Exclusive D&D Insider Pre-Launch Interview

Questions by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor

by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
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by Randy Buehler, VP of Digital Gaming

The developers at Wizards of the Coast have been the kings of their
industries - tabletop RPGa and card games - for years. Yet it's no
surprise that the time of many tabletop gamers has come under attack by
digital gaming, specifically massively multiplayer online games. So it
came as no surprise when WotC announced that they were developing a
series of digital programs, collectively dubbed D&D
Insider.  Ten Ton Hammer's Cody "Micajah" Bye has been href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/35179" target="_blank">closely
following the development of D&D Insider, and he
interview Wizard's VP of Digital Gaming, Randy Buehler, to learn about
the status of D&D Insider. Keep on reading to learn more!

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Insider's Character Builder is getting ready to enter closed beta.

Ten Ton Hammer: It has
been a number of months since the Ten Ton Hammer fans have heard about
D&D Insider. What has the development crew at Wizards been
focusing on?

Randy Buehler:
Two things: 1) Our Character Builder is getting ready to enter Closed
Beta and 2) Our Insider free trial is almost over so we’ve
been preparing for the big launch by adding features to our website
that have been suggested by the community.

Ten Ton Hammer: There
were a number of individuals that were disappointed to learn that the
D&D Gaming Table and other online offerings weren’t
available during the original release of D&D 4th Edition. When
are we going to see the live version of D&D Insider? Do you
have an estimated time for deployment?

Insider subscriptions go on sale October 14th. Subscriptions include
access to Dragon and Dungeon magazine, the D&D Compendium, and
several Bonus Tools. We’re using a special “Web
Content Only” price point right now, which is as low as $4.95
per month if you commit to a one-year subscription.

Meanwhile, our client applications are in various stages of completion
and we’ve made the decision to focus on finishing them one at
a time. On the one hand the Character Builder is almost done while on
the other hand the Game Table is the biggest and most complicated piece
and will therefore come out much later.

The Character Builder will be the first application to be released,
beginning with a beta period, then full subscription availability.

Ten Ton Hammer: Over the
last few months, we’ve seen a few of the upcoming digital
offerings from Wizards of the Coast get delayed or get cut altogether,
namely the social networking aspect of Gleemax. Should gamers be
concerned about the future of D&D Insider? Or do the gamers
simply need to be patient?

Randy: We
hope gamers will be excited about these changes. Wizards is
streamlining its focus onto the stuff that really matters, including
D&DI. Since canceling Gleemax I think we have demonstrated a
steady stream of progress and the folks who have been actively using
the D&D Insider free trial seem universal in their happiness
with the increased attention that they are now getting.

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canceling Gleemax, Wizards has been really focused on the "stuff that

Ten Ton Hammer: In the
past, we’ve discussed some of the various business models for
the Gaming Table and the Dungeon Builder. Are you still planning on
selling virtual miniatures / tiles to the gamers? Or will the majority
of gamers be satisfied with the standard options offered to them?

Randy: Until
an application launches, the myriad components will not be finalized.
This of course means that we’ve discusses many options that
we are considering for the various applications.


At this point, we no longer have plans to sell miniatures one at a
time. When the Game Table launches, subscribers will get access to
unlimited copies of all the miniatures we have developed.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will
there be a free trial associated with D&D Insider? Perhaps
allowing tentative players a few days worth of access? Is that a
feasible approach?

Randy: Yes -
there will always be portions of each piece of Insider that will be
available for free. For example, our Character Builder demo will
contain everything you need to build a level 1, 2 or 3 character.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
ever plan on introducing intricate animations to the virtual gaming
table? It seems like it’d really make for an incredibly
immersive experience if gamers could see their warriors and wizards
move even the smallest amount.

Randy: Our
goal is to replicate the tabletop gaming experience, not to create a
video game. There’s a ton of video games out there (both good
ones and bad ones) but none of them have ever captured the essence of
what makes D&D great: the improvisation and the imagination.
For example, once you start animating the miniatures then will folks
start to limit their actions to those that have been animated?
It’s a slippery slope that we have deliberately chosen to

Ten Ton Hammer: How are
the developers behind D&D Insider going to handle the
supplemental rulebooks that hit store shelves every few months? Will
there always be artists / designers working on new models for the
virtual gaming table?

Randy: We
plan monthly updates to D&DI that add more content to the
tools. Using a subscription model, instead of a one-time purchase,
Insiders are plugged right into the latest stuff every month.

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updates are planned for D&D Insider.

Ten Ton Hammer:
Personally, what’s been the most exciting part of the
development of D&D Insider and all its offerings? How do you
live up to the expectation of the fans?

Randy: I
have to say, I’m really excited about the Character Builder;
it’s such an awesome application that I no longer want to
play D&D without it. For example, I tried to build a character
for a tabletop campaign, using a new character class that R&D
is developing for publication next year. It was a very cool
opportunity, but I wound up declining the chance to help play-test
because those classes aren’t built into our Character Builder
tool yet. I think this piece of technology will dramatically lower the
barrier to entry for new D&D players and help new players get
excited about the game in unprecedented ways.

Ten Ton Hammer: Finally,
is there anything else you’d like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer
readers and D&D Insider fans?

Randy: Just
that we’re really excited about all the applications coming
forth for D&D Insider subscribers and can’t wait for
people to be able to use all the tools we’re developing.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dungeons & Dragons Insider Game Page.

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