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.​
  • 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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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I remember Quarter Pounders being good too. Burger King had Whoppers... which were alright, but a bit on the mayonnaisey side. Also, the patty slid around the bun as it was being consumed. Not fun too deal with from the 'keep the sauce off my pants' perspective. Also, if you delved too deeply, why is this piece of meat trying to escape me? Also not fun to ponder.
Not a fan of Wendys, but I'm a "wet" sandwich guy. A good sandwich needs to be eaten over the sink. :p
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
I feel pretty confident in saying that McD is nowhere near the 10 best restaurants, by any qualitative measure. What they do definitely have is remarkable consistency
So, by a qualitative measure, they have a certain quality which people value.

Personally, I value McDonald's food not wrecking my digestive track, which restaurants I generally prefer the taste of will do on a regular basis (darn allegerns). McDonalds remarkable consistency in not causing me extreme intestinal distress is a quality I very much appreciate after eating at Burger King.
 

dave2008

Legend
So, by a qualitative measure, they have a certain quality which people value.

Personally, I value McDonald's food not wrecking my digestive track, which restaurants I generally prefer the taste of will do on a regular basis (darn allegerns). McDonalds remarkable consistency in not causing me extreme intestinal distress is a quality I very much appreciate after eating at Burger King.
That is a valid concern. I have gotten food poisoning twice from KFC. I don't do that anymore!
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
That is a valid concern. I have gotten food poisoning twice from KFC. I don't do that anymore!
Now, to be clear, I'm not talking food poisoning, I'm talking allergenic reactions. Eating out is like Russian Roulette with the way stuff makes it into food...bit the stuff thar causes me problems isn't always present, and the qualities of "good" and "mediocre" have little correlation to what will be a problem. McDonalds and Little Cesar's? Never a problem, humorously enough. Chipotle is not muy autentico, but more authentic restaurants thar I strictly prefer the food from can be a nightmare if they fry stuff in Crisco. Never regretted going for the allergen conscious Chipotle burrito.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
So, by a qualitative measure, they have a certain quality which people value.

Personally, I value McDonald's food not wrecking my digestive track, which restaurants I generally prefer the taste of will do on a regular basis (darn allegerns). McDonalds remarkable consistency in not causing me extreme intestinal distress is a quality I very much appreciate after eating at Burger King.
Furthermore, the consistent quality of the McDonalds food is often one of the only "safe options" for kids with ARFID (an eating disorder that is a common comorbidity with Autism that causes the fight-or-flight response to kick in when eating foods that the mind feels are "unsafe"). There is sometimes virtue in having things of a consistent quality, even if that quality isn't winning any awards or competitions.

I'm not exactly sure why this tangent happened, but I think it's partially my fault and that this doesn't help the position I had yesterday, but I don't really care. Consistent quality in itself can be a virtue, at least in specific cases when it comes to food. Not sure if that applies to book/adventure quality, though.
 
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Anon Adderlan

Explorer
Never forget that corporations cannot be trusted, only held accountable.

Anyway, while the evasiveness about who actually signed the OGL 1.1 was expected, I was surprised at how concerned #WotC appears to be regarding competitors they're in no position to compete with. Like Meta, whose Reality Labs lost $13.7 billion in 2022 as well as their CTO John Carmack who called them "inefficient and fragile". In fact they seem more concerned with preventing competition than creating product, and I'm increasingly convinced they cannot tell the difference between their customers and competitors.

As for the channels selected, the cynic in me suspects it's all based on who #WotC thought easiest to manipulate, while the optimist in me realizes it's a great way to amplify these voices. So for the moment the benefit outweighs whatever the intent may have been.

He mentioned that he’d been talking with Ginny Di before this interview, so expect that to drop fairly soon.
Looking forward to it, though not as much as having him interviewed by one of the many lawyers involved.

But giving the questions, or at least themes, ahead of time is not something that should be frowned on. It's a legitimate way to conduct interviews when you want the answers to have answers rather than "I'll find out and get back to you."
Yet despite having the questions in advance Kyle still chose not to answer if the OGL 1.1 had been signed.

Over the next month we'll learn more about the inner workings at Wizards D&D division in real time than ever before.
Unlikely. Despite what they seem these fireside chats are designed to obfuscate, not enlighten.

My take on this is: Do wizards really not have a community management team? It appear they sendt business negotiators to present the 1.1. They put an executive producer in front of damage controll. The initial response definitely was written by someone not having the slightest clue about how to manage a community.
I'm thinking the same thing. You don't send your generals to the front line unless you're in serious trouble, and the situation was precarious enough that having a professional PR rep was warranted. Was #WotC really too cheap to hire one?

I've always considered "bloat" a negative description - at least when I was in college that's how my writing professor would call stuff that was unnecessarily wordy. Like if a writer kept trying to explain the same thing, over and over, without giving new information. Using a lot of words to make a point. But those words didn't really mean anything, were without any real meaning. And they would keep doing this, word after word, paragraph after paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter. As if getting up to a certain page count was virtuous, even if they had nothing really to say. They just kept writing. And the editors didn't cut out unnecessary descriptions. Because they thought the readers enjoyed thick books that really said nothing, but that those who read them preferred books with a lot of words (even if those words didn't really add anything to the readers' understanding of the content.)
#ISeeWhatYouDidThere

And if you think it's bad in video and literary circles, just try coding for a corporation which still measures productivity in lines of code.

When the ignorance runs so deep as to be functionally indistinguishable from malice, how should that affect the public response?
When a hurricane hits, survival actions don't depend on whether it was directed at you maliciously or not.

When evaluating in the aftermath what you should do in preparation for future hurricanes, it matters a lot whether it was directed at you maliciously or not.
Worth repeating.

The pressence of a competent community management team within wizards seem like something that should have strongly protected against this happening in the first place,
Funny you mention that, as the position of D&D Community Manager hasn't been filled since Satine Phoenix left.

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.
Corporations are all ultimately the same, and increasingly so the larger they get.

My point was not that McD is bad, it was that sales and quality do not correlate
Indeed McD's success is based entirely on familiarity, consistency, and accessibility. Quality has nothing to do with it.

The SRD is in CC, not the OGL.
Au contraire, as the OGL is part of the SRD, and therefore also under CC.
 


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