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New Digital Games Studio announced by the president of Wizards of the Coast

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
There's been an announcement by Chris Cocks, the President of Wizards of the Coast, of a shift in their support for their product through digital means. The new studio includes the Magic Online team, and it mentions a D&D augmented-reality game (something like Pokemon Go?)

Since joining Wizards of the Coast last summer, I've had the chance to talk to many passionate employees, partners, and fans about their experiences with our games and their hopes and dreams for our future. We're channeling this passion as we make some exciting moves to bring players bigger and better experiences. The biggest move involves adjustments to and increased investments in our digital teams that will give us the capability and flexibility necessary to fully realize the enormous potential of our games.

Here's what that means:

We are reimagining digital versions of Magic and other Wizards games. We recently created the Digital Games Studio, a group of all-stars led by industry veteran Jeffrey Steefel. Jeffrey's team includes experienced Wizards game designers and industry talent from Dire Wolf Digital, Valve Corporation, Cryptic Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Activision, BioWare, and many others. The Magic Online team is now included in this group, as well as digital art and game design. They're all thinking about how players might tap mana and prepare spells in the future, and I can't wait for you to see what they're working on.

We will bring our characters and worlds to other games and experiences. What would it be like to throw fireballs as a Planeswalker in an MMO, or quest for treasure with your friends in a D&D augmented-reality game? We want to play games like this too, so we hired David Schwartz, an industry veteran with 25 years of experience leading projects at Microsoft, Electronic Arts, THQ, LeapFrog Enterprises, and Midway Games. He is building a publishing team to explore partnerships and collaborations that will bring Magic and D&D to unexpected settings, genres, and platforms.

We will make your Wizards experiences more efficient, connected, and convenient. From getting matched in a big tournament to tracking your achievements to simply getting friends together for game night, there's a lot that goes into a good experience with a game outside of the game itself. A revamped technology team led by longtime Wizard Arron Goolsbey will be focused on connecting these kinds of in-store and online interactions so you will have cohesive and connected experiences with our games.

These are just some of the changes happening at Wizards of the Coast as we continue our mission to bring people together through their shared love of games.

Stay tuned for more updates and let us know what you think.

--Chris Cocks
President, Wizards of the Coast


Obviously, this has a definite impact on Magic Online, but is likely to have ongoing implications for D&D as well.


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Eubani

Adventurer
Past experience with WotC doing digital has left me skeptical/jaded. I want them to succeed but I am not sure they know how to as past offerings were either terrible, poorly handled or ruined once eventually come good.
 

L R Ballard

Explorer
Let me preface this comment by again offering my kudos to Wizards on the 5th edition. The new edition and the DMs Guild are steps in the right direction. They've pulled me away from modded Skyrim--which I'm using to read and listen to German--long enough to give 5e a look.

That said, Wizards needs a bigger budget than they have had in past endeavors to pull off a digital initiative. Crowd-funded virtual tabletops like Roll20 have fared better than Wizards' efforts. It would be awesome to see Wizards create a turn-based virtual tabletop that has meshes and textures comparable to the best video game RPGs--Skyrim, for example. Imagine using VR to participate in a Fantasy Grounds kind of experience with Skyrim-level graphics. Even better, release a creation kit with DMs Guild or OGL licenses to encourage modding. Any digital initiative that falls short of that won't pull most kids away from modding popular games like Skyrim. They'll keep ignoring turn-based pen-and-paper roleplaying.
 

I think that one thing I'd love for D&D would be an app that is expressly designed to be a companion to the APs. So you could buy a thing on it to activate, say, Storm King's Thunder, and it will not only have all the combats pre-built as combat encounters with initiative tracking and whatnot, but will also add all of the monsters and magic items to an internal database, and even have story notes and images ready to go for the campaign, so you could use it as a crib sheet and easily show the NPC images to the players. That, I think, would genuinely be a valuable addition to the D&D experience.

Whether they will do this is hard to tell. One presumes that a talent pool drawn from video game design is being aimed at producing, you know, video games, so we shall see. I doubt that they are proposing to make Baldur's Gate 3, but we can all dream! Magic already has the various Duels and Planeswalkers and the like, many of which I've played (since MtG is a lot of fun as a single player app, even if I don't play it in person), but I don't see any indication above that they intend to bring that in-house; the text suggests that they are concerned with how to improve networking among their player base, which is probably because they have identified 'ability to get games' as a vital element in their popularity (i.e. it is easier to get a game of Magic, so more people buy into it in order to get games, the cycle of success).
 


Parmandur

Legend
Past experience with WotC doing digital has left me skeptical/jaded. I want them to succeed but I am not sure they know how to as past offerings were either terrible, poorly handled or ruined once eventually come good.


Well, this guy was brought in partly for his experience working on Xbox stuff at Microsoft, so the game is different...


Really, WotC having their own digital studio is the only way a non-mediocre D&D game is likely to occur in the current environment, so this is promising...
 

Past experience with WotC doing digital has left me skeptical/jaded. I want them to succeed but I am not sure they know how to as past offerings were either terrible, poorly handled or ruined once eventually come good.
They are a book and card publishing company that does the occasional board games suddenly making video games. They have as much experience with that as they do small engine repair. Completely different tool sets.
They pretty much have to hire all new people (hence the "new studio").

In all likelihood this is a giant hole they're just throwing their money into...

Really, WotC having their own digital studio is the only way a non-mediocre D&D game is likely to occur in the current environment, so this is promising...
Well... most of the past games were mediocre because they were done by small studios who were still untested and trying to break into the market and make their names. Companies going from doing sequels or ports to making their own games with their own stories.
This is the same, except with a team that doesn't even have the experience making someone else's products.

