Fantasy Grounds Mini Interview 13/02/11

How long has your VT been around, do you feel its keeping to it's original "design"?

Fantasy Grounds has been around since 2006 and has undergone one major update to Fantasy Grounds II in that time period. A lot was learned since the first iteration and the latest version has proven to be a solid framework that allows us to build multiple rulesets, skins and add-ons.

How many people contribute to developing your VT?

The core engine was developed by three developers in Finland and that has been taken over by three new developers in the United States. There are 27 other contributors who work on various paid add-ons such as rulesets, skins, library and module conversions. The number of non-paid contributors is much higher and difficult to estimate.

Do you target a specific RPG system, if so why? Is this likely to change.

We don't target any specific RPG system, although we recognize that D&D 4E and Pathfinder have the greatest usage. We pride ourselves on our ability to deliver gaming fun to a much wider range of RPG fans by offering customized versions for running Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, Basic Roleplaying, Castles & Crusades, Rolemaster and many other game systems.

What system do you feel is the most popular on your VT, do you feel your user base would be affected by an official VT for that system?

An official D&D 4E VT could potentially hurt sales. There is currently a very large feature gap between their tabletop and ours, so we see the additional awareness they bring to the Virtual Tabletop market as a good thing for now.

How do you decide which RPG systems to adapt for your VT?

Each RPG system needs a champion. While we would love to offer a system for each and every game there is, we simply don't have the time to build a system for each, nor do we have the experience with actually playing those games. For this reason, we have reached out to the community and offered a commission-based model and development support for anyone to build their favorite system and offer it for sale through our store. We are not always able to secure an official license with the RPG system publisher, but we've been pretty successful with more than a dozen publishers to date. We offer the publishers a way to generate an additional income stream with no development cost to them and they get the added benefit of seeing their system enabled for online play. That's been a pretty easy sell.

Do you offer accessories for your VT, do you think there is a market for this?

This is where I see the greatest opportunity for Fantasy Grounds. We only charge a one-time cost to purchase the core product, so accessories are something we can offer to generate a continued stream of income. We built the system so that every accessory we offer could be built by the end users already. Since they would still need to purchase an original PDF or scan in physical copies themselves, our version merely saves them the effort of building it themselves. Every business decision we make should result in a win for all parties involved.

Are you seeing an increase in the number of people that use your software, are VT's becoming more popular?

We see a pretty steady growth of users. We have still just barely scratched the surface on what is possible. We are hovering right around 20,000 licensed users today and we think this has a long way to go before it slows down.

How have the tight financial times affected your product?

Sales have remained strong throughout the global recession. We sell to nearly every country around the world and we saw a significant growth in sales over the last year. We believe the market sees Fantasy Grounds as a very low-cost investment in entertainment. The cost of a full license is the equivalent (or less) of a new video game and the entertainment value lasts much longer. We have people that have playing ever since 2006 on the same license.

What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of your VT are?

The strength is in how it replicates actually being around a table and playing an RPG. There are numerous features for DMs and Players alike, but we focused very heavily on the DM side of things. By supporting DMs better, that ultimately means less time to prep a game, better gameplay while playing and overall more gaming. For weaknesses, it would have to be our map support. It easily does anything you can do in person and more, but we see the other VTs doing some fancy things that we don't currently provide.

What do you have on the cards next, what should we look forward to?

My primary focus is to get more systems officially supported. John is focusing on revisiting and improving some of our older rulesets, such as D&D 3.5 and on adding in more core features to enhance the map capabilities, provide better import and export capabilities and getting everything to run in less memory.

Where do you think RPGs and / or VTs will go next?

It is so much easier to get in more games when you don't have to pack up everything you own and head across town to play a game. I don't think VTs will ever replace this, but I think you'll start seeing more and more of the games moving into this realm.

In one sentence tell me why I should use your VT, over the competition?

Fantasy Grounds is the most faithful translation of roleplaying with your buddies around the table.

Thanks to ddavison at the Fantasy Grounds forums for taking the time to answer the questions.