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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 04:33 PM.

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