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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Bolares

Hero
The SRD is in CC, not the OGL.

Having the SRD in OGL doesn't help people who publish entirely different games under the OGL, like Fudge, as @Mark CMG points out.

And I do think that Hasbro folks correctly assumed many people wouldn't realize that difference and many people -- even many of those who do understand -- only cared insofar as it impacted D&D.

I think there's probably a remedy for these other companies in the form of someone drawing up a new license, but that's expensive and, as we've all learned in recent weeks, harder than it looks. Hopefully ORC will be out soon and it won't be cost-prohibitive for these non-D&D publishers to switch licenses going forward. IANAL, though, so I suspect there are other complications these publishers are facing that I don't understand. (My brain is completely maxed out on legal learning at the moment.)
Look, them de-authorizing the OGL will mean basically nothing to Fudge. If they put the 3.5 SRD in creative commons the OGL will become basically useless. If they do one day de-authorize the ogl fudge could just publish their content on ORC, CC or anywhere they like it. Wizards does not control other companies power to publish their own material wherever they want.
 

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Not when sales are very quantitative and quality is very qualitative. Most afficiandos of a thing will find the mass-produced version of the thing of less quality than the artisanal versions. So some degree we are all hipsters about the things we love, be it science fiction literature, coffee, or D&D adventures.
First off, aficionado. :p

That is true. In a way. Your statement being true doesn't also necessarily imply that quality and sales are completely unrelated. Things that are good will sell better than things that are bad. That has nothing to do with the degree of good. Saying two things are COMPLETELY unrelated is much, much different than saying they are at least PARTIALLY related. And that's the case here: they are partially connected.
 

well, that to me was pretty much what the OP was implying.
Exactly. To you, that is what they were implying. Hence your response. But the fact is, that is not what they were saying. Hence my point.
As to whether they correlate at all, that seems to depend on the market. I am much more inclined to say sales indicate a general minimum level of quality, but that still is no real correlation, there simply are a lot more factors to consider.
That is the dictionary definition of a correlation! This is literally what people are trying to tell you!
 

Heilemann

Explorer
I feel like every time this guy opens his mouth. My esteem of Wizards of the Coast drops to an even lower point. I can’t begin to count all of the dysfunctional markers I’m seeing in what he’s saying about how they operate. Nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody’s telling anyone anything. Oh oops, we almost nuclear bombed the whole industry. Yeah, sorry about that. We didn’t mean it! oh, We took way too long to communicate, it’s only rule number one in crisis management. Oh look, it’s not even the boss out front. It’s the henchman of a henchman of a henchman, except, of course, when it’s someone writing some thing about winning, but nobody seems to know who did that, and why would they, it’s only the face of the company ¯\(ツ)

What an absolute poop show

One of the things that really stood out for me in this one is how he casually throws anybody who has come before him in a leadership role under the bus. What a naughty word move! It’s one thing to surface internal cultural issues, it’s a whole different thing to wipe them off on previous management. You can let the audience do the math on that one, but that is one sleazy move.

This guy has not had enough media training to be doing what he’s doing, for the love of God, somebody stop him!

Moreover, why is he even the one doing the talking. This is the biggest crisis in the brand history, his boss, or that guy’s boss should be the ones out in front of this, not this guy who somehow doesn’t even know who wrote the first public statement about this whole debacle. Not to mention the pathetic attempt at covering everything in diversity apologies. Give me an absolute break.

if I was an investor, I would run screaming away from Wizards of the Coast immediately.

Now I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I am a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan, but their books are OK (I have most of the fifth edition line for some reason, although I won’t be buying any more). But what is so obviously not OK for anybody paying attention to how they’re handling this crisis is their lack of operational excellence. They simply don’t know how to handle themselves at the size they have somehow become if there isn’t some pretty serious restructuring in the future of this company, they will find a way to do it again, I guarantee it.
 



mamba

Legend
Exactly. To you, that is what they were implying. Hence your response. But the fact is, that is not what they were saying. Hence my point.
sorry, but they were. They wrote ‘And yet, Tyranny of Dragons is probably the most successful module ever written.’ to a post that said that it is not a good module.
That was not an expression of surprise that a bad module is selling so well…

If you cannot put two and two together, that still makes it four.

That is the dictionary definition of a correlation! This is literally what people are trying to tell you!
No it isn’t. First of all the dictionary will give you a very different and much better definition, mine was not one and was not intended as one (or I would have done a much better job), and second something is not a correlation if it may or may not exist in different markets and at best indicates a minimum level of quality, which is what I said it does. That is not what correlation means, it is basically the opposite of that.

“Correlation is a statistical measure that expresses the extent to which two variables are linearly related (meaning they change together at a constant rate).”

So this would show somewhere between no and a very low correlation (if I wanted to be very generous). Neither is something that we colloquially use the term for.
 
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mamba

Legend
At this point, he should know.
I don’t know, of all the things I would like to know, this ranks pretty much at the bottom, as it has no relevance. So if for his preparation he goes by what will likely be asked / people want to know, this is not one of those he gets to first.

What difference does it make whether the answer is ‘no’ or ‘yes’, or even ‘two did’ (he is not going to name them and should not)?
 

Heilemann

Explorer
I don’t know, of all the things I would like to know, this ranks pretty much at the bottom, as it has no relevance. So if for his preparation he goes by what will likely be asked / people want to know, this is not one of those he gets to first.

What difference does it make whether the answer is ‘no’ or ‘yes’, or even ‘two did’ (he is not going to name them and should not)?
What you want to know and what he should know as the figurehead of this whole debacle don’t need to be the same.
 

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