Feedback on BRPG v1.07

Non-bug comments, suggestions, and feature requests for BRPG and/or BGE
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Phergus
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Feedback on BRPG v1.07

Post by Phergus » Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:31 pm

Here are some thoughts based on experimenting with preview release v1.07.

While it may seem that I have nothing but negative things to say I would like to point out that I did spend hours working with BRPG and writing up my thoughts on it. I wouldn't have bothered if I thought it wasn't worth the effort.

Bugs

Label applied to one character also appeared on another labeled character. Selecting the first would cause the second to have the same label. Selecting the second would have the first to have the seconds label. Haven't been able to duplicate it lately.

Have had numerous script error warnings while messing about with Unit Manager and Turn Sequencer while adding/removing figures. Haven't been able to reproduce these problems in any kind of reliable fashion.

The Attack/Target indicators don't appear to be working at all.

The Delete key doesn't remove figures as the help screen indicates.

Other Issues

Turn Sequencer

No indication on the client side of when it is your turn or how to indicate when you are finished with your turn. The user manual contradicts itself.

Should give indication of unit status such as the existing Health level. Status like unconcious or held should be shown.

No indication of whether or not a figure is Player or GM controlled. Perhaps seperate colors for Players and GM controlled units.

Map should optionally reposition when a figure's turn comes around if that figure is outside the visible area. Perhaps a button on the Turn Sequencer that centers the map on the active figure.

Unit Notes

Should have a clear or delete text button.

Suggestion. GM created notes could optionally be visible to the players. Controlled via a checkbox on the dialog. Or could have a two part display with a top text area for info available to everyone (like physical description) and a bottom text area for GM only info.

Unit Manager

No indication of whether or not a figure is player or GM controlled. Perhaps seperate colors for players and GM controlled units.

No indication of sideboard or hidden status for listed figures.

Should be able to remove units from play via the Unit Manager.

Should be able to select a figure from the Unit Manager (and optionally auto-center map on it).

Usability Issues

Need a Preferences options to turn off all the annoying interface sounds.

Confirmation dialog when removing figures should be optional. Give us an Undo instead.

Need the ability to enable Labels/Character Name by default.

Need a way to quickly add more of the same figure. Adding one figure should allow me to ctrl-click (or some other quick operation) someplace else on the map to add more of the same.

That the various dialogs are mutually exclusive is a real annoyance to me. It may be a limitation of your chosen development environment but it also may be annoying enough to be a showstopper for me. I can't imagine when it would make sense to close the Dice Roller because I wanted to look at the Unit Manager.

The hotkey for a dialog should both open and close it. The Escape key can continue to close any open dialog. If the Dice Roller is open, hitting U should close the Dice Roller and open the Unit Manager. This would go a long way towards fixing the annoyance issue above.

Movement is solely by unintuitive keyboard controls but selection of figures has to be done with the mouse. The Tab key should move selection from figure to figure.

No dialog showing the players connected to a session. Yes, they are listed in the chat window but you have to close the chat window to use hotkeys.

Needs the ability to ban IPs and IP ranges from connecting to sessions.

Showstoppers

The following are issues I consider to be showstoppers. In other words, problems that will keep me from buying the software until they are addressed in some positive way. I buy software for what it can do for me today not what it might do for me at some point in the future.

Current figure movement setup is unacceptable. Without better movement key mapping and/or mouse movement BRPG is unusable.

Full support of hex grid is required.

Functional Fog of War implementation. By functional I mean usable for interior maps like dungeons without having the GM create dozens of masking objects to keep the the FoW from revealing things it shouldn't.

Functional equivalent of ScreenMonkey's GM Screen option without buying a client license. (Being able to run both a GM client and a Player client under one license would suffice.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good progress has been made in functionality and stability but, IMO, it still has a ways to go before being ready to ship.

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Post by heruca » Fri Apr 14, 2006 4:00 pm

Phergus, I appreciate the extensive feedback notes and the time you've put into testing BRPG.

I will reply to this at length as soon as I've got beta 1.0.8 posted. You've got some great suggestions that will definitely be implemented at some point.

For now, I just wanted to clarify that the Delete key (on Mac) and Backspace key (on PC) does indeed delete units. I'll clarify the way it's written on the Help screen, or better yet, will post a different Help screen depending on what platform the program is currently running on.

Also, the Unit Manager does show you whether a unit is hidden or sideboarded. Click on a unit in the list and the Hide and Sideboard buttons will dim or highlight to reflect the current states.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Omnidon » Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:51 pm

Very nice post Phergus.

