During that time, Wizards were beginning to establish the online support that would prove to be a hallmark of the company. Sure, the designers weren’t often online discussing the game, but they were paying someone to monitor rec.games.deckmaster and answer rules questions. Wow. (These were the days when TSR was doing its best to alienate the online community…)
(At about this time, after a particular USEnet debate, Mike Davis, who was the person who introduced Richard Garfield to Wizards, e-mailed me to say he’d read one of my posts, and that I’d really articulated Richard’s original plan for Magic really well. This really brightened my day. I wish I still had the e-mail. )
As the Duelist turned into The Duelist Online, and eventually Magic the Gathering.com, Wizards maintained a strong online presence; more web-based than simple interacting with its customers on messageboards, but helped a lot by the strong personality of Mark Rosewater – who, probably more than anyone, is the public face of Magic. It really helps that he’s a good writer.
Meanwhile, and closer to our hearts, we have D&D. It’s never quite had the online presence from Wizards that Magic has – partly because the audience is a lot more diverse, and it’s not quite as simple to talk about. The primary “face” of D&D has tended to be its Brand Manager, with the really big names there being Ryan Dancey and later Charles Ryan. It’s had support from some of its designers – Rich Baker comes to mind on the FR side of things, as he has posted a *lot* of material answering questions of fans.
D&D Minis brought a lot of support from first Mike Donais and Rob Heinsoo, and later Stephen Schubert, Ian Richards and Linae Foster. Being more like Magic (and also with a smaller fanbase), the D&D Mini relationship has probably been stronger than that of the D&D team and their fans.
I really started interacting with Charles Ryan, who told me (and everyone else) a lot about how D&D was going, what Wizards visions were for the game, and other cool stuff. For me, Charles was what the D&D Brand Manager should be: a really great person. We actually got off on the wrong foot (I have an inconsistent and irrational view of privacy issues), but Charles was able to forgive me and we had entirely too short a time of great exchanges.
Then Charles left Wizards. NOOOO!!!!!! And a great silence descended, filled only with the sound of the scribblings of a lot of EN World posters, pointing out what Wizards was doing wrong.
For over a year, the messages from Wizards about what was going on with D&D tended to be only at the conventions, or from Mat Smith’s column. Things improved a little with the addition of the Design & Development column to the D&D site, but it was too inconsistent to really be a window into what was happening in the big building of WotC.
Then things started looking up. Strangely enough, it also happened when things started to look really bleak: the cancellation of the magazines. You see, one of the main reasons that there will no longer be Dragon Magazine is because Wizards are ramping up their online presence. Hmm. I know that they’ve said that they expected the reaction they got – as I don’t think they’re idiots, I believe them – but it has done something else. They’ve started posting a lot more. A lot more. If you don’t visit the Wizards boards, you probably have missed a lot of it – visit Future Releases to get some of it. Oh, and the Gleemax boards.
I didn’t know who the brand manager of D&D was anymore. Now I do. It’s Scott Rouse. And he seems like a cool guy. (As cool as Charles Ryan? Hmm. Let’s see… did Scott Rouse design the first Babylon 5 RPG? No? Guess Charles still wins the coolness award. ) But Scott is posting about D&D, and I really, really appreciate it. He posts well, and he makes sense. To me at least, and I hope to you as well.
Wizards can’t always do what we really want them to do, but at least they’re letting us know again about what they can and can’t do. And that they have plans for D&D, which is really, really nice.
Wizards have also hired Mike Lescault to be their online community liason. Is he cool? Well, he’s posted on the Gleemax boards about a bunch of cool things (like what one out of print game you’d like to see reprinted; in my case, the AH Dune boardgame ). He’s also replying to posts. That’s really good to see.
I’d like to know what’s happening to the SRD – has it been abandoned? I’d like to know how D&D is going (Charles kept saying it was the best year ever, which was almost his signature), and a bunch of other things.
But mostly I’m just extremely happy that people at Wizards are posting again, and reminding everyone that, like us, they enjoy games.
As this has been a personal view, I’ve left out a lot of stuff that Wizards has done, and the names of a lot of good people. Maybe you can add some of your own thoughts about Wizards staff who have told us things you’ve enjoyed hearing – or, even if you didn’t enjoy them, you appreciated being told about.
In any case, Mike, Scott: thank you for posting. I hope I’ll see a lot more of you in the future.