D&D Character Builder: Still too slow

UPDATE: Not slow any more! Fixed! I’d like to see an option in the Character Builder to select whether it uses the hardware renderer or not (looking at other .NET apps, that can easily be implemented) but turning off hardware acceleration from XP’s Display Properties dialog box does the trick.

Last time I took a look at the D&D Insider Character Builder, I found it to be far too slow to be usable on my computer. As it came out of Beta yesterday, I took it for another spin, and while it’s better, it’s still not a pleasant experience.

I’ll stress first of all that I’m pretty sure that the problems I’m having don’t seem to be usual; if they were, this would be all over other folks’ reviews of the Character Generator, but there’s ne’er a word. I think the problems are primary down to the setup of my laptop. It’s nothing special – Windows XP (dual boot Linux, but that’s by-the-by), 1Gb RAM, 40Gb hard drive, 1.5Ghz processor. In other words, a typical off-the-shelf cheap  no-name no frills knockabout lappy. I suspect the problem lays with the on-board graphics card which is a gawd awful S3 Openchrome pile of crud (had I known at the time…….. ick). I think it doesn’t like working with .NET Framework. I can’t blame it – neither do I.

But anyhow. That’s just to make it clear that this isn’t a dig at Wizards’ or the Character Builder, which does look rather spiffy. I’m just pissed that it’s so darn painful to use.

With the Beta version, I could select an option (clicking Cleric, say), then have to wait 8 seconds before the “Select this” button activated, then have to wait another 8 seconds before I could click “Next”. On. Every. Frickin’. Screen. Whatever I did the program took 8 seconds to update, whether it was looking through the available Powers (8 seconds per click) to choosing a race (8 seconds per click) to selecting equipment (8 seconds per click). By now, you’re probably annoyed that I’m saying “8 seconds per click” all the time – imagine counting those seconds in your head each and every time. Suffice to say, I deleted the fecker.

Wizards’ interface design doesn’t help matters, of course. They threw away three decades of Good Interface Design Theory and decided require folks to make a selection, and confirm the selection before being able to move on. In every other wizard-style interface, you make your choice, then click next. If you change your mind, you just press the Back button. Oh wait – Wizards’ forgot one of those too. Because the Character Builder Beta was so slow on my computer, I grew to hate that “Select this” button and Wizards’ “we know better when it comes to good interface design” attitude. Grrrrr.

With the new release, I was hopeful that things would be better, and in a way, it is. We’re down to 4 seconds between screen updates. That’s better, but it’s a bit like saying Mars is closer than Saturn. To far is still too far. Now it doesn’t feel ike a bad slideshow, but like a poorly written DOS app from the 1980s. That’s progress, I guess.

So yeh, I deleted it again, along with the 3500Mb+ heap of crapola that is the .NET Framework. I could spend time trying to tweak my graphics card settings, disabling Direct Draw in DXDIAG or whatever, but I shouldn’t have to do any of that. Not for a primarily text-based application that would have been better implemented as a web app.

Oh, wait.

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10 Comments on “D&D Character Builder: Still too slow”

  1. That is too bad, too. When the CB is zipping along nicely it pretty much rocks by my estimation. My characters are really digging the character sheets with artwork, and we love the power cards. Power cards = less DM headaches.

  2. I do not find any slow performance issues except a couple places when selecting Magic weapons and armor. I like the generator except one part, it does not handle custom elements well. Can’t add a custom skill, custom powers are just a blob of text in the power cards. they could have done better with that.

  3. No slowdowns here – it actually runs great and feels like a well designed piece of software.

    Exactly the opposite of what I was expecting – I might actually subscribe to it…

    I don’t know why you’re getting such slowdowns. It is odd. What kind of processor is in there? 1.5GZ sounds like pretty old tech.

    I run it on my 3000+ Athlon – which is a fairly old bit of tech and it runs flawlessly.

    I wouldn’t dream of running it on my 400mhz laptop – it can barely stand the weight of its own bios.

    Eric Maziades last blog post..Scepter Tower of Spellgard Prequel Report – Area 2

  4. @All Yeh, it’s a strange problem, and not one I have with any other app at all, even ones that use .NET framework too. Other folks’ machines handle it just perfectly.

    @Eric It’s a fairly typical 3-year old laptop with a 1.5Ghz Celeron – nothing special, but it’s more than capable of handling all the 3d renders it produces and powerful enough for all the programming tasks I throw at it. The Character Builder should be able to run without problems at all. Odd, indeed

  5. They threw away three decades of Good Interface Design Theory and decided require folks to make a selection, and confirm the selection before being able to move on.

    Actually, you can simply double click on the section and then press Next.

    I agree that on the screens that you are just selecting race and class, the select then confirm then next button is a bit of a pain. (Or just double-click and click next.) But when you get to selecting powers, its nice to click on the power and be able to read through it without the power being confirmed, which moves you on to your next power selection. (From At-Wills to Encounters, etc)

    As for the slowness, thats odd.

    Milambuss last blog post..Introducing new players to DnD 4E

  6. The character generator is pretty snazzy, but it’s not enough to get me to subscribe. There are already a number of free options that do the job just as well, albeit with less polish.

    I’ll look at DDi when gametable is released, as well as the final price.

  7. Your problems may be caused by the fact that the Character Builder is build using WPF which by default uses the 3d Graphics hardware to render all content including 2d content.

    In most cases this leads to very high performance even with complex graphical applications. If however, the framework is having problems with your graphics hardware, it may be worse than not acceleration at all.

  8. @Michael Many thanks for stopping by. That does sound like the most likely explanation; I suspected as much. This on-board graphics card is far from good.

    Ah well :D

    At some point I’ll try disabling the acceleration and see if that improves things. Thanks again!

  9. Try creating/modifying this dword in your registry and cranking the vid acceleration back up… this will disable acceleration for WPF .NET apps.

    Sounds like the same gawd aweful problem I had with the character builder in a Windows VM. I had to move the window around after half my changes to get an update; disable this adn sure enough working like a champ…

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Avalon.Graphics\DisableHWAcceleration

    and set it to 1 to disable.

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