Other VTTs?

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paulstrait
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Other VTTs?

Post by paulstrait »

Ok, I may be preaching to the choir here, but I've looked at the websites for dozens of other VTTs, both commercial and free, and I've examined the screenshots and read the feature lists, and I've even downloaded and used some of the other free ones, and I've yet to find anything that seems even equivalent in quality to Maptool, let alone superior.

So, how do so many people get away with charging money for their VTT? Has anyone used any of these other programs enough to at least get the sense for why someone would think it is equivalent to or greater than Maptool? From an economic standpoint, one good would have to be vastly better in quality in order to justify the difference between zero dollars and, say, 50 dollars (or more) for a gaming group.

I get that some of these have animated dice rollers -- a totally useless feature that if anything makes the program worse b/c it distracts and takes time. Also a lot of these have sound enabled, which I guess would be nice since I've seen people request it here, but really if most of us play with a voice program, sound seems like it would just create feedback. Is there some other feature or user-friendliness bit that I am missing that might make these other programs better in some people's eyes?

A very small number of the programs have something similar to the token restricted player views where line of sight visibility and light/darkness variables are taken into account--and for those that have something like this feature, it looks to me like it is implemented as well or worse than it is in maptool. This is easily one of the best features about maptool, and the first thing I tell people when I am pitching the program to them. I'll never forget an encounter I ran inside a library with rows of shelves and a bunch of animated skulls flying around -- none of the PCs could see more than half of the party or the enemies at any one time, and they all had to try to roughly communicate with each other turn by turn orally -- and in almost 20 years of gaming I had never experienced an encounter like that until that point.

The other unbeatable maptool feature is the robust community -- as far as I can tell, other programs are either system agnostic which means you are out of luck if you want the program to automate system-specific things, or system specific which means you are stuck with the framework the developers used, with very little flexibility, and very little support for other game systems. Maptool seems to have the best of both worlds -- no developer framework forced on you, but frameworks available for tons of different systems, and in some cases a ton of different frameworks for a single system, which allows people to make the program more adaptable to their specific needs.

So not having the above two features, or not having them implemented as well as by maptool, seems a pretty devastating disadvantage for a lot of these programs. Is there anything in these other programs that outweighs this?

lps

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Azhrei
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Azhrei »

IMO the reason people still use pay-for VTTs is (a) inertia or (b) ignorance.

I don't mean those in a bad way, of course. But many people have something that works for them (or used to work for them, or that with their customizations works for them) and they are reluctant to spend time looking for or learning another VTT.

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brad
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by brad »

People also have to find MapTool. MapTool is marketed only by word of mouth. The pay for VTTs have at least a small advertising budget and take more pains to make sure they show up on search engines better. I do a google search for "virtual tabletop" and rptools.net is nowhere in the first 10 pages. Myself and some others have posted some videos on youtube and so forth, that could count as minimal marketing, but a lot of MapTools target market just doesn't know it is here.
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Full Bleed
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Full Bleed »

I think what a couple VTT's have over MT is a prettier and more user friendly interface. MT, for all of its power, can be a bit daunting and much of its settings are more programmatic in look and feel than some of the commercial VTT's. And now, more than ever, some of the coolest features in MT are found in its macro language... and that's something many people don't want to deal with.

MT also must be hosted on someone's computer, and a good number of people have a very difficult time getting it set up right the first time. If it doesn't just work out of the box, I bet there are a lot of people that just move on to the next thing.

And then there is the notion of clutter. MT does, largely as a result of its big feature set, look rather cluttered in its basic setup whereas many VTT's go for a more minimalistic approach.

I also think MT tends to lag behind on the total multimedia approach. Audio/Music, PDF, Video clip, theme/skin support is missing. Nothing in MT is animated. It's really a much more "business" oriented application and, as such, will lose some potential users.

However, MT's killer features: Sight/Light, macro language, rocking community/developer interaction, and constant evolution are incredibly attractive if one can get over some of the shortcomings.
Maptool is the Millennium Falcon of VTT's -- "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts."

