Friday, July 10, 2009

The dog food test

I read this, talking about Google's Chrome OS, last night:

In short, will Chrome OS pass the dog food test: is it something Google’s own engineers will want to use?

I’m skeptical about the prospects of any new system or product that isn’t intended for use by the people creating it. Gmail, for example, is the best web mail system because it was designed to be used not just by “typical” users but by expert users, including the engineers at Google who made it. The iPhone is simple enough to appeal to almost anyone, but guess which phone the people who created it use?

Make something intended not for your own use, but for use by dummies, and you’ll usually wind up creating something dumb. The future of computing probably is in the direction of thin clients connecting to network services for storage and software, but my hunch is that Chrome OS is too thin.

It struck me because it dovetailed directly with a conversation I'd had the day before about D&D 4e. Some people think that we designed the game for World of Warcraft players, or for kids, or for stupid people. We didn't. We designed it for us—and by "us," I mean not just the people inside this department who are lucky enough to play more D&D than just about anybody in the world, but also people like us: People who love the game and want the best gaming experience possible. People who had a great time playing 3rd edition but grew increasingly frustrated with its mechanics. People who still enjoy the tabletop experience of sitting down, face to face, with your friends and spending a couple of hours lost in fantasy.

From my perspective, it was incredibly successful. I'm playing more D&D than I ever have in my life—five regular campaigns, plus frequent games with my son (and sometimes my wife). I'm having more fun while playing, too. And I still hunger for more—I want to get the old band back together and return to the glory days of the Imperium Romanum campaign (back in the SPQR!). From what I've seen, a whole lot of people feel the same way.

Some people don't. Well, that has to be OK. No edition of D&D has pleased everybody. Some people still consider 2nd Edition a blight on the purity of the original AD&D, and some think it's been all downhill since "Advanced" first got appended to the name of the game. Fourth Edition can't please everybody, either. So play the edition of the game that makes you happy.

But, for crying out loud, play the game. I have no patience for armchair generals who stir up the so-called edition wars without ever actually playing any edition of D&D. Play the game the way you want it, and lay off the people who don't like the game you're playing. But play. The D&D kitchen table is big enough for all of us.


Unknown said...

I still have a basic set c. 1980, if you want to go back to basics (and to dungeons).

I haven't played since 2nd ed, which I saw as a first attempt to move the game's complexities from gametime to preptime. Not fully successful, but a good idea. I'd love to see how 4th ed handles this.

I just found and read Geref's background. It's 5 handwritten pages. Most of it *neatly* handwritten, which means I wrote it slowly. When did I have that kind of time and patience?

JesterOC said...

When I read blogs or articles that attack 4e, there are always red flags that make me think that have never actually played the game.

"All the classes are the same." - If you only read the powers it might make you think that way. But there are subtleties to this game, and unless you have a keen eye for detail, these differences are not apparent until you play the game. If you just used marbles for my players minis, I bet I could tell you each marbles class by the end of an encounter (usually within the first 2 rounds).

"It has been dumbed down." -Streamlined and consistent does not equal dumbed down.
The fighter for instance is much harder to play correctly now than in any other edition of the game. That is hard to realize when you just read the game.

"Players can not be killed." -Just looking at the player’s handbook is only the half of it. While I have not killed a player yet, I have had more players get dropped and rolling for death rolls than I ever had in 3E.

"Without skill X you can't roll play in 4E." - I find it so aggravating that people complain that the simplified skill system saying that they need to put points into baking to flush out their character. 1st Edition had no skill system!

Anonymous said...

I don't want to discuss of so called "edition war", or which edition is the best, or even what is the "true D&D". For me, I just know that I stopped playing D&D and now I have resumed, having a lot of fun. Enough to be happy and having some thanks to you.
"The D&D kitchen table is big enough for all of us." Amen.

Donny_the_DM said...

amen to that!

And thank you, BTW. 4E brought me back to the table :)

Jason said...

I think the 4E material is some of the finest I've seen out of WoTC in years. It's incredibly playable, accessible and most importantly fun.

I don't quite understand some of the haters out there. I think these are some of the same curmudgeon's who really aren't gonna like anything new that comes out. Hang in there I think everything that's coming out particularly the digital content is fantastic.

The only think I'd like brought back from the "olden days" is the very unique style & art direction of the Eberron books. It really set the world apart from anything else out there. I'm keeping all those old books around for the great background flavor and for visual elements for me and my players.

Cheers and don't let the haters keep you down!

Brian said...

James, although I have mixed feelings on the mechanics of 4E vs. 3E (for the most part 4E is an improvement), I would like to say that I REALLY like what you guys have done with the cosmology. Replacing the "Great Wheel" with the current cosmology is my favorite thing about 4E. Props to you, Rich, John and Robert for a wonderful Manual of the Planes. In future content I wish you guys would focus some stuff on the Feywild. There is a lot of underutilized potential there.

Donny_the_DM said...

Oh, and mr. Wyatt...could we get some more of that sweet night below conversion any time soon?

I'm working on some myself, but inspiration is ALWAYS a good thing :)

Remko said...

4th got me started. Just this weekend and last weekend me and the girlfriend and some friends did some 3.5 and it was frustrating beyond belief. The friends are 3.5 veterans but still there was WAY too much bickering over rules, WAY too much rolling of dice and arguing the results dragging others way out of character. 4th is the way to go for me.