Thursday, February 27, 2020

Bringing Value to the RPG Market

The other day my friend Datum (Cavin) on Discord asked me if I'd participate in a video interview with Cameron Corniuk.

This was a fun conversation that covered the question of "How do we bring value to the world of RPGs?"  We go back and forth with a lot of insights and ideas.  Wherein, btw, I mention Eric Diaz' Chaos Factory Books publication, the very cool Dark Fantasy Settings

Up Shot: The value we can add to this community is to help people to actualize their creativity with inspiration and organization for world creation.

Thanks to Datum for putting this together, and Cameron for your thought provoking ideas. Much appreciated!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Onward Ho for Elthos!

The great thing about the Elthos Project, from my point of view, is that it's very light weight for me to maintain it.  It costs me almost nothing to run the site.  Just the cost of the hosting service, which is really about $6 / month.  And at that price I can keep the site going, basically indefinitely.  I have no debt, no employees, and no liabilities.  The code is completely mine, and I own the underlying rules system.  So there's very little that could knock me off my little perch over here in Nowhereland.  And that's a good thing.

The truth is, I really enjoy tooling around with the thing. Pretty much every evening I get home and say "ok! What to do with Elthos tonight?!", and I'm off to the races.  Sometimes its programming new features, or noodling through a bug, while other times its adding new Campaigns and Adventures to my various Worlds in the Mythos Machine.  It's actually such a great project, I couldn't be happier with it.  I've always said RPGs is the greatest game-hobby ever created, and that's because there is just so much one can do with it!

Anyway, after the shocking revelations regarding how my competitor is doing in the RPG Market, making millions of dollars and gaining hundreds of thousands of users (650,000 they say, as of last week), I was really quite put out for five minutes or so.  How annoying!  My great idea making someone else millions of dollars! Awful!

But instead of crashing in despair I decided to take the positive view, which is my normal bent of mind anyway.  The truth is what my competitor has done, that I have not been able to do at all on my own, is PROVE there is a huge appetite for World Building Software out there.  That's good news.  I have exactly that kind of software already built.  Now granted, mine may not be as complicated as some of the others, and my UX may not be as clean and crystal clear as it should be (and will be)... but it is a perfectly viable product that offers Gamesmasters a way to build and manage their RPG Worlds, and invite their friends to generate and maintain their Characters online.  It has dozens of enormously time saving utilities for Gamemasters nestled inside of it.  I know, because I'm the principal user, and for me - oh yeah, it's fantastic.

Anyway, I'm happy with where things are going with it. Just this week I enhanced the Markdown system so that it's now providing quite a bit of flexibility for GMs to style their World Prints the way they want... without providing too much complexity and annoying the hell out of people.  Just the right amount of BB Codes, but not too many.  You can add images, floats, PRE regions, and style them with an array of Classes I provided.  I'm still thinking about how to improve this further.  But even if you don't use it at all, the default print style is quite nice actually.

So things are going well, and I do want to thank everyone who expressed support for me and Elthos after my last post.  Thank you so much!  I really appreciate it!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Elthos Competition And Objectives

I think you folks know I've been working on Mythos Machine for a really long time, very steadily, but I could not quite manage to get much interest in it. The concept has always been the same... A Gamemaster's Toolbox that helps GMs create their own Worlds and manage characters, campaigns and adventures with it... and also features an internal marketplace for people to sell their Worlds to other members of the system. I've had this idea in mind since 1994 when I sent the specifications for the application to the copyright office in Washington DC (just so I could prove if ever needed that it was my idea from that time).

Anyway, over the years I've really gotten such little traction on the idea with friends and family that it's basically remained a little hobby project I have tooled away at in my spare time after work ... there's been two versions of the software, and the Mythos Machine is the second version, launched in 2009, and finally put into Business Mode in 2018.

Meanwhile in 2017 World Anvil showed up, was programmed by a UX professional in about a year, and who was able to garner support from other programmers with the slick design, and now they have 650,000 users.

I am on the verge of being deeply depressed to have wound up having to realize that my idea was a sensational success - for someone else.  Anyone would be, of course.  If you put so many years into something, only to see other people race out with the same idea and make a huge success of it, you'd probably feel depressed about it. Pretty sure.

However, I'm determined to not give up despite what looks like overwhelming defeat.

The reason why is because I believe Mythos Machine is actually better than World Anvil in specific ways that make it a potential game changer in the market, and I want to do my best to ensure that it has a chance to prove that.

The thing is ... after all, it turns out that I absolutely can not do this alone. The interesting thing is that World Anvil has proven that there is in FACT an absolutely whopingly gigantic market for this concept.  How can I think of being depressed at a time like this, when World Anvil has proven that as a fact?!  It's amazing!  The idea that I could never get anyone to believe in, and couldn't do myself, is in fact a fantastic idea after all!  Amazing!  I knew it all along.

The problem with the Mythos Machine is that the Interface is just not slick enough to garner the attention of the modern world. It's a bit old fashioned in its approach, and a bit clumsy in certain spots (what software isn't though?). It's pretty, but it's not slick. And it seems clear that the world at large will only gravitate towards That Which Is Slick. Ok. I get it. Slickness sells.  Yup.  So Mythos Machine, to bring its benefits to the market, must match the User expectations of slickness. Got it.

Unfortunately for me, I'm not a UX (User Experience) expert, and have no particular knowledge in that area. It's a definite skill set that requires training and experience to understand and get right. There's specific methods and tools for it. They have to be understood and mastered.  People spend entire careers doing so. The lead programmer of WA has that experience. I do not. However, that said, what I do have is the vision of why and how Mythos Machine has a great fundamental design. I really just need to bring the User Interface and Experience into alignment with modern expectations, though, or no one is going to pay attention to it.  Clearly.

But how to do that? That's a very difficult question for me to answer. I believe it can be done. I believe it will take a lot of hard work. But I've never once been shy of hard work. And yet, what it needs is something I simply do not have the skill set for. I need a clear and concise, and beautiful UX. I don't know how to do that part. What I need is help with it.

I'm considering some options on how to go about getting that help. I'd like to build a small team around Mythos Machine to help it compete in the World of RPGs. There's 650,000 users out there who have proved that there IS a market. And I've been working on this project since 1994, so I'm not simply coming along and stealing someone else's idea. 

I'm convinced that Mythos Machine can go toe-to-toe with World Anvil, and any of the similar RPG Tools out there, with some help on the UX side. If the two person team (well, actually its more like a 22 person team, at this point, but it started, apparently, with just one programmer, and his wife) that built World Anvil can get 650,000 unique users in 2 years, then Mythos Machine can surely do just as well. It's exactly the same concept in most respects. Except for the distinguishing features. The main one in Mythos Machine's favor is that it's designed with an integrated rules system that allows people to easily create things for their world that instantly mesh in and are easily shareable between all Worlds on the system.

There's room in the World for more than one World Building web application, despite the tendency of the market to push a Winner-Takes-All mentality. I believe in Mythos Machine, and I'm not planning to it give up. But I'm looking for suggestions on how to bring it into the market and make it at least as successful as anyone else's platform.

Mythos Machine can be found here for free usage by one and all:

Please take a look, and let me know your thoughts. Thank you!