October 8, 2008

DDI Compendium Continues to Have Problems...

In the latest edition of Digital Insider  #10: The Builder, Randy Buehler reveals the latest additions to the much anticipated release of Dungeons & Dragons Insider (DDI). While I'm not going to review what's new, I do want to talk a bit about the DDI Compendium, its newests features, and the fundamental problems it still has.

In Randy's post, he lists the newest data sources that are included in DDI. Here's the quote:
Compendium Update
Just a heads up to let you know we have updated the Compendium to include information from the following sources:
  • The Monster Manual
  • Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
  • Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide
  • Adventurer’s Vault
  • Dragon Magazine #366
  • Dungeon Magazine #157
  • FR1 Scepter Tower of Spellgard
  • RPGA Alone
  • RPGA Shades of the Zhentarim
  • RPGA Elder Wisdom
  • RPGA Heirloom
  • RPGA Flames of Initiation
  • RPGA Return to the Moathouse
  • RPGA Nature's Wrath
  • RPGA Slivers of Eaerlann
  • RPGA These Hallowed Halls
  • RPGA Many Hands Make Light Work
  • RPGA The Prospect
  • RPGA The Black Knight of Arabel
  • RPGA Sense of Wonder
  • RPGA The Radiant Vessel of Thesk
  • RPGA Inheritance
  • RPGA The Rotting Ruins of Galain
  • RPGA Lost Temple of the Fey Gods 
OK.. WOW.. that's a ton of sources. Hats off to the coders who entered in all that data. Here's the problem though: when you go to actually use the compendium, you will find there is a fundamental problem with the way the data is structured.

For example: search for Monsters, set Type=Humans, and you'll find a dozen or so entries from the Monster Manual plus a whole slew of entries from all the friggen RPGA adventures. What's messed up is you won't actually find any of the actual entries for 'humans' in the Monster Manual, only things that have 'human' listed as a keyword (snaketongues, deathpriests, etc). Human Mage? Not listed. Human rabble? not listed. From a software point of view, this just screams "We don't know what we are doing!"

Another example - try filtering out all the RPGA source material. You can't. Not possible. So now there are over 1000 entries for monsters in the DDI Compendium, but if all you own in the Core Rules - you have to slog through all the other data as well. Well structured data should be easily filterable by any of the terms present in the database. It would be a simple addon - but it doesn't seem like they are doing anything about it.

Last example - Skills. There's a separate Skill entry for each character class that has the option to take that skill as a Trained. OK, for new players this might be OK... but it could also be completely confusing. Do we really need three entries for these?

Artificer Player's Handbook
Thievery Warlock Player's Handbook
Thievery Rogue Player's Handbook

No, I don't think so.  And... not to mention that the Artificer is not in the PHB at all... but that's another issue.

So, I think the DDI Compendium has a ton of potential - but they need to completely rework it and do some quality control! At this point, I'm not sold. I should submit all these using their Bugs & Feeback link.

Maybe we should hack the DDI API and make our own javascript interface for it... or better yet - a widget for the DDI compendium that can be dropped into any webpage.

[insert evil laughter here]

No comments:

Post a Comment

By submitting your comment below, you agree to the blog's Terms of Service.