Long-Term Roadmap Snapshot

I’ve been putting out monthly roadmaps for a little while now, but I thought I’d share with ya’ll my long-term plan as wells. These aren’t firm plans but I think this ought to give ya’ll a good idea of my general vision for Shmeppy. Here we go, roughly in the order of doing:

  1. Mobile Support
    • Making Shmeppy fast
    • Minimap
    • Hints when someone is lasering offscreen
    • Touch-specific player interface
    • Maybe GM interface, I have some ideas to play around with anyways
  2. Multi/region-select tool
  3. Access controls
  4. Allow players to join without an account
  5. Exporting maps
  6. Importing background images
  7. Exit “earliest access” and create payment flows

Some of these can be swapped pretty harmlessly with others, but for other things the order is pretty impactful. Like “importing background images” can’t come too much before moving Shmeppy out of earliest access, because even at Shmeppy’s medium-small scale of many thousands of users it’s going to be expensive to deal with all of the big images people upload, and I’m going to need to at least be pulling some revenue to offset it.

Likewise most of these can’t happen after I move Shmeppy out of earliest access. I don’t want to lock Shmeppy down to paid plans without allowing users to export their maps and abandon ship for example, that’s just shittiness.

There’s a bunch of misc things that don’t quite make it onto that timeline, because they’re order of doing aren’t that important or I’m just super unsure about where I’ll want to slot them in. Here’s some of those things that are on my mind:

  • Hotkeys for the color swatches
  • Allowing users to add more color swatches
  • Reworking the eyedropper
  • Some basic self-serve help material
  • “Named regions” to track spell effects, label areas, mark stairs, etc
  • Configuring the measuring tool to use different units
  • Changing the background color of a map
  • Google Docs-esque history browser and recovery

Please chime in with your thoughts! This would be an excellent time to advocate for a particular thing to be on this timeline that isn’t for example.

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Very scattershot reply, one distinct item per paragraph:

One (boring) bit that I think you’ll lose customers on if you don’t add: Support for federated login. I know I’m much less likely to try out anything where I have create Yet Another Account Login, and I expect that is true for other people as well, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many sites with federated login support.

WRT importing background images and payment: Maybe an alternative would be to set up the payment flows early and allow imports only from people that have chosen to subscribe (which can initially be optional and a “support the site” type thing)? That could also let you get some initial exposure to the payment flows and get you some revenue already.

I’m unsure what kind of access control you want to add, and why it is crucial. I don’t see any access control issues beyond “Players should only be able to move tokens and not otherwise change the map.”

There’s one feature that’s not listed that I feel would be very natural to have, but maybe it’s tricky to find the exact user interface for: Multiple maps. Putting everything on a single canvas with different maps (or different variants of the same map) put at different locations feel conceptually awkward. Without having actually tried using it (because my players has refused to go online yet) it is a “system turnoff”.

For background import: A feature that would be ultra-neat for this and keep it with Schmeppy’s ultra-light UX design is to auto-detect grids and scale to fit. This is more complicated than it immediately sounds like. Since some people use very small cells in Shmeppy (at least on the single active Shmeppy map I’ve seen) they might not want a 1:1 mapping between Shmeppy cells and background map cells. So you need a scaling factor. And if the maps are scanned (either hand drawn by the DM, like I do, or from a paper module), the cells might both be tilted slightly and have a full-page mild distortion (like a page that’s slightly curved, or an smartphone photo of a map where the camera wasn’t 100% in plane with the map). If you really want to go overboard, you’d also help with white balance, which would create a UX of “take more or less any picture of paper map, get great Shmeppy map.”

EDIT: One more thing that might (just might) make sense: Some form of plugin system. You get all these requests for non-core features (e.g. dice rolling bot) - it might be neat to have it be possible for somebody else to do these, just getting access to screen real estate (and possibly map coordinates/data.)

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Ah, great question (slash confusion). Access controls refer to who can join a map and who cannot. Currently there’s no way to restrict who can join a map. I also plan to allow multiple GMs using these controls which I’m sure people will find fun uses for.

I do plan to auto detect grids. I have some ideas on how to do it.

Seeing plugins for Shmeppy could be really cool, though it might make people feel like they have to use them to get the most out of it, which kind of defeats the purpose.

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I have the same concern.