Many of those bugs and issues are known and being worked on.
heruca intends to completely redo the movement system, among other things.

Many of your comments regard the need for an extensive preferences screen and more options / buttons. I too have been pointing out that problem for a while now. Those features are mostly just polish, and heruca is focusing on simply making all the current features functional at the moment.

We should compile a list somewhere for later though that contains all the things that should eventually go into an advanced preferences menu.
Phergus wrote:Functional equivalent of ScreenMonkey's GM Screen option without buying a client license. (Being able to run both a GM client and a Player client under one license would suffice.)
Screenmonkey is crap or I wouldn't be here ;-)
If you have a GM client, you can still be a player on some else's server.
What I think you mean though is that the GM client should ship with the ability to connect one player for free.
Due to the massive amount of features available to the player compared to Screenmonkey's simple interface, it is a little unreasonable to expect the player client to be free.

If you are the GM and only intend to play with one person at a time though, you can simply buy one of the reusable Floating Licenses which allow you to connect to a demo client of your choice at any time.

It has been discussed that there be a heavily discounted version of the Floating Licenses that are untransferable. This would simulate Screenmonkey's ability to host players for free and I think it is a good idea.
Phergus wrote:Good progress has been made in functionality and stability but, IMO, it still has a ways to go before being ready to ship.
I agree wholeheartedly. I think heruca should postpone the release date again.
While the software is already useable, it will not have the polish it needs to survive the market by the intended ship date.
heruca intends to add many major improvements as free updates, but it is version 1 that the public will base their opinions on.

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Re: Feedback on BRPG v1.07

Post by Halebop » Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:22 pm

There's some great suggestions in there Phergus. The good news is quite a few will either be implemented for the retail release or a scheduled for the post release patches.
Phergus wrote:Showstoppers

The following are issues I consider to be showstoppers. In other words, problems that will keep me from buying the software until they are addressed in some positive way. I buy software for what it can do for me today not what it might do for me at some point in the future...

...Functional Fog of War implementation. By functional I mean usable for interior maps like dungeons without having the GM create dozens of masking objects to keep the the FoW from revealing things it shouldn't....
Imagine you have a static map created in Dundjinni or Campaign Cartographer. Its a complex Dungeon with several rooms, passages and natural caverns. How would the application mask it without the GM manually masking it? Should the application be able to determine what is a passage? What has "height"? What is a wall? What is a tree? The logic for this would need to be embedded at the time you are making the map. BRPG needs to be a map maker as well before you could do this "automatically".
Phergus wrote:Functional equivalent of ScreenMonkey's GM Screen option without buying a client license. (Being able to run both a GM client and a Player client under one license would suffice.)
The functional equivalent to ScreenMonkey is to buy both the player and GM clients. These are different products with different features, different strengths and different pricing. BRPG provides better support for media for example, this is arguably it's main strength. To me, this is the weakness of online play and even sometimes around the table play, so BRPG neatly folds into a need / niche. THis is also arguably one of Screen Monkey's weaknesses because of its use of borwser technology.

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Post by Phergus » Fri Apr 14, 2006 8:56 pm

Omnidon wrote:Very nice post Phergus.
Phergus wrote:Functional equivalent of ScreenMonkey's GM Screen option without buying a client license. (Being able to run both a GM client and a Player client under one license would suffice.)
Screenmonkey is crap or I wouldn't be here ;-)

If you have a GM client, you can still be a player on some else's server.
What I think you mean though is that the GM client should ship with the ability to connect one player for free.
Actually no I was talking about the ability in ScreenMonkey to send the players view to a secondary monitor for face-to-face gaming. I'm really only interested in BRPG for face-to-face gaming.
Omnidon wrote: Due to the massive amount of features available to the player compared to Screenmonkey's simple interface, it is a little unreasonable to expect the player client to be free.
I'm sorry but at this point the free version of ScreenMonkey is more functional than BRPG.
Omnidon wrote:
Phergus wrote:Good progress has been made in functionality and stability but, IMO, it still has a ways to go before being ready to ship.
<snip>...heruca intends to add many major improvements as free updates, but it is version 1 that the public will base their opinions on.
Exactly and that is how it should be. People should buy based on what a product can do for them when they buy it. Not what it might do at some future point.

