Last Updated: July 28, 2022
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In this episode of the RPGBOT.News, we talk to Emily Floyd (Director of licensing) and Kenton Hansen (product director) of Roll20. We discuss Roll20’s recent projects, including a new partnership with DMsGuild, Project Fire Bolt, and other enhancements to the platform, as well as what Roll20 has planned for the future.
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Materials Referenced in this Episode
- Emily Floyd
- Kenton Hansen
Image by Christina Wert from Pixabay.
Hi everybody. Tyler here. I’m happy to announce that RPGBOT.net has been nominated for an Ennie in Best Online Content for 2022. Winners are selected by an online vote from members of the community like you so we need your help to take home the award. If we had asked you for a moment to vote for us and for other great creators in the Ennies, that would be a huge help. We’ll have links in the show notes. Thanks for listening and enjoy the episode.
Welcome to the RPGBOT.news. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra.
And Ashl Ely.
And today we have two special guests with us, Emily, Director of licensing with roll 20
Emily Floyd 00:53
Hi, I’m Emily. I am exactly as described. The director of licensing at Roll20. I have been playing RPGs for about 10, 15 years and I freaking love all things games.
Awesome. And we also have with us Kenton, director of product from Roll20.
Kenton Hansen 01:11
Hello! I’ve been playing tabletop for like 10 years. And that is just the surface of me. I contain multitudes.
You got the tabletop and then you got… anyway. Yeah. Hey, Tyler, what’s happening today?
Well, we’re going to talk to Emily and Kenton about what’s going on with Roll20. They’ve got some new, newly-announced projects, some cool upcoming stuff. And we’re going to check in see what’s new, what’s coming next, discuss the state of the world and the future.
Awesome. Alright, so I want to reach out to both of you. So Emily, I heard you say, you know, closer to 15 years of tabletop gaming. Kenton, I heard 10 years. Yeah. What’s your background? Where did you start? Did you start, you know, in the third edition days?
Emily Floyd 01:56
Yeah, it’snot, you know, Canton, it’s not a competition or anything. But I would say I definitely started in third edition. Actually, it started out playing on Pathfinder, and adopt a 3.5, fourth edition, fifth edition. And it wasn’t until it really wasn’t until more recently, like within the within the past five years that I kind of expanded into more indie tabletop role playing games, and really starting to get more familiar with things outside of, you know, the most popular games. So it’s been a, it’s been really important to me in the past five years of… especially my time within the industry to familiarize myself with games that are telling a different story than the games that most people are familiar with.
Okay, so that’s awesome. I have to ask you two questions. One, when you talk about adopting, how far into fourth edition did you go?
Emily Floyd 02:52
Oh, baby. I went so far and fourth edition, I had a level 20 character.
Emily Floyd 02:59
I had a paragon path. The whole shebang.
There’s like 12 of you, and we found one! This is exciting!
It’s like a rare white elk!
What you can find the Northeast, er, northwest? That’s a whole different conversation. I’ll ask the question. You talked about indie tabletop. So what kind of indie tabletop are you playing right now? What’s exciting you these days?
Emily Floyd 03:21
So right now I’m planning this epically large thirsty sword lesbians campaign with basically a full group of femme-identifying and queer players and including elements of… things I’m going to send them in the mail because we all kind of live apart and so we’re going to be playing in on Roll20. And so it’s it’s the fully-immersive campaign to kind of set up the world and the characters and everything.
Okay, I’m jealous. That’s pretty awesome. Okay, Kenton, not that you have to follow up. Like we’re we’re not doing any competition here, as Emily said, but yeah, what’s your background?
Kenton Hansen 03:59
So I actually really got into tabletop role playing games with Season One of Stranger Things. I’d had like two sessions when I was like, seven years old. And, you know, caught this cool show on Netflix. And we, my family, and I binged it in a weekend like, it was like two days and we just ordered takeout and watch the show. And I was like, I can play this game, can’t I? So did that and played with friends. Adults, guys that I worked with, that kind of thing. Got really into it, and then saw a job opening for Roll20. And that got me even further into it. So I had to learn a whole lot more about about tabletop role playing games as I was doing my software job. But now I think my my favorite game I just came from a couple minutes ago, a fifth edition game that is running with coworkers and friends and my son actually GMs now, so he first got introduced to it when he was eight years old. Now he’s 18 and GMing. He has like 4000 hours on Roll20 and plays constantly. So it’s become a family affair for all of us.
That is a lot of hours on Roll20 at that age.
Kenton Hansen 05:09
It really is. I’m probably not a very good parent, I think.
No, I think you’re an awesome parent. Because there’s a lot of things to learn from tabletop and, right, if folks that are listening to the podcast, if they’re listening to the news, we talked about the ways that, you know, folks can learn genuinely to communicate through tabletop, especially folks who want to branch out, they want to reach outside their comfort zone, they want to find a way to get to know their peers a bit better, you know, tabletop really offers something that there aren’t a lot of other replacements for in the world. And so those 4000 hours, I bet they’re 4000 hours well spent.
