Created: 01. Mar 2015 17:44
Full-on nerd and software geek!
Email: [email protected]
Hey everybody, it's been a challenging year for me, as I'm sure it has been for many of you. During the first wave of the pandemic, Rolz saw a LOT of new users. Unfortunately, this influx has not been permanent. There have also been many criticisms of the site in general, and although mostly those people have not been able to articulate what they don't like about it, some others also have made valid points. I want to address these and seek your input where we should go from here.
Anyway, feedback is welcome, as long as it's constructive. I think this should be the last thread on the public forums, at least in their current incarnation.
PS: I think people looking for groups to play in are particularly badly served here on Rolz. I believe we should instead point them to a group-up site, like RPG Table Finder or something, where there is a way better chance of finding someone to play with. Of course, that may well cost us more users, so I'm not sure what the best option is.
Hey people, I just wanted to apologize for the server outage on Saturday. I know it's the second time this has happened within a few weeks, I promise to be more careful in the future.
Warning: techo-babble ahead! I need to update the server system regularly, and that's what I'm doing about once a month. This server is based on openSuSE Linux and it's usually quite stable. It used to be enough to restart the programs that have been updated, but recently this has become kind of tricky: after a system update, Rolz looks perfectly fine. Then I go to bed and wake up to 10 emails letting me know that we're offline. I usually need to do a full system restart to fix this recently, since both NginX and PHP-FPM tend to go into a state where they're half-broken (which is way worse than fully broken) and just restarting their processes doesn't help.
Long story short, I'll probably have a scheduled system restart every month (shouldn't take more than a few minutes).
Hey guys, after quite a few years of supporting them, the legacy dice rooms have reached their end of life. It's just a fact that almost all of the problems with the site tend to originate from there, and I can't support that anymore. Also, there's a botnet currently using the legacy dice rooms to probe for weaknesses, that was pretty much the last straw.
After posting that notice in the legacy dice rooms, someone PM'ed me to say they would just abandon Rolz and go to Discord. There's not much I can do about that, but I do wonder when the most-cited reason for still using the legacy rooms is "my browser can't do Websockets", people go off in a huff to join a chat site built on Websockets. And let's be honest, not having Websockets means you're using IE 6 or something like that. Yeah. I fail at marketing, I guess.
Meanwhile the normal Dice Rooms have been picking up in traffic slightly during the last weeks. All in all Rolz is still a very, very low-traffic site and I don't think that will ever change. But people are using it, and after the exodus to Roll20 that happened last year, it's nice to see new people coming in :)
Hey there Rollers, this is going to be a short one but I wanted to keep everybody updated:
Due to work reasons, I didn't get to finish the tactical map, but it's still coming. I apologize to everyone who's been waiting for this during the recent months.
I have started working on new features again, thanks to everybody who wrote in with suggestions!
The biggest new feature is Google Hangouts integration: you can now start a Hangout directly from the dice room and the Hangout should then automatically start the new Rolz Hangouts app. As you invite other people to the same Hangout, they should also be directed to the same dice room. Let me know how this works out for you!
I'm also happy to report that Rolz didn't decline into nothingness in the face of big, commercial competition - it seems we have even gained a few users over the year. I'm going to take this as a good sign and invest more time into Rolz again.
Finally, thank you for all the people who helped out with donations via Paypal and Patreon: your donations go a long way to offset my server costs. Sadly, it's not enough to completely cover these costs, but every little bit helps! Thank you! <3
On Rolz I employ some basic heuristics designed to alert or inform me about what's going on in dice rooms. For example, I have alerts set up that allow me to prevent people from using the public lobby for sex chats, which for some weird reason is an actual issue in the legacy rooms. There are some other mechanisms like spam and bot detection. It's courtesy of these tools plus personal interactions that I present the top three weirdest user behaviors on Rolz, none of which I could ever get any explanation for. Maybe someone has theories, leave a comment below!
About 50% of all uses of /summon are erroneous. In some cases, people flee the room when I actually stop by to help, in others they are merely bewildered. The sentence I hear more than anything else from users on Rolz is "sorry I had no idea what /summon does". This is weird, because the help text for /summon reads, literally:
/summon - summon the site admin if you have questions or need help (only works when I'm awake and at the computer)
A lot of people end up in the dice rooms for the first time, in a state that I would describe as aggressive bewilderment. They usually talk in all caps and throw out a stream of expletives suggestive of the fact that they have no idea what to do next, and literally every line they send to the chat server seems to aggravate them more. I'm sure some of them don't even know what this site is for or what a roleplaying game is. But what concerns me more are those who sit in a dice room they just created and can't figure out how to roll dice or do anything really.
I do blame myself for this, and I tried addressing this type of confusion by structuring the help tab differently. It helps that we have a video tutorial and a section titled "how to roll", but as far as I can tell it only cut down these instances by about 50%.
Every day there are people on Rolz who do nothing, nothing but enter the same dice command over and over again, at a rate of 1-10 times per second. In about half of cases, there are two or more people in the room doing exactly that. What worries me is they clearly do it by hand, and they do it for hours on end. Just the same dice code, posted to a room, at a frequency that precludes any human making use of the results. They usually switch what they're rolling to some other dice code after a few minutes, but after that it's just monotonous posting again. Sometimes, they're not even using dice codes, they are invoking the character generator ten times a second, or they just post expletive-laden lines of text which usually revolve around male genitalia in some way.
