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ShadowChemosh
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Old August 13th, 2018, 12:28 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by daplunk View Post
Apologies for putting you in a position where you felt it necessary to tell us the details of your personal issues Rob. That was not my intention at all.
Yeah I totally feel I caused this and I am SO sorry right now. I really need to learn to just shut my damn mouth....

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rob
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Old August 13th, 2018, 02:57 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
2. While I understand the need to innovate and add new features. Many of those features aren't things I would use. I use HLC for PC generation, sometimes GMing. While I recognize that having shared starship HUDs or similair group features could be useful. Most of my games have a hybrid of play styles (some use paper/pen, some use a free community excel sheet, some use hero lab, etc.). Even now, trying to open up someone else's HLC file when they have different packages throws off errors in HLC. I just feel like these communal features are better/easier to track ad hoc on a group-by-group basis. Alternatively, some of this functionality is already offered via products like roll20/fantasy grounds.
Doing this on a group-by-group basis within HLClassic relies on each gaming group having someone knowledgeable enough to manage everything for the group. It also requires the entire group to trust and empower that someone to manipulate each device they use – and for that person to then perform that duty. That’s unfortunately not commonly achievable within most groups. In contrast, with the way we have things mapped out for HLOnline, these types of issues should be readily manageable at the group level.

I also find it intriguing that you mention Roll20 – an internet-only tool – in a post that seems to not be in favor of an internet-based solution for HL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
3. So would you be willing to build in a defined fixed rate as part of consumer's contracts for switching to HLO? Perhaps establish a 5 year rate with a set maximum you are allowed to increase the rate at the end of the 5 years on a per annum basis (e.g., $20.00 per year for 5 years with the right to increase the annual rate by 5% every year there after as the market requires?). Would a similair agreement be put into place for content prices?
I don’t mean to be disrespectful here, but is that a request that would be embraced by any other existing business? I’m certainly not aware of any business that would assent to something like that. There are simply way too many variables in an indeterminate future. Theoretically, hosting costs will go down over time, which could allow us to decrease the costs to users, but who knows whether that will actually occur. With the elimination of net neutrality, that could potentially play a factor in the future, but who knows how it would impact things at this juncture. I could come up with a half-dozen more examples if I spent a few minutes here. And that wouldn’t address the myriad possibilities that could emerge in the future.

The only option that I can think of at the moment – and that might make sense – is to give users the option to pay for a longer period of service up front at a further discounted price. There may be other possibilities, but that’s one that came to mind.

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Originally Posted by darkops View Post
5. You've made a decision to increase your overheads against the forecast of new user base that you will obtain. Its a bit of a slippery slope. It would be one thing to offer a product in two platforms. But at this point you aren't doing that. You are only offering new products in the new platform, which leaves your existing base in an awkward position (many of whom have asked for you to continue supporting your existing platform for this new content). Many of us might be more understanding if we knew what the increase in market was (e.g., 25,000 users to 50,000 users in 3 years) that drove you to this descision. Have you 'thrown' the baby out of the bathwater to appease 10% of the base who want to use an android phone or are you actually going to make a much better/more sustainable business from this decision? Have you guys developed off ramps for your 'road map' if you discover the change is not as popular as your forecast?
Offering the new game systems on both platforms would entail a significant cost. It’s not just a dollar cost. It’s an opportunity cost of having those same staff investing many months of effort on HLClassic that derails progress on HLOnline. That’s why our focus right now is on bringing the new game systems to HLOnline alone.

With respect to discussing the data upon which we based our decision, and the tradeoffs we assessed in coming to this decision, please see the reply I gave @flyteach at the top of post #9 in this thread. 

