Losing Interest in the D&D Next Playtest?


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    Losing Interest in the D&D Next Playtest?

    I've seen a number of threads in the past few days all along the lines of folks losing interest in the playtest. Some of them because what they saw didn't appeal to them, which is fair enough - but a whole bunch because they feel that the playtest process isn't fun enough, or that new materials aren't being released quickly enough. I thought I'd offer a counter-viewpoint to the latter group.


    Here are a couple of examples of such threads; feel free to check them out.
    I only got to play in my first playtest last week. It lasted about two hours. I'll have the second this week, I hope. But at this rate, we won't have finished the Caves of Chaos for another month or two. That's assuming we make the playtest our primary game - which we probably won't, as we have a Pathfinder game running, too, which competes for the same time slot.

    So I appreciate that there are those who blasted through the playtest materials immediately after launch. I envy them: I wish I'd had that opportunity. But I - and presumably thousands like me - aren't that fortunate. For us, new materials right now would hamper our ability to playtest; we simply haven't had the time. And we want to give honest and valuable feedback to WotC; otherwise what's the point?

    For me, it felt the opposite to what many are saying. It felt too fast; the survey closed before my group got chance to participate. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this. The odds that I am are astronomically low.

    There are comparisons to Paizo's public playtest of Pathfinder, which I don't feel are valid. They're two different things, and even if they weren't - so what? The validity of a playtest isn't in how fast it is, it's in how comprehensive and accurate it is. If one company does it at a different speed to another, that doesn't matter (and I'd argue that Pathfinder's playtest release schedule wasn't any faster - were they really releasing new packages every couple of weeks? Not that I remember). But, that aside, the two companies have/had different tasks: Paizo was expanding and developing a core system (D&D 3.5) which had been comprehensively playtested to death over a period of years by tens of thousands of people every week, whereas WotC is attempting to write a new system from the ground up. That's not a value judgement: it's just that they are/were doing different things. Not that a fast playtest defines a good playtest, and the ability to spew out MS Word documents on a weekly basis is not a valid metric.

    There's an underlying vibe that the playtesting is supposed to entertain us; like it's a "free game", and needs to be "supported" at frequent intervals as though it were an actual product we'd bought. Ignoring the fact that it's only been four short weeks, I think that a playtest program with a focus being anything other than "gather valuable feedback" is fundamentally useless. While it might have side-effects of marketing and entertainment benefits, those are just side-effects. They're not the point.

    I'm sure WotC could spam us with new material every week. It'd probably be crappy material, and it wouldn't incorporate any of the current feedback (and it wouldn't incorporate mine or many like me, because we haven't had time yet), but they could do it. But is that what we really want them to do? Surely we want them to take their time, playtest thoroughly, and in the meantime we get on with our home games and partipate voluntarily in the playtest process as and when we have the time and the inclination.

    Marketing will come later. Mark my words, this time next year everyone will be inundated with it to the point of saturation. There will be ads, and previews, and all sorts of things. But that's a year away.

    Right now, we're voluntarily playtesting. This is a process normally handled in-house by RPG companies - at least at first. WotC has made this public in response to our insistence that they do so; but playtesting isn't really a fun process. Ask any videogame playtester who plays the same level over and over and over until they bleed nightmares about it. It's not analogous to a videogame public beta release - it's analogous to the video game company employees who are employed at low wage to replay the same thing over and over. It's a job, not entertainment.

    Maybe some stage in a year's time will be similar to a videogame's public beta. But that's a maybe, and that's in a year's time. This ain't it, though.

    To their credit, we don't have it that bad. We're volunteers, and we have zero demands upon us. We're not forced to kill the same kobolds 500 times in a row to find a bug. But we do have the opportunity to participate and help shape the game. This will happen at intervals over the next year or so; and that's OK. D&D Next isn't supposed to replace your primary game yet; next year, the pretty hardcover books are the things that WotC hopes will replace your primary game. Not this.

    So to those who are concerned that there isn't any new playtest material yet: please be patient. Some of us only just got to start it. And we have valuable feedback we want to give, which we'll do in various ways: forum posts, blogs, polls, and the like. Another month or two for the next package suits many of us just fine.

    Taking time is never a bad thing. It may not be very entertaining, but it's the right thing to do. Take it slow, get as much feedback as possible, do more design work, get it right. I'd rather WotC did that than rush stuff out to spam us with new material to entertain us. After all, they'll probably do that just fine once the game is released - it's D&D after all! We'll be complaining about too many pointless splat books and power creep like we always have done.

    At the moment, we've chosen to volunteer to be playtesters, because we want the game to come out right. It's a job, and we weren't forced to do it. But it's not necessarily fun all the time; that's OK. That's playtesting.

    So my advice, for what it's worth? You're not supposed to be switching to 5E yet. They haven't sold it to you yet. Trust me, they will when the time comes (or at least they'll try). Just continue with your regular gaming, and occasionally dip into the playtesting if and when you feel like it and there happen to be a playtest package available that interests you. And then, when you've done that, go back to your regular game and carry on like normal. Maybe participate in the next playtest package whenever that happens to be. If you don't feel like it, that's fine - it's not an obligation - but it's not there to replace your weekly game night.
    Last edited by Morrus; Monday, 9th July, 2012 at 05:33 PM.

