Looks like WotC is getting into the VT market

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Looks like WotC is getting into the VT market

Post by heruca » Fri Nov 24, 2006 4:20 pm

http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.p ... st10726549

For those folks that don't like to click-through:
"The Dungeons & Dragons Insider Package

Become a Dungeons & Dragons Insider and gain access to exclusive content designed specifically with D&D players in mind. As part of your monthly subscription, you gain access to features designed to enhance your D&D experience, including:

(blah, blah, snip)
Digital Gaming Table, a program that allows you to play D&D using the Internet as your kitchen table, with a viewable play surface, dice rolling, virtual miniatures, and voice chat. Now you don't have to wait for your home gaming group to get together to play a game of D&D. You can still play your weekly face-to-face game, but now you can also play two or three more times a week by finding a game at the virtual table. Or, you might want to reconnect with your old gaming pals who long ago moved away-now you can all play together again on a regular basis! With this package, you get to play at the table 3 times per month."
This doesn't bode well for BRPG, or the other commercial VT apps. Unless, of course, WotC comes out with something so horrible that people scramble for an alternative after getting hooked on the idea of virtual gaming. But I don't see that happening.
Last edited by heruca on Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grrr! Looks like WotC is getting into the VT market

Post by Full Bleed » Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:21 pm

heruca wrote: This doesn't bode well for BRPG, or the other commercial VT apps. Unless, of course, WotC comes out with something so horrible that people scramble for an alternative after getting hooked on the idea of virtual gaming. But I don't see that happening.
Well, don't get too down over this possibility, it might very well create a boom in the market by simply getting people to recognize that they *can* play this way.

Once people become aware of the market. And get used to the idea, they have an opportunity to seek out the best product for their needs.

I see this as a very good sign because it will probably take WotC's marketting strength to push VTT's into the mainstream. They can grow the market in ways that none of the best VTT's out now have even come close to.

When EQ was so successful, there was a lot of talk about whether or not another MMO could come along and compete due to the size of the potential market... but many MMO's came along and did just fine, with WoW doing exceptional. And still, there are many great MMO's in development (Vanguard, LotR Online, Age of Conan, to name a few) that will find their own niches.

WotC's support of a VTT may also lead to a lot of other user friendly things, like the digital release of maps and other VTT friendly media with modules. I'm betting that these will be adaptable to just about any VTT, so the content available (particularly user friendly content) for VTTs should get a significant bump that everyone can benefit from.

All of that said, the achilles heel for WotC will be in how flexible their integrated rulesets are. I'm guessing that it won't have the same flexibility that the most popular VTT's have now as they have a vested interest in supporting their own products exclusively.

So, simply put, an independent VTT has the opportunity to be more open, flexible, contain unique features, be cheaper, more community responsive, and be less system oriented/constrained.

My advice is to continue to drive forward, perhaps even harder than ever, because they might be helping to legitimize a whole new, more viable market out there that a good program like BRPG could get a piece of. As D&D is often the gateway drug to other RPG's, so too may their implementaion of a VTT.

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Post by Omnidon » Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:47 pm

Good post Full Bleed.
I'm dubious that WotC will really expand the VT market, but I too think it unlikely that they will be able to provide a package that will be flexible enough for most non-mainstream gamers.

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Post by heruca » Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:52 pm

Some excellent points, Full Bleed.

I've been mulling this over most of the day, and it's probably not as bad as I first thought. Especially with that silly limitation of only being able to use the VT service three times a month. I wonder how they'll deal with disconnects.

Fingers crossed for the gateway effect, and the possibility of more VT-friendly content.
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Post by Balesir » Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:39 pm

The one thing I think you need to worry about, heruca, is that WotC will set the bar for stability and reliability - and although it may take a little while for them to get it together I think that that bar will be set high.

Other than that, I don't think you need worry. I actually had a pretty good idea they were headed in this direction from a questionnaire I came accross on their site a while back and I have absolutely no intention of taking up their offering. Two reasons, which I think will be fairly widespread:
  • 1) It will support d20 only (OK, but what about all the other good stuff?)

    2) It will be a subscription-based "service" - bleagh!!
The 'three times a month' silliness is likely to be an attempt to restrict load on their servers (as it sounds like they want to keep the thing firmly under their control - again bleagh!) and will probably evaporate unless the thing is insanely popular.

