Today, Wizards of the Coast announced the next Dungeons & Dragons video game, Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, a clicker game from Codename Entertainment. It is launching sometime in summer or early fall, and it’ll be on the Steam PC gaming platform.
Idle Champions is the second D&D game announced (so far) this year on the heels of Dungeon Chess, the brand’s first virtual reality experience. Along with steady expansions and additions to Neverwinter (the Forgotten Realms-based MMORPG), we’ve also seen Sword Coast Legends (2015), Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear (2016), and Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition (April). But that’s it when it comes to traditional D&D video games that the public knows about.
When I spoke to D&D director Nathan Stewart and Wizards of the Coast CEO Chris Cocks back in August, they talked about a re-energized push for the brand in video games. I expected this to focus on more hardcore experiences, as we’ve seen since D&D first started licensing its brand for video games. Chess and a clicker game, however, don’t gel with that strategy, but Stewart provided some context for my question. His responses to my questions show that journalists and fans alike don’t always think about the development pipeline beyond what games we want and what’s been announced so far — along for the need for developers to experiment with emerging platforms and genres.
“In all seriousness, game development, and specifically for PC, console, and — [to a growing extent] — mobile, takes a long time, so some of the experiments you see coming out now started long before those comments and not specifically what we foreshadowing,” Stewart said. “However, the D&D audience is huge and getting bigger every day, so it would be a mistake to not try new game types or new platforms if you have passionate developers who love the brand like we do.”
Stewart looks at Dungeon Chess, a VR app from the Experiment 7 studio, as the start of a platform that could lead to bigger tabletop-based experiences.
“Virtual reality chess doesn’t excite you? The 3D virtual beholder zapping a pawn with one of his/her eye rays doesn’t sound way cooler than one boring chess piece taking the square of another one? OK, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but what is the next cool VR experience Experiment 7 will create for their Magic Table game room?” he said. “What VR D&D would you like to see? It probably starts with dragons and dungeons, maybe some elves and beholders and now they’ve got a library of virtual D&D monsters and PCs to start with instead of an empty toy box. The Experiment 7 team is talented, smart, passionate and has a vision, so working with them gives the possibility of cool new things.”
And this experiment continues with Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, D&D‘s first foray into the clicker realm — and Codename Entertainment’s first shot at working with an established brand.
“Why do we create any of the games we create or partner on? To bring the rich storytelling and deep lore of D&D for passionate fans to experience in as many mediums as possible,” Stewart said. “Sometimes, we take a chance, and the opportunity doesn’t prove out. And sometimes, it spawns a whole new exciting way to engage with the brand but as long as it is true to our canon, we are proud to put our name on it and if fans want it. … Let’s give it a try.
“For the new Codename Entertainment game, the main reasons we are partnering for an ‘idle game’ or ‘clicker game’ is because the folks at Codename are talented, smart and passionate people who have a specific game type in which they’ve become experts and they presented us with an opportunity to tell more stories from our lore & present our characters to a really dedicated fan-base,” Stewart said. ” If there are a couple hundred thousand D&D fans who regularly play clicker games, and they can get a cool new experience featuring Drizzt, Wulfgar, Elminster, etc., along the Sword Coast, then it is a win/win/win.”