 

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    Pretty much agree. I've playtest about as much as the group wants to. I feel comfortable in my knowledge of the current iteration, and feel I have let Wizards know my opinions. So I may be "tired" of the playtest, but I am still really looking forward to where the game is going - I keep reading the articles and discuss what comes out.
    When we get new material I'll play that too.
    And comment. A lot.
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    On one hand, you're probably right that people are quick to jump to conclusions or impatient or have unrealistic expectatios.

    On the other, I distinctly recall a large, well-publicized playtest of a D&D-like rpg that seemed to put out large volumes of material pretty frequently, and that ended up working out for them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    On the other, I distinctly recall a large, well-publicized playtest of a D&D-like rpg that seemed to put out large volumes of material pretty frequently, and that ended up working out for them.
    I'm sure many things could work out for WotC. They've chosen a very inclusive approach in response to popular demand.

    They could do it faster - and many people like myself simply wouldn't get chance to participate properly. And I want to, speaking just for myself.

    But the main point it - putting out large volumes of rapid material simply to keep people interested is not the point of the playtest. So their deisgn work happens at a different rate to another company? Does that matter? As long as it's at the rate which will ensure a good game, and will result in comprehensive feedback, it's the right rate. It's not a competition in how fast they can pump out MS Word documents.

    Hell, if that's the requirement, I'll pump one out every day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    But the main point it - putting out large volumes of rapid material simply to keep people interested is not the point of the playtest. So their deisgn work happens at a different rate to another company? Does that matter? As long as it's at the rate which will ensure a good game, and will result in comprehensive feedback, it's the right rate. It's not a competition in how fast they can pump out MS Word documents.
    We don't know what the design rate is or what goes on behind closed doors, but I do think it's important to consider that a playtest can serve as a form of marketing; it isn't just about refining the rules. Thus, keeping the audience interested can absolutely been seen as the point. This is the entertainment industry.

    Thus, I suspect that they would be better served by releasing more stuff sooner, even if I don't know exactly what their production capacity is to create material of reasonable quality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    So I appreciate that there are those who blasted through the playtest materials immediately after launch. I envy them: I wish I'd had that opportunity. But I - and presumably thousands like me - aren't that fortunate. For us, new materials right now would hamper our ability to playtest; we simply haven't had the time. And we want to give honest and valuable feedback to WotC; otherwise what's the point?
    Man, I don't know how you managed to go so long without a playtest. I would have been climbing the walls.

    In my thread, I didn't mean to imply that the playtest wasn't worth anyone's attention. I was genuinely curious to see how many people were still playtesting now that the survey period has already come and gone. (The survey I received in e-mail said that the polls were closed as of mid-June.) When I handed my survey in, I felt like my job was done.

    (It was also interesting to note that some of the most vocal fans and detractors of 5E on these boards haven't played it. )
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    On the other, I distinctly recall a large, well-publicized playtest of a D&D-like rpg that seemed to put out large volumes of material pretty frequently, and that ended up working out for them.
    Kind of feels like apples and oranges. While I like Paizo, they were working with tweaking the existing version of D&D under the OGL. They were building on an established chasis and incorporating rule changes that an outgrowth of the current system.

    The D&D Next playtest is starting at a much more basic level and building up from that frame which necessitates quite a bit of work. Comparing the two seems to provide little more than fuel for the editions wars and a chance for people to see which RPG has the bigger "Rod, Stave or Wand".
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    Quote Originally Posted by TirionAnthion View Post
    Kind of feels like apples and oranges. While I like Paizo, they were working with tweaking the existing version of D&D under the OGL. They were building on an established chasis and incorporating rule changes that an outgrowth of the current system.

    The D&D Next playtest is starting at a much more basic level and building up from that frame which necessitates quite a bit of work. Comparing the two seems to provide little more than fuel for the editions wars and a chance for people to see which RPG has the bigger "Rod, Stave or Wand".
    It's more comparing an apple to a little bud on a tree that will eventually (hopefully) develop into an apple. That much is true.

    Then again, they had been working on it for a while before they announced it, and their "spring" release took a long time to come out. I don't think it's unreasonable for consumers of a product to criticize the speed at which it is produced. It's got nothing to do with comparing editions in any other way than that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TirionAnthion View Post
    Kind of feels like apples and oranges. While I like Paizo, they were working with tweaking the existing version of D&D under the OGL. They were building on an established chasis and incorporating rule changes that an outgrowth of the current system.

    The D&D Next playtest is starting at a much more basic level and building up from that frame which necessitates quite a bit of work. Comparing the two seems to provide little more than fuel for the editions wars and a chance for people to see which RPG has the bigger "Rod, Stave or Wand".
    That is a good point. It just can't be compared to Paizo's efforts. It's an entirely different process; Paizo had an existing large system to modify; WotC is writing a new one. In effect, Paizo was starting with the last quarter of the playtesting process: 3.5, the base system, had already been playtested by them and the public for years.

    But, again, the speed of a playtest isn't a measure of its worth. The comprehensiveness of it is. Taking it slow and doing it right is surely better than spamming us with MS Word documents as fast as they can type.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CleverNickName View Post
    now that the survey period has already come and gone. (The survey I received in e-mail said that the polls were closed as of mid-June.)
    This is one of my concerns as well. I'm still playtesting, but any new feedback that I want to give, I don't really have the ability to do it in a fashion that I think will get any real notice. I was kind of hoping that surveys on the first iteration of the playtest would come out once a month or so to catch any new concerns and to provide any other feedback that didn't come up in the first survey.

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