In short - what Full Bleed said - keep on with a flexible, quality, stable all-system solution and WotC is likely to expand your prospective market, not steal it IMO.
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Post by Venger » Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:39 pm

Full Bleed makes some valid points.

Keep up the development Heruca would be my encouragement.
You have an excellent tool, and while things may seem gloomy, tis always darkest just before light

I have screenmonkey and OpenRPG in my collection. *shruggs but BRPG does the trick for me now.

I initially came today to post something I did just today, and I will go ahead and share it here, for there is a huge potential market here.

I am and have been a long time Middle Earth fan. I and my friends play ICE's 2nd Edition MERP, based on ICEs Rolemaster gaming system

There is a community I am also a member in good standing in who have an email list going. There is a huge following, and their old site is at here...

http://www.merp.com

They are currently redesigning and about to release their newest website, and they boast over 100,000 subscribers...

Here is the new website under development....

http://dev.merp.com/

Heruca if you are not part of this community I would ask that you join us, and join the mailing list.

I have posted to the Email list about BRPG today, and have been touting its graces. The more I use BRPG the more I like it is what it boils down to

Now get this¦There has been a renewed interest in MERP lately, its just amazing, and I havent had that nostalgic feeling about gaming for a long time, but its coming back now... and BRPG is MY choice to experience MERP with my friends on Sunday game sessions.

MERP.com not only supports ICEs systems, but also ANY game system which qualifies as œMiddle Earth
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Post by Tlichie » Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:00 pm

I'll check it out Venger :-)

I agree with the others... I expect that it will introduce the idea to a whole bunch of new folks who will end up frustrated with the limitations (or have other things they want to play, or play more often) and they'll go looking at what other options are out there...with BGRPG being one of the options!

*One* of these days I'll actually end up running something! My "spare" time right now is eaten up by trying to prepare for an art show/sale on the 9th. So much to do...so little time. Maybe I'll take my laptop with though and work on stuff during lulls in people (assuming there *will* be people there :P)

Keep up the good work, the bug squashing, the updates and further development, you're set to catch the discontent :D
--Tlichie

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Post by heruca » Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:02 pm

Thanks for the links, Venger. I just signed up on both the old site and the new one. And I signed up for the mailing list, too. :)

Thanks also for helping to spread the word about BRPG.
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Post by Farland » Fri Dec 01, 2006 7:16 pm

Don't underestimate WOTC's ability mess up a program. Original E-Tools anyone?

Also, if it is a subscription service, that will be a huge detriment in my mind.
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Post by Full Bleed » Fri Dec 01, 2006 11:41 pm

There is a huge discussion about this on Enworld. I've only read through some of it so far (261 replies), but I'm finding it interesting.

It seems that there are several common points of view so far:

1) People are mostly upset about having to pay for content they once got for free.

2) The thing about the "Insider Package" that most people are really interested in is the VTT and the Character Generator. That is, they are interested in the software.

3) No one thinks the 3 times a month deal (or any limitation) with a VTT makes sense.

4) Almost no one thinks that WotC's record with software can be trusted.

5) People have unreasonable expectations about many things (for example, most say that if "all the books are digitally included and supported online" then they will think it's worth it.) So dissapointment is nearly assured because there is no way WotC will do this.


This tells me that gamers that aren't using a VTT want one, but largely just haven't been convinced to use one in particular. This is good for BRPG.

This tells me that there are a lot of people who are active online, but still don't use VTTs. But, they seem willing to consider the WotC VTT. This is good for BRPG... because...

Given WotC's software track-record, it probably will not live up to their expectations. Especially on launch. Established VTTs will have a real chance to siphon off new VTT users. Especially ones that don't want to pay a monthly fee or be limited in its use. Regardless, the launch of this higher profile VTT will be talked about when it goes live. And it will, inevitably, lead to serious discussions about what VTTs out there will meet various needs and desires. This is good for BRPG.

My Prediction: The WotC VTT will be very basic. If it was going to be a really complex piece of software they'd probably have some other significant developer putting it together. Yet, there is also no mention of this VTT being sold retail or independently of the "Insider Package." So, one has to recognize what the real focus of the insider program is: To score a monthly revenue stream for content that they currently give away for free.

Once they have done that, if they slip in the delivery of content or features, people will seek satisfaction elsewhere.

