Sandstorm Virtual Tabletop Applications & Services
Sandstorm is the backbone of our advanced Virtual Tabletop cloud services, and apps that run on Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS!
This front page is constantly updated, so please pass by from time to time, to see what's new. Thanks!
The Short Story:
This Kickstarter project is for the 2nd phase of what our 1st project, began.
What we want to build in this Kickstarter is a network of Virtual Tabletop clients, supported by a reliable, and powerful platform that takes away all the hassle of getting connected with other players around the world.
Sandstorm is the name of this platform, and we're building it on top of Google's / Amazon's cloud infrastructure services, to be as reliable as possible on Day 1.
Connecting to Sandstorm are 2 unique Virtual Tabletops, each representing the best of their class. Find out more about them, below, and on this features table.
Our ultimate goal is to deliver the highest quality Virtual Tabletop applications & services, and make them as affordable as possible.
To give you a perspective think of the most popular online VTT. Now imagine a cheaper monthly fee for the services that help you get connected with others remotely, but with a super app that you own and can run offline, even without being tethered to the service. Nice, right?
Browser-based Virtual Tabletop = Hassle-free connection, but intentionally limited, to deliver reasonable performance, and push down maintenance costs.
User-side Virtual Tabletop = All the bells and whistles, but users with little or no technical skills are helpless when connectivity issues arise.
Sandstorm + our Virtual Tabletops = Win-Win :)
But first, an intermission!
There is absolutely no way to make cloud services, networking, and digital marketplaces, sexy; at the very least, not without the budget and manpower to make trailers such as the ones for the Matrix, or (XD) Swordfish. So we won't even try :D
Also in this channel, you can see what Mote, our elder VTT, can do. While all of its videos show an obsolete, alpha-level version of Mote you can preview matured features such as SQL, audio, and script code completion, that our newest VTT shares withe Mote. (Mote has already come so far since then, please feel free to get a copy from our website).
Furthermore, we'll be inserting images of Sift (like the one below) into this narrative, as we go along with this Kickstarter. We hope you enjoy them!
Sandstorm in Detail
Have you ever tried out a nice Virtual Tabletop, only to set it aside because you couldn't get it to connect with anyone? It might have been your equipment, or the software in your computer wasn't updated; or these might have happened on the setup of one of your player friends, but the result was the same, you went somewhere else and used something else for your hobby's needs. Did you find that, the only way to play without hassle is to leave all the details to an online service? But do you find, sometimes, that it'd be in your best interests if you own actual software that you can use "offline"?
Sandstorm is our work to implement the critical network components that will both support, and connect, our Virtual Tabletop applications. Both, for local play, and across the internet.
As such, Sandstorm's architecture needs to be built for the large-scale, to handle the demands that will be placed upon it, 24/7.
Our VTT applications are standalone, in that they don't need to be tethered to Sandstorm, to work (more about this on an update), but receive benefits from syncing up with it, from time to time.
We need your support on this Kickstarter to fund the needed acquire the necessary software, hardware, and security licenses, as well as cover our access to the chosen online infrastructure providers (e.g. Google and Amazon), that we'll need as the sturdy foundation for Sandstorm.
This is an unprecedented move in the VTT niche, since, on one hand, the leading online service does not provide any user-owned client (browsers don't count). Does it give the user ownership of an actual application that can live beyond the lifetime of the service?
On the other hand, there are other VTTs that do provide such client applications, though some are license for only a period of time.
The usual problem is, by and large, the burden of getting connected to others players, is hefted mostly on the user's shoulders.
We want to provide the best of both worlds. A cutting-edge Virtual Tabletop that runs on virtually anything, and a connection service, that will assist and protect users from the all the hassles getting in the way of play.
Accessing Sandstorm by subscription will allow you start sessions with other people, preview available content in our marketplace, and route information to the connections made with others.
It will host our official forums and blog, along with any other online presence that is needed by the projects.
As a company, we want to provide sane choices for VTT gaming. Some these are:
- A more affordable connection service that doesn't hold back any features.
- Apps that are either free or reasonably priced.
- The freedom to host, and fetch gaming assets from anywhere (safe), as well as being able to use them somewhere else.
