From an idea to a movement
When we first began to build Roll20, we were responding to our own personal need for a simple, easy-to-use virtual tabletop that would allow us to play games with our friends who had moved across the country. It wasn’t our original intention to make Roll20 a public application, but we realized shortly after we started playing that we had something special on our hands. A tool that could help reconnect other similarly stranded gamers.
We decided to begin working on a cleaned-up version of the app that could be shared outside our gaming group and put up a Kickstarter campaign to see if we could garner support for the endeavor. To say that the response was overwhelming would be an understatement. We’re still amazed to this day by the outpouring of enthusiasm we witnessed from the RPG community during those two short weeks.
From that moment on, Roll20 became not just a personal hobby, but a community-led movement. We set up a community site where we opened the floor to our supporters to gather ideas and feedback (as well as bug reports!). We’ve received over 5,000 pieces of feedback in the last few months alone, and our community has grown to more than 50,000 accounts. We’ve endeavored to live up to the incredible trust that you placed in us with your support, both financially and through spreading the word about us to your friends. By focusing on the community, we think we’ve made Roll20 one of the best pieces of gaming software around, bar none.
On to the next phase
Today we’re pleased to announce that we’re leaving our beta tag behind and “launching.” For us, that means we feel that the platform is mature and stable enough to start really pushing to expand our user base. We’ve been fortunate to grow our community tremendously just based on word of mouth in the online RPG ecosystem, but we want to go beyond that. We want anyone who’s ever given up on tabletop gaming due to distance, or lack of a thriving local community, to find a way to reconnect and find a new gaming group online. 50,000 users is an amazing number, but we think that there are 500,000 people out there who could be using Roll20 right now to get together and have fun.
This doesn’t mean that we’re done adding new features or that there won’t be any bugs, but we are ready to accelerate the development of Roll20 into a full-fledged product. This brings us to our next announcement…
Introducing Supporter Accounts
Right now Roll20 exists primarily as a hobby project. We’ve made some amazing strides and the community has increased substantially, but currently everyone on the team still has a full-time “day job” that require our attention. Most development on Roll20 happens in the evenings (at the expense of personal time with our families) or during the day (at the expense of other paid freelance projects). We think that Roll20 holds great potential and that we can do so much more. In order to do that, we need the ongoing financial support of the community.
Today we’re introducing Supporter Accounts. These are paid subscriptions that allow you to help support the development and hosting costs associated with the Roll20 of today, while helping us expand and build the Roll20 that we all know can be realized in the future. If you choose to become a paid Supporter, there are some perks that you’ll receive; such as additional insider access to the Dev Team, email-based support, expanded storage space, and the ability to help us test new features (like dynamic lighting) before they’re available to everyone. These and future perks will always be in the “nice to have, but not necessary to play” category. They’ll never be something you have to have in order to run a game on Roll20 with your group of friends. We think these perks are a great way for our supporters to participate in the design process and also be really helpful to power users who GM a large number of campaigns.
We recognize that not everyone has the ability to donate to the cause, regardless of how strongly they believe in it. We’ve said from the beginning that Roll20 will be a free product and that hasn’t changed. All of the great features you’ve been using during the Open Beta will remain free exactly as they are. To reflect this, the default account type will be called a “base” account rather than a “free” account. We’re not going to put any arbitrary restrictions on base accounts, like a maximum number of players or campaigns. Some things, like how much storage space you have access to, still need to be restricted because they can grow to be a financial burden for us. However, we try to be fair and make sure that we give you enough by default so that the average GM will manage their campaigns just fine – and we will never charge anything for players to participate in your games.
Your support makes Roll20 possible
With your support, Roll20 has become the great community and software that it is today. We thank you for believing in us and in our vision of creating an amazing easy-to-use medium for friends to connect across any distance to play tabletop games. We can’t wait to see where the next step in this journey takes us, but we know that with an amazing community behind us, we’ll go incredibly far.
Riley, Nolan, and Richard
The Roll20 Dev Team
(With special thanks to Kristin Carlson for reading and editing initial versions of this post.)
Note: We’re rolling out a lot more than just supporter accounts today: read more about the other cool stuff we’re launching!