This is all, potentially, very good for a 3rd party VTT like BRPG.

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Post by heruca » Sat Dec 02, 2006 12:08 am

LOL, now you've got me hoping they make a VTT. :lol:

Thanks for the summary/recap of the ENWorld thread discussion.
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Post by SolSec » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:19 pm

Let's assume that WOTC ends up creating a very successful VTT program. What's the worst that can happen?

WotC cares mostly about the D20 market. They already own the monopoly on the D20 market. It's theirs. Their baby.

Other VT programs can thrive by differentiating themselves.

Look at Fantasy Grounds. It's nice, it's beautiful looking, it's very pretty layout, and it's only for D20. It's absolutely worthless for non-D20 games.

Heruca. I mostly play non-D20 games. Such as Traveller (D6 based) and also more recently Call of Cthulhu (BRP system). Also there are other popular D6 system games such as Star Wars D6, etc. WOTC has almost no presence in these games, because WOTC has tunnel-vision and can only think about D20 and their D&D empire.

If you limit BRPG to only cater to D20 gamers, and that's how you market BRPG, then one of these days, a huge company like Wizards of the Coast can easily grab a monopoly in the D20 VT market and sideline any competitor. They have the marketing muscle to bully out many competitors.

The ultimate mistake would be to limit your product to cater to D20 games. That's the mistake, in thinking that only D20 gaming exists.

Already, I can name TWO Virtual Tabletops that have made this mistake: Klooge (heavily D20) and Fantasy Grounds (D20-specific). I am speculating that if Wizards of the Coast can create a successful and beautifully-functional VT software, then both Klooge and Fantasy Grounds will be elbowed out of the market by the WOTC Juggernaut.

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Post by heruca » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:26 pm

It seems to be a common misconception that FG is only suitable for d20 games. In fact, it could be used with other RPG systems, but a lot of FG's d20-specific features are useless for other games (making it perhaps not worth the purchase price to those who have no intention of playing d20-based RPGs).
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Post by The Hound » Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:45 am

For what it's worth, a long time ago WOTC had free gaming chatrooms with some sort of die roller at their site, and maybe a map/image upload capability, plus a rather sparsely used bulletin board where players could search for GMs and vice versa. Then last year I heard rumours that they were going to add voice chat to their chatrooms, which would have turned them a (free?) alternative to Ghostorb. But the last time I checked, the game rooms weren't there anymore, or else they were buried somewhere where I couldn't find them. Anyway, it appears that their previous online gaming attempts haven't been very successful.

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Post by heruca » Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:04 pm

Welcome, The Hound.
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Re: Grrr! Looks like WotC is getting into the VT market

Post by masterlurker » Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:42 am

It doesn't surprise me that WotC is moving on the online market, but it doesn't really thrill me either. After watching their previous attempts *snigger* at software I don't think there's very much at stake here. Three good reasons why I wouldn't buy a WotC VTT:
1.) Only core/SRD product in it at first. One major option is that at launch it'll only have core/Greyhawk books, as they'd be the core essentials needed to start the game. However, I'd be truly surprised if the Realms and Eberron didn't make it to the VTT eventually. But Wizards will start it off with the content from the PHB, DMG, MM, and possibly DMGII/PHBII. Why? Because...

2.) It'd be extra-profitable to sell additional books as "updates" or whatever. At least, that's what they did with e-tools, and this is pure speculation on my part, but we all know their business decisions are sometimes a bit less rational than others. At best, there might be a "complete VTT" edition with most or all of the rulebooks costing a little more. At worst, I foresee regular updates to their VTT so every Wizards fanboy can buy up all the Complete books.
See their policy on ebooks to see my logic here--34.95$ for Frostburn in 8mb electronic form! The people at Wizards' have some strange ideas on how to market things, and since it hasn't changed despite a loud outcry from customers, I don't see much change when they go to VTT's. My incentive to buy ebook at 40$: 0.0%. My incentive to buy hard copy for 40$: marginally higher. And yet many people are fully willing to fork out the 40$ for an ebook. I'm sure they'd be willing to do the same for a VTT rules set as well.

