WotC Jeremy Crawford Interview: Playtests from experimental to focused. By Christian Hoffer at GenCon.

darjr

I crit!
Does audience size dictate this in every medium?

Do famous musicians have to consult with their fans before making an album? Does Beyonce need to hit up the Beehive, or does she just make what she wants with strong vision behind it?

You can apply this to comics, animanga, movies, visual arts, etc etc. At the end of the day, game design is more of an art than a science. Even video games, which have far more mechanics and numbers behind them, are pieces of art. And when creating art, what matters most is the vision of the creator and how well they achieve that vision.

Letting the competing visions of the entire player base dictate the art is, to me, a fallacy. It doesn't actually improve the art, at least, not to the degree where it should be entirely relied upon. In reality, Crawford needs to have a vision in mind. If this is his vision, then I find it insufficient. What good is a vision that believes mechanical innovation will 100% always lead to overcomplexity? So many people want to point to complexity as a problem, or to the giant fanbase as something that will rage over every change, but at the end of the day, these problems are indicative of a narrow-minded view.

In game design, there's always another solution. In any art, actually. If Crawford doesn't want to spend the time and money given to him to innovate D&D and to take it to the next level, and if their only way of improving the game is strictly through player surveys, then I just don't think D&D will ever be the innovative giant it was at its creation. It's a game with a charming about of funk to it, it is the most popular RPG x10 over, but these things don't excuse you from having to improve. Perfection isn't real, but that doesn't mean we stop striving for it.

Always remember too that D&D at its origin is a game of innovation. Arneson had a vision — characters from a war game going on fantasy adventures in the wilderness and in dungeons to get strong and build armies and create dynasties. There was nothing like it before. THere was roleplaying and acting etc, but it was Arneson's unique vision that synthesized the elements of his day into a brilliant game.

Since its creation, D&D has never shied away from trying to innovate itself. The original games, BECMI, AD&D, 3rd and 3.5, 4E — never in the history of D&D has any team stirring it sat on their laurels and said "Yes, this is good enough, we do not need to change our game further." It's always "Ok so, how can we do this but better?"

And sometimes that "but better" hasn't actually been better. But the attempts at innovation, the design visions of the past, all of these things feel absent in 5th Edition now. Using surveys is a good strategy. Relying on them entirely is not. Surveys should be used to adjust a vision, not to dictate the future course of the game. The audience doesn't truly know if something innovative will be something that they want until they have it. An audiences total rejection of something is valuable, and knowing what parts of a thing they like is valuable, but the audience should never, ever, ever set the course for the future, because the audience does not have vision. It has millions of visions competing against each other. And the job of D&D's lead designer is to have a vision that appeals to many people while being THEIR vision, and not everyone elses.

People always want to say that D&D is a big game, it HAS to suit every audience, but that isn't true. D&D only has to make a good game. If the game is good, many different audiences will use it for their own purposes. Then the adventures and supplementary materials should be exploring and innovating on the base game, giving us new ways to use that game, to tell stories with it, etc etc. You want some adventures and options that cater to niche interests, but that doesn't mean bending over backwards for your audience. There is no obligation for WotC to create the perfect product that every single person can use, no matter their tastes or gaming background. To try and do so is to sabotage your product.
I was talking about RPG tabletop design specifically. And speculating a lot.

Is music design like mountain bike path design? Superficially maybe but that’s probably it.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
I said 98% of TTRPG and other games.
In other fields, the design principles are similar to what WotC has been doing, but they have access to user data from broader research initiatives. In TTRPGs, WotC has had to start the data collection from scratch, because nobody else had done it yet.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I was talking about RPG tabletop design specifically. And speculating a lot.

Is music design like mountain bike path design? Superficially maybe but that’s probably it.
Design principles and processes are broadly quite transferable, even as specifics differ.
 

darjr

I crit!
Design principles and processes are broadly quite transferable, even as specifics differ.
Sure, but those specifics are what we are taking about. Does a musician want to have feedback in that design? I’d say generally no. Same as most boutique RPGs, which frankly a vast majority of them are.

But would a dirt bike path designer want community input? Yea generally I think they do. Not in the form of surveys or panel discussions though.

However in both endeavors I know there are exceptions.

Like the touring musicians who play songs they are writing on tour and change them as they play them either during or between sessions, many times due to audience response.

Or the challenge bike paths that are one and done, meant to push the envelope. And want to express personal artistic sensibilities.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Sure, but those specifics are what we are taking about. Does a musician want to have feedback in that design? I’d say generally no. Same as most boutique RPGs, which frankly a vast majority of them are.

But would a dirt bike path designer want community input? Yea generally I think they do. Not in the form of surveys or panel discussions though.

However in both endeavors I know there are exceptions.

Like the touring musicians who play songs they are writing on tour and change them as they play them either during or between sessions, many times due to audience response.

Or the challenge bike paths that are one and done, meant to push the envelope. And want to express personal artistic sensibilities.
My wife is a musician, and you would be amazed at the resources and tools available to help musicians hit commercial targets of pleasing users. Musicology is why pop music is the way thst it is.
 

darjr

I crit!
My wife is a musician, and you would be amazed at the resources and tools available to help musicians hit commercial targets of pleasing users. Musicology is why pop music is the way thst it is
Oh? Interesting. Still though she isn’t playtesting pieces and parts of her songs via survey? Is she?

Or inviting general fans and watching them take it for a spin mid development?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Oh? Interesting. Still though she isn’t playtesting pieces and parts of her songs via survey? Is she?

Or inviting general fans and watching them take it for a spin mid development?
Well, she plays accompaniment usually, but I have hung out with her composer friends. They've moved way past surveys, they have Apps for thst these days. Sometimes quite expensive software suites to help test how people will receive music. Because the data has been collected for decades now.
 

darjr

I crit!
Well, she plays accompaniment usually, but I have hung out with her composer friends. They've moved way past surveys, they have Apps for thst these days. Sometimes quite expensive software suites to help test how people will receive music. Because the data has been collected for decades now.
Very interesting.

Is it like AI software?
 



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