New Roll20 CEO promises improvements for fans of D&D and other RPGs

Industry leading virtual dining set Roll20 is under new management. Polygon can disclose that, as of Tuesday, Google veteran Ankit Lal has taken over as CEO. In an exclusive interview, he talked about the challenges his organization has experienced over the past two years of the ongoing global pandemic and how he plans to move the company forward in the future. 2022 and beyond.

Roll20 started in 2012 as a crowdfunding campaign with a new goal – to enable tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons to be played online. Today, it’s a full-featured toolkit, a toolkit that allows game masters to set up a homebrew campaign or a professionally designed module in minutes. Players can join just by clicking on a web link. Since its launch, the platform has been home to over 250,000 campaigns, each with a cumulative online playtime of a week or more.

In March 2020, the platform becomes a lifeboat for groups that want to continue playing safely during the pandemic. But the influx of new users — more than 5 million of them, according to Lal — has put major upgrades to the suite’s core functionality on hold. Since then, the size of the company has tripled, from just 20 or 25 employees to almost 60. Lal says he now has two different employee groups, one dedicated to users and the other. for publishers. That flexibility will make him more nimble in 2022.

“While I can’t go into detail about the past,” Lal told Polygon in an interview earlier this month, “I have worked with and run product teams before, and what I think you will see in me is a very deep focus on our users and publishers. ”

In terms of users, Lal says that his main goal is to help introduce the two new types of users that Roll20 has attracted over the past two years. “The pandemic brings two key features that we have never seen in history, and at a much faster rate than I thought anyone had predicted,” Lal said.

The first character is a cohort of users who are familiar with TTRPGs, but have never played them online before. For this group, video tutorials and in-app tools are key.

“The second group is what I call curious TTRPGs,” says Lal. “[They’d say] ‘I’ve heard of Dungeons & Dragons. I heard it’s great. But I haven’t literally played before. ‘ […] You can no longer drop them into an empty frame. You need more referrals, you need more tools, you need more visual tools, and you need better tutorials and how-to guides.”

Roll20 created those tutorials on Youtube at a decent rate over the past few months and will continue to do so. Other members of his team will spend time improving the core usability of the application suite itself. The first step in the roadmap for 2022, Lal said, is the addition of a “visual location logic engine,” which will allow game controllers to drag and drop images or maps onto virtual desktops. easier.

An additional focus will be on continuing to add more and more diverse rule sets to the platform.

“We are not just building for Dungeons & Dragons,” said Lal, “we are trying to build for the entire tabletop RPG industry. We have hundreds of games on our platform that people are playing. I think we have 800 sheets of characters now. We have over 10,000 SKUs in our marketplace. And so while Dungeon & Dragons is the biggest, there’s more to it than just D&D. “

Roll20 regularly publishes the Orr Corporation Industry Report, which details what types of games users are playing on the Roll20 platform. Since 2019, D&D 5th edition continues to dominate, growing from 51.87% of active campaigns to 53.7% of ongoing campaigns in 2022. While Pathfinder continues to decline (from 6.46%) down to just 3.2%), Call of Cthulhu increased from 9.48% to 11.9% of all campaigns. That setting is hugely popular in countries like Japan and represents a new and growing group of international Roll20 users.

Lal said that “all others” and “uncategorized” games continue to be an important area for the continued growth of the Roll20 platform.

“Nine years ago, eight years ago, we used to get one title every quarter for Roll20,” says Lal. “Last year, to support publishers, we introduced more than 100 titles. And if you can imagine how much we’ve scaled in just the last two years in terms of referral support, that’s massive – many times bigger. But unfortunately, part of that is brute force, and part of that is automation. [With] Our roadmap for 2022 is full of exciting things that will help publishers get on board a lot faster, with more [and] Glossy features. ”

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