As for “off ramps”, there are a few that we’ve identified in our planning. Depending on how things unfold, we can employ one or more of them, as needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
6. This approach would work better if you hadn't moved to a server heavy platform for providing services. The suggestion is implying that if your company was doing poorly financially that the fan base would be willing to support you by accepting increase content cost. However, if the subscription fee is only to pay for the addition of your servers and you aren't making money off of that change (except some risk based margin for server maintenance that might not get used) then you have only increased customer cost as any other business upsets will still require content cost increases to pay for your companies increased costs. This hasn't saved anyone money or made a positive impact on budget conscious customers who would just wait slightly longer to afford the more expensive content package.
<snip>
I believe this is the same basic question/concern posed by @flyteach. Please see the rest of post #9 in this thread for my reply on this subject.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
7. So one of your presuppositions is "internet is or will be ubiquitous' for all your user base. It indeed makes it difficult to discuss the validity of this presupposition if you are not willing to state that it is wrong or that it is wrong for a non-negligible portion of your customer base. Clearly, from your forums, my small sample size of hero lab users, and my own anecdotal experience this presupposition is not fundamentally or necessarily true. This presupposition, I expect, will be the largest reason for any loss of customers going forward unless you commit to maintaining both platforms (timelines, milestones, etc.)
Our goal is to broaden the reach of Hero Lab to as wide an audience as possible, and we see HLOnline as a way to achieve that objective. The number of gamers who use laptops and desktops at their games is dwindling in favor of tablets and phones. And as I’ve outlined upthread, sticking with the HLClassic model and targeting those consumers/devices was not a viable strategy. So we had to adopt a completely new approach if we wanted to pursue supporting gamers on the devices they are using more and more.

There is definitely a downside to this. In the process of switching over to the new product model, it is likely that there will be some number of existing users that choose not to embrace the new model – and, in some cases, can’t. Is that ideal? Of course not. It’s an unfortunate reality of the situation. However, if we stick with the old model, we’ll lose a different – and we believe much larger – set of users as they abandon us because we don’t support the devices they choose to use in their games. We have to pick our poison, as we sadly can’t “do it all”.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
8. I applaud you designing proactively to minimize bandwidth in the future to help with 'bad' internet connections. That is good design and something you should do for all of your products. That being said, it doesn't address the presupposition in item 7. and fails to address the main concern. Performance at one convention is not ubiquitous with experiences at other conventions (or at homes/gaming areas) that take place internationally at sites with a varying degree of integrated telecommunication services. A online only model can't address this issue and your presupposition in 7. states that it is a issue that does not exist.
We’re not saying “it doesn’t exist”. However, it’s something that we believe impacts a limited subset of gamers, and we further believe that the impact will rapidly diminish over time for those who do experience it. Nobody can create a product that caters to the needs of every possible consumer on the planet. Tradeoffs always exist. So we’re faced with choosing a consumer profile that we believe gives us the broadest reach possible, both now and into the future. The HLOnline model achieves that. I would love to create a product that appeases everyone’s wants and needs, but that’s just not realistic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
9. That is good to hear you say. However, that critique is purely a risk based hypothetical. Whereas steps can be taken to ensure subscription or content prices are not increased, consumers can't assess whether a private company will fail in the near or long term. The critique still stands that the customer base would not readily be able to recover content/service because everything is server side. One would expect there would be a lot of warning prior to a failed private business. But anyone who has investigated buying a custom wood gaming table knows the story of how quickly Geek Chic went out of business. This critique is based on the hidden unknown risk to customers buying into a long term subscription based product.
I appreciate this concern, yet I’m not sure how things are different for HLOnline from HLClassic. The exact same concern should apply to HLClassic as for HLOnline. If we suddenly went out of business, HLClassic would begin to stop working for users. Without the ability to contact the server to secure a new keyfile, HLClassic would revert to demo mode the moment a user has something substantive change on their computer. Or the moment that a new computer is acquired. Or anything else that occurs and requires a new keyfile. The effects wouldn’t be immediate for most users, but they would begin soon after the server went down and would continue from there.

I’m sure the thinking is that a suitable hack could be instituted to get HLClassic working. Well, that might prove a bit difficult, as there have been very capable hackers who’ve tried to crack HLClassic (and Army Builder) over the years. To my knowledge, none have yet succeeded – one who proclaimed success didn’t actually come close to succeeding.