Shpena
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Shpena »

Well, what MT lacks compared to other VTT's won't last for very long as we have some bad-a$$ mofo's hacking away at the code. Slow but steady wins the race :mrgreen:

The potential this program has coupled with the awesome community is why I think many people flock to MT in droves.

I started my own 3.5 session a few months ago (we meet up once or twice a month) and my group went crazy over MT. We had minis and grids and whatnot, but with MT that mess left behind is no more, plus I can do a whole lot more than I normally could do using only minis and grids.

The ability to draw stuff in real time like blood or water is just brilliant.

So my question would be, what other VTTs?
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Thanlis
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Thanlis »

It's definitely an advantage to some customers if their game system has built in support. Frameworks are a confusing concept to some -- not to all, and I /love/ the way it all works, but for the non-technical? "OK, download this from here, then download this from here, then open it like this, and here's how you build a token..."

That can cause some glaze-over. :)
Reed (halfling sorcerer P3) // Collin (human fighter P2) // Cine (eladrin psion H2)
Sirath (deva shaman H1) // Alesk (dragonborn cleric H3) // Kevin (halfling barbarian H1)

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jfrazierjr
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by jfrazierjr »

Thanlis wrote:It's definitely an advantage to some customers if their game system has built in support. Frameworks are a confusing concept to some -- not to all, and I /love/ the way it all works, but for the non-technical? "OK, download this from here, then download this from here, then open it like this, and here's how you build a token..."

That can cause some glaze-over. :)


Hmm.. not 100% sure I can agree with that statement as a whole. Given my 20+ years of gaming experience, most serious gamers(at least those I have meet in some way) tend to be be geeks and are at least comfortable with technology to follow directions and asked questions if they don't understand. Perhaps, the issue is the misperception as some others have mentioned that you have to learn to program to use Maptool, which is simply NOT true.
I save all my Campaign Files to DropBox. Not only can I access a campaign file from pretty much any OS that will run Maptool(Win,OSX, linux), but each file is versioned, so if something goes crazy wild, I can always roll back to a previous version of the same file.

Get your Dropbox 2GB via my referral link, and as a bonus, I get an extra 250 MB of space. Even if you don't don't use my link, I still enthusiastically recommend Dropbox..

dorpond
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by dorpond »

Glad to hear MT ranks high up there with many of you. :)

I am really surprised the other VT's can stay 'in business'. The amount of time it takes to design and code a VT far outweighs the money it brings in. Plus once money comes into the picture, users are far less forgiving when there is a bug or two cropping up.

We do this out of love for the game and the love for coding. We have full time jobs that bring in the real money and we have families that come before anything else. When we sit behind Maptool, we do it out of love - no other motivation, and that will surely keep us in the game for the long haul. :)

Oh, plus we have a great community which feels the same way as we do which means you guys are in it for the long haul too. :)

But being a free VT brings us less pressure - less headaches - less duties, compared to those who sell the product. If Trevor wants to take a break and reset his head a bit while working in his wood shop, he can; if I want to focus on work and get certified in new technology, I can. We are not 'bound' to our product. If anything, the other community developers kick in and create patches and stuff still gets done. That is the beauty of all this. :)
How to use my bundled artwork (MT1.3B60+): http://forums.rptools.net/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=11759

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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by neofax »

dorpond wrote:Glad to hear MT ranks high up there with many of you. :)

We do this out of love for the game and the love for coding. We have full time jobs that bring in the real money and we have families that come before anything else. When we sit behind Maptool, we do it out of love - no other motivation, and that will surely keep us in the game for the long haul. :)

Oh, plus we have a great community which feels the same way as we do which means you guys are in it for the long haul too. :)


I for one love MapTools, the development team and the community! If it wasn't for MapTools, I would not be playing as much RPGs as I do. I only use Linux and there are only two choices I know to work on it. MapTools and OpenRPG. MapTools IMO is far easier to use and requires a lower threshold to understand. Also, it is modular like the UNIX way of thinking. You have InitTools and CharacterTool and DiceTool all can be used to work with the mothership MapTools!

