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flyteach
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Old August 12th, 2018, 11:07 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob View Post
On this point, we may just have to agree to disagree. But allow me to ask a couple questions first. Do you intend to only ever use a desktop or laptop for your gaming from now into the indeterminate future? Do you have no desire for a more connected and streamlined experience with the other members of your gaming group during games? If your answers are both yes, then what we're doing with HLOnline doesn't match your personal requirements, and that’s unfortunate.
Rob, cogent arguments and I'll let it sit except that I never said I wasn't a device user. I only said I was not an Android user. HLClassic (on a lightweight laptop like a surface or an iPad) run great while on a cruise boat, beach, camping trip, whatever. HLOnline, not so much. Also, in many cases while internet may be available, it's not always free or inexpensive. The exorbitant fees hotels charge is one example (my experience being anywhere from $10 to $30 per day).

As far as the outage, while the page said "see the forums for information", until today that outage was never acknowledged and nothing posted on the forum about status. So, while you new about it within a minute, it took 3 hours (or so) to fix and no post on status (like, that LWD was even aware and/or working on it). What's the point of directing people to the forum if we can't get information about what's going on with our data? Bugs will happen, I get that, and Murphy always prevails. But at least tell us what's going on.
Flyteach
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ShadowChemosh
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Old August 12th, 2018, 11:25 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by flyteach View Post
As far as the outage, while the page said "see the forums for information", until today that outage was never acknowledged and nothing posted on the forum about status. So, while you new about it within a minute, it took 3 hours (or so) to fix and no post on status (like, that LWD was even aware and/or working on it). What's the point of directing people to the forum if we can't get information about what's going on with our data? Bugs will happen, I get that, and Murphy always prevails. But at least tell us what's going on.
Rob agrees and already mentioned this in his post:
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob View Post
We have various mechanisms in place to automatically detect and notify us when something goes sideways. Unfortunately, our messaging to users in those situations is poor. That's something that was sidelined in the push to get PF2 into place for GenCon, and it’s near the top of the pile to address now that we're back. We were just discussing it on Thursday.

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Last edited by ShadowChemosh; August 12th, 2018 at 11:27 AM.
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rob
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Old August 12th, 2018, 11:39 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by flyteach View Post
Rob, cogent arguments and I'll let it sit except that I never said I wasn't a device user. I only said I was not an Android user.
Sorry about that! I misinterpreted the "anymore" when you said "I'm not an Android user (anymore)".

Quote:
Originally Posted by flyteach View Post
HLClassic (on a lightweight laptop like a surface or an iPad) run great while on a cruise boat, beach, camping trip, whatever. HLOnline, not so much. Also, in many cases while internet may be available, it's not always free or inexpensive. The exorbitant fees hotels charge is one example (my experience being anywhere from $10 to $30 per day).
Fair points.

With the iPad, the reason we never added more game systems is because each new game required months to implement the UI. Then each game became a maintenance load as it evolved with new mechanics for us to support. So that wasn't a viable path forward for us without a massive change to how things worked. The current HLOnline approach obviated that need.

For Android, we had two real choices if we stuck with the HLClassic model. Option #1 was to develop a native application in parallel with the iPad, with it's own maintenance burden. Option #2 was to switch to a completely new technology stack like Unity. Both of those approaches entailed huge ongoing investments, while the HLOnline approach obviated them both, as well.

So while the Surface works nicely with HLClassic, the two largest platforms (Android and iPad) represented problems for us that we had to address with whatever path we chose. The HLOnline model emerged as the best path forward to address all of our needs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by flyteach View Post
As far as the outage, while the page said "see the forums for information", until today that outage was never acknowledged and nothing posted on the forum about status. So, while you new about it within a minute, it took 3 hours (or so) to fix and no post on status (like, that LWD was even aware and/or working on it). What's the point of directing people to the forum if we can't get information about what's going on with our data? Bugs will happen, I get that, and Murphy always prevails. But at least tell us what's going on.
Flyteach
I forgot to mention above that BJ was speaking on a GenCon panel when the outage occurred. More Murphy's Law. So the coordination of things from the CS side was seriously hampered, as well. I know we posted some basic info on social media, but none of us thought about the forums in the midst of scrambling to cover the busy booth with a skeleton staff while also getting the problem figured out and fixed.

So we definitely dropped the ball on that. Sorry!
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ShadowChemosh
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Old August 12th, 2018, 12:10 PM
Before BJ is back from vacation and Rob is not allowed to talk anymore I have a opposite opinion to say. Normally I 100% defend LW but I have to say I have a frustration myself as it relates to both HLO and HLC.