Kenton Hansen 05:41
Yeah, absolutely. 4000 hours connected with friends who now live across the country, and around the world. And it’s not something that I was able to do when I was a teenager, and I’m glad that he can do it in 2022, and with a dad working at a cool place, like Roll20.
100%. So I want to ask a line of questions. I’m gonna lay them out now and then we’ll address them and kind of one by one. For each of you, I kind of wanna get an idea… You know, I think folks at home probably they’re familiar with Rol20. They’re familiar with virtual tabletops, VTT’s in general. But in case somebody isn’t, I want to lay out what is Roll20 doing? What is the VTT? And then to follow that up, I want to talk about, so Emily, Director of licensing, Kenton, director of product, what does this mean within a company? What are your daily roles like? So first, what is Roll20?
Kenton Hansen 06:30
So Roll20, as you said, is a virtual tabletop. Within that, that really combines to to be like a suite of products, right? A suite of different tools that you can use, in order to play tabletop role playing games, or just tabletop games, really, from any distance across any technological divide, across any physical divide, or even all in the same room around the same table made easier. That, for Roll20, that means character sheets, which are automated, you can click on those to to roll dice, which have results from random generation- random number generation, using quantum fluctuations in stars. That’s how we come up with our random number generation. A map with with a grid that has… you can position images around that, so your tokens and the elements of the campaign can be right there. Bring bringing it visually to life. You can put your elements together, the graphics, and start whispering to each other to set up a an epic turnabout of events that surprises your GM and other players. And voice and video chat to so you can be around the world and still communicate and see the facial expressions of your friends and players as you’re, as you’re playing.
Emily Floyd 07:50
Yeah, and the thing is everything Kenton is describing is just, inherently, in the virtual tabletop you can create a free account, you jump right in and all of those features are available to you including over 800 free character sheets and the blank VTT ready for you to dive in, start creating, start setting up your game and inviting your players. Now as director of licensing, I oversee a portion of Roll20 called the Roll20 marketplace. So on the Roll20 marketplace, we actually work with a huge number of publishers and creators to bring pre set up content into Roll20. So for example, every game that we’ve just talked about D&D 5e. You know, Thirsty Sword Lesbians, everyone’s game that they’re super into where that they started out with probably has something on the Roll20 marketplace. So if I’m playing 5e, for example, and I want to set up my players in the latest modular adventure, I can purchase it right off the Roll20 marketplace, and then load it straight into the VTT. So all the maps are laid out with dynamic lighting setup to make the game more immersive, all the tokens that up on the maps, all of the content from the book laid out into handouts that I as the DM can share with my players. Macros built out so everyone can roll really quickly. Any random generated tables from the book are fully set up. All, basically all those little features, things that could take you hours and hours and hours to dive and pick apart the book and pull into the VTT is set up masterfully, ready for you to go, ready for you to dive right in. And you know D&D 5e is just, you know, the surface of what we’ve got. The marketplace features a huge diverse plethora of content that really reflects kind of what I was describing before. You know, my personal passion and TTRPGs is discovering, you know, indie creators or, you know, playing a game that’s from a creator whose voice is totally different from mine. Learning something. Learning about a new experience or getting insight into something new through a different creator’s voice. And over the past two years or so, we’ve really brought in a huge amount of indie creators. There’s indie publishers, and there’s been a big initiative at Roll20 ti support every TTRPG possible from big huge releases like the Marvel TTRPG play test. Power Rangers, Dune, Cyberpunk Red. Like, big, big titles, to the indie titles like, like Thirsty Sword Lesbians, we were just describing. Like, ALIEN, like, oh man, there’s so many. Companion’s Tale, Fiasco. So imagine your entire shelf of games, made into a digital bookshelf that you can just pull right into the virtual tabletop, have it ready to play with your friends. That’s basically my job, which is pretty cool. I get to work with all those publishers, all those creators. I get to teach them about Roll20, if they aren’t familiar with it, which is honestly pretty rare these days. I basically work with them to get their games and their content into the Roll20 marketplace so that it’s available for all of our 10 million users.
I do think that’s the amazing thing about rule 20 Is that everything that you need in a virtual tabletop is there. So it’s a matter of basically, can you get the resources you need? If you need images, you need these sorts of things. Can we build the dice structure that you need? But ultimately, I can bring my game to Roll20. And I think that’s really awesome. So I’ll say, Emily, like you kind of described what it means to be the Director of licensing. Kenton, I want to come back to you, what does it mean to be the Director of Product?
Kenton Hansen 11:31
I’m going to answer that question in reverse. What does it mean to be a product manager? Product Manager is a person in a software company usually, who does user research, does analysis, and planning in order to figure out what a product team needs to build or create next. So a product director or director of product is the person who manages product managers, I guess. This sounds incredibly boring, as I’m saying it out loud.
Yeah, turtles all the way down. Just stack your turtles.
Kenton Hansen 12:06
So, product managers get to do surveys, we talk, we do user interviews, we talk to users, we work hand in hand with the user or user experience designers, who are the people who design the interfaces to make sure that they’re as frictionless and efficient as possible, and create new features for our user base to use.
