The Escapist recently published a series of articles about the past, present, and future of Dungeons & Dragons. Games Editor Greg Tito, who is also creating an Old School Renaissance-style game using the Open Game License titled The Adventurer Conqueror King System, explains how Dungeons & Dragons was modernized with 4th-Edition…and how it abandoned several sacred cows that older gamers hold dear.
As Tito makes clear, “the current edition competes against a totally different medium among young people today – computer games.” He places the blame for 4th-Edition’s flaws at the feet of Andy Collins, incorrectly titled “head of development” at the time. Collins explained the design philosophy of the new edition:
“As professional game designers, we look at all games for lessons,” he said last year. “Certainly, the lessons we learn from online games are going to be the most obvious ones because they have a lot of people familiar with the sources, but there’s also lessons about turn management from European board games, interface ideas from card games.”
Tito then connects the criticism of Dungeons & Dragons with Collins’ departure:
The negative response to 4th edition was not without consequences for the people who made it. In May 2010, Andy Collins was asked to vacate his position at Wizards of the Coast as head of D&D development.
Despite the fact that independent game publishers were unhappy with the way Wizards of the Coast handled the 4th-Edition’s Game System License (GSL) and that “the most frequent complaints” of critics is that the rules “too closely mimicked World of Warcraft or EverQuest,” the 4th Edition sold well:
Preorders for the core books of 4th edition of D&D in June 2008 were extremely strong and – without any hard sales numbers released by WoTC – anecdotal evidence from local game stores supported the claim that it sold much better than 3rd at launch. Moving its periodic content to a digital portal called D&D Insider on a monthly subscription model, while providing access to online tools like the handy Character Builder seems to be successful.
Collins explained to me over Facebook:
In fact, I was a member of the 4E design team (led by Rob Heinsoo, and chosen by Bill Slavicsek), and didn’t assume a management role until the game was complete. Not to diminish my impact on the final product–for folks who don’t care for the game, I’m certainly on the short list of “people to blame,” but I certainly wasn’t calling the shots on 4E design (at best, I was third in line on that).
The thrust of the article sums up the challenge of the new edition. It did not embrace previous iterations like 3rd edition and in doing so introduced concepts that makes it more appealing for new (i.e., younger) players. Many older players find this distasteful and have rejected the game in its entirety. But that does not mean the game didn’t sell well, and it certainly doesn’t mean that Wizards of the Coast interpreted the failure of older gamers to embrace the game as a failure. If it did indeed sell well (as the article states), that’s a success in a company’s eyes.
In short, there is no evidence supporting Collins stepping down from his position as “head” of development as a result of the “negative response.”