Like if I exposed an API, I could imagine some fun bots people could make: like something that controls the Fog of War so you get dynamic lighting for your quickly sketched Shmeppy maps. That’d be super dope.

But then new users will go and try to use these bots that other people have made and end up with (likely) a sub-par experience because of it. I dunno… It’s very tricky.

Letting random devs modify the experience for (potentially) other people seems like quite the sharp double-bladed sword.

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A simple way to avoid new users trying to use bots is to disallow bots during the trial period. The ability to use bots would be exclusively for paying customers.

I also think no matter what it makes sense to delay it until there’s some very clear use cases. I was just thinking of what bots I wanted . I’d like an audio bot for controlling music, and a way to display images to players, and possibly a way to play video at the players, and a way to take larger notes and attach them to the map, and a way to show larger notes to players. And I just realized that adding a “heavyweight metadata token” with the ability to attach various media to it would solve all of my bot-cases quite well.

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what about other shapes like circles and multi sided polygons, and multiple levels for a map?

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These threads might be of interest to you:

Thanks for this wonderful tool. We’re about to try it in a game today.

What about having an option for the host to get a “player view”–the ability to see what it looks like to a player? The Fog of War option is lovely, but it would be a useful way to check and see that it has been set up the way I am hoping.

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I’m working on that feature right now. Check out "View map as player" button.

Reflecting on strategy share-outs at my recent company has reminded me of the value of creating a competitive advantage, things that make the product valuable to the users and also are hard to imitate by other companies. I tend to think the best attributes of a product can do both elegantly and simultaneously.

But realistically, I expect many technology products can get by with some combination of constant continued improvements/features and making a product really unique that it’s not easily copied. I think other products like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are, in some ways, acting as a group’s ongoing filing cabinet for their characters and setting.

I think Shmeppy could go a number ways, like excelling at being really easy to jump onto and off of. Likely this might make it convenient for players to jump on, but also make it easier for long-time players to discontinue. Or it could have its own way of creating continued utility to folks. I think some of these features might hit upon the latter, like importing maps or creating a world-canvas - I think these would be great features for the long-term success for Shmeppy.

One I haven’t seen addressed is the ability to make a copy of a map, and secondly to allow another “author” to make a copy of one of your maps that they would have control of. Not talking about sharing author access, just about one user making their own copy of another users map.

Here’s my use case: there are three of us on our little discord group who DM for our players. We got to talking and it would be nice to be able to share the “random encounter” maps with each other, so we could each have a few forest maps, a road through a forest map, ruins in a plain, that sort of thing.

When you monetize this, I do hope a map library is possible where users could check-out (or possibly even buy) access to maps.

I feel you, I think it’s very important.

I think Shmeppy has one strong competitive advantage right now: you can build maps very quickly/with little effort. I’ve tried to focus on sharpening that advantage with the work I take on.

When I look at other virtual tabletops, most of them don’t even try to accomplish this. Those that do do it as a secondary goal.

The next advantage I have my eye on is mobile support. No virtual tabletop has a strong mobile client right now (like Roll20’s mobile client’s users don’t seem particularly pleased…). I think the interface I have in mind for mobile players will be downright delightful (we’ll see if this vision translates into reality well).

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The quick map feature is what I like the most about Shmeppy! I can bang out a map in minutes! Would be great if you could make the map making utility more useful with some of the requested features (e.g. text boxes, etc.).

Looking very forward to the multi-select tool, and named regions. Those two together will make map designing much faster for maps with non-rectangular, repeating regions full of objects.

Thanks for your work, and looking forward to the day this gets its big official release. You’re making a very impressive, very clean tool, and my players appreciate it!

Access Controls Thought:

I’ve been looking at some non-5e rpg systems over the last year. I could see a bunch of uses for allowing a paid subscriber/GM giving certain levels of edit access to players while the paid subscriber/GM is present in the map.

Like certain games where players create a dungeon/map (like Wicked Ones or other group-mapmaking exercises), or maybe where the character sheet is simple enough and can just be placed in Shmeppy (in my opinion, Honey Heist).

At the same time, I’d imagine a vast majority of users are going to be in the 5e space. So maybe it doesn’t need to be a priority at this point. But I think there will be a growing number of uses for letting users have edit controls over things like fill, lines, etc., from the indie rpg space.

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