Friday, April 27, 2012

Monte Cook Leaves D&D Design Team

I just had to post on this.  I'm delaying my personal opinion on the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle in favor of this particular story and its implications.  Monte Cook has left the WotC design team for 5th edition D&D.  I have to admit, this gives me a very "I-told-you-so" sort of feeling, mixed with a bit of Schadenfreude.  I can't help it, I think 4th edition was very much not a roleplaying game and am perplexed by those who say it is and enjoy it (read this if you haven't already).  The announcement of 5th edition pretty much made a Part II of my diatribe against 4th edition kind of pointless, admittedly.

The implications of Monte Cook leaving 5th edition's design team because he and WotC had creative "differences of opinion" should be apparent to almost everyone--WotC has learned nothing.  D&D 5th edition is probably going to be a disaster.  I don't blame people for holding out hope for 5th edition, but I'm not holding my breath.

See, by trying to create a versatile product that can be customized to satisfy the OSR player, the 3.5/Pathfinder gamer, and the 4th edition adherent, WotC is going to make a product that satisfies no one.  I don't care about all of the fans playtesting it and saying it's great.  Research states that focus groups don't work.  Psychology and in-group acceptance help to shape our perceptions and make us biased.  Therefore, people playtesting a game are predisposed to rave about it even though, six months later in their friend's basement, they're going to realize that the game is the opposite of fun and get this very sour taste in their mouth.

When you try to make a product that pleases everybody, you end up pleasing no one.

Now that one of the most creative minds in tabletop RPG gaming and game design has left the WotC design team, I have pretty much shed all doubts I had about the poor design and unplayability of 5th Edition.  What's worse is that the D&D community might fracture even more as a result!  If 4th edition fanatics dislike 5th edition, that's an entire faction that WotC just lost.

I keep saying that WotC should just sell the entire franchise to Eric Mona and the guys at Pathfinder.


Dennis Laffey said...

Garth Algar: It's like Benjamin just wants us to be liked.

Wayne Campell: Led Zeppelin didn't write songs that everyone would like. They left that to the Bee Gees.

Dave Cesarano said...

Much love, Dennis. Much love.

Solvarn said...

WotC failed to understand their customer base and are again making a huge mistake. 3.0 was received well because it had been so long since 2.0 came out. 3.5 was a blatant money grab. 4.0 split the community in a big way and 5.0 will split it into even smaller pieces. Hasbro has never understood the benefit the open gaming license provided to 3rd Edition; they always looked at it like they were enabling their competitors because they had a fundamental lack of understanding about the market they were operating in. Because of the success of Pathfinder I seriously doubt that WotC will have any sort of useful open gaming license for 5E. This means that their competitor Paizo will put out a lot more support for their system than WotC will be able to. There will be a lot of mediocre to poor stuff put out for Pathfinder but the good Pathfinder stuff will be more numerous than any of the WotC products and cater to different tastes. You're right, at this point they need to just sell the brand to Paizo.

Dave Cesarano said...

Solvern, I agree with you except on one thing--3.5. I don't think it was a blatant money-grab. Granted, for WotC and Hasbro, it certainly helped fill their coffers and pissed off a lot of fans. However, it was also necessary. Over the years between 3rd's release and 3.5 a lot of problems came to the surface that playtesting hadn't really dealt with or perhaps even foreseen. 3.5 fixed a lot of those issues. Granted, the fix wasn't perfect. Pathfinder is, in my opinion, 3.75--the most streamlined and smoothed-out version of 3rd we're likely ever going to get.