D&D Insider: Losing your toys

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But, if WotC decides to stop part or all of the D&D Insider service, I don't think they will "screw" their subscribers.
I agree with Dire Bare on this one: I think Irda Ranger has a very valid concern and I agree that we're basically paying for the promise of something (as opposed to something itself), which isn't a very good business model from the consumer's end. However, I also have enough faith in the faceless, corporate being that is WotC to not completely screw their customer base over: if nothing else, because it's bad PR and bad for the bottom line. Yes, one day 4.0 will be some old thing, but by that time they have very little to lose by distributing things freely, too. At the very least, I can see things working like many have said the CB works now: you can continue to use it but it will just never be updated.

Overall, I think this is a valid concern but I'm not entirely worried because I think corporate greed also works to keep them accountable.


Ok, not angry. Wrong word. Disapproving?

Look, Halivar. You should probably stop trying to characterize my attitude and simply answer my post questions or ignore them. I'm not trying to vilify any persons or companies. I'm not denegrating your chosen profession or casting aspersions on anyone's character for trying to create one type of business model or another. I'm just trying to discern if there is a way to bow out of the subcription and maintain what has been purchased. There's really no need for you to try and marginalize anyone over that discussion. I dislike that you chose to approach a discussion with me in that manner and continue to persue it, so I suggest you refrain from that tack in the future. If you do not know the answers to the questions, or would rather not discuss them, simply ignore the posts that have to do with that aspect of this thread.

Jan van Leyden

So you receive the software in its current form and should be able to use that software at that level forever, but the only way to put the software on a new computer if you allow your subscription to lapse is by using a disc image? So the software itself is designed to thwart this unless the disc image precaution is taken?

Yes to your first question: That or you pay for a one month access to DDI (let's call it "installation fee" ;)), re-install and update the whole stuff.

No to your second question: The software is designed to let you access a paid-for service. You may opt out of this service and running the risk of losing your data your recieved as part of this service.

"Thwarting" sounds a lot like "the evil Wizards actively try to enforce people to remain subscribers or else..." But it's just a paid service you can use even after you subscription has expired. Try that with WoW! :erm:

Oh, let's not make this personal, as I am not actually discussing my own situation but rather trying to understand the situation objectively. I can envision, for instance, someone deciding they only want to play the game with the level of rules that are out to this point, or perhaps to the point achieved just after the PH2 is out, thus effectively wishing to drop off of the subscription grid(both for the DDI and the print rules) but being guaranteed all of the toys they are accustomed to using still function as purchased. Hence the above questions.

Sorry Mark, it was not my intent to put this on a personal level. It's rather that I'm a bit fed up with this argument that your DDI subscription/access buys you something in the traditional sense. This is not the case.

It buys you a service. It's the idea of buying a service which some people seem to have problems with. And this is something I frankly don't understand. Last time I rode a bus in my hometown, the bus ticket didn't buy me the bus, but maybe that's different in the US. :hmm:

The group you envision has two options within the DDI model:

  1. They could use the CB as usual, making backups and disk images to ensure that CB survives computer break-downs and changes.
  2. They could use the CB as usual, buying a one onth subscription to DDI if their hardware fails them or they change to a new computer. I don't know how frequent such a situation turns up for these people, so they might decide that this solution is too expensive for them. They can even define a campaign to limit the data shown in their new installation to what was formerly accessible to them.

For me, it sounds like a decent offer, although I intend to maintain my subscription anyway. Perhaps my point of view can be made understandable by my "history" with computer aided character building:

Shortly after 3e premiered I discovered PCGen, which had lots of data files for most of WotC's D&D books. When this changed, one had to enter ones own data for all the new, shiny books. For a lazy guy like me, this was not cool, but we made do until we wanted to switch to Eberron. Many Eberron- things were not supported by the old version of PCGen I was running, so it was either re-entering all the data (argh!) or running with compromises.

It was than that I found Codemonkey Publishing, who offered data sets for PCGen and etools. For reasons I can not precisely recall, I decided to go the etools route and bought quite some datasets. When the CMP-license for using WotC data was not extended, I was in a situation comparable to the one described in this very thread: I had paid money for the stuff I had to make sure that all the data and software patches were securely saved and backuped. If something would happen to my computer and one backuped file would be damaged, I'd have irrevocably lost the data and my investment.

The difference ist that I pay much less for the DDI subscription than I would have to have paid for comparable features under etools or PCGen. Oh, and I have to wait four weeks for the incorporation of new data, not four months or years...

