The New 4e “Monster Builder”: WTF?

I mean, the new “Monster Builder”. Which doesn’t build monsters. Which doesn’t do ANYTHING, really. You can change the name of the monster and the name of the powers, and that’s IT? When you change the monster name, it doesn’t even propagate to the rest of the text? So what’s the point?

This is about on par with sending the subscribers a $0.99 ball point pen, and telling them they can print out a stat block and then scribble changes on it.

“Insult” or “Direct Slap In The Face” doesn’t begin to cover it.

I’d heard it was bad, I’d been in some threads on it on RPG.net, so I can’t feign total ignorance of what to expect, but I figured (OK, hoped) people were using it wrong or I was misinterpreting what they were saying or something, and I didn’t want to post a rant on the “official” forums until I’d had a chance to play with it myself. I really can’t imagine that WOTC would have the utter gall — or lack of sense of shame — to publish something this utterly and completely useless and display it for paying customers. The first BETA of the old Monster Builder was a hundred times more useful than this.

WTF, Wizards? I mean, seriously, WTF? You know, companies like Blizzard (you may have heard of them… they make some kind of fantasy computer game that is, I hear, pretty popular) have a “We ship when it’s ready” policy, and while there’s a good bit of whining and wailing whenever a delay is announced, there’s a lot less of it once the product hits the streets, and most people have come to rightfully expect that they’ll get a quality game right out of the box, even if it’s late, and that works a whole lot better than “Ship and Patch” (Vanguard, oh, Vanguard, you could have been amazing..). If you don’t have a monster builder worth shipping, then, don’t ship it. Just say, “Look. We respect you as customers and we won’t insult you by presenting this to you as anything other than an interface mockup we threw together in about a day.” (Because, really, that’s what it is — I started writing a “Monster Builder” in C#, and in one day, it had the ability to edit a name and to apply the core formulas to AC, Hit Points, etc, based on changing level. Well, I lie, because I could also change the monster’s role and see the changes propagate through the hit points, etc. Oh, and I could change size, type, and origin. And edit keywords, so if I wanted a new origin, say, “Abyssal”, I could add it, and it would show up in the “Origin” dropdown. ONE DAY, Wizards. That took one programmer ONE DAY.)

(Hell, even sliding the level seems broken… the Aboleth lasher has “2d8+8 damage (4d+8 against a dazed target)”, and while the first value changes, the second does not. So the one function it has, that of changing level, still requires you to manually edit some values.)

This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The New 4e “Monster Builder”: WTF?

  1. Patrick says:

    I was also mad when the online Monster Builder was unlocked, but I got over that weeks ago.

    The Monster Builder is not at a stage where it should have been released. You can get mad at them for releasing something that wasn’t ready rather than holding off on it until they actually had something to show for themselves. However, the reason they went forward with a non-functional tool is solely for synergy with the Virtual Tabletop. They want users of the VT beta to be able to import monsters (with names and levels adjusted), and at this point they’re not really worried about what the MB does by itself. That’s why they have two incomplete online tools (MB and VT) at the same time, even though they said they wanted to finish each tool before moving on to the next.

    I have every confidence that, like the Character Builder, the MB will start off crappy but will eventually become as good and then better than the offline version. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until that happens, and it’ll take a while since it looks like they’ll probably get the VT ready before they return to the MB.

    • Lizard says:

      I recently had the “pleasure” of using the online CB; I surely hope you’re not saying it’s surpassed the old CB currently, because I don’t think that’s a viable argument. Sure, eventually, it might, but I found it astoundingly frustrating to use, especially trying to find gear. The inability to search for an item by name out of all items, if you didn’t know what slot/type it was, was simply insane; I ultimately had to fire up the Compendium in a second window! (Not to mention it’s just basically slow and unresponsive, and I’m on a 20.0 mbps line, with a 9 gig RAM computer with a quad core processor, so the speed issues aren’t on this end.)

      It DOES build characters, though, which means it at least “does what it says on the tin”. I find the VT excuse to be pathetic; building tools for people who are actually playing D&D now should take precedence over trying to develop a technology which might never catch on. VT should be a background project that consumes only excess development resources, not the focus of their efforts. (And if they really want to move in that direction, why pick Silverlight, which doesn’t run on iOS, when the iPad is the most likely platform for tabletop gaming to move to?)

  2. Wyatt says:

    But but but they’re developing it in glorious emsoft silverlight!

    I’ve been reading about this for a good while now, so I was surprised to see your post, I thought you must’ve been late for the party, but it’s super sad that WOTC hasn’t fixed it yet. It’s also kind of sad to see people going “all you need is the ability to reskin monsters anyway! If you make any other changes you just unbalance stuff!” in defense of it. Some people can and do awesome things that need changes in monsters.

    • Lizard says:

      Here’s the thing… you can’t really “reskin” monsters in any real way. You can’t add types (undead, demon, etc). You can’t add powers. You can’t delete powers. You can’t change triggers. You can’t alter damages other than the ones auto-altered. You can’t tweak defenses. (Let’s make a heavily armored ogre, +2 AC, +1 Fort, -1 Ref, -1 Speed… nope, can’t do that.) You can’t change damage types. You can’t remove or add or change resistances/immunities/vulnerabilities.

      You can change the name. And level. And the name of the powers. However, the power name won’t change if it’s referenced in the text, so if you change “Smiting Attack” to “Attacking Smite”, and some other text says “The creature makes two Smiting Attacks”, the text there won’t change. For that matter, the monster name won’t change in the text, either, just at the top of the sheet.

