Weekly bulletin: planning for 2022

Weekly bulletin: planning for 2022

Jan 10, 2022

Happy 2022, friends! I hope you all had a happy and healthy holiday. I enjoyed my time off, and am now taking a bit of time to reorient and set out my priorities for the new year.

First off, I'm kicking things off by chatting with users about how they're using initiative.sh, what it does well and what it's lacking. Based on that, I'll put together a firm roadmap for the first half of the year.

Tentatively, this is what I have in mind:

Free features

I have always loved how financially accessible tabletop gaming can be, once you strip away all of the expensive rulebooks, fancy dice, minis, custom terrain, and so forth. Part of that free ecosystem in recent years is a vibrant community of tools and generators built by volunteers as personal passion projects - a community that I'm proud to be a part of.

One of the early design goals of initiative.sh was to make the core sustainably free. This has two elements: being cheap to host, and requiring no ongoing work on my part to keep it online (ie. serverless). I ended up accomplishing the goal by hosting the site using Cloudflare Pages. How well does it work? Well, Cloudflare doesn't even have my credit card number (yet, more on that later).

As I've said before, everything that the site currently is and will always be free. I'm actually pretty happy with the state that the free version is in now, though there are a few other key additions that I want to make to the core before my vision is fully rounded out:

  • Hierarchies: Frodo is in The Prancing Pony

  • More metadata: Aragorn's nickname is Strider

  • Contexts: go to Mordor

  • History: what happened last Thursday

  • Demographics: Kingdoms, cities, inns, etc. will have particular demographic distributions and will affect the sorts of people you're likely to find there.

  • Music: You will be able to turn music on, with theme music changing as you move from location to location.

  • Weather: Dynamically changing weather based on your location and the passage of time.

There are other ergonomics changes I'm looking forward to making, but that will be an ongoing process and doesn't fit so well as a bulleted list.

Paid features

I'm incredibly fortunate to have been able to devote the past six months of my life to this project on a full-time basis. However, that's obviously not sustainable in the long run without a steady source of income. I don't have any illusions that initiative.sh is likely to singlehandedly replace the salary I was making as a full-time programmer, but I do harbour a dream of being able to divide my time between a few different initiative.sh-sized projects and calling that a career.

Furthermore, while until now I've been able to avoid introducing features with marginal cost, some of the ideas that excite me the most will be more resource-intensive than what I've built so far. I'm not sure how things will shake out, but I don't want to end up in a situation where I'm subsidizing the project out of pocket, and I really don't want to introduce features for free only to be forced to move them behind a paywall in the future.

With that said, there are some features that I think add a lot of value without diminishing the free version, and I'm excited to be able to offer more tangible thanks to my supporters on Buy Me A Coffee.

  • Cloud sync: Synchronize your worlds between computers and ensure that your data is always backed up.

  • API integrations: Configure your own playlists with Spotify, control the lighting in your games room with Home Assistant, or use webhooks to create your own integrations.

  • Character portraits: When generating a random NPC, also associate a portrait with the character. I may be able to add this to the free tier instead, but I don't want to promise it and then not deliver.

To my current supporters, thank you! I honestly didn't expect any contributions until I had something to offer you for your money, and your support has given me a boost of optimism and motivation to keep building this.

Open source

Open-sourcing the project is still on my radar. The main blocker to this right now is that there remains at least one large-scale refactor that will have to be done after the one that I am currently embroiled in. I have enough trouble avoiding stepping on my own toes through these refactors, so I don't particularly relish the thought of trying to juggle the rewrite alongside community contributions.

I don't have a firm timeline for that process right now, but it will likely be after most of the other features on this list have solidified. So: I haven't forgotten, but also don't hold your breath.

Finally, thank you all for your support and engagement. I'm super proud of what I've accomplished here so far, and delighted that you've decided to join me on the journey.

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