And I’ll say like, from my experience working with product managers, the best product managers that you work with, are people who are sincerely the voice of the customer. Folks who are in tune with what folks out there using the product want, folks in the space need. And a lot of times these product managers will percieve, like, Hey, I hear you saying that, you know, you really wish we supported more dice content. What it actually comes down to is you wish the API was better or you wished it was faster, you wish it was easier to integrate with, and can take that to developers and ultimately get a solution delivered as quickly as possible.
Kenton Hansen 13:03
Absolutely. I like to say that product managers are best when they’re storytellers. And so it it overlaps a lot with… a pm is basically a DM for a team who’s building software.
Emily Floyd 13:15
Maybe I’m hungry, but I was just about… I was thinking, you know, Kenton and his team is the table, the plate, the fork, knife, the glass and the decor. And then my team is the menu and puts the food on the plate.
That sounds delicious.
Emily Floyd 13:32
Does that work?
Yeah, yeah. Okay.
When you said you’re hungry, I was worried you were saying you wanted to eat the product manager team. So that’s better.
Kenton Hansen 13:44
They’re too sweet to make a good meal.
That’s a great Futurama reference, right? Why, why does not the larger one simply eat the smaller one?
Awesome. So let’s jump into what’s new with Roll20. Dark mode! That’s it. Thanks for coming everybody. Great episode!
Kenton Hansen 14:09
Oh, dark mode. Well, first of all, we dark mode is one element of a much bigger initiative that we’ve, we’ve had at Roll20 For a long time, actually. There is a… there is a corner of the Roll20 website that that is the suggestions ideas section. And that is one of the first places that I dove into as the first product hire at Roll20. The first product manager at Roll20. I was reading through that and looking at every post and trying to understand, you know, not just what people were saying but what they were meaning and what they felt behind those words. And dark mode has been at the top of the suggestions and ideas section for a very long time. It has also been two words that struck fear within the hearts of parts of our development team. There’s a lot of interfaces, there’s a lot of pieces to Roll20. And Roll20 is also a community built platform. Right? It is truly is the platform in the sense that like most of those character sheets that Emily mentioned, that 800 Number, less than 25 of them actually are Roll20 creations, most of them are community creations.
Okay, wow. But I want to highlight that. So over 800 different types of character sheets that we can generate the rule 20. And of that 25 of them were generated by Roll20 staff, the rest of them ginardi by the community correct using the roll 20 API.
Kenton Hansen 15:40
It’s the real 20 character sheet system, but I think we’re splitting hairs kind of at this point. The Roll20 API is is distinct and individual are separate from those from the character sheets, but they work together.
well understood. But yeah, so the role 20 character sheet system ultimately enabled that. Like, that’s a huge amount of flexibility that takes a lot of thought and design going into to allow folks to create that. I think that’s really awesome.
Kenton Hansen 16:02
Yeah, it is really awesome. It’s also it… it increases the complexity of anything we do by an exponential amount for sure. So it’s a lot to think about. I’m really glad that dark mode is out there on the VTT. I can say that dark mode on the rest of the site is actually in testing right now. We have a couple other iterations beyond where we are that we need to get to before we can release it publicly. But that is coming very soon. And part of the… our initiative, as I was saying earlier, that the big initiative is to reduce the number of the top 10 suggestions to… not reduce, but moving those into the closed, the achieved status, pretty significantly. So five out of the top ten is our goal and 2022.
Now, that’s pretty admirable.
Kenton Hansen 16:49
Do we get to know what else is in the top 10?
Kenton Hansen 16:54
You can, you can look at… the top 10 is public, you can look and see what the top 10… The five, I can’t say all of them yet. But dark mode is for sure one of them. One-way lighting was another one of them. So dynamic lighting can have lines that block light and vision from one direction, but you can see through and cast light from the other direction. And, let’s see, if I can remember off the top of my head, the others, I should have done my homework and prepared. But now, those are the two that you get.
Emily Floyd 17:25
To be honest, Kenton’s team has been positively killing it lately. Like all of our team, like our developers have been putting in amazing work making all of these suggestions come to life. And especially within the past, like, six or seven months, there’s just been such an agility from our internal teams at Roll20 getting these improvements out there. It’s having a ripple effect across everything that we’re doing within Roll20 because, you know, for a while they’re like throughout the, the pandemic, obviously, Roll20 was had the fortune of being a place where people could come together and we saw so many more people come to the site in that time, circumstances being what they are, we like to focus on the fact that at the very least, we could provide people a place to play their games together. But because of that, you know, wild surge of players, for so much time, our focus has been on making sure we could serve the community that we had, and making sure that the people that were playing their games on our website, could… we were keeping the lights running for them, right? We were trying to really bring in more content for them to play. And that was a big focus while simultaneously supporting some of our most popular features like dynamic lighting. And now we’ve really had the space and the growth to pull in all these new initiatives and to finally check off some of these big user suggestions. And it’s just been, I mean, I’m speaking from the side of things over at Roll20 that as… developers are magic. I, like, legitimately, I don’t know how they do what they do. Maybe when I’m speaking from the side of like, “Ooh, pretty pictures and fun content!” That’s, like, what I’m here for. I just, like, salute the team on Kenton’s side of Roll20 that is getting all of this done, because, frankly, it’s because of their hard work that we’re able to keep expanding content on Roll20 as well, because, honestly, one of our biggest announcements that we’ve had recently that I’m really excited to talk about, but I don’t know if it’s time to talk about it. It is largely in part due to Kenton’s work and the work of these teams that has enabled us to support content in ways that we’ve never been able to before.