      Really, other than some very simple minded math (that doesn’t correct older monsters to MM3 standards, even!), there’s nothing the tool does that can’t be done by scribbling on a character sheet.

      4e monsters aren’t designed according to rigorous and absolute balance in the first place; arguing that adding a power, changing a trigger, or altering a recharge is balance breaking presumes a level of design detail that simply isn’t there.

  3. callin says:

    The reason they released it early was actually to help test their new Virtual Table. Those using Virtual Table can now import monsters from the Monster Builder. This is part of a confusion over naming. They released it as Monster Builder so everyone (and rightly so) assumed it would have the same purpose and functionality as the already existing Monster Builder. However, as of right now its only purpose and function is to see how it works with the Virtual Table.
    I suppose they should have renamed it something such as Virtual Table Monster List, but they decided not to do something like that, likely because eventually the Monster Builder will function much the same as the old one…eventually.

    Where they really dropped the ball was in not telling us what the truth was. People rightly misunderstood its function.

    As an aside you can still get the old Monster Builder.

    • Lizard says:

      If that was their intent, they should have released it as a module within VT itself, not as a separate tool. And, sure, I can and do use the old MB, but it has bugs which will now never be fixed — such as losing triggers/recharges when you edit a copy of a monster, not to mention not having the MM3 formulas “wired in”. So I have a buggy tool which is no longer supported, and a useless tool which might get functionality some day, eventually, maybe, if we don’t have another round of management shake up and a new “development direction”. It’s ++annoying because MB was one of their most promising products — it was very functional in its first beta release and if they had done proper development going foward, it would be kicking a dozen kinds of ass by now. However, it was hit with a bad case of corporate ADD, and development slowed and stopped. (The entire “Oh, hey, we’re not going to support offline tools any more, here’s the new tools, which do less and have more bugs, why aren’t you happy?” announcement, done with no warning, shows a level of contempt for the customer that few companies dare try to get away with.)

  4. PixelScum says:

    Yeah at this point I think Wizards is rife with incompetence, laziness, and greed really (keep in mind this isnt an edition fight.) It’s just consistently ridiculous how badly they treat the people who subscribe and in the MMORPG industry releasing a beta product as pay-to-“play” like they are would pretty much be a death sentence.

  5. Jack Colby says:

    WotC is a joke, and has been for a few year now. 4th edition has been a debacle of PR since the day they announced it, and that’s no hyperbole. It’s like they WANT to fail and drive people away.

    • Lizard says:

      I am not sure what to think. I can’t tell if there’s a disconnect between marketing and design, or between design and a good portion of the customer base, or what. Based on my experience in other environments, everything points to rapidly-changing goalposts and the lack of a long term vision (or a constantly changing one). The marketing of 4e was one of the biggest debacles I’ve seen, exceeding White Wolf’s clumsy attempts in the 1990s (remember “Inphobia”) and TSRs “We own Armor Class!” anti-net activities. A look at the content of this site ought to show I like the 4e system, but this is due to how the game actually plays, and is in spite of, not because of, how the designers hyped it. (Really, people. Yes, I know this horse is four years dead and gone, but “The game you’re playing sucks! We ought to know, we designed it!” has got to be the stupidest way to try to build audience excitement in the history of mankind. Yeah, you were worried that the OGL might hurt the transition, so you wanted people turned off 3.5… and what you got was angry customers and the first fantasy game in gaming history to go neck-and-neck with sales of Dungeons & Dragons — Pathfinder. And I’d give you a pass because hindsight is always 20/20, but if *I* saw this happening — and I did, and I posted about it, back in 2007-2008 — people who were paid good money to see these kinds of things should have done so, too.)

      Anyone who is familiar with what the gaming industry pays knows that “greed” is a pretty poor motivator; it’s like saying that people who grow tomatoes in the window boxes of their apartments are only doing it for the money. There’s pretty much no one working at WOTC who couldn’t earn at least twice as much in a different part of the entertainment industry. In terms of total income for Hasbro, WOTC probably accounts for about as much as they pay each year for clean towels in the executive washrooms. It’s not big enough to be worth anyone in a high position wasting his time trying to micromanage it.

      This particular debacle has all the fingerprints of “success by redefinition” — that is, if you need to produce a “monster builder” by a given date to keep your job, you just keep redefining what constitutes a “monster builder” until it matches what you can ship by the deadline. Been there, done that, fielded the angry phone calls from customers.

  6. Spiralbound says:

    Perhaps WoTC is so used to people lapping up whatever they release simply because it came from them that they no longer see the need to work as hard to maintain customer satisfaction. One has to admit, that it did become that way during the height of D20.

    Also, it could be a matter of them having such a large customer base that they are accustomed to ignoring complaints. With so many people using your products, even if the products are always superb, there’s going to be a group of vocal complainers who don’t like them. Once they’re desensitized against hearing complaints, they won’t be as quick to perceive legitimate complaints as worth paying attention to.

    This may be something that most companies become afflicted with when they are as large and as niche dominant as WoTC is. I can recall companies in other markets who had similar situations acting in a like fashion. IBM in the 70s & 80s, Microsoft in the 90s & 2000s, Electrolux before the rise of the Dirt Devil and Dyson vacuums, Alta Vista before Google, MySpace before Facebook, etc…

    It is my hope that the rising popularity of other companies such as Paizo and other publishers will force WoTC to listen more closely to their customers again and work harder to earn their dollars. Competition is good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>