Kyle Brink Interviewed by Teos Abadia (Alphastream) on OGL, WotC, & D&D

D&D executive producer's Kyle Brink's second hour-long interview OGL/D&D has dropped--this one is with Teos Abadia, otherwise known as Alphastream. The notes below are my attempt to paraphrase the main things Brink said, but as always you should watch the actual video if you want the full context. Company Structure There's around 30 people on the D&D team, and that many again freelancers...

D&D executive producer's Kyle Brink's second hour-long interview OGL/D&D has dropped--this one is with Teos Abadia, otherwise known as Alphastream. The notes below are my attempt to paraphrase the main things Brink said, but as always you should watch the actual video if you want the full context.

Company Structure
  • There's around 30 people on the D&D team, and that many again freelancers.​
  • The hiring process has equity targets to bring in a representative sample of candidates, after which it is who is the best candidate.​
  • There has been increasing diversity in the pool of designers while maintaining quality.​
  • Brink reports to Dan Rawson, senior VP of D&D, who reports to Cynthia Williams, president.​
  • D&D Beyond is the front door to D&D on the web and will be even more so. It is the D&D website, and will become more so.​
  • D&D Game Studio is center for game content. D&D Beyond turns that into a play service. Content gets expressed in ways appropriate to an audiance (ie digital, book, etc.)​
OGL/Creative Commons
  • It was a surprise to some of the D&D team that the OGL might be changed. Partly that was about shielding them from distracting stuff. Brink feels that was too strong a wall and their views might have been beneficial.
  • Some internal feedback from the D&D team reflected the views of external creators.
  • The community's point of view was not the one wining internally, but may have been had people there been able to speak more loudly.
  • The worry was about new technologies and big companies--Brink uses the VR example, with user generated content but poor content controls. They didn't want the term D&D to become 'that video porn game' looking ahead.
  • The position now is that the community is the strongest weapon against that.
  • The royalties were to discourage big companies moving in and redefining D&D. By 'drips and drips' they got to the wrong position. $750K was a ceiling which they felt would not affect most creators, and larger companies would deal directly with WotC.
  • Right now they're looking at protecting D&D via things not now in the Creative Commons. Community protects the open space and WotC protects copyright and trademark.
  • They feel that the community is able to take care of hateful content.
  • They want the creator community. A deal where WotC got more powers to act but lost the creator community was not a good deal.
  • NFTs are not the concern, it's about how people use them for scams.
  • WotC will be publishing a content policy (for representation, hateful content, etc.) and hold themselves to it. They cannot hold others to it.
  • The Creative Commons license chosen's lack of sharealike attribution isn't a problem for WotC. They want people to build stuff they own and don't have to share and build value in their own IP. They've chosen the road which gives creators the choice, and can make any of their content sharealike, but WotC isn't forcing them to.
  • CC means that nobody has to take WotC's word for anything as they don't control that license.
  • The drive to change the OGL was coming from various parts of the organization (legal, business, studio). It was an ongoing effort when Brink arrived.
  • The faster the audience grew the bigger the risk that hateful content or scams would arise, so there was a rising sense of urgency to take action.
  • Did anybody sign the v1.1 version? It was distributed with an NDA, and with some creators a discussion about other arrnagements/licenses they might make separate from the OGL.
  • 'The impression someone could get that I have to sign v1.1 is absotely a believable impression for someone to get'.
  • The design of v1.1. was always going to be an ongoing no-signature process.
  • Feedback from larger creators like Kobold Press, the failing is on WotC for not communicating that they were listening. 'Thanks for the feedback' isn't enough.
  • 'If you're going to write a new OGL to protect yourself from the vulnerabilties of the old OGL, you kinda have to take the old OGL off the table, otherwise you're not protecting yourself at all'. There's no point in changing the OGL if you don't de-authorize the old one.
  • They weren't worried about competitors arising from within the community. They love the creator community, and WotC can't satisfy all appetites. That serves the broad needs of the player community.
  • They wanted to have closer relationships with the most successful creators, talking to them about licenses and going bigger. The tiering structure was meant to identify those creators. 'The way it was executed was very cleary going to be an attenuating destructive structure which we did not want.'
  • The OGL survey results were clear, from a range of people, 15000 responses. The intent was to treat it like a playtest but it became obvious where it was going. The survey feedback supported CC, and there was no reason to drag it out.
  • WotC still has their concerns, but their approach to it has changed (to a combo of copyrght/trademark and community).
  • Putting D&D into CC has made de-authing the OGL unimportant to WotC.
  • The SRD will be updated to continue to be compatible with evolving rules.
  • They're looking at adding the 3.5 SRD to the SRD but they have to review that content to make sure they're not accidentally putting stuff into CC.
Company Culture
  • People being afraid to speak up is a sign of 'immature management' and leading from ego.
  • That's not the kind of leaders WotC has today, but Brink cannot speak about those who were there before he arrived.
  • Brink feels that every month he is there people feel more comfortable speaking up, though that doesn't mean they'll always agree. But they will listen.
  • 'That's not how we operate today but I can certainly believe echoes of that in the past'.
VTTs/Digital/DDB
  • Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are important to the hobby and WotC.
  • WotC is also making digital playspaces. The goal is to give more choice. The way WotC succeeds is if they make the best stuff. It's a 'virtuos' competition.
  • The license that Roll20 etc. has to sell WotC content still applies. Remains to be seen down the road.
  • It's possible that third party content will be seen inside DDB or the VTT but it takes a fair amount of work to being a piece of content in. It would have to be a pretty important piece of third party content. Brink could see a day when that would happen.
One D&D
  • The OGL issue has not impacted the One D&D strategy. It has maybe helped WotC express their plans publicly.
  • D&D should be a living game which evolves but is familiar.
  • The One D&D timeline is not changed, but the playtest timeline was impacted by the OGL situation. They'll get back on track real soon.
  • A professional research team gathers the survey information.
  • There are also internal playtests with robust feedback.
Other
  • The game team has gained more of a voice.
  • More trust has been built between design leadership and the executive team.
  • Dan Rawson's role is new and is the first time the D&D brand has been represented at that level at the executive level.
  • Cynthia Williams is empathetic and data-oriented, and willing to change direction.
  • It sounds like they'd consider the SRD being placed into French, German, Italian, and Spanish, though Brink did not promise.
 

