The Failure of Gleemax
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  1. #1
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    The Failure of Gleemax

    Wizards of the Coast has had a chequered history when it comes to electronic products and support for its games. Some things have worked very well, such as the Magic: the Gathering site. Other things have been buggy and problematic throughout, but have generally been positively received, such as Magic Online. Then they have vapourware that turned out to not be exactly vapourware but the closest thing possible - incredibly disappointing - such as MasterTools which was eventually released as E-Tools.

    And then you have Gleemax.

    Gleemax, in conception, is massive. A place for gamers to gather, play and talk about their favourite games, no matter the type. Miniature, Card, Collectable, Board, Role-playing, Electronic... all of the above and more. Unfortunately, big ideas need great people working on them, and that, Gleemax has proven, Wizards doesn't have.

    There is a basic problem with promising something to people: they expect you to deliver. If you come from (primarily) the roleplaying side of things, as I do, then Wizards have already started on the wrong foot. (MasterTools!) Oh, and cancelling the D&D magazines Dragon and Dungeon.

    A long time ago - a year or more - Wizards announced all the great things it was going to be doing with Gleemax, and then we eagerly awaited the result. Of primary interest to me was the part of Gleemax concerned with blogging, for, as many of you know, I enjoy writing about the games I play. I post articles on EN World and Boardgamegeek, as well as other places. However, it'd be great for me if I could post them all in one place where people who enjoy games could find them.

    So, almost a year ago the blogging part of Gleemax went online in an "Alpha" version. Concurrently with this, they switched over the login system of the regular Wizards forums to be uniform over the entire of Gleemax. This was a mistake. The login system wasn't ready, and it was buggy. Worse than buggy. Where before I could happily stay logged into the forums basically forever, Gleemax now instituted a limit on how long I was logged in. And the limit didn't work properly, so I had to log in every time I visited. And I'd be logged out every so often for no reason. My visiting of the Wizards forums basically stopped overnight.

    This problem was somewhat fixed, but for a uniform login system it works particularly badly.

    Regardless of this, I avidly fell upon the blogging part of Gleemax and started contributing, reposting my blogs from livejournal, session reports from BGG, and occasionally some completely original content.

    Now, one of the things that was promised with Gleemax were rolling updates - the development would be an ongoing thing. They'd post a version, fix the obvious bugs, post the next version, fix the bugs in that, and onwards.

    Unfortunately, Wizards didn't deliver that. What they did was post an extremely buggy alpha version, and then delay fixing the bugs. To make things worse, the basic blogging functionality of Gleemax wouldn't display posts correctly, nor would it allow people to post replies with thing like, I don't know, line breaks. Oh, and if a post scrolled off the first page, you couldn't find it again.

    They did one update, which fixed a few of the most problematic flaws, whilst still leaving a lot of errors (including posts not displaying properly). Then they posted another. And then... nothing. Months and months without updates. Nor were we getting status updates either.

    I think they did another update recently. The net result of that was to make it impossible for anyone to view the blogs without getting an error message. Forget about posting new material. And did we get feedback like "Oops, sorry about that guys, we're working to fix it"? No, we didn't.

    One of the most important things to do when working on an alpha is to give good feedback to the people who are testing it for you. If they post an error message, you at least need to say, "received that, thanks". Nothing of the sort has occurred for two weeks.

    This is competely disastrous for Wizards' image. Heck, if I was someone of power in Hasbro, heads would be rolling. Meanwhile, the amount of bad blood on the Wizards forums is amazing, with many of the competent moderators now gone and people who have contributed a lot to those communities leaving in disgust.

    Gleemax? Forget it. Wizards had their chance and they blew it badly.

    (originally posted here)
    Merric Blackman
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  2. #2

    Magsman (Lvl 14)

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    After a post like that, you may have to change your custom title there, Merric.

  3. #3

    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    Agreed. I was a lurker over there for quite a time, but after their forum re-organisation, their boards are totally useless for me. Especially the Eberron board, that I actually liked a lot. I don't know why they're doing that. And why do they do that to the D&D boards, while they leave the other boards alone (largely)?

    Cheers, LT.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by MerricB
    Wizards of the Coast has had a chequered history when it comes to electronic products and support for its games. . . .
    There is a basic problem with promising something to people: they expect you to deliver. . . . Gleemax? Forget it. Wizards had their chance and they blew it badly.
    Please allow me to extend warmest greetings from everyone here. Welcome to the Dark Side! Or as i like to call it - reality.

