Lone Wolf (Hero Lab) Lays Off Staff

Lone Wolf Development, which makes the character creation software Hero Lab, amongst other things, has just announced that it is laying off staff, saying "for quite some time, we’ve spread ourselves too thin across different efforts".

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One of those people was Lj Stephens who was offered a job there three months ago and relocated across the US to work there; her husband, Owen KC Stephens, left his job at Paizo to go with her. He has a Patreon here if you want to support him. He posted publicly "As always, my heart goes out to the familes, friends, and fans impacted by this. Sadly, this includes me and Lj. This is the job we left WA for, she had it for about 90 days, and now it's gone."

Realm Works, their campaign management software, has been cancelled. Hero Lab will continue. And a new product, Campaign Theater, is coming soon.

Here's the full announcement:

"Lone Wolf is undergoing several major changes and I wanted to personally take the time to update everyone on what those changes are and how they will impact our users.

While Lone Wolf is a business, the company itself is comprised of people. And when it’s a small company, it’s more akin to family. There’s also our user community (you), which in many ways is like our extended family. Over the more than 20 years we’ve been creating software tools for gamers, we’ve garnered a significant number of loyal fans – fans who have been crucial to our success and whose ongoing support is greatly appreciated.

This sense of family was core to how we operated in the past, but when I got deathly ill three years ago, I strayed away from that. Now that I’m mostly back to my old self and finally completing my rehabilitation, I’ve realized we need to get back to those roots. You should see that shift reflected here in the increased level of disclosure and in future communications from myself and staff.

For quite some time, we’ve spread ourselves too thin across different efforts, and that’s been especially true for me personally. We’ve been doing an insufficient job at multiple tasks instead of a great job on a much narrower set. This has clearly hurt us. By implementing the changes outlined below, I fully believe we can get back to producing our normal level of quality products in a timely manner.

To start with, effective immediately, we are officially suspending work on Realm Works while we focus on improving our other products. Realm Works is “my baby”, and there’s a great sadness in making this decision, but the reality is that, despite our efforts, Realm Works is failing as a commercial venture with what limited resources we can put into it. There are quite a few things we could do to improve it, but that would require a significant investment of time and resources, neither of which we currently have.

Various aspects of Realm Works may begin to emerge within the Hero Lab Online framework in the future, but the Realm Works desktop product will not see further development at this time. Realm Works will absolutely continue to be available, and the servers will continue running, so the product will remain incredibly useful in its current form. However, for the foreseeable future, no more coding changes will occur beyond the significant bug fixes that went out over the past couple weeks.

Another big change we’re making is with our staffing. For quite some time, we’ve been leveraging investment financing to allow us to carry extra staff and pursue some varied objectives while we transitioned from Pathfinder 1st edition to 2nd edition. – one of which is on the verge of readiness (more on that in a moment). Alas, we didn’t get those projects completed within the investment funding time window (due to spreading ourselves too thin), so corresponding adjustments are now a necessity. We’re therefore saying goodbye to some excellent people, and that just adds to today’s pain.

Everything thus far sounds somewhat dire. So the obvious question is whether there’s any good news to take the sting out of the bad. Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding YES.

First off, Hero Lab Classic isn’t going anywhere and it just received a major upgrade in the form of native 64-bit support on both Windows and Mac. If you haven’t downloaded them yet, please do so, as you should see both performance and stability improvements. We also have several data packages ready and waiting for release. However, Apple has changed their rules and is now refusing to let us update our Hero Lab Classic iPad app, so the new packages have been held up while we determine how to appease Apple. We obviously want to release them on all platforms simultaneously, but we’ll need to come to an agreement with Apple before we can do so. We’ll provide an update as soon as we make some headway here.

For Hero Lab Online, Shadowrun 6th Edition hits store shelves in early October, and we’ve been working hard to launch support for it in the weeks ahead. We’re also preparing the big hardcover books for both Pathfinder 2nd Edition and Starfinder, not to mention some significant performance and reliability improvements. But the truly BIG thing we’ve been putting into place is something we’ve dubbed Campaign Theater™. We previewed it at GenCon in an early Alpha state and you may have seen the video promo on our social media. Since the preview, we’ve been fleshing things out and testing like crazy so we can debut it in time for the holidays.

So what exactly IS Campaign Theater? The goal is pretty simple. Bring all the power of Hero Lab, in a unified manner, to everyone in the campaign – GM and players alike. In HLClassic, we’ve long had the Encounter Builder to let GMs prepare scenes and the Tactical Console to let GMs run them. But everything within HLClassic is disconnected, and nobody can see what anyone else is doing during the game. While still quite helpful, there are major limitations with this approach. Now imagine a unified display of all participants in the current scene, with the GM seeing everything and players only seeing a suitable subset of information the GM allows. Any time a player makes a change to their PC, or the GM to a monster, everyone sees the update in real-time on their own device. And imagine having all your scenes prepped and ready to play out with a few clicks. That’s just the tip of Campaign Theater and what we’ll be starting with.

