a Gleemax account, I have the book, what more do I need? Where do I go? What's going on? After much research, I discovered that the toolset is not out yet. This annoyed me. I mean, we had previously been told they were planning to release them together, the books and the tools. Bummer.

I looked deeper, trying to figure out when they would be released. The answer? No ETA. Six months ago, this product was planning to be released at the beginning of June, and now there is no estimate. That is not a good thing. The direct quote was "I'd say a safe bet is at least a few months from now, probably longer". Wait, how long have they known this was going to be an issue? 05/07/2008. On that date, an article was posted talking about D&D Insider. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to read every individual column on Wizards. On top of that, in order to view the article you have to be signed into D&D Insider. Which means that info wasn't exactly a public press release.

I feel that we were mislead. We were promised a product, and it did not happen. I know that sometimes software does not make it's deadlines, I'm a programmer after all. Deadlines are moving targets. But in most lines of work, if you miss a MAJOR deadline like this one, you are in trouble. If a video game does not come out when it says, and instead no ETA is given, it is usually referred to as vaporware.

I know, it's only a few months, right? Except for the fact that they say they will only release one component at a time, and that it will likely be a month or so in between each iteration. The piece I REALLY want is the game table (my gaming group is spread across multiple states). This means it could be a year before I get the game table. That is, if it even happens.

Let us examine the track record of Wizards of the Coast regarding D&D software.

First, there was "Character Generator", it came with the original 3.0 PH. It was very buggy, and lots of the equations and data was simply incorrect. It was made by Fluid Entertainment. Later it did receive an update, which made it functional, and correct, albeit still not very useful.

They announced a big upcoming tool called Master Tools, it was going to be a character generator, 3d map builder, monster generator, and tons of other wonderful tools. It didn't really pan out, most features got cut, and it became "E-Tools: Character and Monster Generator". Which was not very impressive, and very buggy.

Wizards realized that maybe Fluid Entertainment was not doing them well, so they switched to Code Monkey Publishing. CMP worked very hard fixing major bugs, and adding more datasets. They also supported the open source project PCGen, and they supplied files that worked with PCGen. This was an excellent move. However, they expected miracles from CMP, and CMP simply wasn't fast enough about performing them. Perhaps CMP should have hired more people. Wizards dropped CMP just when everyone was starting to trust and like CMP (I purchased quite a few data sets to use with PCGen through them).

And here we are now. Waiting for D&D Insider to pan out.

This makes me hope that PCGen is going to support 4th edition. It also makes me think I need to get to work adding a battle grid to d20 Chat, as that is one of the most glaring missing features.