In the last year+ LW has gone to CIA level of secrecy with what it is doing. I recently stumbled across huge and exciting new features in HL for its scripting capabilities. While this is great news its not good that I had to find it by chance.

Granted this is not news worthy to everyone. Except it would be to many of the dedicated Community Editors. It also helps to show that LW had NOT given up on making improvements to HLC and HLO at the same time. That is important for letting people know that LW had not given up.

In the last few months I have gotten PMs and emails asking if LW was going under. From the outside world it looked, because of the silence and key people leaving, that LW could be going away. I had to point to the new features added in stealth updates and features as proof it was not. But honestly why should we as customers have to "dig" around "hoping" to find such info?

Where are the developer blogs or posts talking about the features LW is adding? Paizo has posts introducing new employees and even interns. This would help with the new employees that LW hired to show again that they are not going away but changing. But all the forums had been told was that people like Colen and Ion had left. I recently learned a guy named Gabriel works for LW. Who is he? What does he do? Shrug no clue...

What about all these "taking servers down" posts about? Why do they not contain at least a tidbit of information about WHY it is happening. What features are being added in all these "servers maintenance posts"? IMHO this would at least let people see progress or changes if we knew "something" was being changed or added.

This is just my personal opinion of course and maybe other's don't care about knowing about improvements or employees. I can only point to the fact that years ago I didn't get emails/PMs asking if LW was going under. To me that should be a concern...

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5E D&D - Community Server Setup
Hero Lab Help - Hero Lab FAQ, Editor Tutorials and Videos, Editor & Scripting Resources.
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Last edited by ShadowChemosh; August 12th, 2018 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Putting back as it referenced....
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daplunk
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Old August 12th, 2018, 02:37 PM
+1 Shadow.

The last year has been really damaging to LWD's reputation. I have also received almost weekly messages questioning the health of LWD. People wanting to know how risky it is to invest in your software with concerns that the company is on the brink of going under.

I know you guys have had a really tough year, don't need to speak to anyone to see that writing on the wall. But it has been handled in a really poor way. Communication dropped off and you went silent. Just need to look at the Newsletter page to really see that.



You hired a 'communication' manager which was the perfect opportunity to start fixing this but then he moved into manning the support mailbox and never communicated anything. At this stage I don't know if Rone knows any more than us as all we see him do is repeated known information and post his attempt to calm the masses with RPG tid bits.

As a company who...

Quote:
Originally Posted by rob View Post
All of our products have succeeded thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations from gamers.
You have done everything possible this year to ensure that the 'word of mouth' advertising has reduced. You cannot see a conversation on Facebook without someone piping up about how unreliable the company is and the risk that therefore places on a purchase.

While we are on feedback.
  • Your website is confusing customers. It's an overly complex web of pages with too much information that is laid our in a fashion that has not been used since the early 90s. It's clear you are working to fix that with the new store, just don't forget it's there. Close down the bits you don't need and push everything as quick as you can to the new store. You can literally takes guesses on the year products came out based on their web sites.
  • Your company feels splintered. It's clear that all resources have moved on to HLO leaving the lights off with everyone else. Without your newsletter bringing that all together people people are already thinking they have been forgotten.
  • No news can still be news. We all suspect nothing has happening in the LWD office for Realm Works this year but there's some great community tools keeping the pulse beeping. These are things that could create content for your newsletters.
  • For the love of god give people visibility on what you are doing. Consumers have higher expectations these days and they want a Road Map to have an idea of what you are working on. People will invest in your tools if they feel like it's moving in a positive direction.
  • Monthly Dev Updates are needed. Just have a look at D&DBeyond and the community they are growing. They have suffered their own delays this year and yet the community behind them is stronger than ever. Their monthly Dev Update Videos are creating magic for them.
  • Clean up your forums. Some of the sticky posts have not had relevance in years. If you don't have the resources empower some of the key members of the community to help you get on top of them.
  • Clean up your YouTube Channel. That Realm Works video showing the Web Version with discussion of it coming out soon is doing you no favours at this point.

And Rob. It's good to hear from you.

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flyteach
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Old August 12th, 2018, 03:53 PM
Rob,
Thank you for your engagement! We may not agree on everything, but we can probably agree that the discussion is good and keeps all sides more informed (I think you're reading more about that above) <grin>
Flyteach
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darkops
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Old August 12th, 2018, 06:15 PM
Thank you for taking the time to provide more detailed explanations. As well, I appreciate the consolidation of this discussion to one thread. I have some comments/questions/critique. Know that I do so with the upmost respect in the event that the phrasing does not read that way.

