WotC WotC blacklist. Discussion

Jahydin

Explorer
I’d quibble a bit with the idea that 4e was designed around vtt play. It was designed around public play. You’d be able to RPGA style play as the baseline.

Of course that overlaps with vtt play quite a lot.

The problem was, most people had established groups and were quite understandably baffled by design decisions that make perfect sense in other contexts.

Bart Vance on Quora offered this up:
Joseph Batten was the Senior Manager, Digital Technology Projects for Wizards of the Coast since February 2008, promoted after just 3 months of being Senior Technical Producer supporting Gleemax.com. he was in charge of the push for the integration of D&D 4th Edition and an online Massive Multiplayer Online game (MMO). Since D&D had broken from tradition and instead of making another version of a role Playing Game (RPG), they wanted to cash on on the online $billions. They knew that those wanting a really good RPG game would be highly disappointed with the direction, but saw only dollar bills and turned traditional D&D into an online game, to better adapt it to an actual online MMO, to really rake in the cash.

Joseph Batten, by all accounts was brilliant. Unfortunately, he was also unstable. His poor Leadership method, was to keep everything close to his chest and revealed/shared as little as possible with those directly under him and supporting him. When his wife, Melissa Batten, a Harvard-educated lawyer and Software Development Engineer for Microsoft, separated from him and moved out and got a restraining order against him after he tried to confront her at her work, Joseph went out and got a gun. He confronted Melissa in the parking lot of her friend’s apartment, where she was staying, and shot her several times. He eventually turned the gun on himself and committed suicide before the authorities could arrest him.

That whole thing is a personal tragedy, but the business tragedy for WotC/Hasbro, was that he kept so much info to himself, in a critical role to facilitate the transition from Dungeons and Dragons Insider (DDI) and Gleemax.com, that there was no way to continue the project. It would take too long to find another person for the job, get them up to speed, re-discover all the things Batten had already discovered, both gains and pitfalls, as Batten had kept it all to himself. Not only would this be a long process, but the build teams would grind to a standstill and sit idle for months, at the least, as Batten had shared nothing with the ones directly under him, so they had no way to move forward beyond his last immediate requirements. At this point, just starting over would have been more successful than picking up the pieces and trying to put them together again. This also had the online version happening so far after the book releases, that it would have destroyed all momentum of the version release, that the online version would look like a pale afterthought.

From a business standpoint, this was a complete and utter failure. Instead of going ahead and wasting time, resources and money, they wrote off alot of the work as part of the game design for 5th Edition.

A few would say that 4th Edition was good, mostly new gamers migrating over from online and console gaming, most would say it sucked, especially RPG and hybrid online/tabletop players. But if the pairing of the two, the book MMO and the online MMO, who knows how successful it would have been, tapping into a market.

So, quite literally built from the ground up with computer play in mind. Fascinating!
 

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Hussar

Legend
Again, I'd question the interpretation which ends with "a few would say that 4th edition was good". He's got a pretty clear bias here.

And, again, since this is one guy, and this one guy had virtually nothing to do with the design of 4e as a game, I'm not sure how much influence he had over game design. The article flat out states that he had no actual input into the game - but was in "charge of the push for the integration of D&D 4th Edition and an online Massive Multiplayer Online game (MMO)" - note that there's no actual name of that MMO mentioned. Never minding that in the entire run of 4e, there was never so much as a whisper about an MMO, plus the fact that 4e, as a game, would absolutely fail as an MMO. Virtually nothing in 4e actually works in an MMO - far too many interrupts and trigger effects for an MMO to work. If you want video game D&D, 3e and 5e work great. 4e? Completely fail as a video game.
 

Again, I'd question the interpretation which ends with "a few would say that 4th edition was good". He's got a pretty clear bias here.

And, again, since this is one guy, and this one guy had virtually nothing to do with the design of 4e as a game, I'm not sure how much influence he had over game design. The article flat out states that he had no actual input into the game - but was in "charge of the push for the integration of D&D 4th Edition and an online Massive Multiplayer Online game (MMO)" - note that there's no actual name of that MMO mentioned. Never minding that in the entire run of 4e, there was never so much as a whisper about an MMO, plus the fact that 4e, as a game, would absolutely fail as an MMO. Virtually nothing in 4e actually works in an MMO - far too many interrupts and trigger effects for an MMO to work. If you want video game D&D, 3e and 5e work great. 4e? Completely fail as a video game.
Yeah, the Quora thing above is pretty clearly written from an anti-4e point of view. I mean, I didn't like 4e either, but stuff like this, I mean really...
They knew that those wanting a really good RPG game would be highly disappointed with the direction, but saw only dollar bills and turned traditional D&D into an online game, to better adapt it to an actual online MMO, to really rake in the cash.

