Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 21, 2013
D&D Social Games

Dungeons & Dragons used to be made by TSR, the company founded by the inventors of the game. That was later sold to Wizards of the Coast of Magic the Gathering fame. And WotC was sold to Hasbro, a huge, soulless toy company. And Hasbro is selling D&D licenses to all sorts of people making computer games, including social games: There is a D&D Heroes of Neverwinter on Facebook, and recently D&D Arena of War was released for the iPad. And both games are ruined by what their developers think are the social aspects of playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The two games are rather different in their game mechanics. Heroes of Neverwinter is a more tactical game which isn't unlike actual 4th edition D&D. Arena of War has a far stranger combat system, where you slingshot your hero against the monsters and damage is determined by how many times they bump around and into what obstacles. Part pinball, part Squids (another iOS RPG). But what the two D&D games have in common is that you don't play only your character(s). Instead you play your character and party members which are controlled by you, but are "borrowed" characters from other players.

And that really doesn't work very well for me: You can group with borrowed higher level characters, and your own character will barely have a contribution to the success of the adventure. In Arena of War you even just get random characters to play with you, which sometimes are much, much stronger than yours. But of course you can only level up your own character. Not much fun if leveling him up doesn't matter at all in view of his much stronger companions. There doesn't even appear to be any better reward if you do adventures with lower level companions.

Arena of War is further marred by an energy system where you run out of quest energy very quickly, and it takes hours or money to get it back. So while I do actually like the weird pinball combat system, I consider Arena of War nearly unplayable because of the social system and energy system. Hasbro really should take better care to whom they sell those D&D licenses.

The problem there is that Hasbro does not care about D&D at all. Hasbro wants to control all Pokemon distribution in America, and WotC had the rights to the Pokemon CCG, so Hasbro bought them. The Magic CCG cash-cow was probably just a bonus to them, and D&D not even a consideration.

Now WotC has to fight to keep Hasbro from shutting down the D&D line due to it's low-profits.
I'm surprised that DnD has changed hands so many times. As IP it appears initially to be very valuable as almost everyone has actually heard of it, but the RPG playing fan-base know that almost everything related to it as spin-offs is complete tripe.

I have looked at everything related to it for the last 20 years and cannot think of a single thing which was "good". Some of the PC games were passable at best. The books are OK, the facebook and movies are horrid.

The core game (v3...v4) was still fine through all the iterations. Still playable, still fun.

It is about time the owners realised what they own, and either offload it to somebody who wants it, or let the current team do what they can without fracking it up.
The D&D brand has been mismanaged since day 1. Gygax drove TSR into the ground, then lost control of the company. He had to watch his successors hit rock bottom.

The problem is that the master game designers don't necessarily have much business sense. People with good business acumen rarely have a handle on what's "right" for a game.
pnp rpg is naver going to be as profitable as an mmo or a social game on fb. selling the dnd book is the only profit the publisher ever gets, but after thst book is out people trnd to use their own rules and imagination and so even if it is an aweskme product they effectively play for free. Cygax just wanted to make a good game, it became almost free. other owners split content to a gazzillion kf books to maximize profit and the result is often times baad. u cant win with pmp rpgs if u are in it for money.
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