Roll20: TSR Endorsement and Tabletop Forge

Roll20, the virtual tabletop, has been having a busy couple of weeks. Last week they released a press release announcing they had surpassed 100,000 users. This week Roll20 has released a press release announcing their endorsement by the newly launched TSR as their “official tabletop”. This week’s press release also announces Tabletop Forge ceasing development and joining in with Roll20!

My comments, particularly on the Tabletop Forge news, follow the press release presented here in its entirety.

Application solidifies its status as the preeminent long distance gaming solution
Roll20 LogoWichita, Kansas (January 29th, 2013) – This week two major announcements regarding the popular online roleplaying program Roll20 became public.  The first involved the newly launched TSR company endorsing Roll20 as their “official tabletop,” the second pertained to the lead developer of competing game space Tabletop Forge announcing he was halting production on the program to instead help with future enrichments to Roll20.

“The most flattering part of all this is that they both came to us,” said Roll20 co-founder and lead developer Riley Dutton.  “It really helps make us feel like we must be doing something right.”

The new TSR was formed by Jayson Elliot to cover multiple aspects of gaming, beginning with the launch of “Gygax Magazine” next month.  Elliot was one of the first adopters of Roll20 in the Kickstarter phase.  Additionally, a feature by Roll20 co-founder Nolan T. Jones’ brother, Nevin P. Jones, will be in the initial issue of Gygax Magazine covering Nevin’s first roleplaying experience which was accomplished using his brother’s application.

Tabletop Forge was begun as a Google Hangout application by Joshuha Owen with the purpose of helping the vibrant Google+ roleplaying community to better realize their games.  The Google+ page for Tabletop Forge boasts over 11,000 members, many of whom supported the program’s KIckstarter last year.  However, Joshuha decided that the community would best be served by a single HTML5 solution.

“There are lots of options for roleplaying over the internet, but it became redundant to have both Roll20 and Tabletop Forge, as in many ways they were serving the same community and had similar features including a common goal of being lightweight and easy to use,” remarked Joshuha.  As such, the creators of both programs say they will be treating all Tabletop Forge’s Kickstarter backers as if they had made their pledges to Roll20, migrating Tabletop Forge assets to Roll20, and be working with a multitude of RPG artists to bring their content to the platform.

Roll20 began as an effort to keep developers Dutton, Jones, and Richard Zayas in touch via long distance gaming.  Their project went public with an eighteen day Kickstarter campaign in April of 2012.  Since then it has attracted over 100,000 users as a free service.  The program continues to be funded by subscribers who receive features that assist advanced gameplay.

The news of the TSR endorsement from Saturday’s Gygax Magazine unboxing has been out there for several days already. The TSR endorsement does not come as a big surprise to me. Roll20 is very easy to use and has remained so even as they continue to add more features. I have had very little trouble getting people connected and up and playing with Roll20. Congrats to Roll20 on this endorsement though, it can only grow their player base.

The Tabletop Forge news is the big item for me. My first experiences with VTTs in a Google+ Hangout environment was with Tabletop Forge. Several of my early G+ games were done over G+ Hangouts and Tabletop Forge. TTF development moved at a very rapid pace in the beginning. When they ran a Kickstarter for TTF I pitched in and I pointed several people to the Kickstarter to help support them.

Since then things slowed down from the TTF side. Development appeared to have slowed, art assets were slow to get released, etc. My groups ended up playing on Roll20 and really did not look back.

Joshuha Owen did a good job of communicating in the aftermath of the Kickstarter. Several of his developers who had been helping him left, leaving him with the Kickstarter ball. And though the process was slow, he did get the art assets to people via Google Drive, even if they weren’t integrated with TTF.

I think this move to bring content that was Kickstarted to Roll20 is a good move on Joshuha’s part. It seems like a very eloquent way to bring the TTF Kickstarter to a close and attempt to make everyone happy in the end.

This move will also likely benefit Roll20 rather significantly with an influx of art assets, map tiles, and such that were funded as part of TTF. And it will likely bring them an influx of more users as word gets out that Roll20 is the VTT that will continue moving forward.

2 thoughts on “Roll20: TSR Endorsement and Tabletop Forge

  1. I just don’t believe $30,000 of the KS $ has been spent. There are also a lot of backers that kicked in a hell of a lot more than$20, where does that leave us? Even though this was handled better than most KS failures its still a lot less than promised.
    Will we get lifetime subscriptions? What about games that were pledged for? Many have gone unfulfilled. We will see how things pan out but I’ve a bad feeling about it…

    • TTF posted a mini-accounting review of where the money went. Here’s the post from over on G+:

      “$25,000 of the money went towards paying artists, acquiring PDFs, and to other designers for the rewards that have been sent out. The rest is being saved for taxes and any remaining funds will be saved for investments in those same things in Roll20. I have not spent anything on personal items not related to the project at all as my day job earns me a comfortable living. This isn’t about taking the money and running, it’s about focusing the efforts on one tool that will do the job right.”

      The art assets are available for download now, that was announced in a Kickstarter Update for Backers Only. The art is supposed to be integrated to Roll20 as art assets there.

      I don’t know about the subscriptions as lifetime. I do know my account was upgraded and I no longer get ads when launching my campaign.

      The games that were pledged for are still in the works I believe. They mentioned they were working on contacting the folks supposed to run the games over the the TTF G+ page. Not sure of the status of that issue beyond that however.

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