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.
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.
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).
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.
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.