I want to say that Emily said what developers do is magic and the RPG folks just glowed immediately, but, eh.
Yeah, I agree. I think your team has really been killing it lately. Um, I remember a few years back when I was first doing Roll20 I was a bit frustrated because there was limited features and stuff like I wish it was like this or this or that. And then pretty quickly, like you said in COVID… During the COVID 19 pandemic, it seems like the amount of updates and quality of life improvements that you guys put out was increased like 100%.
Especially when it comes to dynamic lighting. I love dynamic lighting. Thank you for colored lights, by the way. I love those so much!
Kenton Hansen 20:22
Rhank you so much. I mean, Emily, thank you to. I would love to take credit for it. But really, I just, I just point out what should be done, the developers actually do the do. So I’ll… Corey is the one who made colored lights work. And there’s lots of other people who made lots of other stuff work, too. At the, you know, at the same time, I’d say the number of games that you could play increased by like, tenfold over that same time. So licensing and content team, killing at the same time. I’m not gonna leave that compliment sitting on the table.
Emily Floyd 20:31
Kenton Hansen 20:47
Okay. So let’s actually hop into that, right. We’ve seen the announcements recently. There’s integration happening with DMsGuild. Additional systems are coming to the platform. What does this look like? And for the average listener sitting at home, what is this going to mean for them on Roll20?
Emily Floyd 21:14
Yeah, so I mean, we’ve been alluding to this so far, but it’s a it’s a great time for content on Roll20. And on the Roll20 marketplace. In the past two years, we have tripled the amount of official licenses that we support on the marketplace. And that’s, that has been, you know, a huge amount of work for our teams to get those systems supported, both in terms of character sheets, but also in terms of that fully integrated VTT experience. So if you have been following along at home, you’ve probably seen that there, there are a lot more titles available on the marketplace than there were just two years ago. A lot more options to play, a lot more variety. So we’re trying to really make sure that there’s something for everyone who comes to Roll20. And you feel that your gaming experience is represented in all aspects of rule 21 of my favorite tenants of Roll20. And one of our biggest values of the platform is that we are system agnostic. You should be able to come to Roll20 and play whatever bakes your cookies, right? So there’s… that that’s one of the reasons why the variety of systems is so important. We also have a huge creator community on Roll20, which I don’t think gets talked about enough. But in addition to the official licensed partners that we work with, like Wizards of the Coast, like Chaosium, Paizo, etc. There are, oh man, I should probably have the number off the top of my head, but I think we’re at 600 now, creators to basically fill the marketplace with all kinds of goodies like hand drawn maps, specialty tokens, written adventures that are fully built into the VTT to supplement the official content. Token markers. Just, just a huge variety of accessories that you can pull into your game. And the creator community is so robust and has grown so quickly over the past couple of years. And our creator community doesn’t just make things for Roll20, right? There is a huge, not huge, but there is a significant crossover between folks who create things for Roll20 and folks who have Patreon, or who sell content on Itch, or who sell original content on DMsGuild or other Drive Thru RPG markets. So to that end, there’s so much opportunity to really open the gates and let those creators not only bring more content to players through the Roll20 marketplace but also to invite those creators who aren’t already on Roll20 to come and have an even wider audience for the things that they’re creating. Now, essentially the DMsGuild partnership is that we are we have collaborated with One Bookshelf, Drive Thru RPG, which you know, runs DMsGuild, to partner with them so that they can… their creators who create official, er sorry, who create D&D content using official licensed D&D, you know, names, creatures, et cetera, just in case anyone’s in case not everyone is an expert on the OGL/SRD. And…
I’m going to ask the question, so…
Emily Floyd 24:23
Yeah, I’m assuming not everybody has it memorized like I do. That being said, those those creators will now be able to make supplemental products or fully convert their products into the Roll20 VTT, just like how we do for the official 5e products, so that folks purchasing them on DMsGuild will have… will be able to unlock Roll20 versions of that content. It’s something that users have been asking for for years, creators have been asking for for years, and just like Kenton said, we’re in the game right now of really Trying to make good on a lot of those, those suggestions and make good on a lot of those requests and really serve the communities as best as we can. So, I mean, quite frankly, and I do not say this lightly, the DMsGuild partnership, the announcement was one of the crowning moments of my career. Like, it’s something that I’m incredibly excited about. It’s something I’ve wanted for years and to see it all come together and, and to see Roll20, to see our users light up to see people like clamoring on social media, like “holy cow, this is huge!” It’s so exciting to see how excited everybody else is. And I think it’s just just one sign of what’s to come because we’re not done.
So I want to talk through this for maybe the person at home who doesn’t understand the intricacies of this. So you’re an expert. And it, it makes perfect sense to you. But let’s lay it out kind of line by line. So D&D 5e has the SRD, the system reference document, and from that you’re able to do anything that you want to.
