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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Two ex-Colgan students co-created an Internet tabletop game site

  • If there had been a really good Internet tabletop game site available, former University of Kansas roommates Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones and Richard Zayas would be using it and that would be the end of that story.

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  • If there had been a really good Internet tabletop game site available, former University of Kansas roommates Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones and Richard Zayas would be using it and that would be the end of that story.
    Instead, they couldn’t find a satisfactory site so they decided to make one. Roll20.net went live on Sept. 17.
    Dutton, Wichita, and Jones, who now lives in Las Vegas, are both formerly of Pittsburg and graduates of St. Mary’s Colgan High School. They met Zayas, now in Washington, D.C., in college. The three roomed together and enjoyed games. Now living across the country from each other, they wanted a chance to connect in something more than quick telephone calls.
    “We were looking for an outlet to play Dungeons and Dragons,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “We just wanted a better way to stay connected.”
    There were a few existing sites, he said, but they weren’t really easy to use, so they started constructing their own in February 2012, using HTML5 technologies including Canvas and WebGL to achieve a design as much like their former living gaming sessions as possible.
    “Whenever we came to a question on how we wanted something to feel, we erred on the side of simplicity,” Jones said.
    They raised funds for their project through Kickstarter, a web site that “crowd funds” projects.
    “We raised $39,000 from more than 1,500 people in 18 days,” Jones said. “One of our first donors was Maggie Ryan, our Colgan English teacher. I do comic book writing, and I would be nowhere without the things she taught us. There’s no doubt that our Colgan education and KU played in role in shaping us and grounding us.”
    Dutton said that they soon realized their personal gaming platform had potential to help others with the same issue of distance-separated gamers. In early June they opened a beta version of the Roll20 program up to the public for testing.
    What happened was astounding.
    “In the last four months, about 50,000 people, about 300 a day, played on our site,” Dutton said in a telephone interview. “They’ve logged 400,000 hours of gameplay in the application in the last four months. That’s 43 years.”
    In fact, Dutton said, Roll20 is currently the largest application of its type out there.
    “There are some applications that have been around for years that have only 7,000 or 8,000 people,” he said. “I remember when we crossed 10,000 users. I thought it would take us a year to get to that point, but we passed it in a month.”
    Dutton got another surprise when he attended Gen Con in Indianapolis, the largest tabletop gaming conference in North America. Roll20 got the Haste Podcast Rising Star Award, which recognizes the best newcomer technological innovation in the online game industry.
    Page 2 of 2 - The co-founders are now trying to see how many players they can get utilizing Roll20.
    “About 70 percent of users are doing role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, but it can be used for other games as well,” Jones said. “Do you want to play Monopoly with family members who live across the country? You can on Roll20.”
    The site now features ways for users to connect with new players to join games, and use premium maps and tokens for role playing. A paid subscription option has been added.
    “I don’t know how big this will be, it’s just a matter of who responds,” said Jones, son of Brian and Pat Jones, Pittsburg.
    Dutton, son of Tama and Randy Dutton, formerly of Pittsburg, said he’s not quitting his day job.
    “I’m happy my very patient and loving wife lets me spend time every night working on this,” he said.
    And, of course, the three are also Roll20 users.
    “I talk to the guys more now than in the past few years,” Jones said. “It’s great to have the opportunity to sit down and catch up on life.”
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