So allow me to present a counterpoint. Let’s say there was one product that ran on a server that was continuing to pay for itself and another product for which the revenue stream completely stopped. The first product could be allowed to continue operating in its current state for a very long time. The second product would be losing money the next day after the revenue stopped and would make no sense to continue operating the servers. In this example, the first product is HLOnline, which could be kept running pretty readily if the hosting revenue continued to come in and cover the costs of running it. The second product is HLClassic, for which all revenues would stop the moment that new sales of content stopped. From this standpoint, I view HLOnline with the separate hosting fee as the vastly safer avenue for any consumer to prefer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
10. Let me be the first to say that 95% of what I want from HLC is a PC generator/character sheet for use in live play (spells, conditions, etc. included). If GM aids like campaign encounters can be added then that will be welcomed too. But if all you can achieve is a port that gives me the same reliable, stable, quick, and efficient PC generator then I accept that ANY other features (shared space ships, GM trackers for parties, etc.) can only be offered online! Perfect. That is the dual platform support that I want. Strip those 'bells and whistles' that I won't ever use and give me the HLC features for those new RPG rulesets. We understand that you have a small company and have put focus on HLO. I also recognize that you have not definitively stated that HLC is dead or will never have support. But you need to recognize that if the generation of new content (new rulesets, not adaption of existing content into pre-existing rule sets) is solely focused on a different platform, then you have somewhat abandoned the old platform. As HLC waits in limbo for you to decide if we are worth getting the new RPG rulesets it will still 'feel' like you have abandoned HLC. Perhaps even just increasing company communication can help. I only found out that the 2e playtest was on HLO by reading strange 2e posts in the forums. I didn't realize you were even supporting 2e until after you had thrown something out there. Again, it makes HLC feel somewhat abandoned.
While this may sound like a simple request, it’s far from it in practice. It all boils down to the opportunity cost of tasking staff members to focus on HLClassic instead of HLOnline. As a small company, we simply don’t have enough staff to afford the luxury of dedicating staff for many months to bring each game system to the HLClassic platform – at least, not right now. Once we get HLOnline into a more mature state, we can re-assess the option of investing many months of effort into bringing games from HLOnline to HLClassic. For now, we need to focus those particular resources on the new product and continuing to support all the existing games on HLClassic – for which books continue to be published.

It’s absolutely not a question of deciding if you are “worth” getting the new game systems on HLClassic. It’s the harsh reality of severely limited resources, balancing our priorities, and practicality.

Increasing company communication is definitely an option – this was echoed above by Tim and Josh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
11. Again it is good to hear you say this. But instead of more features, I want to use your existing product (HLC) to explore these new rule sets. My players and I haven't picked up Starfinder largely because it isn't being supported by you in HLC. That is a powerful sentiment. Your product is so integrated with our use of RPGs that we would rather be left in the dust (or move to other supported systems, like 5e) than play the new systems we actually want to play. My warning to you is that this likely won't last forever. If someone enters the market place with a comparable product, I think a lot of frustrated HLC users will move. Although, likely not feasible, I would much rather that your company had expanded your team to fully support both platforms than move 80-90% of your support to the new platform with no clear roadmap as to how the old platform would receive these new/exciting rule-sets.
Alas, we don’t have significant funding resources available to us. We’ve built ourselves up from our bootstraps and must operate within our means. So expanding the team as you would have preferred was sadly never an option for us. That left us in a position where we had to make a lot of very hard choices. We did that, and HLOnline is the path we chose.

Writing a capable character creation tool is not easy. In the 12 years that Hero Lab has existed, there have been numerous tools that sought to usurp it. The only commercial one that I’m aware is still standing is D&DBeyond, and it’s had its share of difficulties, even though it’s funded with an annual budget many times larger than ours. Creating an initial tool is vastly easier than ensuring the tool can evolve with the complexities and vagaries of the game system. And a tool that supports games like Starfinder and Pathfinder is an order of magnitude more complex to write than for D&D5e. Consequently, if another tool enters the market, I like to think we’ll be able to see it coming and have the opportunity to make adjustments if it’s something to worry about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkops View Post
12. So while a snapshot is nice. I think a lot of headaches or complaints could be removed if the snapshot was also minimally editable. That would mean allowing a 'lite' version of your server to be run client side as an offline application. But if I was in a no/bad service area I could at least modify bonuses via things like spells or conditions. Until then, the loss of connectivity won't be solved by a 'snap shot' because it basically means I am stuck in paper and pencil mode during active play. That means the average user needs to really understand their character and the mechanics behind them and the 'crutch/aid' that your program is providing is immediately nullified. Please keep moving forward with your solution, but if the snap shot can't achieve some of the stated goals above, it won't be fit for purpose for the strongest critiques of HLO. Some might even be willing to pay a little bit more to have that lite server app so we have assurances of uninterrupted offline play (although some might describe that as extortion).
Running the HL Engine on most devices is simply not practical. As such, putting a “lite” server on the local device is similarly not feasible. That said, we have some ideas that we’re exploring that could work to allow in-play support along the lines you’re seeking. Those are what I referred to as “further stages”. We’re definitely not planning to stop at the snapshot stage, but we’re also not at a point where we can publicly discuss those further stages.