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dave2008

Legend
Yet now that 5.1 is in CC, those companies (adult-content providers, Disney, FB, etc.) could make games which are exactly like 5.1E...and furthermore, they're now free to write on their cover:
Did you watch the video? They explain all of this in the 2nd interview. Now, you don't have to believe him, but Kyle gives an explanation. Don't rely on other people to interpret it for you - do your own work.
 
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ThorinTeague

Creative/Father/Professor
I find this attitude childish. There is no 'true face' to a corporation when it is made up of many individuals (even at the decision-making layer). Are there bad people in the world? Yes.
I don't really believe that any human being is entirely good or entirely evil... Well maybe a small handful of rare individuals. But the fact that the ammunition was provided by many does not absolve the one(s) who pulled the trigger of any accountability.
 

dave2008

Legend
The number of the post? Open that link in a browser you're not logged into EN with, or as a private window. Either way you'll get to see who's posting that you can't see.
Thank you, but that is not what I meant. I was asking how to check if I had someone on ignore or not. Another poster already let me know how to check, and I do not have anyone on ignore.
 

I find this attitude childish. There is no 'true face' to a corporation when it is made up of many individuals (even at the decision-making layer). Are there bad people in the world? Yes. Are there people who are not necessarily bad, but are more grey, and make bad decisions in the moment? Of course. The composition of the decision-making layer of a corporation changes over time. At point in time X, there might be 60% 'bad', 40% 'good'. Next month, it might be 100% 'bad'. Or 100% 'good'. Or somewhere in between. The point being, don't assign human qualities to a thing.

