Author Archives: Micah
When I first started, I knew there would have to be sacrifices made. Either it would be completely neutral, and therefore useless to everyone, or it would be biased toward one system or another. There’s a wide spectrum in there, and I decided that whenever a question came up, I would bias the system toward D&D, which I was playing at the time.
The best example I can think of is that we added race and level to the character sheets. They were freeform fields, so you could type “Elf” or “Dwarf” if you wanted. Or, if you were in a totally different system you could type “Eldar” or “Metahuman” or just leave it blank. It was up to you. Still, the concept of race and level is admittedly a D&D centric concept.
The shift to neutrality
As I migrated away from D&D to other systems, so too did my views on how Obsidian Portal should work. I realized that the central elements to all RPGs were the characters, adventures, and campaign world. As such, I focused on making those entities the core of the site. We politely declined requests to add more detail and fields to the character sheets and instead added things like the quick select popup to help you more easily interweave your story and characters. When the time was right, we released the Dynamic Character Sheets, thereby saying “Make the characters what you want!” Subsequently, we removed race and level from the character sheets, instead deferring that to the DSTs where it belonged. We want characters to embody the story, not the stats.
The commitment to neutrality
I started out thinking we would bias ourselves toward D&D, but I’ve become much more committed to overall neutrality. I’m convinced that the future of RPGs does not belong to any one company, brand, or game. Likewise, the future of Obsidian Portal, in supporting the RPG community, does not belong with any one game. So, when I’m told that we’re being too D&D specific, this is a cause for concern. What do you think? Are we too biased toward one game or another? Or, on the opposite end, are we trying too hard to please everyone all the time, and therefore offering a mediocre experience? We feel like we’ve charted the correct course so far, but I’m curious to hear what others think.
If you’re a designer who loves playing tabletop role playing games and would love to play a key role in improving Obsidian Portal, we’ve got an opportunity for you.
I’ll be the first to admit it: Obsidian Portal isn’t as pretty as it could be. Ryan and I are great programmers, but we’re a little lacking in the design department. Since the beginning we wanted to bring on a professional designer, but it’s always been on the back burner. Finally, we’re at a spot where everything is in place and a designer would be a perfect fit.
Who are we looking for?
We’re looking for a “hands dirty” designer. Someone who wants to get in and make the overall UI and User Experience better. Cleaning up the homepage, making the editing of pages and wikis friendlier, improving our landing page, adding useful popups, and so on. We need a gamer who uses Obsidian Portal extensively, has concrete, applicable ideas on how to make the existing features work better, and would be able to execute those ideas if given access to the code.
In addition, you must be someone willing to wear many hats. We’re a small team and that means often straying out of your comfort zone. For a designer, that means designing t-shirts, stickers, achievement badges, flyers, and just about anything graphical you can imagine.
- Be part of a small but dynamic team. You’ll be amazed at what we can get done in a very short period of time.
- Play with cutting-edge technologies – Ruby on Rails, jQuery, MongoDB, Redis, Chef, Amazon Web Services…you name it, we’ve tried it.
- Work from anywhere on a schedule that fits you.
- Interact with an awesome community. They’ll thank you profusely every time you make Obsidian Portal easier to use and look at.
- Best of all: Make Obsidian Portal look and behave like you know it should! How often have you said, “I could do this better…” Now you can!
- Great understanding of UI/UX
- Competent with Photoshop and Illustrator
- Not scared of interacting with server-side code. You won’t have to write it, but for testing you’ll need to be able to at least run a Ruby on Rails project on your local machine.
This is a paid, part-time contract position. The time investment required will be quite variable, but will probably come out to about 10 hours / week. Really, it comes down to how much time you want to give to making Obsidian Portal great.
Pay rate and compensation is negotiable. Tell us what you expect from this position.
How to Apply
Finally, tell me what parts of Obsidian Portal are in dire need of redesign, and how you would go about it. There are no right answers here. I have my own opinions, but I’d like to hear yours.
I’ve been listening to a lot of RPG-related podcasts lately, and I cringe every time I hear them mention a problem that Obsidian Portal solves. Whether it’s scheduling your game, keeping track of NPCs, or bringing a new player up to speed, I just want to scream at my mp3 player every time they discuss inferior solutions on how to deal with these problems.