Thanks!
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rob
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Old August 13th, 2018, 02:59 AM
Tim/Josh:

If you guys didn't ask the questions, then I'm sure someone else would have. So it's water under the bridge now...
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Old August 13th, 2018, 03:05 AM
NOTE TO EVERYONE:

As valuable as this dialog is, I also have a ton of development work I need to do. I spent a huge chunk of the last few days writing the initial post and responding to all the questions here. So I now need to focus on all my development tasks.

I think that the most common and pressing questions/concerns have been expressed and answered in the dialog above. So I'll return here to answer further questions in probably a few days.

Thanks for your patience!
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bruuuuuu
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Old August 13th, 2018, 07:42 AM
Thanks, Rob. I had had some serious concerns about the direction and viability of the company. You've laid them to rest, and I appreciate your candor. Carry one with your good work, and I'll await further news about the products that you guys create and that I love.
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ShadowChemosh
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Old August 13th, 2018, 10:16 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob View Post
NOTE TO EVERYONE:

As valuable as this dialog is, I also have a ton of development work I need to do. I spent a huge chunk of the last few days writing the initial post and responding to all the questions here. So I now need to focus on all my development tasks.

I think that the most common and pressing questions/concerns have been expressed and answered in the dialog above. So I'll return here to answer further questions in probably a few days.

Thanks for your patience!
I really appreciate you spending the time giving some info. I can only speak for myself but it made me feel better knowing what is going on.

Please take care of yourself Rob. I struggle with my own medical issues and I understand totally.

Hero Lab Resources:
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3.5 D&D (d20) - Community Server Setup
5E D&D - Community Server Setup
Hero Lab Help - Hero Lab FAQ, Editor Tutorials and Videos, Editor & Scripting Resources.
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- d20 HL package volunteer editor.
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TCArknight
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Old August 13th, 2018, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by ShadowChemosh View Post
I really appreciate you spending the time giving some info. I can only speak for myself but it made me feel better knowing what is going on.

Please take care of yourself Rob. I struggle with my own medical issues and I understand totally.
+1 for these sentiments....

Working on -
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jlong05
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Old August 13th, 2018, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by rob View Post
That is absolutely correct. Using the Authoring Kit, anyone could create their own version of the Starfinder game system (or Pathfinder 2nd Edition). And those data files could then be shared with other users. So there is nothing stopping a user-created version of either game system on HLClassic.

That said, I'm guessing most users that are asking for HLClassic support would prefer us to do the work, since it would be a significant effort to put it all together. If it was fast and easy, we would have done it ourselves.
Rob,

Having been around since the old AB days with you and a developer for those, I fully understand the point. My point, as you confirmed, was that everyone making a complaint that the HLC tool is forgotten for Starfinder or PF2 need to be reminded from time to time that the tool is an authoring kit and with the correct licensing they are fully able to create any system then want/need.

But it takes effort and that is the key part. The assumption is that LWD has the time to do that effort, and forget that you are a business and have determined to place your effort elsewhere (for now).

The only "hobby" GW is interested in is lining their pockets with your money.
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Duggan
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Old August 13th, 2018, 02:56 PM
{nods} HLO won't really be a thing for me without either Mutants and Masterminds or Authoring Kit support, but I appreciate your willingness to innovate.

And, since you were discussing personnel changes, is Colen entirely out of the game, replaced by DaveM? That's the impression I'd gotten, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions.
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thaX
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Old August 13th, 2018, 08:14 PM
Please, for the love of Gawd, if you begin feeling like that again, go see a doctor and tell him about it, in great detail, with footnotes.
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