We can attach adjectives to opinions we disagree, but I don’t think that is likely to be fruitful.

Corporations have a character. They have goals, they have motivations driven by things like who is in charge and share holder interest. They also have a corporate culture. I think this very clearly showed where WOTC’s priorities are going to be focused (more on maximizing profit for its shareholders and less about D&D itself). There may be people in the company who are passionate about D&D; it is pretty clear to me they are not the ones calling the shots, just being made a public face in the wake of a PR disaster.

This idea that companies are such a collective we can’t make judgments about them or describe their character, to be seems like a strange concept. Also it keeps getting raised when people voice criticism of WOTC so it feels like a rhetorical bludgeon. We all understand a corporation doesn’t have a literal face, that it is a fluid entity, but that doesn’t mean some companies are not worse or less trustworthy than others. And it also doesn’t mean people shouldn’t walk away from what happened with an understanding that having a corporation like HASBRO in charge of D&D may not be good for the hobby.

That said, this is going to involve ones personal judgment of what they are seeing. Other people will look at WOTC’s statements and actions and reach different conclusions than me.
 

mamba

Legend
You say that the community engagement was yet to come. The wording kyle has used i believe has been that they wanted input before involving the  wider community.
that is what I understand by it, yes

The line between where business relations end and community begins is for the case of wizards a continum.
yes, but it still makes sense to not talk to everyone at once but start with the big publishers, so you do not have something insane in front of everyone, like they ended up having

I get the impression that this might have been handled mainly by business relations (where I think they might have a strong team), while in 20 20 hindsight I think it seem like this should clearly have been a joint effort between business and community management - if the later existed in a strong form.
the community here largely is a business in the sense that those concerned / affected are the ones publishing material under it, not the ones using that material. For the latter group this is mostly optics and a sense of fairness.
I can see how they ended up where they were (in terms of sequence of whom to involve)

Moreover a key observation making me question the presence of a serious community management team is that Kyle describe his team as empowered in future conversations. If there indeed had been an ignored community management team as you suggest, wouldn't that have been a more natural team to promote being strengthened - rather than members of a team that of people hired to do specialized design?
I am not saying that exists or not, I am saying that even if it exists / existed, that is no guarantee this would not have blown up, because the same steps could still be taken and planned when the leak then put an end to that carefully designed plan ;)
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Yeah, I also don't particularly like most of Kobold Press's content. It's strange to me that so many people praise their content, when most of their stuff that I've read was either mid-quality (Tome of Beasts 1 and 2, Creature Codex) or pretty bad (Tyranny of Dragons, Midgard Heroes' Handbook). And it's definitely weird that the adventure gets reprinted so often. But that doesn't mean it's WotC's fault for the quality of the adventure.
Well, sure it is. Since whenever does a company get of the hook for blaming a subcontractor on the quality of the finished product?

I'm not judging the quality of the specific works in question, I've never read or run them, but if they are poor quality that is on WotC, just as much as they are ultimately to blame for the first print run of the PHPs falling apart.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
To be fair, this is true for literally any adventure, provided the DM is good enough or does enough work to fix it. My group had a ton of fun playing Dungeon of the Mad Mage, but the "adventure" was not good and the dungeon was waaaay too ridiculously big. I have a feeling that WotC took "let's make a megadungeon" as a challenge when designing that book.
Emphasis mine.

Rappan Athuk would like a word.

I haven't run Dungeon of the Mad Mage yet and probably won't for a while. I'm wrapping up a multi-year campaign in a much larger mega dungeon and am looking for a very different setting for my next campaign. But I'm glad they published it and I bought it. Mega dungeons, and old-school dungeon delves in general, tend to have as many detractors as they do admirers. Same thing with collections of smaller adventures. As for collections of smaller adventures, I'm in the camp of wanting more of those. I'm just never going to be able to run most of the large adventures that can take months to over a year to run and I like to have some good, shorter adventures to throw into my own campaign or to play as a one-shot or over just a couple of sessions. WotC is obviously trying to give homage to the major tropes and cater to a variety of tastes in that adventures. That means that there are always gong to be significant factions of detractors who don't like a particular trope or format.
 

mamba

Legend
He can decide to take the initiative on the PR stuff and still be used as a scapegoat. Point being he didn't do this, but acting as the face of wotc for now, he appears to be drawing community ire.
I don’t know, to me a scapegoat is not volunteering for that role, so the term simply does not fit, even if he does draw ire.

