Disappointed. The word barely scratches the surface on my feelings towards the Character Builder. When Wizards of the Coast made the original announcement about the changes to the CB we remained silent, deciding we would wait until the new version was released before we commented. We had our opinions to be sure, but we felt to be critical of something we couldn’t actually experience wouldn’t be fair.
Well today I had my first taste of the new version of Character Builder. At first glance I was entranced. The interface is slick and very fluid. The updated CB is very user friendly, very new-to-the-hobby friendly as well. At first glance it appears that creating a new character would be a breeze and for the most part it is. It’s when you want to go beyond that first character that you start bumping into problems.
It didn’t take long for WotC to release a page of Known Issues for Character Builder.
Let’s take a look at a hand full of these known issues before I take a more general rant towards the DDI.
Importing custom characters from Character Builder Classic may cause crashes. To resolve this, remove all house ruled items and try to re-import again.
I read this as house rules are not supported on this version of Character Builder. While creating a character for the purposes of experimenting with the new build I found no option to add a house ruled item. Indeed there was no ability to add any custom data. It appears that though WotC will allow third-party material through the GSL they won’t support them with the character builder which really does choke the life out of any custom classes that may have been designed and published.
Import of hybrid characters is not working as intended.
I have a hybrid Wizard/Warlock. This character has one of the new defensive feats from the Essentials line up. I guess I’m just out of luck as the Classic version of Character Builder doesn’t have the feat and the new version is not supporting Hybrids properly.
Character sheets are not user customizable. Power cards are not customizable.
Seriously? In age of Web 2.0 this couldn’t be worked into the programming? I can understand power cards to an extent, but not being able to arrange the character sheet to my preference is a step back from Character Builder Classic.
Exporting character to a local drive is not implemented.
I distinctly remember reading that we would have the ability to save the character sheet as a pdf to share with friends. I’m not sure if I should read not implemented as not yet, or not ever. What I would like see is the ability to create a link and to share my character with anyone else who has a DDI subscription. As a DM I like to review the characters my players have, it allows me to create adventures that suite their powers and to provide appropriate challenges. I used to be able to request they email me a copy of the Character Builder file. Now I have to take a paper copy of the character home with me. Talk about a step backward.
These points are some of my larger issues with the new version of the Character Builder. I’m sure they will all be addressed and corrected in time, but that’s not the point. The point is there is a version of Character Builder that is working perfectly. While it may have some small data bugs, we are able to use it to create and share our characters freely. I’m speaking of course about the Classic version of Character Builder, which is in my limited experience far superior to the new version just released.
While I can completely understand, and agree with, the business decision to make the change to how the Character Builder operates, the implementation has left a great deal to be desired. In fact it’s left a bad taste in many a players’ mouths. With characters that now don’t work properly and house rules left out in the dark, I fail to see how the new version of Character Builder is an improvement. As I mentioned above, I’m sure these issues will be addressed and corrected, but the product should have been released in a far more functional format.
The DDI platform has been plagued with problems since the release of 4e. From delayed to scraped projects and now a revamp of an essential feature of 4e. I can’t imagine creating a character in 4e without the Character Builder and now I’m stuck with a version that has a few too many bugs and features missing. The classic version hasn’t been updated in approximately three months which makes it less desirable as an alternative. A rock and a hard place, maybe paper and pencil is the route to go.
During the WotC Preview Seminar at GenCon I asked the panel what new digital offerings we would see for the DDI. The group was very noncommittal, after all they have been burned in the past. I let it slide. To realize now that what the digital team has been working on is a new version of Character Builder and not any of the other items we have long been promised is disappointing. That the new version is full of bugs is a further disappointment.
I don’t expect WotC to be a leader in digital/web technology. I expect them to be a leader in the hobby/RPG industry and they are. However, they have created a digital stream to accompany their print products. This digital stream, the DDI, is a significant income generating vehicle for WotC. Yet, since the release of 4e everything connected to it appears to be an afterthought. Either support it properly or drop it. Better yet, test the product. WotC has the email address of every single subscriber. Select 5 or 10% of us and ask us to beta test the new products so that they can be released to the general community with far less bugs. Just about every other digital gaming company does this and it works for them.
At the end of the day I’m a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, I’m a fan of what WotC is doing. I love 4e, I think the staff do a great job overall providing us with new content. I just wish they’d get the digital aspect of things right. The constant mistakes and short comings give the impression that WotC doesn’t care for its subscriber base. I know nothing could be further from the truth, all I ask is to get it right. Provide the digital team with the resources and man power to get things done right.
What are your initial impressions of the updated version of Character Builder? Do you love it or hate it? Given a choice would you use the classic interface or the new one? Let’s provide some feedback to WotC so that they can produce the products and platforms that we want to use.