Introducing Rugged Reroll & Dev Blog #1

Introducing Rugged Reroll

Roll20 left open beta a little over one year ago, on September 17, 2012. Since then, we’ve released over 12 major updates to the software, from abilities and attributes on characters to the Roll20 API. Your support of Roll20 has enabled us to make improvements rapidly, and we hope you’ll agree that the results have been amazing.

However, this rapid expansion of the program has come with a price. For one, unless you are a diehard Roll20 fan who reads all the newsletters that we put out or peruses the forums on a regular basis, you may not be aware of all the great new stuff that’s been added. Some of it is also not as well documented or as integrated into the application as we’d like. And finally, putting out an update every 3 weeks does restrict what sorts of projects we can take on — some things just take longer to do.

Today we’re pleased to announce "Rugged Reroll", which is a major new update for Roll20 that will touch nearly every part of the program in some way. We’ll be examining the progress we’ve made thus far, with a focus on streamlining the application to make sure all the pieces fit together in a way that makes sense. We’ll also be tackling some ambitious new feature updates, both new features and upgrades to existing features. It’s not Roll20 version 2 (we’re a web app, we don’t have version numbers!), but it’s the biggest upgrade we’ve attempted to date.

We anticipate that Rugged Reroll will take us until December 2013 to complete. In the mean time, we will still be releasing bug fixes and small updates to Roll20, but most of our “new feature” development time will be focused on making this ambitious goal a reality. Pieces of Rugged Reroll will be pushed out to the Dev server starting today and over the next few months so that Mentors can aid in testing and give feedback on the new features.

So now that you know what Rugged Reroll is, what are these new features? And how will the UI be streamlined? 

We’ll be revealing the answers to those questions via a weekly Dev Blog post here on the Roll20 Blog every Friday. So if you’re interested to see what we’re working on behind the scenes, be sure to check in weekly with us and read all about it!

Without further ado, Dev Blog 1:

Dev Blog #1

For today’s peek at what’s coming in Rugged Reroll, we want to show you major new changes to performance in Roll20, an update to Dynamic Lighting, and a totally new feature that we’ve been experimenting with for a while.

Performance Increases

One of the most important things about playing in Roll20 is that it feels fast. No one likes to play in a game where you can barely scroll around the map or things feel sluggish. 

In Rugged Reroll, we’ve gone back and completely re-done the rendering engine for large maps. We’ve identified large, single-image background maps larger than 1024x1024 pixels as a major bottleneck in speed and performance in Roll20 games. Now the renderer beaks those images down into smaller “tiles”, which it seamlessly renders in parts. You won’t notice any difference in the result, but your rendering times will drop dramatically in games that feature large maps, making things feel much snappier while you play.

The other place where we saw performance issues was with the Dynamic Lighting engine. In maps with lots of lights with large light radius settings, performance could quickly degrade, especially for the GM trying to render everyone’s lights all at once. In Rugged Reroll, we’re pleased to introduce a WebGL-powered renderer which is able to take full advantage of your GPU to render the lights and shadows in your games. The results are matched to the old renderer, so you can take advantage of this speed increase without making any changes to your existing maps. We’ve seen performance increases of over 10x on maps with large numbers of lights and walls. Most modern computers built within the last 4 or 5 years should be WebGL-ready, and we’ll continue to support the old renderer for those that aren’t, including mobile devices.

Dynamic Lighting: Line of Sight and Custom Light Angles

In addition to the speed increases from the WebGL renderer, we’re introducing two new (oft-requested) features to Dynamic Lighting.

The first, Line of Sight, allows you to restrict players to only see lights that are within the line of sight of tokens that they control. What that means is that a light on the other side of a wall won’t be visible to a player until they’re in that room, even if it’s a light that’s visible to all players. The image below shows the difference between a dungeon without line of sight, and then with line of sight enabled:

image

GMs can also highlight a token and press Ctrl+L (Cmd+L on Macs) to view the scene restricted to the line of sight of the selected token. Great for a quick spot-check to determine if a player can see a monster.

In addition to the line of sight feature, you can now customize the “angle” of lights and the line of sight of tokens. So you can specify, for example, that a player should only have a 140-degree field of view instead of 360-degrees.

As with all Roll20 features, enabling Line of Sight is as easy as checking a box in page settings, and then designating which tokens have “sight” via a checkbox. Simple to use, but it can result in some very compelling gameplay experiences.

Introducing the Special FX Engine

Something that we’ve always wanted to experiment with is the ability of the GM to “enhance” an encounter or battle with special effects. For example, having a powerful dragon boss actually able to breath fire. We’ve been internally experimenting with this for a while, and Rugged Reroll will feature our first take on this. The video below shows off an early prototype of the feature in action:

We’ll feature effects for fire, ice, magic, and other types of effects. The GM can “draw” the effects on the tabletop to enhance a particular scene, and we’re also working on ways that these effects can be triggered via macros and abilities. We’re interested to see how GMs use this feature in their games, so if you have ideas or if this idea excites you, let us know!

Well that’s all we’ve got for today. We’re working hard on making Rugged Reroll the best Roll20 update to date, and we’ll keep unveiling new features as we work on them. See you next Friday!

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