Some of you have mentioned this sounds a little bit like a virtual tabletop. Well, sort of, except that our focus is on all the detailed character/monster manipulation that VTTs don’t excel at and Hero Lab does. So there may be some similarities, but very little overlap. In fact, we’re developing these capabilities with the ultimate goal of integrating with VTTs, allowing those products to focus on all the tabletop visuals and Hero Lab to handle all the character mechanics in a coordinated manner. I like to think of it as the RPG equivalent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

We’ll have more to share regarding Campaign Theater in the near future, so stay tuned for that. As you can see, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the next few months, and even well beyond that.

In closing, allow me to say a big THANK YOU for your continued support over the years. It’s been extremely gratifying to create products that I love and to know that thousands of gamers are using them every week. Thank you for giving me – and the rest of the team here – that opportunity. It means more than we can express.

Sincerely,

Rob Bowes, President"
 
Last edited:
Russ Morrissey

Comments

kenmarable

Explorer
Never trust anyone who says a business is a “family” especially while laying off someone who just started 3 months ago and moved cross-country for the job. I’ve been through a few layoffs over the years (surviving most of them), and that’s ruder than any I’ve personally witnessed. It’s infuriating.
 

EthanSental

Explorer
I think it’s missed opportunity....did they try to get license for 5e? If they had it back in early 2015 and I know they had posts about talks about it with WOTC, with the 5e explosion and pathfinder dwindle, had to cut into their incoming cash.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
does DNDBeyond have some sort of exclusivity deal with WotC or something? Not sure, as I know Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 also have character managers. If not, Hero Lab really missed the boat with them for that. All they have is OGL material support, with some unofficial community modules (fan supported) floating around that aren’t exactly 100% copyright legal. I wondered how things were going for them in the wake of the PF2 change - sad to hear, though.
 

Zil

Explorer
I think it’s missed opportunity....did they try to get license for 5e? If they had it back in early 2015 and I know they had posts about talks about it with WOTC, with the 5e explosion and pathfinder dwindle, had to cut into their incoming cash.
They do have 5E modules for Herolab Classic so it looks like they probably have a 5E license.
 

Zil

Explorer
does DNDBeyond have some sort of exclusivity deal with WotC or something? Not sure, as I know Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 also have character managers. If not, Hero Lab really missed the boat with them for that. All they have is OGL material support, with some unofficial community modules (fan supported) floating around that aren’t exactly 100% copyright legal. I wondered how things were going for them in the wake of the PF2 change - sad to hear, though.
Ah, I stand corrected then. So their modules are not licensed 5E material, but are OGL material they have put together along with fan material. I wonder why they went that route?
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Ah, I stand corrected then. So their modules are not licensed 5E material, but are OGL material they have put together along with fan material. I wonder why they went that route?
Because WotC has other licensees who presumably pay more to them for similar products. Look at D&D Beyond for example.
 

EthanSental

Explorer
I was hoping they would get a 5e license....their app is great for the iPad at the table and until dndbeyond has their character app that doesn’t need a connection and able to work with downlaoded content....it would have been my go to choice.
 

Ian Danton

Explorer
I have used Hero Lab for years and loved classic for Pathfinder 1st edition. I had a fair bit of communication with them about the app, and they ALWAYS responded, and were ALWAYS helpful. The loss of people is incredibly sad, from both a personal point of view (I can only imagine how it feels having moved so far and then lose the job), and from the loss of development capability. However I appreciate the honest update (he admits he strayed from the "family" approach). Ultimately of course the truth is in the walk and not the talk. I will give them a chance, and hope that Campaign Theater lives up to his vision.
 

Birmy

Explorer
Hero Lab is a great product (or was when I used it regularly in my 3.x days) and I don't wish the Stephens' situation on anyone. Hope things work out for all parties.
 
I have been major disappointed with Hero Labs as their customer, so when I see news of their slow demise I am not even remotely surprised. I feel sad for the people who bet their life on working for them, but not for the company.

Hero Labs had, for a long time, the hands-down BEST iPad character sheet software, excelling in UI/UX than the current gold standard, Fight Club 5E. It had some community support beyond SRD but it had only a sliver of its promised features and then it stopped developing completely, the community support dried up, and it only got irregular critical fixes. After paying over 100 USD for both PF1 and 5E, It stopped being useful and they never delivered support for homebrew content.

If they had focused on delivering to paying customers on mobile devices where conversion rate is higher and had embraced 5E rather than putting all their eggs in Paizo's basket (understandably, since Paizo is a very forward-thinking company when it comes to digital tools) they might have avoided today's news.
 

darjr

I crit!
Consider helping by buying some of their stuff.

Here is some of OKS, anyone have other links for other folk?




Chris Sims shares Owen K. Stephens drive thru and patron links.
 

ddaley

Explorer
They have also all but killed support for Realm Works as well. I guess OneNote is the only real option any more.
Realm Works had a lot of potential. I wish they could have committed the resources necessary to get that product finished. The marketplace dragged on for years.

I use Omni Outliner on the Mac for taking notes for adventures. It's not perfect, but seems to be more useful than OneNote.

For others on a Mac: OmniOutliner for Mac - The Omni Group
 

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