Friday, May 25, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Asks Mike Mearls a Question- What's Up With No Google+ Hangouts with D&D Next?

I'm really left scratching my beard on this one.  To me it seems like Hasbro's lawyers got involved in something they had no need to and are just muddying the waters.

When I signed my D&D Next playtest agreement yesterday, I do not recall a section indicating I couldn't play the game (it is a game, right?) using Google+ Hangouts, Skype or some other VTT.  Then WotC posts a D&D Next Playtest FAQ, and lo and behold, the FAQ says you can't:

Can I run an online game via email, Skype, Google Hangout or a play-by-post forum? 
No, you may not run an online game on third parties sites at this time.
Which I guess means you can use WotC's not ready for prime time VTT, but even that isn't spelled out.  Strangely enough, I never agreed to this when I signed the agreement.

Do they think we are going to record a session and send it out into the world?  Why do that when the playtest documents were already on rapidshare by yesterday afternoon for all the world to grab without signing off on any agreement?

But wait, its gets better.  Here's a piece from Mike's interview at Kobold Quarterly (because you know he had to make the media rounds before the playtest released)

  • Wolfgang: D&D Next provides a lot of support for “theatre of the mind,” also known as running your game without minis. I’ve found this extremely enjoyable in online games using Google Hangouts. Is that form of online play a design goal?
  • Mike: I’m not sure if it started as a design goal, but since many of our playtests took place using Hangouts it helped evolve it that way. When you don’t have minis and grids to represent things, it forces you to make sure that your rules don’t require them. So I think a good way to think of it is that if playing via Hangout works, then the game should also work fine if you and your players want to sit on couches in your TV room without a table, or while driving to GenCon, or wherever.
Emphasis above is all mine.

I'm left with just these thoughts:  Mike, what the fuck is going on?  Did your handlers let you know that Google+ Hangouts and the like were now verboten before you spoke so glowingly about it in an interview?  Why can we not do now what we could do before?  Are you trying to use this as a way to push WotC's VTT?

Talk about shooting yourselves in the foot.  This is one of the worst decisions the paper pushers could have made, especially after it was so largely used in the Friends & Family part of the Beta.  I know first hand, as my group use G+ Hangouts for our sessions.  Whatever faults we had with the system, it wasn't that it didn't work well over Hangouts.

As a side note, how the hell would you even know if members of your gaming group signed off on the agreement to Playtest D&D Next?  Just their word from what I can see.  There is no way to verify.  


  1. They are f'n idiots, this is really not making me WANT to have anything to do with D&D Next.

    After the crap release yesterday and the confusion coming from this BS NDA I don't know if they really have any clue as to what the Nine Hells they are doing.

    BTW I finally got the playtest this morning and it looks more like a house ruled 3.X than anything else, old school my @$$.


  2. Well when I run playtests I either know everyone in the group already or I bring the NDAs with for them to sign then and there.

    I get why they won't people using Skype Google+ for the playtest. It has nothing at all to do with other technologies.

  3. I'm also very annoyed at the restriction on playtests at conventions. I was asked by the local game store to run 5E playtest games for them at the upcoming Albuquerque Comic Expo, but that's out the door now, too. In fact, technically if I run the playtest with my own home group I could be in violation since I can't see how I can verify that each one of them signed up for the NDA without physically observing them doing it. So I guess while I might not be surprised at an NDA for this process, the one they're using is working counter-intuitively to how people are actually likely to engage in the playtest process.

  4. They even restrict video recordings and audio podcast and their OWN virtual tabletops. It really does sound like some laywers who are afraid of this "internet" thing.

    You would think actual play recordings would be great feedback but I guess they only want second hand accounts and not witness the thing actually being used.

  5. @Tim - there is no physical NDA, just something you agreed to on the internet.

    How do I know if you clicked a box on the internet and said "I Agree"?

    They allowed use of Hangouts in the previous round - it worked very well according to Mike. Now you can't use it according to the FAQ (but not the agreement I remember signing off on)

  6. There is a measure of human trust involved here within your group of players. Ask them if they signed the NDA and if they answered 'yes' then you are absolved of any wrongdoing.

    As for not allowing the use of 3rd party technology, you can control who overhears/sees/records a game session at your home. You can not do that with 3rd party technology like Google+. Even their VTT can get hacked since the internet is an open environment. Same for an open convention site. (They did mention you can run a game in a store.)

    While their rules may be annoying, they make sense to me.

  7. @Callin - Mike Mearls himself talks glowingly about how well G+ Hangouts worked for different groups in the earlier play tests.

    I was one of those play testers that played with a group over G+ Hangouts. There were no restrictions. It never came up.

    As for the human trust element - if its run in a store with a pick up group, who will know if they actually clicked the box and agreed on the WotC website?

  8. Talk about shooting yourselves in the foot.

    It's not a surprise. I have nothing against WotC or the new D&D -- in fact, I like what I've seen so far -- but they do have a tendency to blunder.

    Taking the old pdfs away citing piracy concerns while at the same time someone within the company is leaking the D&D4 printing proofs, promising a bunch of online tools that never appear, having the playtest download link point to the wrong page; no, it's no surprise. What is a surprise is how a bunch of geeks get so much geeky stuff wrong!

  9. You know what.. Fuck them.. I think there worry is that whole.. 'All your friends also need to agree to the playtest terms'. Like thats gonna happen in a face to face game let alone a VTT game.


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