All in all, even if WotC decides to stop the service and throw CB in the garbage can, I've made a very favorable deal: I gladly pay for a great service.


First Post
Whoah! Sorry.

Ignore the characterization and what-not. I'm trying to point out that folks are hold WotC to a different level of accountability than they would other software companies, and I think that's unfair.

PS: I reread your questions, and they're pretty objective. I apologize if I've unfairly imputed to you views you don't have. I initially read them as rhetorical.

To answer your questions: yes, and no. "No" to the second because I don't think they're trying to intentionally "thwart" anything. If anything, they left a huge gaping hole for people to continue reaping the benefits of past DDI subscriptions. Note, for instance, that they don't even have rudimentary DRM on the CB to require subscription. That's only in the update process.

PPS: If I were a money-grubbing bastard (and, on some days, I am), I'd lock down the CB with a time-bomb. Mandatory sync with the home server once per subscription period to maintain enforcement and continue the revenue stream. But first, I would have it be free for continual use during an extensive beta... period.... oh. I see. :]
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First Post
Does it bother anyone else that if you stop paying for cable, that you no longer can watch channels on TV?


Yes, it does. I was always more irritated wift losing my insurance benefits if I stopped paying, too. :)

All jokey aside, I think it's a valid concern that we'd lose access to stuff. RPG's have never had a real subscription system in the past. You buy the book and it's yours for life.

What we haven't grown accustomed to, yet, is that so long as you're playing the game, you might as well have the subscription. You can surely play without it, but the advantage vs cost is quite reasonable.

It's like having an Xbox & some online only games and then not paying the XBL subscription. Not something you're used to having to do with game systems.


To both of you, would "disallow" be a less provocative word than "thwart?" It's all I meant by its use, afterall, so I am fine if it becomes the verbal proxy.

So, thanks for following up, to you both. I'm not all that used to much beyond anti-virus software (in that vein), and I had been under the impression (though I do not risk it) that anti-virus software continued to function at the level at which it had been last updated for as long as I would desire. I can understand software that is fully server-side being something that can be disallowed post-subscription but it seems off that something I install on my own computer can cease to function or not be allowed to be reinstalled if it needs to be post subscription.

But the disc image approach might be workable. Would that be a violation of the license, though?
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Mod Squad
Staff member
But doesn't it bother anyone else that if you stop subscribing to DDI that your Character Builder and Compendium stop working?

Nope. It is called "software as a service", and is fairly common for web-based applications these days.

I dunno. I really, really don't like that kind of loss of control of my software and data.

Here's a note - it may be your data, but it is not your software. You haven't written a single line of the code, have you?

Even when you "buy" software, you don't actually own it - you have bought a license that allows some uses, and not others. But the software itself is not owned by you.

Irda Ranger

First Post
I don't understand complaining about something that costs only USD5 or so dollars a month. If I worked at Hasbro/WotC and read these sorts of comments I would completely ignore them because if someone is too poor to afford USD5 or so a month they cease being a customer.
If that were my complaint you might have a point. But it's not. So you don't.

What I want is the knowledge that when Wizards (inevitably) moves on I will still be able to fully use the software I have paid for in whatever state Wizards leaves it in. Whether that means frozen in today's form or with another five years of updates is less important than certainty that I can keep however much I have bought and paid for. My subscription fees pay for updates, but once that work is done by Wizards I want to know that the data can be safely backed up and reinstalled as necessary - just like I have all my Civ IV patches saved to my external SAN. On that basis I would buy the annual today.

As for whether WotC will "screw" us, it could happen. I don't believe that Mike Mearls or Keith Baker (as people) would do that, but corporations can make really weird, inhuman decisions occassionally.

By the way, the comparisons to MMORPGs is really off. As many people have noted, you can use the CB and read the magazines without internet access. There are no central servers that need to be maintained or any other costs of any kind (labor, bandwidth, etc.) that accrue to WotC when you do this. A better comparison would be a "subscription" to a standalone game like Civ IV or Age of Empires where you keep getting new units, maps and missions as long as you subscribe. But would you want the game to stop working on your home PC when you stop subscribing? There's just no technical or economic reason for that.

Further, the comparisons to anti-virus is also off. Anti-virus programs are constantly responding to evolving ecosystem of threats. D&D isn't like that since you can "freeze" your D&D game at any point in the rule evolution. If I'm happy with 4E Core Sets 1 and 2 and never want to go beyond that the rational response would be to stop my subscription for updates. That doesn't mean the software I had up to that point should stop. Again, there's no technical or economic reason; it's just a business decision by Wotc and therefore something I can reasonably complain about.

