17 August 2007

Gamer Radio Zero TV at GenCon

GamerZer0 does a weekly podcast (Gamer Radio Zero) for Wizards of the Coast. This weekend, he's been doing video spots from GenCon. You can find them through his YouTube page. Wizards is developing online Dungeons & Dragons game aids. They showed some demos of their virtual game table & character visualizer. The game table is a virtual battlemat & miniatures. There's already a few of those around. (Just before third edition D&D was released in 2000, I played a 2nd edition campaign with my old high school gaming group via software called WebRPG that did something similar.) The Wizards game table is 3D where WebRPG was only 2D, & it seems pretty smooth & pretty slick already. Much better than what I expected from Wizards given their past computer products. (WebRPG, however, was free.) Playing online with the virtual game table isn't something I'd choose to do as long as I had the chance to play face-to-face instead. And I'm not really interested in using such a thing in a face-to-face game. Still, it looks very interesting. The character visualizer looks like it really does make making a custom virtual miniature for your character easy. You can then use it with the game table, or just print it out for your character record sheet. In GamerZer0's interview with Andy Collins--one of the designers of the forthcoming 4th edition D&D--Andy said something that caught my attention: "Being a wizard is about blasting people with magical energy." That is a very, very wrong statement to me. This was in the context of how wizard characters in D&D can "run out" of magic & be relegated to doing mundane things that don't feel very wizardish. (Which I'm not convinced is a flaw, though I do understand & have experienced the concern.) But it's got me wondering if what I want from D&D and what the designers what from D&D may be farther apart than I thought. In the interview with Randy Buehler, Vice President of Digital Games at Wizards of the Coast, I got the impression that Mr. Buehler has never seen WebRPG or any of the other similar tools that do much the same thing as their new game table tool. Granted, they may be setting a higher bar for themselves, but that the VP of digital games can come across as ignorant about what's out there in the same space is not reassuring. In the interview with James Wyatt, some interesting things about character classes in 4th edition were discussed. There will be four roles--combat roles really. James identified the roles & these classes that fit in them.
  • Defender: Fighter & Paladin
  • Leader: Cleric & Warlord
  • (Battlefield) Controller: Wizard
  • Striker: Rogue & Ranger
The impression was left that there were more classes than this. He also said that they're still considering some classes that may not fit perfectly into one of these four roles. They want to make sure that a character is always fully equipped to fulfill his role. The example being that in 3rd edition, if a druid takes on the healer role, he's really not very good at it. In 4th, he would be. Although two characters may be able to fulfill the same role, they may do it in different ways, so there is still differentiation between characters. Also, a character's abilities outside of combat may vary considerably. I really glad Wizards has had GamerZer0 doing these videos. I also thing he did a great job of keeping up with the message boards & trying to ask in his interviews some of the questions that were coming up.

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