Pathfinder Online MMO

Kickstarter Background

Earlier this week Goblinworks announced their second Kickstarter for the Pathfinder Online MMO. This kickstarter has a lofty goal of raising $1,000,000 to speed up the production of the MMO. They have 45 days to raise this money.

Goblinworks did a Kickstarter this summer to raise funds for the Technology Demo. This demo was going to be used to show investors what the team was capable of and to show Goblinworks was serious about this endeavor. They managed to raise over $300,000 for that Kickstarter when they set out to raise only $50,000.

I was a backer of the original kickstarter, primarily because they lured me in with so many Pathfinder products – a module, flip-mats, and such. Those “perks” were what drew me to that Kickstarter more so than the burning desire to support the Technology Demo itself.

This current Kickstarter is another well-stated Kickstarter and does seek to answer many of the questions I have heard in various forums, podcasts, and other sources. They state why they are doing this one and exactly what they hope to achieve. They also list who they have working on this project. The FAQ at the bottom of the Kickstarter page really does do a good job of answering many of the common questions I have heard floating about in regards to this second Kickstarter.

A recurring concern I hear frequently is what MMO experience do they have on the team to get this product launched. Goblinworks has not hid this information in the past, nor do they now. The Kickstarter page addresses the credentials of the lead staff being used on this project.

There are several price points to buy in at, $35 gets you a digital copy of the game and access when open enrollment hits. $100 gets you the same, plus some supplement PDFs and early access to the beta. Many more backing levels exist, but those are the two major points of entry depending on how much access you want to the game.

Finally we have the target release dates. The beta is expected in the summer of 2014 and final release is expected in early 2016. Those dates are if the Kickstarter funds. Otherwise with the current investment levels they have the release dates are much further out.

My Thoughts

First, I think a lot of the questions surrounding this second Kickstarter have already been answered by Goblinworks. They have done a really good job of trying to answer most questions and be forthcoming about the motivation for this second Kickstarter. Many of the questions such as are there other investors, who has MMO experience, and such area already answered. Read the FAQ on the Kickstarter page.

The Kickstarter already has several excited backers with 1400+ backing as I write this and $157,000+ raised towards their goal.

My major concerns are simply the length of time until the rewards are realized. I am not comfortable locking up $100 or even $35 until the summer of 2014. I have a limited gaming budget. Taking the $100 or $35 out of the budget now to put towards this is less money I have to purchase RPG materials or video games that are already out. Money that is already scarce.

Of course this is tempered by the fact I am not craving a Pathfinder MMO. Certainly I will check it out when it is released, whether that be 2014 or later, but I don’t have a burning desire to put my funds towards its completion.

Beyond the hesitation of tying up funds for an extended period of time, I do wonder about some of the game design decisions. Certainly these will likely evolve over time.

First, it appears that all play is supposed to be on a single server. Putting everyone on one server seems like it could pose some issues. The first of which being server load. I am hoping they mean a single server cluster that can scale to the load of course. But given the number of MMOs that tend to spread the load across multiple servers and allowing them to have PvP, PvE, and RP servers I think even a single instance could be limiting.

The Player-vs-Player situation has me wondering as well. From the FAQ they state most of the world will allow PvP. I know I am getting older, but when I play MMO’s I don’t really feel like logging in to get beat down by someone that has more time to play and has built themselves up more quickly. It just isn’t my thing. I know some people enjoy the challenge of PvP and at one time that was likely more my thing. But today, I like to play MMO’s on the non-PvP servers.

I do wish Goblinworks well in this endeavor and it appears there are many people that are very excited about a Pathfinder MMO. I think that is awesome, this one just doesn’t seem like it is for me just yet.

What are your thoughts on the Pathfinder Online MMO? Or even this second kickstarter to help speed development up?

A Look At Roll20

A couple of weeks ago I took a look at Tabletop Forge, a VTT for use in a Google+ Hangout. I used it to run a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG one-shot game. One of the comments on that post asked about Roll20, another VTT that has the ability to be used within a Google+ Hangout. I had glanced at the Roll20 VTT prior to that comment but that spurred me to take a closer look.

This week I ran another Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG game over Google+ Hangouts using the Roll20 application. Roll20 is in open beta and has a good sized features list. Roll20 can be accessed via a web browser and includes its own voice and video system. It can also be integrated into a Google+ Hangout as an application. The testing I did with it was as a Google+ Hangout application, so this commentary will not cover the integrated voice and video chat of Roll20.

Roll20 has several other features including a searchable art library to allow easily dragging tokens and such to the map, a jukebox to play background music to the players, built in text chat, dice rolling, macros, fog of war, turn tracker, drawing tools, health bars and more. Roll20 also allows you to prep a campaign file prior to the game and it will be there when you connect for your actual session.