Irda Ranger

First Post
Here's a note - it may be your data, but it is not your software. You haven't written a single line of the code, have you?
<tongue-in-cheek> Wow, I bet you built every last screw and bolt in your car, huh? No? I guess you don't own it then. </tongue-in-cheek>

<serious question> Wouldn't it bother you if your car stopped working the moment the warranty expired? How is this different? </serious question>


I am not exactly pro-WotC, but the business model they chose makes sense.

It also makes sense to sell the Character Builder as a separate application which doesn't expire and doesn't require a DDI account to be activated, but I think its cost would be prohibitive for many (I wouldn't charge less than $100 for it, including all data sets from year 1, and I would charge another $20 for annual updates).

The software business model is evolving. The focus now is less on software products and more on software services. In fact, with internet applications, the distinction between "product" and "service" is really blurring.

For instance, I can totally see WotC creating various web services that expose D&D data and selling access to those services to computer game manufacturers. That way, computer game manufacturers do not need to worry about modelling the game rules, they can just take the data sets and transform them into a format suitable for their game engine. This would work particularly well for MMORPGs, I think because it would provide a constant stream of new content. Obviously, the concept needs work, but I think it's feasable.


Wouldn't it bother you if your car stopped working the moment the warranty expired? How is this different?
Because your car is a product, not a service. Your analogy would work if you were renting the car and stopped paying the rent.

If you're renting a house, and you don't pay rent, the landlord comes in and kicks your ass out.

If you don't pay your electric bill, they shut off your electricity. You never own the power in the first place.

If you have a gym membership, and you opt to not pay the membership, then you can't come in and use the equipment.

The gym membership is a perfect parallel here. You're paying a monthly fee to use someone else's equipment. The only difference is that you use it in your house, rather than in their building.


Shirokinukatsukami fan
<tongue-in-cheek> Wow, I bet you built every last screw and bolt in your car, huh? No? I guess you don't own it then. </tongue-in-cheek>

<serious question> Wouldn't it bother you if your car stopped working the moment the warranty expired? How is this different? </serious question>
In one case, you have bought the car, and the car belongs to you. In the other case, you have bought a software licence, and the software itself does not belong to you. Those seem quite different cases to me.


First Post
So if the character builder were a web application, this thread wouldn't exist?

Like I said earlier, I don't see much point in complaining about the terms of sale of a luxury good.


First Post
Coming from a software dev. background, I don't have a problem with this model. Subscription based "software as a service" has been around for a long time, and it's these questions have already been discussed and hashed out. This model has survived and we are actually seeing more and more of a trend to it.

Also, as pointed out, WotC has really put out a "non-evil" version of this model. There is a lack of DRM on the data. They put out DRM free PDF's. The character builder's only lock on it is a check for updates. I think when you survey other subscription service software, you'll find this is extremely friendly.

Right now, I look at my $5 a month subscription as a magazine subscription. I happen to get some bonuses with my sub. The character builder is the big bonus.

Anyways, back to the point. The software as a service subscription model debate has really already been done. Thats why you saw some comments where the intent behind the OP questions were unfairly assumed. When you see an old argument being rehashed, you can't help but look at it and go, "well, why would we be sloshing through this AGAIN?"


I'm a web developer and I hate SaaS -- hate, hate, hate. My general philosophy is that if I buy an application that doesn't have functionality that requires a connection (e.g. word processor, spreadsheet, solo game versus email, IM, MMORPG), I should be able to take it to my hermit cabin in the woods and run it on a computer powered by a generator without issue. Sure, I won't be able to get the updates, patches, etc. but that's understandable. I really hope this whole model crashes, personally.

As for this specific instance, I'm not as bothered by the DDI being subscription. The vast majority of the offerings on DDI make sense as a subscription. The lone exception is the Character Builder, which does continue to function if you unsubscribe. Also, the DDI provides enough other value that I'll continue to subscribe to it for as long as I play 4e, so it's effectively a non-issue for me.

That said, I'd still strongly prefer that the Character Builder was available as a stand-alone, non-subscription product. I think $30-50 for the application and the PHB, DMG, and MM 1 data would be appropriate. I have to admit that, if the DDI didn't have plenty of subscription-appropriate content, I wouldn't even have tried the CB on principle alone.

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