Sandstorm, and our VTT clients, will be powered by a collection of regional servers, situated around the globe**, to provide as quick a response as possible, at any time.
The strength of this setup will be to provide the most seamless, and immersive experience, as possible; getting people who just want to play, together right away.
No more messing around with modems, routers, and firewalls; no losing of mind figuring out if you have the latest version of software X, to run software Y, and definitely, no more having to use precious game time to go on Skype, Facetime, or Hangouts, to troubleshoot someone else's computer :))
If you have Internet, and a stable connection, then you're good to go!
Sandstorm also is a store front and digital delivery service, that will offer the freedom to share your created game assets, as well as allow the talented writers and artists, to get commercial support for their work from the community.
However, this is where the similarities with other Virtual Tabletop products, ends. There is a tremendous difference in the sum of parts that make up our projects, and the future plans we have in mind, and we're very excited to discuss these with you. We have so many ideas to make this our work stand apart from what's already out there, and we hope you'll help us make it a reality!
- Our ambition is to provide 2, best-in-class, VTT applications: One for people who love free stuff, and another for users who don't mind spending a little extra to get the best. Both will be served by Sandstorm, our One-Super-Service.
- Sandstorm is not only a means to connect gaming groups, but will also act as a marketplace for artists, writers of both stories and script, and other content creators, to reach tabletop enthusiasts everywhere.
- We want both the online services, and our VTT clients to be the most cost effective solutions, ever.
No other service, or application, (or combination thereof), will match the levels of creative power delivered, and freedoms of usage and ownership, our stuff provides.
A Tale of 2 Apps:
Our VTT applications are not built on a freemium model. None of their parts are locked away, or digitally delivered, until after paying a fee. On the contrary, these are 2 distinct Virtual Tabletops, come with everything at the start.
Both were written from different sources, which is plain to see once you watch the vids.
Mote is our elder VTT application. This application is the result of our 1st Kickstarter, and keeping true to the spirit of that project, it is, and will, forever be, free.
We hope to grow it's user base further, through the launch of Sandstorm. We are confident to say that there is no other free VTT that can compare to its growing list of capabilities.
Mote has been available to the general public since February of this year (2015). With the help of our testers and supporters, it is achieving it's design goal to be a heavily enhanced, supremely convenient version of fan favorite, MapTool.
It comes with everything it needs in one file, updates itself automatically, and is armed to the teeth with powerful features that other VTTs make you pay for.
You can download and review it for yourself, from the project website.
Now, in order to take the Mote experience to the next level, the only obstacle left is resolving connectivity issues once and for all.
Based on studies we've made, and from anecdotal reviews across many online locations where gamers congregate, these connectivity issues, along with Java and the learning curve of its scripting language, are what drove most people away from adopting MapTool. To date, we've provided solutions for 2 out of these 3 issues, and we are ready to vanquish the 3rd.
This is where Sandstorm comes in. With it's help, Mote clients will transcend the last of the bad stuff from it's parent's past, and users can go directly to having FUN.
This last point brings us to the most compelling part about the SandStorm + Mote setup: Everyone in a gaming group of any size, can use something that is more versatile and powerful than most other VTTs, for about $2 a month, without ever being barred from using the "good stuff", like dynamic lighting, audio, and fog of war.
If that isn't enough to convince you of a great deal, Mote users can completely forego using Sandstorm altogether, and connect with others around the globe through the available options that are already built into the application.
In this situation, subscribing to Sandstorm for Mote just becomes a means to show us your support, and your willingness to see the Idle Ideas team grow.
Isn't that what freedom, means?
The new bundle of joy on the block is Sift, an application that has more similarities to a game development platform, than an actual Virtual Tabletop. Our rewards for this Kickstarter that involve Sift, reflect the special access to our work on it, that will not be available to the public after the "gestation" period ends :) This is our way of showing our appreciation for those who take the leap with us, in creating something special.
Sift defines what the next generation of VTT should be. As can be seen on our videos, it's visual capabilities encompass 2d and 3d*, drawn on a canvas that supports traditional "top-down" (orthographic) maps, and as a stretch goal, we will pursue full support for isometric maps.
Each scene is governed by physics, and the degree of its impact on a Master's world, be it minimal or full-blown, is left almost entirely in the hands of the user.