3.) Compatibility and upgrades. This is the one that bothers me the most, mainly because it's most realistic. Will WotC allow others to buy into their VTT, or better yet, will their offers be profitable enough so the other companies will buy in? Some of my favorite settings are Scarred Lands, Arcana Evovled and Ravenloft, made by Wizards' old arch nemesis, White Wolf (via their Sword and Sorcery and Malhavoc Press labels). I already know I won't be able to play, say, Shadowrun 4th, Alternity, or Deadlands on any WotC VTT, but what's the likelihood I'd see Scarred Lands stuff on there?
This also brings up user creations. It'd be suicide for WotC to market something like this without the ability to factor in house rules, varient rules, Dragon/Dungeon stuff, etc. On the other hand, if #2 is true, would they want Dragon Magic rules sets floating around before they could market it? And then there's the possibility for legal disputes, like if someone made a ruleset for RIFTS, which would make Palladium fight to the death to defend their wonky rule that all user creations are theirs as well (they had huge fights with Lucasfilm for Star Wars/RIFTS crossovers on the internet, and with WotC before it bought TSR because Wizards' made a sourcebook with stats for 10 major RPG systems). The main way around this is to make it only d20 compatible (bleah), which brings back the idea of a "complete Wizards d20 library VTT" that has all the latest books in it for 60$ or whatever.

Overall I think that's the most logical of all the options--a d20-only VTT that comes with a large chunk of Wizards' back catalog. If it can't support user mods, people will cry bloody murder on them. That will probably also be the case if perspective VTT users have to pay exorbitant fees just to be a Swashbuckler or use Shadow Magic or some other small part of a 20$ download. But at the end of the day, it will sell--maybe not well, maybe not to critical acclaim or Ennies, but it will sell nonetheless.



I wouldn't mind having all the d20 hardbacks in VTT form, but I already have one d20-focused VT and really don't need to shell out money for another. Possibly they'll get around this by 1.) offering VT-switch incentives, or 2.) market it towards the crowd who don't already game online. My hunch is on the latter, though a subscription-based VT probably won't go over any better than a flat-cost one. FG and Klooge will have the run for their money since WotC has a HUGE fanbase to draw from, but FG and Klooge are both well enough entrenched to take a little beating, a lot less if WotC makes some of the aforementioned stupid decisions. Sadly I think the VT's which will be most affected will be the smaller ones, and those which don't draw from d20 as heavily--but at the same time, they should be somewhat protected as they wern't marketing towards the WotC forum fanboys anyway.
Digital Gaming Table, a program that allows you to play D&D using the Internet as your kitchen table, with a viewable play surface, dice rolling, virtual miniatures, and voice chat. Now you don't have to wait for your home gaming group to get together to play a game of D&D. You can still play your weekly face-to-face game, but now you can also play two or three more times a week by finding a game at the virtual table. Or, you might want to reconnect with your old gaming pals who long ago moved away-now you can all play together again on a regular basis! With this package, you get to play at the table 3 times per month."
I've read this three times, and really haven't seen where WotC says you can game online only three times per month, even though everyone else has. Once again, this is me assuming that the "two or three more times a week" was chosen as a "normal" number to make gamers look like rational people who spend their free time doing other, more mature, things :roll: , and that the final "3 times per month" was referring to the three mentioned games earlier in the paragraph: real-life, online, and online with old friends (or something like that). Of course, I'm always willing to admit I'm wrong (except when I'm right), so I'll take a wait-and-see attitude... especially since a subscription that evens out to 2-3 plays per week sounds like a horrible toll on the gaming wallet, one that's nigh unmarketable.

Just my unnecessary and overly long 0.05$.
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Re: Grrr! Looks like WotC is getting into the VT market

Post by Full Bleed » Thu Dec 21, 2006 2:29 pm

masterlurker wrote: I've read this three times, and really haven't seen where WotC says you can game online only three times per month, even though everyone else has. Once again, this is me assuming that the "two or three more times a week" was chosen as a "normal" number to make gamers look like rational people who spend their free time doing other, more mature, things :roll: , and that the final "3 times per month" was referring to the three mentioned games earlier in the paragraph: real-life, online, and online with old friends (or something like that). Of course, I'm always willing to admit I'm wrong (except when I'm right), so I'll take a wait-and-see attitude... especially since a subscription that evens out to 2-3 plays per week sounds like a horrible toll on the gaming wallet, one that's nigh unmarketable.
Actually, my reading of that is/was exactly what yours is.

