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rob
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 8,262

Old July 13th, 2020, 12:52 AM
I’ve been dark here on the forums for quite a few weeks now, and it’s time to provide an update on HLO. Please don’t read anything special into my absence. It’s simply that there are limits on what I can accomplish. A few years ago, I worked ridiculous hours on a protracted basis and nearly killed myself in the process (literally). So I’ve imposed some constraints upon myself (which most would still consider ridiculous hours), and I juggle everything within those limits. After spending the past many weeks focused on development tasks, I’m back to recap what we’ve been up to and provide a glimpse into what's coming.

Shift in Focus

Back in April and May, it became clear that Covid-19 was going to be with us for many months, and it was changing the dynamics of gaming. We therefore made some adjustments to our priorities, deferring some of the things that we previously had planned to work on in favor of other features that were becoming more important in the new gaming landscape. As such, various capabilities we had mentioned as “upcoming” earlier this year have been postponed, while some of the new priorities are starting to come to fruition and still others remain in progress.

Dice Roller

One of the things most requested by users was a more flexible and deeply integrated dice roller, which debuted at the start of July. HLO also now features a shared roll history that’s viewable by everyone in the campaign. The overall mechanism will continue evolving in upcoming releases, including support for private rolls between player and GM, customization of rolls, arbitrary rolls, GMs making secret rolls for PCs, and a lot more.

Integration with Other Tools

With the massive shift to online gaming platforms, we’ve been working to expose character content for external consumption. This will enable users to write their own custom output filters (e.g. character sheets) and make integration with VTTs a reality (subject to companion coding on the VTT side, obviously). We had originally hoped to have this available by now, but we ran into an issue.

Since Hero Lab supports multiple game systems, we need a mechanism that is entirely data-driven – i.e. derived directly from the data files. What we discovered was that, in order to do this well, a major overhaul of the data files is required before we can release the new mechanism publicly. We could cut this corner and produce an inferior result, but we’re taking the long view, since this is a mechanism we hope will be adopted and used for many years.

Unfortunately, the data file team has also been grappling with multiple massive rulebooks for all the various RPGs, so the overhaul has been performed at a much slower rate than we would have preferred. The current expectation is that this mechanism will debut in early August for Starfinder, with Pathfinder 2E and Shadowrun 6E likely following in September and October, respectively.

Campaign Theater

A cornerstone of HLO is Campaign Theater, and it has been steadily evolving with a long list of enhancements being introduced over the past few months. An even longer list lies ahead, with new capabilities that should make running game sessions even more enjoyable. We’ve also taken a hard look at some of the features we’ve already released and how we can improve upon them. One key area is the overall Stage workflow, where certain aspects can be made clearer, so we’re reworking it. The net result will hopefully yield a more intuitive model that further streamlines game play. The next wave of changes should debut in time for GenConOnline at the end of the month.

General User Experience Improvements

The past few months have featured some significant refinements in how HLO operates, both in how it presents information and handles a wide range of situations. The product should now feel both smoother and easier to use, as well as more responsive overall. Many of the “rough edges” have now been polished to yield a more pleasant experience using the product, and further refinements should appear in the weeks ahead.

New Rule Books

As is typical, spring and summer are a busy period for RPG book releases. We’ve been hard at work getting these books into place within HLO in parallel with all of the new features outlined above. Here’s a quick recap of recently released and upcoming books:
  • Starfinder Near Space – Available now
  • Pathfinder 2E Lost Omens: Gods & Magic – Available now
  • Shadowrun 6E Firing Squad – We received this book well after its release, and we’ve been inundated with all the other books, so it’s still in the queue.
  • Pathfinder 2E Bestiary 2 – Available now
  • Pathfinder 2E Advanced Player’s Guide – On track to release at the end of July, in time for GenConOnline
  • Starfinder Starship Operations Manual – HLO support will not coincide with the book’s release. We originally planned to fully support starships within HLO in conjunction with this book, but we shifted our priorities as outlined above. When we integrate starship support into HLO, this book will be part of that effort.
Adventure Paths and Modules

We receive a steady stream of requests to put all the missing adventure paths and modules into HLO – both player and GM content. We absolutely want to get all that material into place. Unfortunately, the data file team is at its limit with all the big rule books and the rework needed to integrate with external tools, so we have been unable to make headway in that area.

To hopefully mitigate this situation, we will shortly be seeking one or two contractors to help us with data file development. If you or anyone you know has experience writing data files for HLClassic (the underlying Hero Lab language is the same) and is seeking work opportunities, stay tuned for that announcement.

What’s Next?

The plan for the next month or two was outlined above. After that, we are weighing a number of options. An important consideration in our deliberations is what users tell us they want, so please continue sharing your ideas and suggestions with us on the forums. We may not be directly responding, but we ARE reading them and factoring them into how we prioritize what to work on next.

Thank you for your continued support!
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