Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview: Bill Hart - Maptool Gang of 3

We continue Maptool Month with an Interview with Bill Hart aka Dorpond from the MapTool forums. Trevor once described him as MapTool's energizer bunny. Bill found MapTool and began contributing almost immediately. He was a driving force behind the current MapTool visions system. He drove home the point that an elf with lowlight vision should see the map differently than a dwarf with darkvision.

Bill continues to support MapTool contributing to design and testing of the product. Those who don't produce code for a living often don't understand the old 40/20/40 rule of coding. Forty percent of a projects time is spent in analysis and design, twenty percent coding, and forty percent testing. Thus Bill is the forty percent bread in the MapTool code sandwich.

The other quality Bill brings to the table is endless enthusiasm.  You simply can't get the man down even with a troll club (trust me, I've tried). He believes deeply in the mission of MapTool of providing a free, quality tool that brings gamers together.

So, without further ado, the Dorpond interview.

ST: When did you start gaming and what were the games you played in the early days?

BH: Does Zork count? That was really the game that convinced me that adventuring (and reading and writing) was awesome. It was the closest thing to pen and paper that I experienced at age 14. “It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue” - classic, just classic. If we are talking about Pen and Paper, I had one of the D&D monster manuals when I was just a kid but I didn't understand the rules so I just found myself looking at the monsters all the time (and thinking how cool they were). My first game was when 3rd edition came out; I bought the core books and I read, a lot *whew*. I worked with a guy who had a regular 2nd edition group and he asked me to join them. I did, but couldn't grasp 2nd edition after reading 3rd, so I convinced them to jump to 3rd, where I ran my first campaign. We have been playing every week since.

ST: What games are you playing now?

BH: 4th edition D&D. We rotate DM hats but my campaign is based off of the Diablo universe  (Blizzard entertainment) that I bring to life the best I can - more-so than any video game can. That is the pleasure of “pen and paper” gaming.

Here is a video showing my recreation of the Butcher map. Yeah, I usually play crazy sound effects like that during game J:

ST: What’s your fondest gaming memory?

BH: A friend of mine was playing a cleric/sorcerer by the name of Radagast the Brown, who was trying to spread the word of god to an already holy village. Everyone in this town were extremists when it came to their god, and in their eyes, there were no other gods. Well my friend was doing as his character would do and tried convincing the locals and the priests that there were in fact more gods. For a matter of fact, Radagast followed the god of travel. 

Well the local priests were furious and told him to stop spreading such lies and that he was blasphemous saying such things. Well Radagast was determined and didn’t stop; he continued spreading “the truth” every chance he had. Well the local priests had enough.. They cornered him while he was alone in the church (separated from the party of course) and they did all they could to try and capture him and knock him out. The battle itself was very epic but it didn’t fare well for Radagast. The priests eventually overwhelmed him and knocked him out silly. To make a long story short, the party eventually found Radagast some 10 miles out of town. 

He was found just across the border where he was hog tied and thrown in a sack with a note attached to him never to return - never to spread lies again! LOL. What makes this even more entertaining was that his familiar was also in a sack, carefully hog tied in a similar manner. LOL. I know, silly, but to this day I continue to bring up the fact that Radagast was thrown in a sack. Radagast in a SACK! So humiliating! 

Humor aside though, the church scene was one of the best confrontations ever. For a matter of fact, since Radagast was split from the rest of the party, that player and I got together during the week, outside of game, to play it out. Even he said it was one of the best.

 ST: How did you find MapTool? 

BH: I was looking for a virtual tabletop and reviewed at all that were available at the time. I saw MapTool was free so I downloaded it. I've been hooked ever since. Even at 1.0, it was still light years ahead of the game.

ST: Do you use MapTool in face-to-face or remote games?

BH: Face to face. Man, it totally beats a rubber battle mat. Now the archers won't fall off the map or table! We do have one friend that is remote so that is 6 people face to face and one in another state. All one happy family.

ST: What about the product made it your VTT of choice?

BH: The ability to make massive maps. I can make a map that spans miles. One minute it is an overland
map the next I zoom up close to see the details. Every other virtual tabletop had a maximum map size it seemed; the one that didn't, was just too complex to use.