Built on some of the best principles of game design, it is meant to have unmatched capabilities to create realms of dream on the desktop, while running smoothly on both desktop and mobile.
At Sift's core, is our innovative A.P.S (Association & Placement Stack) system, born from our hate of carpal tunnel pain and other suffering related to current VTT systems.
With it, scenes can be designed by simply stacking components together. No more drag-and-drop, just Select-and-Place :) Please check the current stash of vids, and the ones that are coming during and after the Kickstarter, to see what we mean.
By using the power of Association, users create their worlds in the most efficient way possible. One of the best features of this Sift system is the Event modeling, whereby trigger areas can be set and just about anything can be associated to fire when ready.
Play an eerie sound when entering the room? Check. Turn on the lights or set off the alarm when a line is crossed? Check. Start a combat round when a PC sees an enemy? Check. Run a script under certain conditions? Check.
Along with it comes CSS styling, and HTML5, used in conjunction with the JavaFX toolkit. This unholy union makes it, hands down, the most powerful scripting engine, not only for a Virtual Tabletop, but in general computing as well.
Ever seen a really nice looking website? At it's heart is HTML5 and CSS, and this type of aesthetics can be brought in to style stuff such as character sheets, user-made journals, spell books, and more! But using this just for character sheets, does not do it justice!
Like Mote, scripting is done with an in-app IDE-like editor with auto-completion, and execution tools, to make writing actions and scripts, a breeze.
It can do SQL, has flexible audio capabilities, connects to IRC, and has a dice expression interpreter that is capable of simulating most, if not all, gaming systems. These latter features are shared in Mote, and anyone can readily evaluated how they work, while you wait on Sift :)
User interfaces are completely "skinnable" (i.e. themed); CSS for the design GUI, and an easy to use JSON-based system to make themes for the control GUI. We'll be honest. The current team at Idle Ideas suck at making skins and themes, so we've focused instead on writing the foundations for others to easily create UI overlays.
It's worth repeating that Sift runs on Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS.
* Actual 3d mapping is currently not supported.
** Restricted in a sandbox, for security purposes
Overall #1 - Virtual Tabletop enthusiasts. The combination of Sandstorm, Sift, and Mote provide a trio of powerful apps and services, at lower costs than rival VTTs, now and in the future.
There are no additional restrictions on compatible media, and no DRM scheme. You won't be forced to have your assets bought and stored at a controlled space in the cloud.
What is free, is free forever; what is obtained through rewards in this Kickstarter, is owned and owned forever.
No one's going to pull the plug on Sift at the end of the month, or year's end, asking for more money.
Writers and artists - Even the types of artists that don't normally provide content for Virtual Tabletops. For interested and willing creators of both free and professional content,
Sift's array of multimedia features support GUI theme packs, 2d and 3d particle effects, ambient audio and sound effects, plus animation ranging from tiles, frames, and even spines.
Beyond the usual "top-down" experience, with your support Sift can eventually handle isometric maps and assets. This and so much more is planned for the future!
There are several commitments we'd like to make to all who will support our work. We think it is important that people have something solid to hold us accountable to, when our company's motive is to provide services and sell quality products:
We will deliver on time.
There are a lot of crowdfunding projects based on Virtual TableTops, and going by the Kickstarter averages, it's been more than a year, and most have not delivered on their flashy promises, for many reasons. Which brings us to...
We will never ever sell out our Kickstarted projects or merge with another entity somewhere down the line:
This especially true while delivering on our outlined plans. We have enough faith in our projects, and ideas for the future to know that we will be in this for the long haul, and that everyone, including ourselves, will be best served by being captains of our own destiny. The only exception to this is if it is what our community wants, but we are extremely skeptical that this will ever happen.
We will uphold our current standards of open communication, and do our best to help supporters see how things are going
We admit that, during the fulfillment phase of our 1st Kickstarter, there was a hole of about a month and some days, where we've been unable to get word out to our beta testers.
Our current community can vouch for us when we say that we've ramped up our efforts, and most are happy with regularity of our communications, and the details we provide therein.
We will never resort to gimmicks that will distract people from seeing our actual systems at work.
Partly because our current members can't save their mother's lives at making videos, and mostly because our applications speak for themselves.