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.

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?

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?

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.

It sounds more like you are making profit off of the subscription in addition to the increase in overhead due to your platform switch. That means that you have made a business decision that precludes the suggested solution being equitable. That would be all acceptable if new content was being released in both HCL and HLO platforms, but that isn't true. As it stands if your existing customer base wants to use your product for the 2e playtest or Starfinder, they HAVE to move to this new business model even if it doesn't provide any feature addition that they would use. This is a big complaint of HLC users. That those bells and whistles, the server cost, etc. is being treated as a catch all reason for why you need a subscription fee. That doesn't feel completely honest. It is like saying that the new Android phone generation/model has now made the phone 20% louder. It is indeed an improvement. But is it a improvement that warrants purchasing a new phone and did we really need that upgrade? Or is this improvement a means to pushing a new product cycle?

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

Again, I thank you for taking the time to have this discussion. I really appreciate having this much voice as a customer and think it reflects very highly on your company. It is part of the reason that I want to remain a loyal/committed customer to your company (even though we currently disagree on HLO).
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rob
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Old August 12th, 2018, 10:44 PM
Sorry for resurrecting bits of your post, Tim, but you raised some valid points, and Josh’s post kinda ties in, so I’m just going to bite the bullet and provide some answers. I really didn’t want to discuss some of this stuff, but Josh isn’t really giving me any choice in the matter, so it’s time for me to just suck it up. Here goes…

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShadowChemosh View Post
In the last year+ LW has gone to CIA level of secrecy with what it is doing.
About two years ago, I started getting sick with great frequency. As has always been my custom, I shrugged it off and kept working my usual hours anyways (often 90+ hours each week). The ailments continued to get more serious, and I just continued to work through them. After a few months of that, I found myself in the hospital with some very serious issues. I spent a few weeks effectively doing a guest star appearance on the TV show “House”, with multiple doctors trying to figure out what was wrong and making all sorts of wrong guesses along the way. They finally figured out WHAT was wrong, but to this day they still don’t have a clue HOW I got it.

Without going into further details, I believe I essentially broke myself. I’ve spent the past 20 months on huge doses of brutal meds that have taken a massive toll on my body. I've been a shell of my former self, and that's had a profound impact on everything we've been trying to do as a company. But I’m still alive and kicking, so that’s better than the alternative, right?

One unfortunate aspect of the meds is that I can barely sleep. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in 20 months, and sleep deprivation on this level puts a serious crimp in one’s ability to have clarity for in-depth coding. It also makes a person pretty irritable. Another aspect of the meds is that it puts users on edge all the time. I’m sharing all this, because it’s pertinent in multiple ways.

Needless to say, my ability to get stuff done was seriously compromised. The doctors provided misleading information in some key ways, so I mistakenly thought that the situation would improve “any month now”. In conjunction with this, there were ongoing problems with obtaining a viable implementation of the API we needed from Paizo to get the Realm Works Content Market completed and launched. So we operated for a while from a place of hoping that things would get better shortly, and we outwardly remained hopeful and positive in our communications. After that wore on for a bit, we realized that the positive thinking we were projecting was starting to be viewed as misinformation by users – and understandably so.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team focused their energies on getting HLOnline into place. We experienced some setbacks along that path, which resulted in everything taking longer than intended, but it DID all come together. The problem was that our credibility was basically shot. Between HLO delays, the mistaken belief that I’d be getting better quickly, and continuing to not have what we needed to complete the RW Content Market, few believed us anymore, so the simplest solution was to “go quiet” and just release things when they were in place. This is what I’m assuming you mean when you refer to a “CIA level of secrecy”. It wasn’t intended to be secrecy. We simply stopped talking about anything until it was actually released, lest mere comments about upcoming products and features would be misconstrued as more empty promises. As part of this shift, our notices when things DID get released were typically centered on brief announcements on social media.

I’ve finally crossed an important milestone, so I’m slowly getting off the nastiest meds and beginning to feel a little bit better, and that means I should be able to contribute significantly more than I have for the past 20 months. We successfully got the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest out the door at GenCon. And we theoretically now have enough pieces available of Paizo’s API that we can rework some things on our end and hopefully get the Realm Works Content Market launched. <fingers crossed> So things are looking up. That said, we weren’t planning to discuss that stuff publicly until this thread made things difficult for me to NOT disclose it.