Get Micah on Your Favorite Podcast
With that in mind, I’m launching Project GMOYFP: Get Micah on Your Favorite Podcast. I want you to reach out to your favorite podcasters and tell them to bring me on the show as a guest speaker. I love to talk about Obsidian Portal and how it can help you manage your game, but many of these podcasters have no idea who I am. When I reach out to them, they think I’m some random whacko off the Internet trying to worm my way onto the show. In fact, I’m a very specific whacko off the Internet trying to worm my way on!
I’ve been on The DM Guys and The Tome Show, and both times were a blast, plus I was able to hopefully introduce a few people to Obsidian Portal. I like to think that some lucky listeners out there heard the name, decided to check it out, and we helped re-energize their campaign. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but oh well.
Please! Do me a big favor and reach out to your favorite RPG podcasters, large or small, popular or unknown. Send the podcasters an email or post a note in their forums. A message from a regular listener and community member will carry a lot more weight than one from a whacko like me. Tell them to send me an email at email@example.com I’ll twist and morph my schedule and make myself available.
If we all work together, we can ensure that one more Internet whacko (me!) gets his voice heard.
Many people have seen the new campaign calendar and extended it to the next logical step: Why not create a calendar for your in-game time? On the surface, it seems like a good idea, and it’s definitely something I have struggled with in the past. Unfortunately, it’s a very tough problem, and the final result would probably not be what you imagine.
We’re happy to finally announce the 1.0 production launch of our API! It’s been in the oven a long time, but we really wanted to work out any kinks before finally pushing it out. The time has finally come and we’re ready to launch!
What’s the point?
There are so many things we want to do on Obsidian Portal. We’d love to build an importer for .dnd4e files. We want to make an iPhone and Android mobile app. We want to make it easy to export your campaign data into desktop campaign management software like Masterplan. The list goes on and on. But, we simply don’t have the time or resources to do everything. With the API, other developers can step in and enhance Obsidian Portal to make the tools you want. You will be able to integrate Obsidian Portal with other websites, your mobile devices, and all kinds of other applications. Your campaign will follow you where you go, instead of being isolated on the main Obsidian Portal site.
Who’s it for?
While the API is here to serve everyone, in the beginning we will need some pretty savvy technical people to start making applications and integrations for it. We need mobile developers, web app developers, and anyone else who wants to integrate Obsidian Portal campaigns into their favorite websites and applications. If you know of a project or application that would benefit from integrating with Obsidian Portal, please contact the people involved and tell them to get in touch with us. Or, if you have an idea you’d like to explore, please reach out. We’re eager to help get people on board.
How can I get started?
If you’re a developer with an idea, check out our API Overview for information on getting started. I’ve also set up a subforum for API related discussions. Drop in and let us know what you’re planning and what we can do to help. I haven’t been as active on the forum as I’d like, but I’ll do my best to keep a closer eye on discussions in the API subforum and answer any technical questions I can.
We want to get people up and running on the API as soon as possible. To that end, follow us on Twitter and Facebook for announcements regarding the API. We’re hoping to run some contests in the near future with prizes awarded to the best and most novel apps that people can create. If you have ideas for apps, or ideas for rewards we can offer to app developers, leave a comment and let us know!
This API could be a huge paradigm shift in managing your campaign with Obsidian Portal. The possibilities are almost limitless and we can’t wait to see what people come up with!
One of the most requested features for the campaign forums has been the ability to reply to a thread via email. Well, you asked, we delivered.
If you look at recent forum notifications, you’ll notice that all the emails now begin with
“—- Reply Above This Line —-”
As long as you follow directions and put your reply at the top of the email, your email will get bounced through our system and turned into a forum reply. This will, in turn, get sent out to all members of the campaign who have selected to receive forum notifications (which is on for everyone by default).
This means you can now participate in a forum thread without ever needing to visit the site. It’s like an email with reply-all, but without worrying that someone gets left out.
One reason it took us so long to get here is that for us to receive and process email is not exactly a simple task. With that in mind, please bear with us as we work out any kinks. If you experience any issues, please make sure to start a support discussion.
Finally, we’re looking for other places to allow email interaction. For example, one obvious feature is the ability to post a comment on an adventure log post via email. Someone does the writeup after a session, sends out a notification to everyone, and they can comment just by replying to the notification. It’s just like the forum, but attached to an adventure log post. This is just one thought, and it’s not well fleshed out, so we’d like to hear any ideas you have.