Wizards of the Coast has had a chequered history when it comes to electronic products and support for its games. Some things have worked very well, such as the Magic: the Gathering site. Other things have been buggy and problematic throughout, but have generally been positively received, such as Magic Online. Then they have vapourware that turned out to not be exactly vapourware but the closest thing possible – incredibly disappointing – such as MasterTools which was eventually released as E-Tools.
And then you have Gleemax.
Gleemax, in conception, is massive. A place for gamers to gather, play and talk about their favourite games, no matter the type. Miniature, Card, Collectable, Board, Role-playing, Electronic… all of the above and more. Unfortunately, big ideas need great people working on them, and that, Gleemax has proven, Wizards doesn’t have.
There is a basic problem with promising something to people: they expect you to deliver. If you come from (primarily) the roleplaying side of things, as I do, then Wizards have already started on the wrong foot. (MasterTools!) Oh, and cancelling the D&D magazines Dragon and Dungeon.
A long time ago – a year or more – Wizards announced all the great things it was going to be doing with Gleemax, and then we eagerly awaited the result. Of primary interest to me was the part of Gleemax concerned with blogging, for, as many of you know, I enjoy writing about the games I play. I post articles on EN World and Boardgamegeek, as well as other places. However, it’d be great for me if I could post them all in one place where people who enjoy games could find them.
So, almost a year ago the blogging part of Gleemax went online in an “Alpha” version. Concurrently with this, they switched over the login system of the regular Wizards forums to be uniform over the entire of Gleemax. This was a mistake. The login system wasn’t ready, and it was buggy. Worse than buggy. Where before I could happily stay logged into the forums basically forever, Gleemax now instituted a limit on how long I was logged in. And the limit didn’t work properly, so I had to log in every time I visited. And I’d be logged out every so often for no reason. My visiting of the Wizards forums basically stopped overnight.
This problem was somewhat fixed, but for a uniform login system it works particularly badly.
Regardless of this, I avidly fell upon the blogging part of Gleemax and started contributing, reposting blogs from here, session reports from BGG, and occassionaly some completely original content.
Now, one of the things that was promised with Gleemax were rolling updates – the development would be an ongoing thing. They’d post a version, fix the obvious bugs, post the next version, fix the bugs in that, and onwards.
Unfortunately, Wizards didn’t deliver that. What they did was post an extremely buggy alpha version, and then delay fixing the bugs. To make things worse, the basic blogging functionality of Gleemax wouldn’t display posts correctly, nor would it allow people to post replies with thing like, I don’t know, line breaks. Oh, and if a post scrolled off the first page, you couldn’t find it again.
They did one update, which fixed a few of the most problematic flaws, whilst still leaving a lot of errors (including posts not displaying properly). Then they posted another. And then… nothing. Months and months without updates. Nor were we getting status updates either.
I think they did another update recently. The net result of that was to make it impossible for anyone to view the blogs without getting an error message. Forget about posting new material. And did we get feedback like “Oops, sorry about that guys, we’re working to fix it”?No, we didn’t.
One of the most important things to do when working on an alpha is to give good feedback to the people who are testing it for you. If they post an error message, you at least need to say, “received that, thanks”. Nothing of the sort has occurred.
This is competely disastrous for Wizards’ image. Heck, if I was someone of power in Hasbro, heads would be rolling. Meanwhile, the amount of bad blood on the Wizards forums is amazing, with many of the competent moderators now gone and people who have contributed a lot to those communities leaving in disgust.
Gleemax? Forget it. Wizards had their chance and they blew it badly.