However, I may have read it that way because I simply can't wrap my mind around any good reason to limit a subscribers use of the tool. ;)

The assumption that most gaming groups probably don't get together more than 3 times a month is probably pretty accurate... but limiting play based on that assumption would be a very bad move that I just can't fathom them making with a subscription service.

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Post by heruca » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:21 pm

Finally some news to report. (Has it really been 4 years already?!)

Prior VT plans appear to have been scrapped. 3D is out, 2D is in.

The DDI Game Table is now called The Dungeons & Dragon Virtual Table.

Here's a link to the FAQ.
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Post by Kepli » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:45 am

Hmm, still looks a bit crude to me. But perhaps I have been spoiled by BRPG and all the art people have provided :wink:
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Post by heruca » Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:12 am

Here's a walkthrough by a beta tester, with plenty of screenshots.

One surprise for me was that the built-in voice chat also lets you digitally alter your voice.
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Post by Omnidon » Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:17 pm

heruca wrote:One surprise for me was that the built-in voice chat also lets you digitally alter your voice.
I was tempted to test out Flash 10's new peer-to-peer and sound mixing capabilities by creating a VoIP application... but then TS3 came out and that's been working quite well for me, though I haven't tried any voice filters with it.
Kepli wrote:Hmm, still looks a bit crude to me. But perhaps I have been spoiled by BRPG and all the art people have provided :wink:
I agree with Kelpi there. ;-)
I suspect that WotC's VT will support better graphics than they're showing. They should've gone to more effort in making those demo maps.

It is rather pathetic that the mighty WotC can't come out with something a bit more impressive right out the gate though.

Oh and I notice that there's no mention of FoW yet unless I missed it.

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Post by ajaximrpg » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:21 pm

When I asked my players about moving the game to a pay service, every single one said, "No way." I even offered to pay for a few people but they refused my money. Universally, they felt that D&D was a hobby and they liked the idea that even a cash-strapped student or broke 20-something could still participate. The idea of a pay service horrified them.

"But what about rulebooks and stuff?" I asked. "You have to pay for those." Well, they said, that's different. "How?" You don't *need* the rule book. You can borrow a rulebook or crib off somebody else's book. You can buy a used rulebook off eBay for cheap. And on and on.

The other thing was that many people have ancient, misconfigured computers. You might look at your own setup and think that everybody has a system like you. No way.

I visited a college friend two months ago. He had dial-up for the Internet. Dial-up! 56K modem! In 2010! I met another friend who has a Motorola 68K based Mac as his only computer (and he was a gamer by the way and still has an AOL account). My dad has a 68K Mac, a netbook and an iPad; that's it. 68K Macs for crying out loud!

You'd think that software developers would be better but you'd be wrong. I did my own startup and saw a fair share of home systems. One guy used a 386 with a 20 GB hard drive as a main computer which was directly hooked up to the Internet with no router. (He thankfully bought a decent laptop but we had to download files to his 386 first and transfer them over.) My friend who is a professional sysadmin hasn't bought a new computer in over 5 years.

With my game over the Internet, there were lots of disconnects, crashes and errors, not due to the software, but due to their ISP and hardware.

I think that a lot of players could really benefit from virtual tabletop software but 70%+ simply don't have the ability to do it. Then, another 10% probably refuse to pay (although perhaps most of that 70% might refuse to pay, too). So, paid programs really target a very tiny slice of the market, maybe 10%, an elite few.

I do agree that a WoTC VT could bring more users. I've known people who upgraded their Internet connections and bought new computers just to play WoW. If a WoTC VT offering was strong enough, it might cause that to happen and benefit all the resource-intensive VTs.

Still, I think that all the resource-intensive VTs will battle it out for a fairly elite and small share of the market.

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Post by heruca » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:00 am

I think you may be overestimating the number of users who can't use VTs because their computers are too old. The first two or three years of BRPG's development was done on a 10-year-old Mac, and I never had any issues with BRPG being too resource-intensive. Sure, Fog of War rendering took a second or two longer than on a modern computer, but that wasn't really an issue since VTs aren't twitch games requiring super fast frame rates.

And all my Windows-based testing is done on an 8-year old Dell (upgraded to XP). I suspect the vast majority of users have newer computers than mine. I'd wager that over 75% of people have computers that are less than 5 years old.
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