Use of Funding
Payment for Cloud Services and Data Usage:
The choice between Google's Cloud Platform and Amazon's EC2/AWS may fall to one or the other, or even both. In order to make the best choice possible, both infrastructure services need to be evaluated, to find the real world figures in keeping Sandstorm, and everything on it, running.
Things such as security certificates and network protection, especially those that involve protecting sensitive identity and payment information. Encryption of user data, is also needed.
Stretch Needs and Goals
Beyond what's asked for during this run, these are what we need, and what we want to do once the base goal is met. Stretch goals for awesome features we'd like to put into Sift will also be added later.
If we achieve critical funding levels, we will be able to bring Sandstorm and Sift, sooner, and with more features than can be implemented on our (currently) small team.
Instead of doing multiple funding runs, that month can be spent solely at writing more great stuff for you all!
Purchasing additional test devices:
We want to acquire a couple of high end mobile devices and as many low-end devices as possible. Anyone who's ever developed for mobile, or experienced issues while using apps across many mobile devices, will understand this need. This will help broaden our base for compatibility, making Sift better at the start, for as many devices as possible!
Growing the team:
After our 1st Kickstarter, we pretty much had to let several talented members go because of the modest outcome of the crowdfunding. With your support, we can bring some (or all) of them back to get this thing rocking!
Earlier release dates for Beta and Public Access
This is the last stretch goal. Which means other stretch goals can and will be placed before it. The more supported features, the more time we'll need to get it done. If we bring the rest of the team in, we'll be able to find a good middle ground between us and everyone who supports what we're doing :)
If we get people back early on and get them up to speed, this will drastically shorten the time it will take to get Sift and Sandstorm out there.
Reserved for Add-ons
In the event that we meet our initial funding goal, we'll divulge some great stuff that you can add onto a pledge level that you've made, or are still about to make, as a show of extra support. Thank you in advance! Reserved for Add-ons In the event that we meet our initial funding goal, we'll divulge some great stuff that you can add onto a pledge level that you've made, or are still about to make, as a show of extra support. Thank you in advance!
Kickstarter Referral Program:
Help us spread the word and we'll come up with something suitable, such as a month's access to Sandstorm, for every 3 referrals. More on this soon!
Definition of Terms in Rewards
Mobile - Pertains to devises using Android and iOS.
Acolyte - Confers the ability to connect to sessions in Sandstorm, using the chosen VTT (Sift or Mote).
Master - Confers the ability to create sessions in Sandstorm, using the chosen VTT (Sift or Mote).
Sift can work offline, and host local sessions on its own power but it needs Sandstorm to connect with remote players, offering both hassle-free connectivity, and the security needed to keep personal information, safe.
Mote - A heavily upgraded fork of MapTool. Does not require Sandstorm to host games, but uses Sandstorm as a connectivity service to bypass long-time issues such as manual router and firewall configuration, reliance on Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP), and a whole lot more PITA.
- Subscription - only pertains to Sandstorm. Without a subscription to Sandstorm, Sift and Mote's features will still, and always be, available.
Risks and challenges
There is always the risk of a late release when it comes to software. This is especially true with large (cloud) services like Sandstorm.
With that being said, our delivery performance on our last Kickstarter project put us well ahead the average time it took other projects here, taking every sort of delay into consideration.
Since our company's continued existence, and stakes in future plans are on the line, we are committed to continuing working hard to improve Mote and work even harder to bring Sift and Sandstorm out at the soonest possible time.
Aside from these factors, there are virtually no risks. Unlike the 1st Kickstarter, all the deliverables are in-house, and each one is centered on our goals. Sift is well on it's way to going beta, and all it needs is the network stack through Sandstorm, for things to gain a full head of steam.
Sandstorm will be built using components that are mostly available as part of the cloud platforms we will be subscribing to. What's left to work on is the configuration and testing phases which, while lengthy, hardly require any creative thought. The challenges for us there is to make it as lean and mean as possible, which further lengthens the development cycle until public release.
Our track record is being proven every day, on every weekly release of Mote. While we had a bumpy start to our closed beta, we've learned a ton getting to where we are now, and each iteration brings even more features and conveniences for everyone.
There is nothing but upside from this point on. Please help us grow our team, and make our grand vision, a reality.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)