Wizards Cancels Virtual Table
“I wanted to inform you all about an important decision that Wizards has made regarding the D&D Virtual Table and Virtual Table Beta. While we appreciate the enthusiasm and participation in the Beta phase, we were unable to generate enough support for the tool to launch a full version to the public. Effective July 30, 2012 the D&D Virtual Table Beta will be coming to an end and the VT will be closed.
Over the next three weeks, we encourage you to wrap up your existing campaigns and make sure to gather contact information from your online group members so that you can stay in touch if you like. We realize that because all data generated in the tool is in a proprietary format usable only by the Virtual Table, it is not possible to export your campaigns for use in another tool. You can, however, take screenshots of any notes, maps or adventures that you would like to hang on to or use in your home games.
We would like to thank everyone who participated in the VT Beta and look forward to continuing to support D&D game play through our D&D Insider digital tools and D&D Next.”
This should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed Wizards attempts at digital tools over the years. Their track record has improved, there is no doubt. The Compendium is a very adequate tool. The Character Builder is built using horrid Microsoft technology that is not supported on any platform other than Windows and Macintosh (Android, iOS, Linux, hello HTML 5?), but it is a useful and relatively easy to use app.
But when it came to their Virtual Table, I think their entire approach was flawed. Mostly due to corporate suit blindness. A virtual table is a generic tool that should be made specific using plugins. No one wants to use a tightly controlled tool full of corporate restrictions and BS. Why? Hmmm. Just ask all the people that are using VT regularly now for their games. All of their stuff is lost to the ether with no way to get it back out other than by taking “screen shots”. Really? That must be a real punch in the stomach for VT users. That kind of corporate “walled in” thinking is the type of thing that the Internet abhors.
What's a gaming group to do now? Well do what everyone else is doing! Use Google+ Hangouts and MapTools! Its by far the best way to include remote players into your table top game or play with all remote players. Heck, now you can record all of your Hangouts (if you make them public) right to Youtube so all of your sessions are online for easy access to watch or review for anyone in your group or the internet at large.
If Wizards is smart, they will do the following and make everyone that plays D&D with technology ecstatic.
Create a programming API for access to the compendium. Anyone with a DDI account could use it.
Create a Maptools addons that implements EACH AND EVERY SINGLE D&D EDITION that would be supported and updated. Obviously former editions wouldn't have a “compendium” to access, but for 4E and newer maps, objects and graphical elements should be accessible to be pulled in from the D&D site. You wouldn't even need to start from scratch. Just start paying the people that have already implemented a good plugin to keep it up do date.
Stop with the corporate walled in tool hoarding and realize that your two most important assets are your creative assets (and access to them) and your customer community. Allowing unfettered access with open standards and open source tools will build an amazing strong community around a your creative assets. Access to those assets is controlled through the DDI program. Which means consistent DDI income encouraged and promoted by amazing user community created tools. Don't let companies create closed source tools to access your content. This creates closed fragmented communities. They can charge for services and support, just not for the tools.
Don't let another company beat you at your own game again. You abandoned the 3.5 market to Pathfinder. Its time you realized that there is a market for all of your gaming editions and supporting all of them is a good idea. By creating open tools and access to all the editions, your most valuable resources (again your creative assets and the user community) will help to drive the game. We just need a little support and we'll take it from there!