The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I recently chatted with Paul Grosse, PR Silverback of the PCGen Project. PCGen was recently nominated for a Best Software ENnie. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us more about PCGen.
Paul Grosse (PG): Our new release of PCGen, v6.0, was nominated in the “Best Software” category. We are really excited about this release as it brings a completely new user interface which is faster and easier to use. We’ve also provided quite a few more source books for people to use within the program and refined the ones we already had, particularly for Pathfinder.
The previous production version (PCGen 5.16.4) had 219 Data Sets from 48 Publishers across 11 Game systems. This production version (PCGen 6.0.1) has 260 Data Sets from 51 Publishers across 11 Game systems. And all of thrse are included in the free program download.
MT: How did the PCGen project come about?
PG: The PCGen project was started in 1999 by Bryan McRoberts, mainly as an effort to learn Java. He then made the project Open Source after a year and a half of self-development. He has since taken a (benevolent) backseat dictatorial role.
The project is currently guided by a Board of Directors of the head of each team. We have been steadily increasing the support we deliver to both users and publishers ever since.
MT: Has PCGen ever been nominated for an ENnie in the past?
PG: We were nominated in 2003 as “Best Resource Fan Site” and won a Gold in 2005 for “Best Electronic Product”
MT: Why should voters vote for PCGen?
PG: It is completely free (as in beer) and open, and it always will be. It runs the same code on all major operating systems, if half your group (or office) run Mac and the other half run Windows, you can share characters and sourcebooks as simply as copying a file from one directory to another.
The PCGen download includes many sourcebooks from various publishers that can be used to create a character or a Monster/NPC. If there is a sourcebook someone uses that isn’t included in PCGen, it can be created easily by the user of the program. There is a Yahoo! Groups mailing list (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/PCGenListFileHelp/) dedicated to helping people create their own source material for personal use. Alternatively, a request can be submitted to the data team to have the sourcebook coded up and included in a future release of PCGen.
The source material in the program only has the mechanical effects and simple descriptions included. This is to encourage users of the program to buy the sourcebooks from the publishers, hopefully driving sales up for those publishers so that can produce more material for their products.
We always ask permission from the publishers before including any material of theirs, and we always accede to the their requests and wishes. The source material in PCGen also includes the publisher’s information, the sourcebook name, and the publisher’s website (where available).
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
PG: We feel that the gaming industry is having a resurgence after the d20 market abruptly crashed during the 3.5e to 4e period. There are more, better, and varied products on the market now than ever before. Competition is good, and this makes the industry, as a whole, improve itself.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
PG: As volunteers working on a completely free product, it is fairly hard for us to answer that. However, we generally feel that when a publisher has a good system that has a lot of followers (ie Pathfinder, ShadowRun), then they should continue developing their products, thus ensuring their fans and followers stay loyal.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model, if at all?
PG: Kickstarter has allowed individuals and smaller companies to produce their own products and help show both gamers and the industry what they can do and what they can provide and bring to the table. it does mean there is more choice for people in terms of settings, systems, and source material. It also means, for us, more material that we can possibly provide for inclusion in the program.
We have considered creating a Kickstarter campaign that would allow us to have a booth at GenCon. The stumbling block, however, as a program that is completely free to download and use, what rewards do we provide to the backers? Currently we do accept PayPal donations via our website, http://pcgen.org/get-involved/ .
MT: What’s next for your company?
PG: Improve PCGen based upon suggestions of our user base, and to continue including more data sources from publishers.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
PG: Whilst we held a funding drive to pay for a booth at GenCon, our finally tally fell short of the amount required. Bryan McRoberts and myself (Paul Grosse) will be there, as well as to attend the Ennies (provided nothing changes that would prevent us from being able to attend).
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
PG: Information on PCGen can be found at http://pcgen.org. For support there is our Yahoo! Group at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/pcgen/
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
PG: We are starting to branch out from the d20 based systems and support more indie systems. Specifically Killshot from Broken Ruler Games, and there is an individual called Dragon Dark Lord collaborating with Crafty Games to get Fantasy Craft working within PCGen. Good luck to all of the nominees for this year.
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