For the game I ran I did some pre-game prep. Roll20 let me prep multiple map pages before the game. So on the first map I just dropped the module cover into the map. As players assembled in my Google Hangout and launched Roll20, they saw the initial opening image.

On the second map I used a player copy of the map from the adventure I ran and applied the fog of war to it. Since DCC RPG is able to be played gridless, I dropped a single token on the map to indicate the party’s location, but did not represent each character. I tested the revealing of the fog and it seemed to work great during my prep.

Fog of War in Action.

I also took advantage of the macros and setup attack rolls and damage rolls for each of the encounters in the module. This was a nice feature as when combat occurred I could just call my macro and get the roll I needed. It was relatively simple to setup.

Come game time I went to the Roll20 website and chose launch the campaign in a Google+ Hangout. That launched the Hangout, I invited my circle of gamers for this game and the Hangout was live. As players connected I had them go to the apps tab in the Hangout and launch Roll20 from there. All save one connected with no issue. The player with problems launching the app did need to reboot, but quite likely not fault of Roll20.

Page Selection in Roll20

Once the players were connected I moved the player ribbon from the start page with the module cover to the map I had prepped. The fog of war feature worked great and we used the chat based dice roller for our rolls. All seemed to work well and a good time was had.

I followed up with my players this morning and asked them what they thought of the setup and had overwhelmingly positive reactions from them. The fog of war received good reviews. Some thought the dice rolling was a little complicated for doing some of the multiple dice rolls needed in DCC RPG. Some of these issues could be minimized with a little more time with the tool I think.

Overall as a GM I found the Roll20 app a really solid product offering. The application easily integrated with Google+ Hangouts which is nice as Google+ provided me with the tools to meet gamers, schedule the games and then a place to play. The fog of war worked well for me to show a map as the players moves along and the macros were quite useful as well for pre-prep. I could easily see myself running more games over the Roll20 application.

VTTs have come a long, long way in a few short years. With a lot of my online gaming happening over Google+ Hangouts it is great to have two very strong VTT contenders. At the moment I probably give Roll20 a bit of an edge. But with Tabletop Forge’s kickstarter complete I expect them to close the gap in very little time.

I will be keeping a close eye on both Tabletop Forge and Roll20 going forward.

A Look At Tabletop Forge

I have been following along with the development of Tabletop Forge since its early days when Joshuha Owen first started posting on Google+ about it. Tabletop Forge is a Google+ Hangout application that assists with playing tabletop RPGs via a Google+ Hangout. It includes mapping functions, whiteboard, dice rolling and integrated chat that allows aliasing and whispering.

I have played with several VTTs over the past few years. In the past I have tended to default to using MapTool and pairing with Skype for the voice end of things. MapTool is a fully featured VTT that when coupled with a framework for your system of choice is a pretty powerful VTT. Using a framework brings some complexity with the tool of course. Another possible con to MapTool is that one needs to host a server that the clients of the other players connect to over the Internet. For the technically inclined this is not a major issue, but for others it does cause troubles.

For those that are not aware, Google+ is haven of gamers. Do not buy the media headlines that Google+ is a ghost town, tap into the right circles and RPG gamers will find Google+ a wonderful home on the web for gamer discussion and meeting other gamers. Add in Google Hangouts for group communication and you start to have the makings of easy online gaming and an easy way to make connections with people that want to game online.

Then enters Tabletop Forge. As mentioned, it is an application that can be used from within a Google Hangout. There are not any servers to configure and setup and open holes in firewalls for. The application runs from within the Google Hangout and provides all the basics of a VTT application. It turns Google Hangouts into a one-stop shop for gaming online.

Tabletop Forge might not support all of the features that MapTool does, but it makes up for it in its simplicity and integration with Google Hangouts. The feature set for Tabletop Forge is growing and even in its current state provides everything to run games online.

I have toyed with Tabletop Forge a reasonable amount and found it easy to use and fully capable of running games via Google Hangouts. Most recently I played a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics over it. We primarily used it for display of images and for dice rolling. It handled the “funky” dice DCC RPG is famous for with ease. It did the job quite well and did not get in the way of the game.

I am prepping for a one-shot of DCC RPG which I am running via Google Hangouts which I will be using Tabletop Forge for. The game will primarily be Theater of the Mind, but I will also be using it for image display and dice rolling as well. The ability to draw up a few images if room descriptions are unclear will also be useful.

While I have talked about playing DCC RPG on Tabletop Forge, one of the things about Tabletop Forge is that it is system neutral. Choose your system and you have the basics to play a game on Google Hangouts with it.

Tabletop Forge currently has a Kickstarter running with about two weeks left to go. While Tabletop Forge is going to remain free, the Kickstarter will help enable the team to add some features and include some art packs with the tool. Plus it helps pay back the free time the current developers have put into it.

So swing on by Google+ and try out Tabletop Forge and see what it can do for your virtual gaming.