There's no way this means we're getting a new AAA D&D RPG video game. A game like that requires a TON of money and years of development time. We're likely going to see some small stuff first (apps, a D&D version of Pokemon Go, freemium time wasters, etc) and then, maybe in three or four years, and actual video game.
 

Parmandur

Legend
They are a book and card publishing company that does the occasional board games suddenly making video games. They have as much experience with that as they do small engine repair. Completely different tool sets.
They pretty much have to hire all new people (hence the "new studio").

In all likelihood this is a giant hole they're just throwing their money into...


Well... most of the past games were mediocre because they were done by small studios who were still untested and trying to break into the market and make their names. Companies going from doing sequels or ports to making their own games with their own stories.
This is the same, except with a team that doesn't even have the experience making someone else's products.

There's no way this means we're getting a new AAA D&D RPG video game. A game like that requires a TON of money and years of development time. We're likely going to see some small stuff first (apps, a D&D version of Pokemon Go, freemium time wasters, etc) and then, maybe in three or four years, and actual video game.


Yeah, that's what I meant: in the 90's, the environment for making games was different, and TSR got lucky a couple times even in that more Wild West environment.

Doesn't mean we'll get a good game, or a AAA game: but it's the only way they will get games for D&D with serious long term investment of any sort in the long run.
 


ArchfiendBobbie

First Post
Well... most of the past games were mediocre because they were done by small studios who were still untested and trying to break into the market and make their names. Companies going from doing sequels or ports to making their own games with their own stories.
This is the same, except with a team that doesn't even have the experience making someone else's products.

There's no way this means we're getting a new AAA D&D RPG video game. A game like that requires a TON of money and years of development time. We're likely going to see some small stuff first (apps, a D&D version of Pokemon Go, freemium time wasters, etc) and then, maybe in three or four years, and actual video game.

They could probably do a good DnD game if they subcontracted. BeamDog is proving adept at handling the Baldur's Gate series, and Harebrained Schemes is increasingly proving capable of delivering games massively above the quality standard you'd expect from a studio so small and has proven themselves adept at using Kickstarter to fund their projects.

I would definitely suggest they add Harebrained and do more with BeamDog.

But if I were them, I'd definitely nix their own games department. Hasbro just doesn't understand video game development.
 


They could probably do a good DnD game if they subcontracted. BeamDog is proving adept at handling the Baldur's Gate series, and Harebrained Schemes is increasingly proving capable of delivering games massively above the quality standard you'd expect from a studio so small and has proven themselves adept at using Kickstarter to fund their projects.

I would definitely suggest they add Harebrained and do more with BeamDog.

But if I were them, I'd definitely nix their own games department. Hasbro just doesn't understand video game development.
BeamDog hired a bunch of new support writers, explicitly to work on a new D&D project. So... it's coming. But that takes time. Siege of Dragonspear took a couple years, and it was running off an existing game. It's cool, but I'd prefer a non-2nd Edition game.
 

ArchfiendBobbie

First Post
BeamDog hired a bunch of new support writers, explicitly to work on a new D&D project. So... it's coming. But that takes time. Siege of Dragonspear took a couple years, and it was running off an existing game. It's cool, but I'd prefer a non-2nd Edition game.

I wouldn't be surprised if a new one is coming that is 5E. It shouldn't take that much to modify the existing engine to be 5E ruleset.
 


flametitan

Explorer
I wouldn't be surprised if a new one is coming that is 5E. It shouldn't take that much to modify the existing engine to be 5E ruleset.

You'd be surprised at how many quirks a game engine might develop over the coding process. It's theoretically possible to develop 5e's system on it, but I'm not familiar with the engine to say how many workarounds and other idiosyncrasies would need to be overhauled.
 

ArchfiendBobbie

First Post
You'd be surprised at how many quirks a game engine might develop over the coding process. It's theoretically possible to develop 5e's system on it, but I'm not familiar with the engine to say how many workarounds and other idiosyncrasies would need to be overhauled.

No, I wouldn't. A game engine can be a total mess if designed improperly and result in half of what you accomplish being purely finding a way to use the quirks to your advantage.

But at the same time, 3E material and even material not native to the game when it was published (in the case of Baldur's Gate) has been successfully mixed into the game without the engine giving any difficulties. If there were going to be issues, they would have popped up by now.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Yeah, that's what I meant: in the 90's, the environment for making games was different, and TSR got lucky a couple times even in that more Wild West environment.

Doesn't mean we'll get a good game, or a AAA game: but it's the only way they will get games for D&D with serious long term investment of any sort in the long run.


Games were a lot cheaper to develop back in the 90's.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
It took three years, a $3,900,000 on Kickstarter, and an established team of experiences game designers to make that happen.
I doubt WotC is going to throw that much money at a completely untested group of people to make a D&D game in the hopes it turns a profit...

That is dirt cheap for a game and PoE is good.

Games used to cost somehting like $4 on the PS2, less in the 90's. These days a cheap game is more like $20 million with something like GTAV 200 million.
 

That is dirt cheap for a game and PoE is good.

Games used to cost somehting like $4 on the PS2, less in the 90's. These days a cheap game is more like $20 million with something like GTAV 200 million.

GTA's prices are not the best yardstick since a LOT of that goes to voice acting (and casting celebs) and licencing an eff-tonne of music.

$4 mil is pretty low for a AAA game. But it's a lot for a new studio, even one backed by WotC. Heck, D&D the RPG probably barely pulls in $4 million each year.
 

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