  5. #5

    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    It's basically just the WOTC boards now. It boggles the mind to consider how much money was wasted on this project.

    Even the service itself is unenforced. The reviews and blogs sections are often just ads (or even random posts), and there's no attempt to encourage user content creation or to help folk find that content.

    I don't think it was disastrous for Wizard's image, though. I'm not sure there were that many folk who really bought into the project from the beginning.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by C.W.Richeson
    I don't think it was disastrous for Wizard's image, though. I'm not sure there were that many folk who really bought into the project from the beginning.
    Down here in the Ozarks its called - "The sound of a hog farting underwater." There are a surprising number of Ozarkisms that involve hogs as it happens.

  7. #7

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    If they've got Merric disillusioned about Gleemax, they've screwed up something fierce.

    And yeah, technical and usability foibles aside which are almost to the point of self-parody, the bad blood on the forums is amazing. Worse than anywhere else online I've ever seen: in the past year we've had WizO's resigning, WizOs getting fired, WizO's living outside the USA getting dumped, a popular forum poster losing VCL status seemingly in retaliation for a single disagreement with Community Management (leading to some folks on the forums now asking for Gamer0 to resign), no feedback on queries to Dragon/Dungeon online, random forum reorganization on short notice, posts censored or moved at whimsy, criticism ignored or dismissed as being 'only a few vocal people', etc.

    Heads need to roll and things need to massively get better or they'll be taking a financial bath if it all spills over to impact folks signing up for the DI. To be honest though, I think having had a year to make things better, only to repeatedly get worse and refuse to admit to any errors, it may be past the point of no return. Since Gleemax began we've been told to wait a few months and everything will be better and awesome and functional. I'm still waiting.
    Last edited by Shemeska; Tuesday, 27th May, 2008 at 02:22 AM.

  8. #8

    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

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    I can't believe I'm being more optimistic than Merric.

    I'm still holding out hope that they pulled their heads in and focused on in-house alpha's and betas and will release a non-buggy, or at least functional, version come June.

    But given we've already established in another thread that WotC's web department is run by committee, that hope is a dim one.

  9. #9

    Gallant (Lvl 3)

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    Lets not forget the DI has delayed the Charactor and Map creators.

    The only hope I see is that on June 6th we will see an entirely new website that has been kept secret so as to surpise us on the rease of 4E. Optomism meter for this on a scale of 1 to 10: 1.5

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemeska
    If they've got Merric disillusioned about Gleemax, they've screwed up something fierce.
    I'm quite happy to keep supporting a product if the design team is talking to me and doing things to fix it. However, after the past few months, I'd have to see wholesale sackings starting from the top (Randy Buehler) before I trust them again to provide a good forum for talking about gaming.

    I still hope the DI will be functional.
    Merric Blackman
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    All the good programmers in Seattle are working for Microsoft....

  12. #12

    Gallant (Lvl 3)



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    Gleemax was the only part of the DDI that I felt had some relevance to me as a GM and gamer. It was the part I felt had the most potential and the part I was actually excited about.

    The pathetic joke that Gleemax has become is a real shame. But its just another in a long line of examples that illustrates WotC's inability to properly design, implement and launch any kind of electronic support.

    The fact that Merric is saying the same thing should speak volumes to WotC.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devyn
    is a real shame. But its just another in a long line of examples that illustrates WotC's inability to properly design, implement and launch any kind of electronic support.
    The sad thing is that that Wizards has actually been able to properly design, implement and launch electronic support... it's just been for Magic: the Gathering. The website there was great in the latter part of my playing days, it's still great to look up all the rulings and current text on whatever card I'd like.

    Magic Online, for all its problems, seems pretty successful. It also seems to have the designers & developers providing regular bug updates and fixes.

    It's just on the D&D side of things that Wizards e-support is severely lacking.

    Cheers!
    Merric Blackman
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  14. #14

    Gallant (Lvl 3)



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    Quote Originally Posted by MerricB
    It's just on the D&D side of things that Wizards e-support is severely lacking.
    !
    I don't think its as cut and dried as that, but I don't really want to quibble about semantics. So I guess as a company WotC's electronic support for their products has been very inconsistent, but for the D&D brand its been pathetic. How does that sound?

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