It's pretty commonly known these days that due to instructions from on high from Hasbro, D&D had to find a way to become a $50m business if it were to continue to be supported as an active and significant product line. Otherwise it'd likely have been shelved completely and all the IP sat on forever, or maybe shuffled off into some low-budget bureaucratic backwater in the strata of the company where one contractor would be brought on every 5 years to pump out a new edition of the 3 core books (betcha today's Hasbro is glad they dodged THAT bullet...). It wasn't a matter of 'bwhahahaaaa lets ruin D&D for the filthy lucre!,' it was a matter of 'ok, if we can use a lot of ONLINE buzzwords and convince head office that we can somehow tap into the vast amounts of nerd money floating around in the MMORPG market, we might actually be able to convince Hasbro to keep the D&D lights on'

So the concept of the VTT integration was built into 4e's business case from its very earliest days. There's been occasional comments from designers etc about how it was intended to be easily computerisable (and I honestly believe them) given the enormity of the shift from the wild and wooly 3e spell lists with all sorts of DM adjudication required for any number of spells with lasting or environmental effects to 4e very strictly codified and limited power list, just to give one example. But to me it looks like inside WotC, once they'd gotten the go-ahead from Hasbro, the tabletop game got all the attention and the VTT languished as kind of an afterthought. Who knows, maybe it'd served its intended purpose by getting D&D funded and WotC never reeeaaally took it all that seriously in their heart of hearts? I mean, if the above quote is anything like accurate they handed the whole project over to one new hire who'd have hardly been out of his probation period, and then utterly failed to manage him properly. The crimes that derailed the VTT project were mid 2008 after all, roughly the same time as the 4e core books came out. The VTT should have almost been release-ready at this time (or maybe within 6 months, I'm in software dev, I know ALL about delivery delays...) but it was so far off complete that it was easier to scrap the whole thing than finish it.

But a VTT is not the same as an MMO. 4e definitely borrowed a load of MMO concepts and ideas (I mean, World of Warcraft was the most popular fantasy game in the history of ever, in any media, at the time - why WOULDN'T you borrow ideas from them?), but I don't think creating an MMO was never the intention.
 

darjr

I crit!
The “MMO” he mentions or means IS the 4e vtt experience. For it was to be a complete digital experience with virtual minis you could buy and never have to read a book.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Bart Vance on Quora offered this up:


So, quite literally built from the ground up with computer play in mind. Fascinating!
Yeah, I'm the guy arguing that 4E was written with computer play in mind and I think Vance's narrative is dubious at best. There already WAS a D&D MMO (Dungeons & Dragons Online; 2006), and it wasn't designed for 4E or vice-versa.

He's also perpetuating that implausible thesis that the failure of Gleemax and the online play application for 4E was all Batten's fault and related to the awful murder/suicide. When it's obvious that if one person was so important that him dying stopped the entire project dead, that the project was never properly resourced and handled in the first place.
 

Hussar

Legend
The “MMO” he mentions or means IS the 4e vtt experience. For it was to be a complete digital experience with virtual minis you could buy and never have to read a book.

I seem to remember that “virtual minis you could buy” was mostly based on a single off the cuff comment from someone at WotC that the were kind of floating as an idea but hadn’t actually been decided.

But of course as soon as anyone at WotC opened their mouth, hordes took it as gospel truth and immediately pounced to tell all and sundry how WotC was the soulless corporation only our to squeeze every penny from DnD.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Exactly. All this comparing of hardware stats is totally beside the point where "grid versus non-grid" is concerned.

Say you've got a big fight with, I don't know, fifty combatants, auras, zones, and other "entities." Say your system requires you, every single turn, to calculate the distance between every distinct pair of entities. This means you need to do the following:
...
Thanks, BTW, to all the folks clarifying re: computers handling real distances as easily, or virtually so, as grids.

