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2014 ENnies interview #8: Amazing Rando Design

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This interview is part of a series focusing on candidates in the running for the 2014 ENnie Awards. The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop role-playing gaming, with voting beginning 7 a.m. Central on Sunday, July 20 through 7 p.m. Central on Wednesday, July 30. The winners will be announced at Gen Con, the Grand Hall at the Historic Union Station on Friday, August 15. To vote, see http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/. In this installment I interview Randy Oest, Owner of Amazing Rando Design..

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Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.

Randy Oest (RO): Amazing Rando Design is a Web design company that is starting to dip its toes into the gaming community. Our first foray is the Fate SRD, which is an effort to bring top notch design and usability to a great RPG ruleset. I’m hoping to have the company grow more into this space by working on even more Web sites, as well as building apps, to help the RPG market grow in popularity with a larger mass market.

MT: Tell us about your nominated site.

RO: The Fate SRD is an online, accessible-by-every-device rules destination for the Fate RPG. Players can link to rules sections for discussions on forums, they can copy and paste easily for their own notes, and they can use our Stuntmaker to generate random options to inspire them, and etc. Not sure what a stunt is? Here is a link to learn more. See how useful it is? :-)

What distinguishes the Fate SRD from other industry SRDs is threefold. First, a big focus on the aesthetics. The site was designed to feel as if it was part of the Fate ecosystem while having its own look and feel. And there are transition animations to help the site feel more like people are interacting with a real object.

Next, there is a huge focus on speed. I wanted people to be able to pull up what they needed while in the middle of a game without slowing down the game. I’ve used all forms of electronic rules references and this was a pain point that I wanted to solve.

Lastly, but just as important as the first two, the Fate SRD needed to be accessible to every device. People are surfing the internet on all sort of devices—phones, laptops, gaming consoles, and more. So the structure of the site is flexible to adapt to tiny phones through televisions. (I haven’t tested the site on the new Android smart watches, so Dick Tracy style users may have a rough go of it.)

So in conclusion the Fate SRD is about having a beautiful, fast, and accessible rules site for the Fate Rolelplaying Game.

MT: What distinguishes your entries from your competitors?

RO: The number one thing that distinguishes the Fate SRD from the other nominated sites is aesthetics and usability. The Fate SRD is easy to use, easy to navigate, and a joy to interact with. It is also the only rules reference in the list.

MT: What does it take to produce a successful digital presence like yours?

RO: Producing a successful digital presence like the Fate SRD site requires serious design and development chops, as well as vigilance. It also helps to have top notch content, which the Fate RPG provides by being openly licensed.

I’ve been actively listening to feedback from users, as well as watching the site’s analytics to help iron out trouble spots. Every couple of months I push out a new update that refines the site—linking to rules clarifications by the authors, adding a More Fate page to help folks find more Fate stuff, and most recently adding a Stuntmaker to help with one of the more complicated parts of the character creation process.

MT: Any tips for newbies just entering the field?

RO: For newbies entering the field of gaming I recommend that you seek out someone with more experience in the field to get advice from. Now if there are questions about design—Web or print—I have a wealth of advice. I’ll gladly talk your ear off on that point but I’m not sure that it would be very relevant to the ENnies, so I’ll spare you unless you ask for more information.

MT: Any metrics on the number of viewers to your site?

RO: Since the site launched in Sept 2013...

  • …there have been more than 34,000 unique visitors
  • …there have been more than 320,000 page views
  • …the average time on the site is nearly six and a half minutes.
  • …60 percent of users are repeat users

For devices, 74% are desktop, 15% are mobiles, and 10% are tablets. (Percentages are rounded down.)

The number of users per month on the site keeps going up month over month. For example, in Nov 2013 there were 4,600 users and last month, June, saw 12,000 users.

MT: What do you think of the new edition of D&D?

RO: The new version of D&D is missing out on a huge opportunity by not opening up the rules with an OGL or Creative Commons license. The RPG community loves to hack up rules and games so opening up the system would allow D&D to be the center of the gaming universe again like it was with 3e. Third parties could create content that fuels D&D and builds a better RPG market around it. A strong D&D makes a strong RPG market.

For the rules, I’m reserving final judgement of D&D 5e until the core books are out. I’ve read the Basic Rules PDF and there are a lot of really good ideas (and some that I dislike), so even if I don’t end up running it I’ll likely pull what I like into a home-brew 3e/5e hybrid.

MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where? Will any new products debut at Gen Con?

RO: I will definitely be attending GenCon. I live in Indianapolis and work within crossbow range of the convention center. I’ll be bringing my one year-old daughter with me so that I can get her started in the gaming lifestyle early. I’ll be attending the Evil Hat events on Thursday night and I’ll be in the audience for the ENnies with my fingers crossed.

MT: Where can we find out more about your site online?

RO: In addition to the site itself at fate-srd.com you can find us on Twitter with the handle @Fate_SRD.

MT: Anything else you'd like to share?

RO: You can find some of my thoughts on being nominated for an ENnie at http://randyoest.com/nominated-for-an-ennie-award/.

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