What makes this so weird is the shockingly mind-numbing nature of it. Imagine two people sitting a the computer and hitting the same 3 keys for hours, as quickly as they can. They're not bots though, and I do occasionally pop in to those rooms to find that out. That's when they suddenly fall utterly silent. When I ask if they're bots or if they're having any kind of problem, usually one of them musters up the courage to answer along the lines of "no, sorry, we were just playing". Then after I drop out, they continue the same behavior for a few more hours.
Auxiliary Weirdness: people shit-flooding dice rooms with meaningless posts are wasting countless megabytes in the Rolz database. There is a trigger that causes the logs of these rooms to get disabled automatically. Users can still post, there is just no archive log of it. What's weird is that ever since I started the wiki feature, I did get inquiries from people worrying that they're taking up too much space with their wikis. These wiki users worry about taking up a few kilobytes of storage. Compare that to shit-flooders who have no problem posting megabytes upon megabytes of text for hours containing nothing but the word "penis".
We're playing Deathwatch adventures with high level Dark Heresy characters (works quite well). However, the horde combat rules suck in my opinion. Every creature becomes laughable when battling a horde of them, except in the instances where they randomly kill you outright.
Here's an idea for an alternative.
The GM keeps the following stats for a horde:
PCs Attacking a Horde
Horde Attacking PCs
Benefits of This Variant
A few days ago I realized that I'm not sure how old rolz.org actually is, because the site started way before I got around to registering a domain name. At first, it was little more than one rudimentary page with an input field where you could roll dice for yourself. Over time, people requested features, and I built them. Slowly. This year I made a conscious decision to really drive development forward to see what Rolz can be if properly taken care of.
Anonymous vs. Authenticated Users
Rolz is fundamentally different from many play-by-wire roleplaying tools sites in that it offers a lot of functionality for anonymous users. You don't have to sign up for anything in order to play here, and I believe this has been a huge factor in our growth. Signups introduce friction. It's easier than ever before to just proclaim "let's play something on rolz!" to a couple of friends and just get started within seconds. However, two big new features, namely the Tavern and the Wiki can only be posted to with authenticated user accounts. I hope this is OK with my users so far, and I made sure the signup procedure is the easiest one you'll ever encounter on the internet. You don't even need an email address or anything. Just choose a nickname and a password - you're done.
Rolz is and remains a work in progress. I'm pushing updates live as soon as I think they have a chance of working, with only minimal testing. While there has been some occasional breakage, I recognize the most jarring aspect for users is the ever-changing terrain and distrust of new features. In fact, my basic analytics suggest that only new users are really using new features. I want to change that dynamic in the future. I would like to encourage everybody to test things, and if they don't work, maybe let me know and check back later.
The Rolz Dice Rooms were designed to be used by circles of friends playing pen&paper roleplaying games together, to give them a tool for coordination and communication. However, the reality is only about 30% of Rolz users fit that profile from what I can tell, with over 50% being forum players. I introduced some features to make life easier for forum play, such as the bookmarklet (in lieu of cooking up forum plugins and begging admins to install them). As such, I expect our forum audience to grow.
But I want to try another run at making pen&paper roleplayers more at home here, too. Since we now have per-dice-room forums and wiki pages, I hope that groups will discover they can use Rolz to document their campaign as well, and GMs can use these features for handouts, too.
Press and blogs call this use case the "virtual tabletop", and historically Rolz wasn't in that category since we never had, well, an actual virtual tabletop. This is going to change soon, as I'm working on a tactical map module for Dice Rooms. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this will be the killer feature that convinces tabletop players to stay here.
When Rolz started as a simple dice roller, even before it had an actual name, the abysmal WotC dice roller site was the apex of the competition. Over the years, this has changed dramatically. The space has become crowded. There are lots of sites and apps doing what we do now, and some of them are obviously pretty good. There is no way a hobby site like Rolz could compete feature-wise with a fully funded startup that has an actual team of programmers, and a marketing department. Nevertheless, I'll continue my push to make it as useful a tool as I can, without losing sight of what made the site special and different.
If You Like Rolz: Help Out
There are many things you can do to help Rolz. First, go out and advertise, tell your friends. If you find something that isn't working correctly, or if you have ideas on how to make Rolz better, let me know - either privately via email or publicly on this forum. If you have a dollar or more money to spare, donate something to offset the site's server costs. If you are a website or forum admin, consider adding Rolz to your link list. But the most important thing you can do is: use Rolz and engage. Let me know when I'm screwing up, or when you see things are going alright for that matter. Engage with the public forum. This site has been anonymous and compartmentalized for so long, and now we have lots of users and no overall community. Help me change that.
Alright, that's it for now :) Happy rolling!
Just read this and thought our in-person RPG group would profit from some of these rules:
Continuing on our long road to having a reasonable website, I tweaked the design a bit. What do you guys think? Too much? Too little? Any bugs?
I just wanted to announce three big new things you may or may not have noticed are new around here:
In dice rooms, we now got the /search command to search for certain terms.
You can now embed polls into forum posts to ask everyone what they think of something, or to do Quests.
It's going to take a while for this place to get populated, but don't let that stop you from writing a post today ;)
Even if it's just to say "hi"!