Emily Floyd 26:03
But the problem is the system reference document doesn’t cover the content that came out with Tasha is it doesn’t cover any of the adventure books that are coming out. It doesn’t cover, you know, really hardly the Player’s Handbook, the DMG, the Monster Manual. And so beyond that, if you wanted to rely on monsters from the Monster Manual, not in the SRT, if you want to rely on player classes, or subclasses, from the player’s handbook that aren’t in the SRD, to now or, you know, continuing on… the the only thing that you could do if you wanted to publish that material was published on DMsGuild. Yeah, we had Matt Whitby on. Matt Whitby talked about doomed Forgotten Realms, which is an awesome adventure. Like, it’s super exciting. We were really cool to hear it. Running through, like, Hey, have you played this adventure? What if you lost? Have you played this adventure? What if you lost? The problem is if I didn’t want it to take that to a VTT like Roll20, I couldn’t. It wasn’t available to me. But now with this partnership, now there’s a path for somebody publishing that content on DMsGuild to bring it into Roll20 and to sell it to you to where you can have an integrated VTT experience on top of this content based on D&D 5e content that we’re all very familiar with.
Kenton Hansen 27:18
So one minor correction to that you could bring it you the individual could buy that content, and do the conversion yourself. I think on on a normal, normal adventure… And normal is relative, right? But like your average adventure that might take you between 60 and 100 hours to do it in the same quality and a level that you can buy it from the Roll20 marketplace. What what this unlocks on on that level there is this incredible immersive and engaging conversion to digital content can be done for you and you can purchase that for… honestly peanuts compared to the amount of time that it would take. But yeah, that’s that’s exactly what would happen. You’d be able to play any of those licensed intellectual property, the the fun monsters, you can throw those into your party to fight with the the great classes and subclasses that you want to have on your table at the same time.
I’m a DMsGuild creator, I’ve… I have published a couple of things on DMsGuild. And yeah, the DMsGuild license is very specific. If you publish on DMsGuild, that’s it, you can’t publish anywhere else. So like just the legal freedom to then bring your stuff to Roll20 is huge. But from a, from a buyer’s perspective, from someone who’s going on DMsGUild, looking for cool stuff to play with, how does this work in a practical sense? Like if I… let’s say I find an adventure that I want to play and it has whatever for Roll20 In that adventure, how does that worked for me?
Kenton Hansen 28:54
The mechanics of actually purchasing that adventure are going to be nearly identical. You’ll go to DMsGuild, you’ll buy from DMsGuild, you’ll be thrilled with that experience. On the on the back half of that is actually where changes are happening. And most of those aren’t going to be things that you’ll have to worry about, right? DMsGuild is going to communicate with Roll20 and we’re going to integrate that software so that the content will be unlocked in your Roll20 account just like an adventure that you purchase on the Roll20 marketplace, and then you’ll be able to create that from an add on or module, bring that into your game and present it to your players on the virtual tabletop with Roll20. So for the user, it’s going to be a very seamless experience with a lot of familiar aspects. We’re not adding a whole bunch of new user experiences. Sorry, I’m using a ridiculous industry words. It’s not going to be a whole bunch of new interfaces or clicks that you’re gonna have to make to move things over or download a file and then re-upload it somewhere else. It’s just available to you in the same way that other adventures are.
So this is an exciting announcement for consumers that are coming in. What are some of the first products that have come over from DMsGuild that folks can go grab right now?
Emily Floyd 30:09
So it’s a little too early to grab anything yet. We made the announcement. We wanted to let the communities know so everyone could start preparing. So meanwhile, Kenton and his team there, this is kind of what I was referring to before when I was saying that, like their work is what makes this possible, because they’re figuring out what does that integration gonna look like and how do we make the best user experience? I have been personally working with the team at DMsGuild to connect with their creators and some of their most popular products to make sure that as soon as we’re ready to launch, those products are ready to go with Roll20 conversions so that the community has some of their favorite stuff at their fingertips.
That’s awesome. And then what is the best way for folks to discover as these things become available, so that they can find them as they come out?
Kenton Hansen 30:52
So I would say, first of all, and foremost, make sure that you’re part of the… you’ve signed up for the newsletter, the Roll20 email newsletter. That… the emails that come out of that are so amazing and packed with information that I learn things as an employee. And that’s that is literally not a joke. That is very serious, even if it is funny. Second, you know, so…
We’ll have links in the show notes.
Kenton Hansen 31:16
The, the social media, you know, @Roll20App has a lot of a lot of good information on Twitter, and, you know, Instagram Roll20app has a lot of that good information, too. If you’ve got those three things going for you, I don’t think you’ll ever miss anything that comes out on the marketplace.
Okay, that’s awesome.
Emily Floyd 31:34
Definitely social media is a is a key place to keep your eye on particularly for marketplace and content related announcements, but I agree with Kenton, I think once this is ready to go, you can’t miss it. We’re going to be shouting this from the mountaintops.