I do still think that tracking all the situational modifiers and eligibility for off-turn actions is something VTT automation would have been a big help with and real value-add for 4E, especially at high level and for certain classes like the Shaman with its Spirit Companion. And it is my working theory that they were written with it in mind; that the designers expected that players and DMs would routinely be able to offload much of the cognitive load of tracking them to the VTT, and that this informed the design of 4E.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I strongly suspect performance issues with Roll20 is more due to server overload than code performance.
Depends on the specific performance issue and where the resource bottlenecks are. Dynamic lighting can be pretty punishing to performance on the DM's computer depending on how many tokens he has rights to control that have vision turned on.
 

darjr

I crit!
I seem to remember that “virtual minis you could buy” was mostly based on a single off the cuff comment from someone at WotC that the were kind of floating as an idea but hadn’t actually been decided.

But of course as soon as anyone at WotC opened their mouth, hordes took it as gospel truth and immediately pounced to tell all and sundry how WotC was the soulless corporation only our to squeeze every penny from DnD.
I believe it was in the original presentation about the first 3D vtt, or at one of the conventions.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Thanks, BTW, to all the folks clarifying re: computers handling real distances as easily, or virtually so, as grids.

I do still think that tracking all the situational modifiers and eligibility for off-turn actions is something VTT automation would have been a big help with and real value-add for 4E, especially at high level and for certain classes like the Shaman with its Spirit Companion.
A VTT could certainly have helped with tracking situational modifiers. However, 4e was fairly streamlined in that respect when compared with 3.x and its nearly endless potential layers of buffs. If they'd wanted real value added, they could have kept things like Bull's Strength adding a Strength bonus for several hours. It's a PITA to track at the table (IMO) but fairly simple for a program. Just add a clock the GM can advance and even the buff expiration can be automated (to say nothing of interactions like Dispel Magic).

IMO, the situational modifiers and reaction triggers would have been a pain to develop and maintain. Certainly feasible, but having so many different situational triggers would have required each one to be coded for. Things like tags could have helped, but having so many conditionals would have created an environment prone to software bugs.

That suggests to me that 4e was designed with the TT experience as the priority (as opposed to the VTT).
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
A VTT could certainly have helped with tracking situational modifiers. However, 4e was fairly streamlined in that respect when compared with 3.x and its nearly endless potential layers of buffs. If they'd wanted real value added, they could have kept things like Bull's Strength adding a Strength bonus for several hours. It's a PITA to track at the table (IMO) but fairly simple for a program. Just add a clock the GM can advance and even the buff expiration can be automated (to say nothing of interactions like Dispel Magic).

IMO, the situational modifiers and reaction triggers would have been a pain to develop and maintain. Certainly feasible, but having so many different situational triggers would have required each one to be coded for. Things like tags could have helped, but having so many conditionals would have created an environment prone to software bugs.

That suggests to me that 4e was designed with the TT experience as the priority (as opposed to the VTT).
I think it would be workable in a VTT but a complete pain in a pure MMO.

Edit:
Of course I have not tried to program a VTT.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
I think it would be workable in a VTT but a complete pain in a pure MMO.

Edit:
Of course I have not tried to program a VTT.
I agree that it would have been workable. But if they designed the game with the VTT in mind, I think there are much more efficient directions they could have gone with it.

I haven't tried to program a VTT either, but I do work professionally on an ERP system. The biggest headaches are caused by all the crazy little business rules. Like, do this if that, except on alternate Tuesdays or on a full moon or when processing a return. Enough of those little rules piling up on each other and you can go from simple, clean, easily maintained code to an unmanageable monstrosity (I learned that the hard way when I was a junior dev and was assigned a new workflow that was way above what anyone at that skill level should have been working on, though I'm not sure a more experienced devs could have done that much better - just dozens upon dozens of rules that were scope creeped into the project). You can obviously still maintain the monstrosity, but it's headache that will consume large quantities of time that could otherwise be spent on more productive work. Therefore, if you have the luxury of designing the rules to support the workflow, it's optimal to avoid a plethora of rules.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I agree that it would have been workable. But if they designed the game with the VTT in mind, I think there are much more efficient directions they could have gone with it.
I still that coding it would not be too hard but the user experience would suck hard. Dealing with the queue of interrupts would get old fast.

