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-   -   Much Needed Status Update (http://forums.wolflair.com/showthread.php?t=64521)

rob July 13th, 2020 12:52 AM

Much Needed Status Update
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!

flyteach July 13th, 2020 03:07 PM

You asked for it, here it is. I've been asking for starships in Starfinder since HLO started beta as starships are, well, kinda crucial to Starfinder. Now I see it's put off indefinitely.

rob July 13th, 2020 04:58 PM


Originally Posted by flyteach (Post 289670)
You asked for it, here it is. I've been asking for starships in Starfinder since HLO started beta as starships are, well, kinda crucial to Starfinder. Now I see it's put off indefinitely.

I'm truly confused. Could you please explain how you've drawn this conclusion that starships are being "put off indefinitely"? They won't be out for GenCon, but that is far from "indefinitely".

You may also wish to review my response in the linked thread (post #11) for greater context on the situation on our end: http://forums.wolflair.com/showthread.php?t=64429

talsharien July 14th, 2020 02:26 AM

Thanks for the summary Rob, it is nice to have a central post where we can see everything that has changed, as I use PF2 only it is sometimes easy to forget that there are other games being worked on here as well.

The campaign theatre and subsequent dice roller have been received well, with my campaigns now fully adopting both of these items. I agree that with what has been happening in the world, the priority of these areas certainly increased (all my games are now completely online).

There are two things that I would really like to congratulate the HL team on.

1. Your response to serious faults has been nothing short of superb, on two occassions I have raised help through your FB page (at odd times as I am UK based) and had problems resolved mid gaming session. The bug report system has also worked well.

2. Releasing books for HL in line with actual releases from Paizo etc has impressed. One of my returning players (from HLC) asked how long it would be before he could build a character in HLO with an APG class and my response was "HLO support will be pretty much straight away".

All in all, thanks and keep up the good work.

flyteach July 14th, 2020 04:43 PM

It's clear that other priorities come before Starships. Since there's always something new and shiny, it's hard to tell when this'll be available. Indefinite: lasting for an unknown or unstated length of time. I'd say that definition holds in this case.

thaX July 15th, 2020 05:52 AM

As the jump from Computer Program located on the user's computer went to the Online App via web portal, my overall concern had been pretty simple. Can I use this as a character generator and have the printed character sheet at the table?

The answer is "well...."

I hope that some sort of character sheet print out is being worked on that will use the standard format for the system it is printing, or have choices of what "character sheet format" can be used. Thus far, the current (vastly improved, thank you) sheet is serviceable, though I did put in a bug report about not having the notes section on the main sheet. (or in any of the printouts, for that matter)

With the online sessions being used almost exclusively for the time being, having the VTT compatibility will be nice, and the new books being in as released (or in a timely manner) is awesome, and I don't begrudge the hard work put in thus far.

Thank you for the update, Rob.

NCCraftBeer July 18th, 2020 08:30 AM

Thanks for the update. Please take care of yourself. Is there anyway to either sign up for notification when items like the PF2e Advanced Players Guide are available or pre-order?

Thanks for all your work and for the great product.

dacoobob July 18th, 2020 03:31 PM


Originally Posted by rob (Post 289677)
I'm truly confused. Could you please explain how you've drawn this conclusion that starships are being "put off indefinitely"? They won't be out for GenCon, but that is far from "indefinitely".[/url]

No hint of a target date has been offered, so the delay is by definition "indefinite". Could be three weeks after GenCon, could be three years. We have no way of knowing until you tell us.

EDIT: I'll add that the reluctance to give a time estimate is worrisome, considering that starship management was supposed to be a core feature of HLO and was one of the main justifications given for moving to an online model in the first place. The fact that there's still no firm plan for implementation nearly three years later doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

markelphoenix July 19th, 2020 12:45 PM

I am concerned by the development focus. For me as a customer, I have used Hero Labs products to generate my characters using all available rule books (which on Hero Labs Classic, I was prompt to pay for the additional content as soon as it was available).

As a customer, it appears as if the 'plot has been lost' with focus being on trying to simulate virtual tabletops, when the market is already inundated with virtual tabletop offerings. What the market is not inundated with is character generators for these games.

As a long time customer of the HL Classic who promptly bought every available source material release to continue to give me the option to create new and interesting characters, am kind of baffled by this.

If team is currently inundated with source material, shouldn't that take a higher priority over additional tabletop functionality? Shadowrun is a great example, where Firing Squad, Adversary, Krime Katalogue, Shadowrun: Shadow Stock: Ingentis Athletes, and No Future content have not been added or offered for the HLO offering.

Further concerning is that from the above list, the only source material mentioned to be added is Firing Squad.

As a customer for a character generation tool, my expectation is of rapid offering of released source material that adds options to character creation. Perhaps I have rose colored glasses of the Hero Lab Classic days and am just remembering prompt and verbose delivery on content releases.

Was initially excited about Hero Labs Online, given my experience with Hero Labs Classic....sad to say that that excitement has been replaced with disappointment.

Farling July 19th, 2020 02:34 PM


Originally Posted by markelphoenix (Post 289773)
As a customer, it appears as if the 'plot has been lost' with focus being on trying to simulate virtual tabletops, when the market is already inundated with virtual tabletop offerings. What the market is not inundated with is character generators for these games.

LWD are not creating a VTT, they are providing integration so that your character sheet can be used online alongside other VTTs (where the VTT supplier, or their community, have created the relevant links to the LWD web site to access the character sheet).

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