Alright, so, um, classic user move here. But you’ve announced a cool feature that I like and I’m already an ask you for another one. So One Bookshelf has… they have DMsGuild, they have DriveThruRPG for most RPGs, and then they have Pathfinder Infinite for community Pathfinder creations. Are integrations with both just main DriveThruRPG and with Pathfinder Infinite… are those in the works?
Emily Floyd 32:17
So what I will say at the… the thing I love to say as licensing director is “NDAs are my best friend.” You know, I’ve harped on it a bit, even just in this interview, one of my biggest passions is really expanding the variety of content on Roll20. So I would say nothing is impossible. We’re looking to serve the community as best as we can. And that’s all I can say right now.
Okay, so I hear your NDA speech. I wish you would agree to disclose.
Kenton Hansen 32:52
From a technical perspective, there’s really no difference between DMsGuild and those others.
Alright, so everybody else: make it happen. That’s really what we’re saying.
Emily Floyd 33:01
Yeah, I actually… that is a really good point. If there is… if you are a member of one of these communities, and it is important to you to have the the content and the features on Roll20, it can’t hurt to give a little ping via social media, or how… your Discord or whatever, to let folks know, because you know, the tabletop role playing game industry is actually really small. It’s a fairly small industry. And we’re all humans behind it. Like, the folks at your favorite favorite publisher are all humans who are probably looking at those Discord messages or seeing those social media posts. And we’re talking about that. That’s… that sounds wild, but it’s genuinely true. The amount of conversations that I’ve had that were spurred from a tweet that I or the partner saw, and it started a whole new project is not zero, you know? So your voice can be heard is what I’m going to say.
So I think that’s a good point. And even taking, like, the requests that we hear from customers, the complaints that we hear from the folks who are using the product day in and day out. We spend a lot of time right now talking about content, talking about licensing, bringing the things that we want to do on a daily basis in. That being said, there’s a lot of technology that’s backing what Roll20 delivers to us every day. You know, how many users do you have on a daily basis?
Kenton Hansen 34:23
A whole lot. Those aren’t, those aren’t numbers that are public. But what we do share… good good try there. I saw what you did. We announced just a few months ago that we we have our 10,000,000th user on Roll20. So we’re over 10 million users on Roll20. It’s pretty amazing.
No, so that is extreme. And I bring that up to then say you’re spending a lot of time just making sure that technology runs smoothly.
Kenton Hansen 34:48
Yeah, and we’ve actually talked about that in the first half of the year. We had a project start towards the end of 2021 that we dubbed “Project Fire Bolt.” And the point of that project fire bolt was really just to get the systems that existed working in the most efficient way possible. We started looking and doing research into where friction was happening. And honestly, about three months of work went into just building systems that measured systems. Again, this sounds really boring, but it’s actually exciting. The…
Everybody who works in technology is sitting home just nodding. Yeah, yeah, metrics on metrics. I want to measure my metrics, yeah.
Kenton Hansen 35:35
Yeah. And we’ve had some interesting releases recently. Specifically, dice and the dice results, we were able to speed speed those up by a few few milliseconds each roll. And that doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over time for sure. It gave us a better look into the 3d dice system and what we needed to do to make that as performant as possible. And another thing that’s that’s coming out soon, if not, today, I think later this week, we’re updating our voice and video chat systems in order to make the handoffs between those things happen a whole lot faster. And there’s a lot, a lot more. These are, these are like foundational pieces that are going to result in something pretty significant coming soon. So there’s even more coming that I can’t talk about, and I’m trying to remember which pieces I can and can’t. There we go.
Well, we don’t want to get you in trouble at work.
Kenton Hansen 36:32
No, that’s okay. I’m always in trouble.
Okay. A second ago, you said a really cool phrase: Operation Fire Bolt.
Kenton Hansen 36:38
And I want to talk about that. What is that?
Kenton Hansen 36:40
So Operation Fire Bolt is an initiative that we worked on,throughout the first half of this year, and we’ve we’ve delivered quite a few things. Most of those you’re really not gonna be able to see. But the ones that we’re most proud of, we make sure that we publish on the blog. First of all, is our on-demand character data loading. And we also did this with pages. But both of those things together, increased our, our game loading speed significantly. 50% reduction in game load times. And more than like, 90% of games loaded… 95%. There it is. 95% of games loaded 50% faster, which is a whole lot of percentages, but basically less time waiting to game.
That is nice. Yeah.
I’ll say, so I’ve worked tangential to services and, like, that’s an amazing improvement. Tyler, I feel like you’re pretty close to this. How does it make you feel?
I’m a software developer at my day job. And this, this sounds really, really nice. And like I read all the technical jargon and the posts and I’m like, “Yeah! Nice!”
Well done. Big win. Way to take it.
Yeah! Yeah, I’m, I’m super excited about the improved load times. I’m sure everyone who’s used Roll20 has had like, oh, I accidentally clicked away or like a hit back and went to the menu and clicked out of my game. And now I’ve got to go back in and load everything. And my DM has put like a 5 million by 5 million math into the tabletop so it’s going to load slow as heck. Like, I’m glad this is faster.