I haven't tried to program a VTT either, but I do work professionally on an ERP system. The biggest headaches are caused by all the crazy little business rules. Like, do this if that, except on alternate Tuesdays or on a full moon or when processing a return. Enough of those little rules piling up on each other and you can go from simple, clean, easily maintained code to an unmanageable monstrosity (I learned that the hard way when I was a junior dev and was assigned a new workflow that was way above what anyone at that skill level should have been working on, though I'm not sure a more experienced devs could have done that much better - just dozens upon dozens of rules that were scope creeped into the project). You can obviously still maintain the monstrosity, but it's headache that will consume large quantities of time that could otherwise be spent on more productive work. Therefore, if you have the luxury of designing the rules to support the workflow, it's optimal to avoid a plethora of rules.
I have done ERP adjacent and custom software for business with business rules incorporated and I hear your pain. I have been there.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I still that coding it would not be too hard but the user experience would suck hard. Dealing with the queue of interrupts would get old fast.
I can think of some ways to design the UI to make it less painful.

I don't offhand recall any 4E reaction abilities, so I'll use 5E and shield as an example. Let's say you're fighting a goblin. You get hit and the "Cast shield?" bubble pops up. You can click "Yes," "Not This Time", or "No." If you click "No," it gives you a dialog where you can dismiss the option to cast shield for the rest of the encounter.

Now say you're fighting some goblins and an ogre. If you get hit by a goblin, you click "No" and the dialog pops up, but now you can dismiss the option a) for the rest of the encounter, or b) for the rest of the encounter but only for goblins. If you pick the second option, you won't get the pop-up for goblins any more, but you will get it if you're hit by the ogre.

(Obviously, you can always go back on your power list and re-enable shield if you decide you want to use it after all.)

Another thing that could help would be a "proceed with rollback" approach. The idea here would be that when something triggers a potential reaction, everyone else can carry on combat without waiting on the reaction-player to decide. If the player decides to use the reaction, the VTT then rolls back its state to the moment when the reaction was triggered. (This would definitely need to be an optional mode, and there would be some issues to work through, like whether you can still proceed if doing so would reveal hidden information.)
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I can think of some ways to design the UI to make it less painful.

I don't offhand recall any 4E reaction abilities, so I'll use 5E and shield as an example. Let's say you're fighting a goblin. You get hit and the "Cast shield?" bubble pops up. You can click "Yes," "Not This Time", or "No." If you click "No," it gives you a dialog where you can dismiss the option to cast shield for the rest of the encounter.
That is pretty close to how "Solasta: Crown of the Magister" a 5e video game clone does it.
Now say you're fighting some goblins and an ogre. If you get hit by a goblin, you click "No" and the dialog pops up, but now you can dismiss the option a) for the rest of the encounter, or b) for the rest of the encounter but only for goblins. If you pick the second option, you won't get the pop-up for goblins any more, but you will get it if you're hit by the ogre.

(Obviously, you can always go back on your power list and re-enable shield if you decide you want to use it after all.)

Another thing that could help would be a "proceed with rollback" approach. The idea here would be that when something triggers a potential reaction, everyone else can carry on combat without waiting on the reaction-player to decide. If the player decides to use the reaction, the VTT then rolls back its state to the moment when the reaction was triggered. (This would definitely need to be an optional mode, and there would be some issues to work through, like whether you can still proceed if doing so would reveal hidden information.)
The problem as I recall is that there could be multiple optional interrupts in a round triggered from other player actions, enemy actions (via marks) and there there was stuff like commanders strike. Some of these triggered movement as well as attacks. It was pretty cool but at high levels it got a bit much.
Particularly for players that really want to make the optimal move every time but are a bit indecisive.
 


Oofta

Legend
I seem to remember that “virtual minis you could buy” was mostly based on a single off the cuff comment from someone at WotC that the were kind of floating as an idea but hadn’t actually been decided.

But of course as soon as anyone at WotC opened their mouth, hordes took it as gospel truth and immediately pounced to tell all and sundry how WotC was the soulless corporation only our to squeeze every penny from DnD.
That seems to happen a lot. Same with 5E being "modular" that we still hear.
 

Oofta

Legend
That is pretty close to how "Solasta: Crown of the Magister" a 5e video game clone does it.

The problem as I recall is that there could be multiple optional interrupts in a round triggered from other player actions, enemy actions (via marks) and there there was stuff like commanders strike. Some of these triggered movement as well as attacks. It was pretty cool but at high levels it got a bit much.
Particularly for players that really want to make the optimal move every time but are a bit indecisive.
At high (epic) levels, a single round of combat could take our group an hour to resolve. There were some good aspects to 4E, speed of play at higher levels was not one of them for us.
 

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