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Re: Feedback on BRPG v1.07

Post by Phergus » Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:12 pm

Halebop wrote:Imagine you have a static map created in Dundjinni or Campaign Cartographer. Its a complex Dungeon with several rooms, passages and natural caverns. How would the application mask it without the GM manually masking it? Should the application be able to determine what is a passage? What has "height"? What is a wall? What is a tree? <snip>
Wasn't suggesting that BRPG handle it. I was going to bring this up in a seperate post but...

The problem is that Hernan's workaround, until some indeterminate time after BRPG ships, is to go into a 3rd party application and create custom mask objects to fit every individual area with dungeon. Imagine your complex Dungeon example. You not only have to build your map but you have to have the graphic chops to create masks for each corridor and room in it. So now you have dozens or more special objects that have to loaded onto the map and positioned correctly. Fortunately you can load and save encounters so at least you can do that up front. Of course each one of those masking objects has to be downloaded to each client.

Compare that to Fantasy Grounds or ScreenMonkey. Using the tools in the software the GM can easily select and reveal only the areas that the players can see. Is that as cool as having it erased dynamically? No. But then the players aren't going to accidently reveal the lich hiding behind the secret panel either.

While the idea of a dynamic FoW based on range of vision looks good on paper in practice the players will be able to see every hidden room and secret corridor without the GM going to considerable extra effort.

I think a better solution would have been to seperate the two concepts. Have both a FoW like the masking functions of FG or SM and a seperate layer/mask for viewable area based on light sources, night vision, sonar or whatever. This way you can have your light sources in rooms, your lanterns carried by PCs and torches carried by angry villagers illuminating appropriate areas of the map but only those areas that the GM has specifically revealed.

As you suggested the best way to do this would be to have both the virtual tabletop software and the mapping software work together so that the virtual tabletop software did have an awareness of what would block vision and what wouldn't. Don't see that happening anytime soon however.
Halebop wrote:The functional equivalent to ScreenMonkey is to buy both the player and GM clients.
Uhm, no. Not even close. Requiring two licenses for face-to-face gaming is unacceptable unless it brings with it significant additional benefits.

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Post by heruca » Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:52 pm

Phergus wrote:I'm sorry but at this point the free version of ScreenMonkey is more functional than BRPG.
Hmm, not really fair, comparing a shipping product (at v1.5, no less) to a several-weeks old beta. It's also not a strictly accurate comment, since BRPG already offers a lot of features that SM doesn't. I guess it depends on what features are important to you.
Phergus wrote:People should buy based on what a product can do for them when they buy it. Not what it might do at some future point.
Absolutely! I don't want ANYBODY to buy BRPG based on promises of future functionality (beyond what is described on the features page of the BG site). The brutal truth is that BRPG could well be discontinued if it doesn't sell reasonably well. While I make frequent comments on these forums about my plans for future additions, there's absolutely no assurance that I will make any further software or add any further features if BRPG tanks.

Based on what you wrote earlier, Phergus, you should not buy BRPG until at least v1.1, since it won't have hexgrid support or the approved movement method until then.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Re: Feedback on BRPG v1.07

Post by heruca » Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:26 pm

Phergus wrote:The problem is that Hernan's workaround, until some indeterminate time after BRPG ships, is to go into a 3rd party application and create custom mask objects to fit every individual area with dungeon.
I plan to provide large, medium, and small square masking objects (and probably some round ones, too) that you can deploy over the room or section you want to conceal. You can use the Unit Settings screen to resize them further, as needed. This should preclude GM from having to create custom masks in a 3rd party graphics program.

Keep in mind that the dynamic FoW that you are about to see in beta 1.0.8 is only half of the equation. The other half will be a masking layer that the GM can create in-game, using standard drawing tools (square, circle, polygon, etc.). The combination of dynamic reveals with the masking layer will provide incredible control. But that's not going to be in v1.0. Oh, and I may also add in a way to quickly and easily toggle each map cell to be masked or unmasked. This info will be saved in the Encounter file.
Phergus wrote:Requiring two licenses for face-to-face gaming is unacceptable unless it brings with it significant additional benefits.
The additional benefit is that you don't have to ask your players to turn away from the screen while you do "secret GM stuff".

Once BRPG better supports multiple displays, you'll get the dual-screen functionality for free. Until then, you can do the two-license workaround.