Whoever took this job knew there would be some negative feedback. I don’t want to call him a martyr, because that is not correct either, but it brings the voluntary part across while scapegoat does not.

He can't contradict the official lie that 1.1 was a draft, among others but that's probably the most important one, because to do so would not only cost him his job, but also WoTC would sue him into oblivion.
it’s not a lie, he explained that. You are free to not believe it, but that is not the same as it being a lie

So spin it however you like. My belief that he is being used as a scapegoat in the hopes that community anger will be misdirected onto him stands.
not disagreeing that he is a convenient shield for others to hide behind right now, my disagreement is with the term scapegoat
 
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Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
Emphasis mine.

Rappan Athuk would like a word.

I haven't run Dungeon of the Mad Mage yet and probably won't for a while. I'm wrapping up a multi-year campaign in a much larger mega dungeon and am looking for a very different setting for my next campaign. But I'm glad they published it and I bought it. Mega dungeons, and old-school dungeon delves in general, tend to have as many detractors as they do admirers. Same thing with collections of smaller adventures. As for collections of smaller adventures, I'm in the camp of wanting more of those. I'm just never going to be able to run most of the large adventures that can take months to over a year to run and I like to have some good, shorter adventures to throw into my own campaign or to play as a one-shot or over just a couple of sessions. WotC is obviously trying to give homage to the major tropes and cater to a variety of tastes in that adventures. That means that there are always gong to be significant factions of detractors who don't like a particular trope or format.
Trust me. I've read all and played through most of the Dungeon of the Mad Mage. There are entire levels of the dungeon that don't feel imaginative or necessary at all (most of the earlier ones, actually). All of the best layers are deep, deep into the dungeon. I don't have anything against megadungeons. My group's 2nd favorite campaign was Dungeon of the Mad Mage. But my impression from WotC after reading and playing the adventure was that they felt there was some "quota" of levels that they needed to meet for the megadungeon to be "big enough", instead of just adding levels that they thought would make the dungeon better. There are several levels in the adventure that are bland, unnecessary, or just don't add anything unique/compelling to the dungeon. And I'm not talking about removing a huge chunk of the book, just a few of the more boring levels and reorganizing some of the levels would work. But the book is seriously bloated.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Yeah, I also don't particularly like most of Kobold Press's content. It's strange to me that so many people praise their content, when most of their stuff that I've read was either mid-quality (Tome of Beasts 1 and 2, Creature Codex) or pretty bad (Tyranny of Dragons, Midgard Heroes' Handbook). And it's definitely weird that the adventure gets reprinted so often. But that doesn't mean it's WotC's fault for the quality of the adventure.

I personally really like their bestiaries. I backed their Kickstarter campaigns for Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex. I've used quite a few of their monsters in my games, especially from Tome of Beasts. I really like the 2D cardboard standee miniatures and the Book of Lairs they sell as supplements to their monster books. The art is generally quite good, the editing is very good, and I find the monsters tend to be more mechanically interesting and more challenging than similar CR creatures created by WotC. I didn't buy Tome of Beasts 2, but that had more to do with me already having a small library of monster books and cutting back on my Kickstarter spend in general. What about their monster books do you feel makes them "mid-quality" and what would you hold out as a top-notch monster book for 5e?

For what its worth, my absolute favorite monster book for 5e has been Volo's Guide. But that's been relegated to "legacy" status, so my tastes obviously do not reflect the majority of players or the direction that WotC wants to take with its monster books.
 

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