Thanks for all the hard work! (Can not say it enough)

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Paradox
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Paradox »

jfrazierjr wrote:
Thanlis wrote:It's definitely an advantage to some customers if their game system has built in support. Frameworks are a confusing concept to some -- not to all, and I /love/ the way it all works, but for the non-technical? "OK, download this from here, then download this from here, then open it like this, and here's how you build a token..."

That can cause some glaze-over. :)


Hmm.. not 100% sure I can agree with that statement as a whole. Given my 20+ years of gaming experience, most serious gamers(at least those I have meet in some way) tend to be be geeks and are at least comfortable with technology to follow directions and asked questions if they don't understand. Perhaps, the issue is the misperception as some others have mentioned that you have to learn to program to use Maptool, which is simply NOT true.


I had some of Thanlis' experiences.. but we've talked over his before.

I do think MapTools requires some investment of time to learn, as well as set-up and prepare. How much depends on the level of usage. A projector map with FOW doesn't take a lot of time and work.. whereas a completely online game with a campaign framework and macros is going to take more.

Where I agree with Joe is that anybody can do this. You don't have to be a rocket scientist. I'm non-tech and I use a lot of framework "toys" these days.

You might have to do some reading and ask some questions however.
I no longer believe that MapTools is usuable or intended just for programmers. MapTools is for everyone.

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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Thanlis »

Paradox wrote:Where I agree with Joe is that anybody can do this. You don't have to be a rocket scientist. I'm non-tech and I use a lot of framework "toys" these days.

You might have to do some reading and ask some questions however.


Agreed; in practice it works out to be not that complex. It's just the theory turns some people off.

You know what would be interesting, in that regard? Tightening up framework integration. If there was a way to create macro libraries that didn't reside on tokens, that would be nifty. If you could then download library assets in the same way you can download art library assets right now? That would be awesome. Then you could just say "hey, grab MapTool, then go to this menu option and grab framework X."
Reed (halfling sorcerer P3) // Collin (human fighter P2) // Cine (eladrin psion H2)
Sirath (deva shaman H1) // Alesk (dragonborn cleric H3) // Kevin (halfling barbarian H1)

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brad
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by brad »

Thanlis wrote:
Paradox wrote:Where I agree with Joe is that anybody can do this. You don't have to be a rocket scientist. I'm non-tech and I use a lot of framework "toys" these days.

You might have to do some reading and ask some questions however.


Agreed; in practice it works out to be not that complex. It's just the theory turns some people off.

You know what would be interesting, in that regard? Tightening up framework integration. If there was a way to create macro libraries that didn't reside on tokens, that would be nifty. If you could then download library assets in the same way you can download art library assets right now? That would be awesome. Then you could just say "hey, grab MapTool, then go to this menu option and grab framework X."


That would be awesome! That would really make MapTool usable out of the box. I suppose it all depends on how the whole scripting and macro systems are implemented in 1.4. That would be a huge asset though. If a framework has been around for a while and well debugged, it is added to the MapTool online framework list. After a few months MapTool would be supporting a dozen or more games with little effort for the casual user.
View MapTool video tutorials at RPToolsTutorials.net

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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by neofax »

You can get into some very legalese waters with some of the macros though for some of the FW. WotC info would be a problem.

Thanlis
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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by Thanlis »

neofax wrote:You can get into some very legalese waters with some of the macros though for some of the FW. WotC info would be a problem.


Hard to say. Well. Easy to say in that I wouldn't expect the devs to fight any legal battle, really. So anything's vulnerable. So yeah, good point.

Even without the download integrated, though, I wouldn't mind seeing a simplified way to get frameworks. Again, pulling 'em off tokens seems like a win. Perhaps allow people to supply a URL and have the framework downloaded from it?
Reed (halfling sorcerer P3) // Collin (human fighter P2) // Cine (eladrin psion H2)
Sirath (deva shaman H1) // Alesk (dragonborn cleric H3) // Kevin (halfling barbarian H1)

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Re: Other VTTs?

Post by aliasmask »

I fear the better MT gets and the more user friendly it becomes with frameworks that WotC will step in and either try to shut it down or buy it out. Buy out would be great for the RPTools team and I'd be happy for ya, but WotC will undoubtedly make users subscribe monthly for access to the tools, board and updates.

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