Last week I reflected on my initial reaction of the new web based version of Character Builder. Overall, I was not impressed and if you’d like the details feel free to read the post entitled Character Builder: Working As Intended. However, what I did not do was review the new version. My reaction and major complaint is that the new version just has too many bugs and the release should have been delayed. This does not mean that it doesn’t have any good features.
Today we look at the Legacy and Silverlight version of Character Builder. We’ll compare the two as I build a new level one character. The point here isn’t to point out problems with one or the other but to look at the differences in the process and determine if the Silverlight version is actually a step forward, bugs aside, from the Legacy version.
To do this we’ll create a level 1 Fighter from scratch going step by step in each version of character builder noting the differences and functionality of each step.
The new Character Builder has a more attractive interface. It appears cleaner and the colour pallet is more appealing. Of course this is purely an aesthitic observation and I’m sure that for everyone who likes the new version there is another who prefers the legacy version.
The basic options at the start up screen are essentially the same, load a character or create a new one. However, the new CB does one better by asking if you would like to create a ‘Quick Essentials Character’. While the legacy version also allows you to create a quick character it doesn’t present this option on the load screen.
This option is very “new player” friendly. It allows them to get into the game quickly using an Essentials build. The first question it asks is what type of character they would like and then presents further options from there. Even when selecting to build a custom character, players are asked their preferred play style. This limits the amount of classes a player needs to sort through.
Now as an experienced player who already knows what class I want to play or build before I load up the chracter builder this option is lost on me, I simply don’t need it. However, I can see this option being very useful for new players. There are over 24 character classes and for someone new to the game the pure amount of choices can be overwhelming.
Once a class is selected both versions move to race selections. Where the legacy version lists the races by there release, the new version first lists recommended races based on ability modifier synergies with the chosen class. Again we see that the new version is taking the existing system and inserting a way for new players to decide on a race that will make sense with their choices. Most experienced players are already going to have an idea of the race they want to play. The difference between the two, the new version is “new player” friendly while not do a disservice to more experienced players.
The ability score screen has also seen some enhancements with the new release. This is one screen I’m not a fan of. I enjoy having the point buy as the first screen I see. The new version displays various arrays that can be assigned to the attributes. The system is intuitive enough to put the high scores in the appropriate attribute based on class selection.
Powers and Feats
The two versions have slightly different takes on how to present power and feat selection. I can’t pick a clear favourite as I do enjoy the way that both versions present these options. The new version I do find more aesthetically pleasing, but this is a personal preference. I don’t think it does any better or worse of a job in presenting the options that are available to players. The one noticeable difference is the new version has an option to have the feat or power selected automatically.
Again both versions of character builder provide all the options to players. My preference is for the legacy version of character builder. Perhaps it is familiarity, but I just enjoy the way the screen flows in the legacy version. I find it slightly more intuitive to use.
Hands down the legacy version is doing a better job of this right now. The main reason for this is the ability to customize. I also feel the legacy version created a more useful power card. I printed off a character using both versions of character builder and held them up for my wife, who played D&D 20 years ago, to compare. Her response, the legacy version looks like it contains more information per page but the new version is easier to read. This could be translated to new versus experienced player friendly.
My hope is that we will eventually be able to customize the new character sheets to display information the way we want to see it.
There is one aspect of the new version I cannot stand and that is no scroll wheel on my mouse function. It seems a small thing, but I find it to be the biggest frustration and barrier to really getting into and enjoying the new character builder.
We all know that there are known bugs and issues with the new release, however I’m not here to rehash those arguments. The new release of Character Builder is good and once the bugs are worked out it will be great. They other day I spoke with someone who had just signed up for the DDI and had never used the legacy version of Character Builder. They loved the new version and thought the experience of creating a character was great.