Emily Floyd 38:15
All you need to do to see how amazing this is. If you’ve played a gigantic module, like if you’ve ever played Rime of the Frostmaiden on Roll20 before for example, and you loaded it in the before times, and you load it now, the the difference of those amazing high-quality maps built out with layers of dynamic lighting, you know, huge, huge pages in the VTT that will be like that. Whereas before, you know, it was a little bit of a… so let’s recap last session while we wait.
Could you describe it as… “glacial?”
Emily Floyd 38:53
I’m sorry, that was bad.
But I’m gonna say it is impressive to me that Emily did her homework and knew that Tyler and I were playing in a Rime of the Frostmaiden game on Roll20 right now.
Kenton Hansen 39:07
We actually gave you a bunch of nat 20s. We just loaded them into your game before we started the pod.
Okay, no, thatmmm Sir, that is a lie. I have had no nat 20’s.
Kenton Hansen 39:18
That is a lie. That is a staff only perk to roll all natural 20.
Okay, after the podcast, stay tuned, let’s talk about pseudo random number generators.
Kenton Hansen 39:29
As I said, we measured quantum fluctuations in starlight to bring you random number generation.
And that makes me very sad. But we’ll do that a little bit.
Randall is actually a scientist. Sometimes he says these things and we all just have to take him in and be like, “I think we know what that meant.”
It’s… it’s very awesome. But also, all I’m saying is my numbers are really bad! That’s all I’m saying.
You can’t beat me. I’m… I have the worst luck.
Buddy, you want to roll off? 3? Oh, you got a 3? I got a 2.
The time we played together was a bad example. I was literally hitting it every single time, which I’ve never done before in my life.
That’s what he said live, though. It was like, “oh, no, I haven’t… This has never happened before!”
So there’s a lot of things that are coming out on Roll20 that are improving the experience on Roll20 every day as we engage. But what does the future look like? What are the exciting things that folks will be looking forward to? Where can they follow these exciting additions to the platform?
Kenton Hansen 40:38
One of the best places to follow what’s going on is the Roll20 blog. We put almost everything up on the rule 20 blog. And that’s, that’s a good summary. If you want to get more granular, weekly, we put out an announcement basically, in the Roll20 forums where we highlight the week’s releases. Every week, we have between, you know, between two and five releases, typically, that actually come out. Whether we’re talking about character sheets, or, you know, completely new systems on the Roll20 virtual tabletop. And then if you want to get really granular, we have release notes that you can find and read through every time that there’s a release and see what’s coming out then. Coming soon, we have a lot of really cool things happening within the dynamic lighting space. That has been a feature, one of our most popular features. And as Emily said earlier, it’s one of the most immersive features and it really helps GMs do more and work less at the same time. So we’re we’re excited to bring, you know, as I mentioned earlier, one way dynamic lighting lines. But coming soon, we have transparent lines that are going to be part of the Roll20 Dynamic Lighting System, and doors and windows are a part of that as well.
Emily Floyd 40:54
In terms of content, I think, you know, like I said before, following social media is always a good way to see what’s coming out. But there is so much coming to the Roll20 marketplace at all times that I mean, we can’t possibly highlight every single bit of it on social media, it would just… it would drown itself out. So I would say, you know, a lot of creators and publishers also self-promote what they’re up to on Roll20. So if you’re following any Roll20-related hashtags, then you’re likely to see it. Checking out the marketplace section of our forums is a great way to see what’s just come to the marketplace too. I know, for my part, whenever we have a major licensing release, I like to jump in there and let folks know that the creators will always get in there and self-promote as well. And we have been really, we’ve been really diversifying how we promote content. In the past couple of months we’ve been featuring publishers for monthly discounts, sales, we’ve been having our first ever sales events on the marketplace as well. So if you have never picked up something to pull into your Roll20 games, now is absolutely the time to do it. I mean, give you a few examples. We just recently dropped the price of a ton of D&D products by anywhere from 30 to 40%, depending on the product so now now you can get them for lower prices than you’ve ever been able to get them on Roll20 before. We are working with our friends over at Kobold Press this month and they have many items on sale for the first time ever on Roll20 including a mega bundle that I helped them release that is, lik,e the best deal I think you can get of anything on Roll20. It’s like $250 worth of content for under $50 right now.
Emily Floyd 43:43
Yeah, oh yeah. A great way to build out your bookshelf of if you’ve if you have a couple of Kobold Press products but you want to kind of complete your collection you can grab some of their most popular titles. 12 different books, all for just 49.99 and really build out your collection.
Okay, wait, can I ge… Tome of Beasts?
Kenton Hansen 44:08
Are there really so many products in the bundle that you have to look up to see what’s in the bundle? Okay, that’s adorable.
Emily Floyd 44:13
That is a problem you want to have.
I want to play this game. Like, I’m going to start guessing Kobold Press books and see how long I can go. I think that’s good pod. Dan, I love you, and I’m sorry.
Yeah, this episode’s gonna be a bit of a mess. Dan, I’m sorry.
Dan’s a champion! Can I get Tome of Beasts 1?
