Yet Another Blogger’s “First Impressions” of the new Character Builder

I had the unfortunate luck of having to be at work all day, on a computer that I was not allowed to install Silverlight on. So I watched the flurry of activity on Twitter and grew increasingly anxious as the negative comments began filling the screen.  Now I didn’t have high hopes to begin with, but some of the news was especially disappointing to me. Crashes, bugs, and server issues I expected though.  Finally home now, I hurry to install Silverlight and launch the new Character Builder.

Loading…

The first thing that strikes me is how slow it is. It takes over a minute for the first screen to load. I don’t mark this as exceptionally bad (older desktop + first day heavy traffic). But as I continue through it, the delay after every click makes the program feel clunky and unresponsive. I hope that changes when the load lightens. The screen flicker though – the window ‘dims’ briefly while loading something – ugh, I hope they drop it. It got annoying fast.

Uploading Characters

I attempted to upload a character. Things did not go well.  Selected file, waited 5 minutes for the CB to transfer data. Nothing was happening so I told the page to reload. A really lame loading picture popped up and after 1 minute another pop-up advised me that the character wasn’t save, would I like to recover it? I select yes and was rewarded with a Template Not Found error. The error box had no means of closing it that I could find, so I had to completely close the window and start over. Subsequent attempts had the same results even if I waited longer (I waited up to 35 minutes for a simple 50k file in one case).

Making Characters

I made a handful of characters, of various levels. I tried the Essentials quick build and the custom build.I made a Dark Sun character with ease and played around with everything else. Overall, it was easy and enjoyable, although slow. I see a lot of room for improvements, but I feel this is a good attempt. I was altogether pleased with the building process, but clearly certain things need some tweaking. All in good time, I imagine.

Character Sheets

Oh my… When I saw a certain tweet today saying that the character sheets ‘print’ as large images, and saw the document sizes some people were posting, I cringed.  How did this happen? The Character Builder is just a time waster if printing the character sheets presents any sort of problem. I frequently print-to-pdf so that I can print at the local print shop. The pdf quality suffers from the CB’s terrible character sheets.

Speaking of quality, I can’t say I’m a fan of these character sheet designs. What is with the orientation flips? As someone who has worked in graphic design, these sheet layouts make my fingers itch for my wacom tablet. Both designs waste space terribly. The ‘Character Builder’ sheet’s first page is a good concept, but poor execution, and the secondary pages are just wasted paper. Those aside, the power cards look solid and I am pleased with them. I especially like how the new design will read well even when printed in grayscale. Color is printing is sometimes a luxury for me, so I appreciate the large corner icons.

In summary, I find too much is lacking in the current Character Builder to call it an improvement over the old Character Builder. I do see, however; the new Character Builder could easily persuade me to renew my DDI account if WotC listens to its customers and begins implementing improvements soon.

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New Character Builder – The Good and The Ugly

The new Character Builder

The new Character Builder

Like everyone else, I received my notification of the new Dungeons & Dragons Insider Character Builder. Busy as I was, I took a few moments to explore what I could about this change and even took a peek at the riot occurring on twitter. I didn’t dare venture onto the community forums, but rumor says it too is full of drama.

I’m sad, for the most part. The changes made will largely hurt my current gaming experience. While I could hope that the demands of the fan base might be heard by WotC and changes made, I’m unusually pessimistic and it was with a heavy heart that I canceled my DDI account.

Now before anyone accuses me of a knee-jerk reaction, let me say this was not entirely unplanned for. You see, I had already made the resolution that if by today Tuesday, November 2, 2o1o there wasn’t a download for the Character Builder and/or Monster Builder containing some if not all Dark Sun content then I would cancel my account until such material was released. I’m DMing a Dark Sun game, DMing a homebrew campaign, and playing in another. Knowing that I had paid my renewing three-month fee and had not received half the content of a three month period was disappointing. Well, today came and went without a download, followed by news that there will be no more downloads forthcoming. Sad SheDM is sad.

Well, enough of that. So what is up with this Character Builder news anyway?

The Good

  • No clunky program to download and install, no problems with patches, everything runs in-browser.
  • Your characters are in ‘the cloud’ now, so you can access them from anywhere.
  • (Supposedly) Updated content will occur more reliably.
  • Import your current characters from old CB into new CB for easy transition.
  • Macs can use the CB now! I don’t have a Mac, but I cheer for them nonetheless!

The Ugly

  • No offline support! No internet, no access.
  • (Currently) No means to export the save files for sharing, using, etc. They say this will come later.
  • No active account, no access. If you can’t afford yet another monthly fee, you’re out of luck.
  • MS Silverlight. I have had problems with Silverlight, and support for Silverlight is waning. So, yeah…

In the meanwhile Adventure Tools, home of the Monster Builder gets no mention in this news. What will become of it? What about other tools that have been hinted at and/or promised and/or dropped quietly from the agenda like a blemished tomato? Who knows. Considering WotC’s track record, I honestly doubt they’ll be consistent even with this new version of the CB.

But to me, the whole matter boils down to money. I can’t keep paying for content I’m not receiving, and I’m not willing to gamble money for a service I can’t access 100% of the time. Maybe in time I may find it worth a monthly fee, maybe not. I’ll wait and find out.