In a strange bit of cosmic symmetry (or just skillful marketing), Wizards of the Coast killed off their Virtual Table on the exact same day Paizo announced their own version of the “way to play tabletop RPGs online”, called Paizo Game Space.
Representatives from Paizo trekked far through the Mwangi Expanse to speak to a legendary seer. She told them, “For a new virtual table to exist, another must die. Only by devouring the soul of one virtual table can another be infused with the All-Table, the power that allows such virtual tables to thrive and exist.”
That’s what I heard, anyway.
In any case, this is another hilarious example of Wizards’ ineptitude with all things digital. Remember when they had a pretty decent monster builder for 4E? And then they killed it for a different version with far less functionality that was supposed to eventually be integrated into the Virtual Table? And now that whole thing has fizzled too? I mean, is there anything to say here other than, “ROFL”? Or maybe just, “I told you so.”
Here’s the official announcement, via DDI broadcast:
I wanted to inform you all about an important decision that Wizards has made regarding the D&D Virtual Table and Virtual Table Beta. While we appreciate the enthusiasm and participation in the Beta phase, we were unable to generate enough support for the tool to launch a full version to the public. Effective July 30, 2012 the D&D Virtual Table Beta will be coming to an end and the VT will be closed.
Over the next three weeks, we encourage you to wrap up your existing campaigns and make sure to gather contact information from your online group members so that you can stay in touch if you like. We realize that because all data generated in the tool is in a proprietary format usable only by the Virtual Table, it is not possible to export your campaigns for use in another tool. You can, however, take screenshots of any notes, maps or adventures that you would like to hang on to or use in your home games.
We would like to thank everyone who participated in the VT Beta and look forward to continuing to support D&D game play through our D&D Insider digital tools and D&D Next.
Paizo Game Space (top image), on the other hand, looks pretty promising. They actually announced it at the banquet at last weekend’s PaizoCon, but they put up a blog post about it the same day the Wizards’ announcement went through. I’m personally not especially interested in virtual tables — playing tabletop RPGs on a computer feels like “You’re Doing It Wrong” to me, but I get that some people like them and need them to play with far-flung friends and family.
This table has a couple of awesome things going for it. First, it’s system-neutral. No Pathfinder rules or anything, just general RPG framework stuff like initiative tracking, combat rolls, grid maps, etc., and all the die rolls are customizable. It will also be browser-based, for the ultimate in ease of use. Paizo is a little fuzzy on the pricing — it will be free to use, but there will be premium content, like adventures with sweet hi-res maps. They promise some free adventures, too, so people can try it out. Based on the PaizoCon demo and the fact that the announced release date is “sometime this summer,” they seem pretty far along on the project.
What do you think? Is a virtual table a necessary thing for RPGs today? Are there existing options out there that make these efforts redundant? Will Wizards try again with some kind of virtual table for 5E?
Update: Thanks to Gavin for spotting this — the 3rd party company that handled development of Wizards’ Virtual Table is taking over the project and opening their own gaming portal. They’ve even posted instructions for porting your campaigns from the WotC table over to the new one.