Emily Floyd 44:36
Tome of Beasts is not in the bundle. But there are a lot of other really exciting titles like the underworld lairs, Empire of the Ghouls collection, Tome of Tiburesh, Tomb of Mercy, Shadow of the dust Queen, Book of Lairs. So they just released Tome of Heroes to the marketplace as well. Like, it’s a really exciting time for Kobold Press fans on Roll20. And this month, we are really rolling out the red carpet for them to feature a lot of their products. We’ve even released a free product for our subscribers in our Roll20 reserve programs so you can pick up a free never-before-seen on Roll20 adventure from the folks at Kobold Press. And we also have a free pack of regions written by kobold press available for literally everyone. You literally go to Roll20 right now, grab it for free only for the month of July,
Which, okay, Kobold Press produces awesome content. So go take advantage of that 100%. And part of the goals. I’m super excited. But anyway.
Kenton Hansen 45:38
And one of the really exciting features that we’re able to release earlier in the year is dynamic bundling, which means that if you own one of the products on Roll20, but you want to buy this gigantic bundle, we discount the price for what you already own. So you don’t have to buy things twice. You just get access to it right there. Easily. Dynamically.
Yeah, so I want to ask, there… Roll20 was, has been the king of virtual tabletops for a long time. But you’re no longer alone in the space. There’s now a lot of different VTTs that are coming out or are out that are offering some new ideas. What is Roll20’is plan to stay competitive.
Kenton Hansen 46:21
So I think it’s kind of a… let’s say misconception that Roll20 has been like alone or the king in the space. Roll20 was like the second or third virtual tabletop that actually ever came out back in 2012, when it was when it was released. And you know, Maptools was the was the king, I guess, at that time, and they’re still around. I think that from the perspective of their… whatever you bake your cookies, to steal Emily’s phrase. There are a lot of different software tools out there. And the ones that work well for you work well for you. We build Roll20 to be the easiest to use. We want it to be browser-based, so that you didn’t have to download software, We want it to be online, and we wanted to maintain the infrastructure, so that you didn’t have to set anything up. We wanted to have a marketplace with these modules and add-ons that are ready to play so that you didn’t have to learn the entire system in order to start playing with your friends. We’re going to keep doing that. And we’re going to build on those systems. And we’re going to make more engaging and immersive aspects to the virtual tabletop with, you know, more efficient systems the entire time.
Emily Floyd 47:40
Yeah. And to that end, you know, Roll20 doesn’t have exclusive contracts with our creators or publishers. We never want to, you know, limit a creator or publisher so that they feel that they can’t sell their products in other marketplaces. It’s really about supporting their growth and, and getting their game out and into players’ hands. So while absolutely we want to be everyone’s favorite place to play the game, we want to really use all those tools that Kenton’s describing, all those features to create the best possible experience for you and the game that you want to play. We recognize that there are other ways out there to play it. There’s other marketplaces that have similar games to what we have on Roll20. We want to provide our Roll20 users with the best experience possible. And we want to keep producing content that shows people how great it is to play games on Roll20.
Awesome. Well, Emily, thank you so much for being with us today.
Emily Floyd 48:42
Thank you. It’s been my pleasure to be here. You know, we mentioned the Roll20 socials, so everybody makes sure you go follow us on Roll20App. So @Roll20App, A-P-P. And if you want to see more of what I’m doing, I try to keep some of the more exciting licensing announcements on my social media as well. So you can find me on all the socials at @EmilyTheSpoon. Like what you eat ice cream with. I’m really into desserts, if you can’t tell.
It’s pretty awesome. And I appreciate it. Kenton, thank you so much for being with us today.
Kenton Hansen 49:17
Yeah, this was a good time. Thanks for having me. If you know we already plugged the Roll20 socials. You can find me personally, reading Twitter, mostly and retweeting something I find funny every once in a while @KentonH.
Awesome. And we will have links in the show notes if you want to follow Roll20 or Emily or Kenton, you’ll be able to find that immediately. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcast and read us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick free way to support the podcast and helps us to reach new listeners. You’ll find links in the show notes. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes as well as on RPGBOT.net. Following these links helps us to make the show happen every week. Okay, I have to ask the question: So the quantum fluctuations in starlight, like, why not just go with a pseudo-random number generator? Like the Mersenne Twister has been around for forever.
Kenton Hansen 50:13
So they did, and I wasn’t here when they did this. So I wasn’t actually part of the decision, but I asked a very similar question. I was like Math.Random() is good enough. You know, we… the reason why is because when they were building out the system initially they had enough people complain loudly enough that they were like, we’ve got to do something here. And they looked for the most random, like, true noise that they can actually get to, and built off that. I wish they would have done… And honestly, it’s actually more random. We… there is a page that the design needs to be updated on horribly. And it only shows a sample, but it shows the distribution of rolls over the past, I think, 24 hours on on Roll20.
I think I found that, yeah.
Kenton Hansen 51:07
It used to be all roles, and then we… you know, 2020 happened, and we had to add more roll servers. And so we couldn’t, we didn’t add the rest of them. So it’s just a sample of the the rolls there, but it’s a great distribution. Better than if you were to roll physical die. So that’s what we do.