Thursday, August 11, 2011

Neverwinter: The First What?

The city of Neverwinter in the Forgotten Realms has certainly had its share of publicity over the year—two video games (the Neverwinter Nights series), a pretty prominent place in Realms lore, and now it’s been cranked out for 4e as the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

In the press release was buried this gem:

“It is the first-ever RPG book focused solely on one city”

Ahem. Let’s read it again:

“It is the first-ever RPG book focused solely on one city”


Of course, the Neverwinter Campaign Setting is not the first RPG book focused solely on one city. It isn’t the second, or third, or twentieth. Scads of books have focused on a single city, such, as, oh, The City of Greyhawk, which had an entire boxed set dedicated to it. There was Ptolus, which had about 3 reams of paper dedicated to Monte Cook’s behemoth. Palladium Books had Century Station. Judges Guild has City-State of the Invincible Overlord. Flip through the RPGnet Gaming Index, and find countless more examples.

For crying out loud, it isn’t even the first Forgotten Realms product dedicated to a specific city! Waterdeep cleaned up in that department in editions past. Even Ravens Bluff got 64 pages.

Of course, this isn’t the first time WotC has conveniently forgotten the history of Dungeons and Dragons. In the run-up to 4e, we had the Realms and Dragonlance mentioned as the first D&D campaign settings, while Greyhawk was quietly pulled off to one side.

This is a company that has shown no respect for the history of the game, other than a few superficial trappings that do nothing. Is it an outrage? No, but it is more sloppiness, ignorance, and disregard from a company that continues to show themselves a poor caretaker of a legacy game. It’s the little comments like these, an aversion to open licensing, and a history of heavy-handed behavior over items such as pdfs that ensure many gamers of previous editions will not embrace WotC, not matter what they decide to make available.

We want gamers running our companies, or at least influencing things. We want some sign you love the history of this game, or are at least cognizant of it. We want you to sound less like a shill, and more like a fan.

Next week, perhaps they can announce their next Dungeon Master’s Guide product is the “first-ever D&D resource for Dungeon Masters”. It would certainly be keeping in line with previous behavior.


Tim Brannan said...

Hanlon's Razor.

Never attribute to Malice what stupidity (And laziness) can adequately explain.

Gamers write the material at WotC, but they don't write the PR copy. That is someone at Hasbro who was not even born yet when City State was published.

We have had gamers running companies before. They were called TSR and many others that are no longer with us.

WotC isn't perfect, but I don't expect that they would be either.

kelvingreen said...

It's more sad than anything.

Zachary Houghton said...

@Tim: I figured I'd get Hanlon's Razor from within the first few posts.

I'm not saying it was intended malice, but it's potentially lazy, sloppy, or ignorant, yes.

Nor does this act exist in a vaccum; it's not as if it doesn't follow a certain narrative we've seen from them.

James said...

Is Hasbro so incompetent that they chose a promotions guy, who knows nothing about RPG's? And that no one else caught the snafu and pointed it out? It's not ignorance. Nor, is it malice. Just the same sort of contempt and arrogance we often see from corporate America.

OlmanFeelyus said...

It's not malice, but it is not a simple typo or fact mistake. Press releases have a chain of approval and several eyes look them over before they go out. Those eyes were either ignorant of the most basic history of the hobby or didn't think the error was important enough to correct. Either explanation supports Zach's broader points.

If it was utter error from top to bottom, that is also pretty damning.

I direct you as well to the Dorkland blog, whose author Chris Helton directly asked his PR contact at WotC about the mistake.

"I did ask my contact for a followup on the controversy over the "first-ever RPG book focused solely on one city" statement in the initial press release and I was told that they did not have the capacity for a formal response."

Zachary Houghton said...

Sounds like a fancy way of saying "no comment". :)

Z.L said...

Honestly as someone who likes playing and running 4th Edition when not running C&C/Pathfinder, I hope to God they leave Grayhawk and Planescape alone.

Out of every item they have transferred to 4th Edition, the only good one was Dark Sun. After working with 4th Edition Dark Sun and being very impressed in the difficulty and the "oh god we are going to die" aspects of it, I had high hopes for Neverwinter.

Unfortunately, it feels like the FR 4th Edition supplement: Rushed, and full of issues. The Spellplague is stupid and while I think it is good they killed off certain characters it is still a mechanically dumb idea (in my opinion at least).

