This week I discovered a wonderful little application on Facebook called 'Dungeons and Dragons: Tiny Adventures'. It is the official WotC D&D application where you take the role of one of the eight iconic characters from the new game and, under a stripped down version of the game system, run through a load of adventures, getting loot and marching towards the mythic level 11 when your character is retired. Cool eh? There's almost no skill involved except buying the right equipment and using a potion at the right time. There's no special powers or abilities. Its just a random dice-fest.
Plainly, this is a promotional tool for D&D 4e. I know me and some of the guys from Collective Endeavour had a chat in March about the possibilities of something similar. Facebook has a massive latent geek audience who appear to have no problems outing themselves as fans of some pretty obscure topics, so having a roleplaying promotional app. seems pretty damned obvious.
However, as always, never underestimate the power of the internet to reduce people to their primal idiot. Already the applications forum is being deluged with complaints and whining. The most prevalent is that the app. is not particularly stable. It isn't. WotC blatantly underestimated the depth of geek on Facebook and the way that an app. which procs every 8 minutes or so is a gem in the world of the tabbed browser. There will obviously be a point where the expected conversion rate of people from D&D:TA to purchasing the D&D4e PHB makes any extra expenditure unviable - it is a promotional tool after all.
The next complaint is that it isn't complex enough. "Why can't my cleric heal?","Why can't my wizard blast things?" etc. Could that be because that would cause untold levels of programming complexity that this little side project doesn't need? Its not targetted at old school D&D players. Rather it is targetted at lapsed players or new players, letting them see the new system. It doesn't need to be complex - all it needs to do is get you to pick up a copy of the PHB the next time you are in Borders!
Another complaint is that there are only two female characters in the game. Two of eight. Oh the flame wars! Apparently WotC should offer male and female versions of each character. The fact that the character images are from the iconic art from the books seems to have passed by everyone who is complaining. 'Why does my advert for Sure not have a MAN dousing himself in deodourant?!','Why is the Admiral in Admiral Car Insurance not a woman on 50% of the adverts?!'
The whinges go on and on. The problem, it seems, is that people are mistaking an advert for a game. Thats why you 'retire' at Level 11, the beginning of the Paragon tier in D&D. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a 'Want to continue your adventures? Buy D&D and build your own!' message at the end. As an advert, its fantastic - addictive, tongue-in-cheek and easy to use. As a game, it sucks massive wobbly throbbing monkey balls. As a catalyst for interweb angst and griping, its as good as ... well, anything else!