And unless you're using Fog of War, there's little reason you can't just run the game using the GM Client hooked up to a projector.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Phergus » Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:28 pm

Heruca wrote:Hmm, not really fair, comparing a shipping product (at v1.5, no less) to a several-weeks old beta.
Absolutely. I was merely responding to Omnidons slamming of a competing product in response to me requesting the one standout feature that SM has.
Heruca wrote:It's also not a strictly accurate comment, since BRPG already offers a lot of features that SM doesn't. I guess it depends on what features are important to you.
And that goes both ways. SM has features you don't plan on adding till a post-ship update. It also has features that I don't need and it is missing some that I would dearly love to have.

The same will apply to BRPG as well when it ships. I just have the opportunity to potentially influence the direction on BRPG right now. ;)
Heruca wrote:Based on what you wrote earlier, Phergus, you should not buy BRPG until at least v1.1, since it won't have hexgrid support or the approved movement method until then.
Well, we'll see. :) I like supporting the little guy and if I like what I see when you release BRPG I may roll the dice and get it just on the off chance that you do get to add the features that I need. Afterall I bought the complete World Builder package from ProFantasy and never made a single map with it though I spent many hours trying to.

But if you would rather I didn't. ;)

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Post by Phergus » Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:45 pm

Heruca wrote:I plan to provide large, medium, and small square masking objects...<snip>
That's great. That will help out a lot.
Heruca wrote:Keep in mind that the dynamic FoW that you are about to see in beta 1.0.8 is only half of the equation. The other half will be a masking layer that the GM can create in-game, using standard drawing tools (square, circle, polygon, etc.).
Sounds remarkably like what I described in my response to Halebop. ;)
Heruca wrote:Oh, and I may also add in a way to quickly and easily toggle each map cell to be masked or unmasked. This info will be saved in the Encounter file.
That would be huge plus.

To me it is these features that could make BRPG stand out above the other virutal tabletop packages. A fully implemented FoW feature set is the reason to use a virtual tabletop package for face-to-face gaming.

I really hope to see BRPG reach its full potential.

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Re: Feedback on BRPG v1.07

Post by Balesir » Mon Apr 17, 2006 7:56 am

Halebop wrote:Imagine you have a static map created in Dundjinni or Campaign Cartographer. Its a complex Dungeon with several rooms, passages and natural caverns. How would the application mask it without the GM manually masking it? Should the application be able to determine what is a passage? What has "height"? What is a wall? What is a tree? The logic for this would need to be embedded at the time you are making the map. BRPG needs to be a map maker as well before you could do this "automatically".
Actually, I think this could be handled much more easily than this, and this is a 'make-or'break' feature, for me. I commented on this before, but I think that the functionality required of a 'Line-of-Sight' feature (independent of but additive to the lighting 'Fog-of-War' feature) is as follows:
  • 1) The ability to define individual space sides (sides of squares or hexes) as sight-blocking; this subsumes the ability to define whole spaces (squares or hexes) on the battleboard as sight-blocking, since it equates to all sides of the selected space being sight-blocking (although it might be useful to have a shortcut way to define a space as a total block - which operation would define all sides of the space as blocking at once).

    2) Each character relates to each space on the board as either visible or non-visible. If a line can be traced from any space corner of any space occupied by the character to any corner of a particular target space without touching a blocking space side, that space is visible to that character. Otherwise that space is non-visible to that character. 'Space' here means grid square or hexagon.
It strikes me that this functionality need not be too much of a drain on processing resources if it is done by the local client. It is impossible to show lines-of-sight for more than one character at a time realistically in any case - so only the 'visible area' for the selected character need be calculated by any client at any one time. For player clients 'selection' should only be possible for 'owned' characters for this purpose; only one field of view may be shown at one time in any event.

The workload on the GM for such a feature would be limited to defining a set of space-sides as blocking for a specific map - not too big a chore, I don't think. Far away from a complete re-mapping, in any case.

This sort of funcionality would add so much, and take away so much workload from the GM, that it seems to me to constitute a real 'unique selling proposition' for BRPG. When or if it is implemented (with the extant lighting functionality and hex as well as square grids) I will buy for any reasonable price. 'Reasonable' here would extend up to around $50 for a GM client.
Balesir

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Post by Omnidon » Mon Apr 17, 2006 2:57 pm

Heheh if the GM client gets much more expensive, most people won't buy it, though it would still certainly be worth it. (Unless perhaps you heavily discount the player and floating licenses)

But yes, I agree that it would be very handy to have a simple interface to allow the walling-off of the siteline via individual cells.
The resizable blocks would still be handy, but we need something fast since LoS (Line of Sight) isn't always easy to plan in advance.

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