When I thumbed through Neverwinter I was hoping for a city in FR that was for the most part, it's own little thing similar to past 4th Edition works. I was hoping they would continue the slow climb in quality (a very slow climb) from the original 4th Edition FR transfer and get away from terrible books and empty feeling information.

Unfortunately with Neverwinter I feel it went back ten steps. :(

Thank God for C&C

mortellan said...

Great post Zach(though I'm outraged). I wanted to whip up a post when I read this, but you pretty much said everything I would have. The comments and added quotes here are on the money too. Stupid, lazy and unabashedly unrepentant. Likes James said, that's our culture these days.

Rich said...

Yeah, I have City System, FR1 Waterdeep and the North, and the Waterdeep boxed set. That's three TSR products all dealing with one city... I want what they are smoking.

Zachary Houghton said...

@ZL: I agree. C&C is a time-strapped GM's dream.

@mortellan: Thanks! It

@Rich: Lankhmar, Freeport, Ptolus, Carse, Shadizar... :)

chris said...

We talked about this over at G+ too:

Personally I think that too much is being made out of a stupid mistake. Somebody got overzealous in their hyperbole.

For those of the "If gamers were doing PR this wouldn't happen" camp, keep in mind that someone from the gaming camp would have generated the initial material for the PR person to use and people at Wizards would have had to check the press release before it went out. PR companies aren't in the habit of releasing information without the permission of their clients.

Plain and simple, this is just a dumb mistakes and now it's one that the people hope will just blow over, and I'm sure once the books come out and people start playing all the controversy will fade away.

Abyssal Maw said...

The outrage is more comical than anything. I suspect that in the context of a 4th edition press release they aren't talking about " the history of the hobby".

Admit it, you imagined that last clause in there.

You could just as easily have imagined the sentence ending " the current D&D lineup" (which it also didn't say) but then there would be less to feel outraged about

Cherrypicking one sentence in an entire press release for something you aren't even interested in, and then actively searching for a way to feel offended about it upset seems like a huge overreaction.

Alternate reaction: If you've already gone out of your way way to say "we disregard you, Wotc!".. how can you be offended when they appear to be disregarding you right back?

Anonymous said...

WotC has been a sad comedy of errors ever since their announcement of 4E. I am not saying anything about the game itself, just that their decisions and handling of things has been hilariously bad, and a perfect example of how NOT to do things like this. It's kind of amazing how they keep tripping over themselves, and how perfectly it started strong alongside 4E and has kept up right along these past years. It's like they cannot or will not do things right, somehow. Are they trying to destroy themselves as far as D&D is concerned? Do they want to alienate everyone and for the brand to tank? Couldn't do a better job at that if they were trying.

Zachary Houghton said...

@chris: By the way, thanks for following up with them. It would have been nice of them just to say "whoops, sorry" instead of whatever "no capacity for a formal response" silliness we got instead.

@Anonymous: Yeah, I don't see this as about the game of 4e at all; it's more about how WotC has handled much of their PR in the last few years, and that's poorly. They don't seem overly concerned with veracity, or the actual product history of D&D.

Benoist said...

"I'm not saying it was intended malice, but it's potentially lazy, sloppy, or ignorant, yes."

It's also a PATTERN, which is more bothering IMO than this one instance. "Forgotten Realms and DragonLance, the first campaign settings, are published..." cf. 4E PHB.

mortellan said...

Benoist: You can almost count on one hand how many times the word "Greyhawk" has been used in print since 4e came out.

Stuart said...

I agree with Tim.

They're a big company and not everyone who works there is a gamer, or at least not a life-long gamer like many of the people scrutinizing this mis-wording.

Marketing hasn't been their strong suit for a long time... it's surprising to see people getting so bent out of shape over a little mis-wording. Sure, it's a wrong statement... but is it worth caring about? Really? :)

Theodric the Obscure said...

Just a reminder, Wotci: Crack Kills.

Zachary Houghton said...

@Stuart: It’s an irritant, is all. Part of a larger pattern, in a sense.

Arevashti said...

...yeah, I'm not going to call this malice, as it disregards plenty of WotC's own work. 

I am, however, going to call it a pretty big blooper.

Steve Baldwin said...

Excellent point! I hate it when a PR droog at Hasbro can screw up a potentially good product with one sentence.

D&D has decades of history...come on Hasbro, use it!