When I saw many of the comments being made in various threads about HLOnline, it frustrated me to see some of the misconceptions that existed. I figured we needed to provide at least a modicum of clarity on what we’re doing at this point. Fortunately, the fact that I’m feeling a tiny bit better allowed me to write the original post. I just hope I don’t say anything that belies my inherent irritability as this thread progresses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShadowChemosh View Post
Where are the developer blogs or posts talking about the features LW is adding? Paizo has posts introducing new employees and even interns. This would help with the new employees that LW hired to show again that they are not going away but changing. But all the forums had been told was that people like Colen and Ion had left. I recently learned a guy named Gabriel works for LW. Who is he? What does he do? Shrug no clue...
I’d love to write about some of the things we’re putting into place, but it simply hasn’t been feasible. I was asked to turn in my forum posting privileges once the sleep deprivation and edginess from the meds started to bleed through into my forum posts. That was a long while back. This is my first time back on the forums since then, and there’s a lot of trepidation about it, since the sleep deprivation and edginess still persist.

Everyone here is working long hours to get everything into place, so taking out the time for developer blogs would delay getting critical functionality into place. Besides, most of the folks here are classic software developers that aren’t ideally suited to writing blogs. The CS team also has a full dance card already, so allocating time from them to write blogs would similarly incur delays on the things they’re dealing with. I’m NOT disagreeing with you that the blogs would probably be helpful in some ways, but we’ve been operating from the perspective that any such blogs would be taken by most with a huge grain of salt, so we figured it was more productive to focus on getting code into place and support tickets answered. We can revisit that thinking and re-assess.

Since you specifically asked about staff, here’s the quick rundown. Over the past year, we’ve lost two developers and one CS person. Within that same span, we’ve hired four new developers and two people for the CS team. So we’re absolutely growing. As for names on the developer side, Josh and Gabe have joined the UI team working on the HLO front end. Dave has taken over the HL Engine – not to be confused with David on the Server stuff. And Ryan is a jack-of-all-trades who’s wearing multiple hats right now. On the CS side, Rone and Ryan (another one) are now working with BJ.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShadowChemosh View Post
What about all these "taking servers down" posts about? Why do they not contain at least a tidbit of information about WHY it is happening. What features are being added in all these "servers maintenance posts"? IMHO this would at least let people see progress or changes if we knew "something" was being changed or added.
Immediately after each of these instances where we take the servers down, you should be seeing release notes posted that highlight the key things introduced within the new release. The outage last Saturday was an exception to this, since that was just a nasty problem that we fixed. There’s usually a sticky thread with these details that remains until the next release is deployed. For example, there’s a thread entitled “Gen Con Update” present right now. If we haven’t done that in some cases, that’s a problem that we’ll need to rectify, so please let us know when that occurred so we can figure out what’s gone wrong in the process and get it corrected.

Hope this helps!

Last edited by rob; August 12th, 2018 at 10:55 PM.
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Old August 12th, 2018, 10:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by daplunk View Post
The last year has been really damaging to LWD's reputation. I have also received almost weekly messages questioning the health of LWD. People wanting to know how risky it is to invest in your software with concerns that the company is on the brink of going under.

I know you guys have had a really tough year, don't need to speak to anyone to see that writing on the wall. But it has been handled in a really poor way. Communication dropped off and you went silent. Just need to look at the Newsletter page to really see that.
See my reply to Tim above for a lot of context.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daplunk View Post
You hired a 'communication' manager which was the perfect opportunity to start fixing this but then he moved into manning the support mailbox and never communicated anything. At this stage I don't know if Rone knows any more than us as all we see him do is repeated known information and post his attempt to calm the masses with RPG tid bits.

You have done everything possible this year to ensure that the 'word of mouth' advertising has reduced. You cannot see a conversation on Facebook without someone piping up about how unreliable the company is and the risk that therefore places on a purchase.
The decision to "go quiet" was a collective one. It's quite possible that it was a poor decision - hindsight is 20/20, as they say - but we were also hurting ourselves with the previous approach. And I REALLY did NOT want to go public with my health issues. But that's happened in the end, anyways. <sigh>

Quote:
Originally Posted by daplunk View Post
While we are on feedback.
I will make sure that BJ sees your list when she gets back, and we'll take it under advisement.
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daplunk
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Old August 12th, 2018, 11:22 PM
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. I just felt it was necessary to ensure you are aware of the impact of the last year as the silence is being talked about in places outside of LWD circles and is impacting on your brand and consumers faith in your products.

I am really happy to hear you are coming out the end of it and wish you nothing but the best wishes.

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