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".

lwd.jpg

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

Vicente

Explorer
They should have never focused on making Realm Works online IMHO, and just do an fully offline software. Best wishes and hopes to everyone affected by the news today.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
As a Really Works user, I first thought, "Oh crap!" Then I realized that Really Works has been essentially complete for a while now. About the only thing that I would really like that they haven't completed is the ability to include dates from custom calendars, but that's not essentially, because I can still write whatever imaginary dates I want in a snippet. The other big one I've heard people wanting is the ability to reveal information to individual players, which would probably be more important to me if my players had the software.

Other than that...I can't think of any real features that are missing.
 

Remus Lupin

Adventurer
Wow. That sucks. I love HL as an app, but I've never been very impressed with Lone Wolf as a company. This only cements my opinion that they, to all external appearances, seem simultaneously both great game app developers and terrible business people.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
Small companies that rely on 3rd party licenses and software that's located in a highly changing and competitive landscape can sometimes face setbacks. The situation might have been very different when they posted the new position and hired someone.
 

Baumi

Explorer
As a Really Works user, I first thought, "Oh crap!" Then I realized that Really Works has been essentially complete for a while now. About the only thing that I would really like that they haven't completed is the ability to include dates from custom calendars, but that's not essentially, because I can still write whatever imaginary dates I want in a snippet. The other big one I've heard people wanting is the ability to reveal information to individual players, which would probably be more important to me if my players had the software.

Other than that...I can't think of any real features that are missing.
Just be careful and backup regularly. Online Services that stopped support, often are taken offline shortly afterwards. I hope for all the users, that this is't the case here, but better safe than sorry.
 

Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
I second and third and whatnot that Realm Works had potential. I used it to run a year and a half long WFRP campaign, but in the end the complexity and issues I had with the speed and interface made me switch my campaign management to Scrivener.
 

Malovech

Explorer
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
Can you create a map with pins that open documents beside the map image with OmniOutliner?
 

ddaley

Explorer
Can you create a map with pins that open documents beside the map image with OmniOutliner?
Most likely not. I primarily use it for prepping game notes. It is a great hierarchical note application. It is capable of doing more than I do in it... can't say I am a power user. But, it is very quick and easy to create a hierarchical outline of notes. You can expand and collapse at any level of the note tree too. So, it is easy to drill into your notes, if you arrange them well.

There is a "Pro" version, which I do not have.
 

Jharet

Explorer
Owen Stephens just moved across the country to join them and instantly was laid off. Pretty weak sauce on Lone Wolf's part. I expect them to stop offering support or functionality for their Hero Lab (classic) customers any day now. I mean, hey, they have the money already, right?
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
Owen Stephens just moved across the country to join them and instantly was laid off. Pretty weak sauce on Lone Wolf's part. I expect them to stop offering support or functionality for their Hero Lab (classic) customers any day now. I mean, hey, they have the money already, right?
So you expect support on software you buy once, for ever? As long as sales are great that isn't really a problem, as sales fund new development, that will drive new sales. But when new sales plummet due to market conditions (glut) and constrictions (not able to acquire 5E license) things can go bad quickly. Expecting life long support on a buy once product is what I call 'weak sauce'...

I've worked with enough small (IT) companies that I know that the financial situation can turn on a dime. A big customer that you've invested heavily in (to bring product to market) can back out at the last moment, a deal for a product you've been investing heavily in doesn't go through (licenses), market shifts, economy shifts, investor backs out unexpectedly, private situation of the owner changes drastically, etc. Entrepreneurship IS risk at any level, especially for smaller companies. When you go work for such companies you should know the risk when signing up, especially when changing your private live drastically. I don't hear complaints from the folks that were let go, but from folks that don't have a 'clue', apparently. If people were hired by WotC now, they shouldn't be all that surprised if they were let go by Christmas... It happened before and it will happen again. Do your research...

Lone Wolf has imho a very good track-record in the gaming industry, I suspect they've been around the longest and still actively support most of their product lines. If I compare that with the amount of software packages that have been around for the last 30 years and have disappeared again after spending (a lot of) money on them, that isn't even funny... ProFantasy is also such a big rock in gaming software that's been around for a long time, the rest just comes and goes.
 

TheObserver

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.
[/QU

Sad to hear.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
On why Lone Wolf doesn't havea 5E license, does anybody remember Project Morningstar?
I've been looking hard and can't find that these people are the same people.

Lone Wolf Development => San Jose, CA
Trapdoor Technologies => Boulder, CO

According to the KS comments here:
Liz T is/was from Lone Wolf and didn't appear part of the TT team. They might know each other though...

Here it says, she's just a backer:

Based on location, the Internet, and comments here and in the KS I can only conclude that they aren't the same people/company. Do you have any evidence that they are? Please link to it. Making comments like these are really dangerous imho, as they eventually are going to live their own lives...
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I've been looking hard and can't find that these people are the same people.

Lone Wolf Development => San Jose, CA
Trapdoor Technologies => Boulder, CO

According to the KS comments here:
Liz T is/was from Lone Wolf and didn't appear part of the TT team. They might know each other though...

Here it says, she's just a backer:

Based on location, the Internet, and comments here and in the KS I can only conclude that they aren't the same people/company. Do you have any evidence that they are? Please link to it. Making comments like these are really dangerous imho, as they eventually are going to live their own lives...
Sorry, my intention wasn't to imply that Trapdoor and Lone Wolf were the same, but rather Lone Wolf didn't have a 5E license on the basis that Trapdoor got one for effectively the same product.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
I see they took down the PF BB software. I got tons of mileage out of that. After my desktop got destroyed in a electrical fire, I went to go reinstall on my laptop, and cannot find it. Is this part/result of their ill's?
 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Top