ST: What current feature of Maptool do you enjoy the most?

BH: The vision stuff.  If a creature is behind a building or trees, you can’t see it.

ST: What in 1.3 do you find the most irritating?

BH: The drawing tools are too basic for my artistic needs. I gravitate towards the better side of map making so I hope to put better artist tools into 1.4.

ST: What about the project convinced you to contribute?

BH: MapTool was a wildfire - the best virtual tabletop ever, in my eyes. The community over at Dundjinni were developing a ton of free artwork. RPGMapshare was a new website where artists could upload a lot of image files. It was a new and exciting time, and making digital maps was hot! Being able to use all that stuff in Maptool was even hotter because we could play on those maps. Trevor, one of the founders, was very receptive to community requests and usually implemented them. Anyone would have jumped to the opportunity to be part of the storm. I had a burning need to be part of something huge so I helped promote the product, threw demos, and tested every build before it was released to public. Over time, I was eventually asked to join the team. I've been on the team now since Maptool 1.1 and it's been one hell of a ride.

ST: What’s your primary role on the MapTool project? 

BH: It has changed a lot over the years. Today it is probably split amongst 2: Design (in a vision sense) and Testing. I don't code at all but I have a good visual sense of where Maptool should be. I usually discuss the ideas with the others and create mockups. If we all agree, they code it and then pass it back to me to test. It usually goes back a forth a few times and then released to public.

ST: What areas of the application do you find yourself working on most?

BH: Wow - everything. There isn't a part of MapTool that isn't discussed or tweaked at some point or another. While MapTool can do just about anything, just about everything can be improved - a lot.

ST: What’s it like now that you’re one of the three primary directors of the project?

BH: So far so good. The others are top notch and have good heads on their shoulders. I am excited to see what 1.4 will bring now that we have fresh eyes working on the code. Fresh blood and ideas can be a good thing.

ST: MapTool is bringing old gaming groups back together again as well as letting them bring in new folks that they would have never met otherwise. Does that awareness help motivate you?

BH: Heck yeah! We make MapTool to bring gamers together - period. That is why we do all this for free. It's all about the gamers!

ST: Our old gaming group and our new members say “THANK YOU”!

BH: Thank all of you too!

ST: Thanks again to Dorpond for taking the time for this interview. Up next, Macro Master Craig.

For more information on MapTool, please follow the links below
RPTools Home Page
MapTool on The Savage Troll
MapTool Community Forums
MapTool Wiki
MapTool Tutorial Site
Go ahead and launch it! (yes, its still just that easy)
Download it (for those afraid of web launches)


  1. If you only knew then energy and enthusiasm Bill brings to the game as a player and a DM. I started playing with Bill on a 2'x2' battle grid about 8?? years ago. I was almost overwhelmed by his energy as a DM. My cousin plays remotely and has been D&Ding for 30 years and me for about 25. We both agree Bill is the best DM we have ever played with and my cousin can't wait to be able to roleplay with him live once he gets home.

    OK enough history onto maptool. Bill brought maptool to us about 5 years ago give or take. It has a bit of a learning curve and as Bill said the map making lacks a little. Once you get use to how to create maps or add maps from a Pic file of some sort it gets a lot easier. My first time DMing with maptool it took a bit to get use to but now I have it down pretty good and its a joy to use.

    The range of the maps is limitless which is nice. The vision (blocking, light sources, racial vision) is an awesome addition that I know Bill pushed for. The use of different tiled maps and tokes creates a bit more flavor for the players to see and get a real feel for whats going on, especially if you have a good map designer. Really a great gaming product for any RPG game using maps not just D&D.

    Have done my share of testing with maptool wtih Bill and he is really dedicated to making it the best product he can. As long as he is working on Maptool I can only see it getting better. I look forward to the next version and see what imrpovements they Bill and the other creators have made!

  2. Dorpond: Thank you very much Anonymous! As a DM who sort of started late with the whole pen and paper thing, it makes me feel really good knowing you feel that way. I think every DM wants their players to walk away saying "Wow!". That is the reason we DM - to bring something that isn't real to life - the best we can, and to help you create that special character you will remember for years.