Feb 5, 2024

Stars of the VTT Galaxy: #12 Anthony Ronda a.k.a. Corporat

12 min read - Published: 5 months ago

Greetings to our amazing community, and welcome to the twelfth edition of our Stars of the VTT Galaxy interview series. In this series, we illuminate the already bright stars that make up our community of Bazaar Creators.

Today's guest is a true expert in the world of VTTs, coding, and game licensing. We are thrilled to have with us Anthony Ronda, also recognized by his online name Corporat, and have the privilege of tapping into his wealth of experience and knowledge in VTTs.

From his pioneering work in the Foundry VTT community to his role as a key figure in the resurgence of Old-School Essentials, Anthony stands as a beacon in the professional content creation space. Without further ado, let's dive into the fascinating journey and insights of Anthony Ronda.

Our sky consists of many stars. Each of them illuminating our planet. As you can guess, the stars are you. Yes, it's you, the great content creators who, in your own unique way, shine on our worlds. Thank you for being part of our heavenly sky and weaving the fabric of our Community.
Let's meet today's star.

Introduce yourself. For those who don’t know what you do, what would you describe yourself as doing for a living?

Anthony: Hi! I’m a part-time virtual tabletop consultant who works directly with game publishers to develop a virtual tabletop publishing strategy with them, including Foundry VTT and other platforms. I should probably disclose here that I’ve recently taken The Forge VTT as my client.🙂

I’ve also recently started a job search for my day job as a Senior Software Engineer.

What’s one random fact about you?

Anthony: I have heterochromia: one eye is blue and the other is hazel. People rarely notice until after I tell them.

What’s your history as a developer? How did you end up becoming one?

Anthony: I spent a lot of my childhood in front of a computer screen, mostly playing games. As a 12yo, my friends and I learned how to make websites and load Flash games onto them. In high school, making our own game websites helped us get around the school IT department’s website blocker.

I attended university as a Computer Science major, mostly because it just made sense for someone who spent his time glued to a computer. My first job was as a Software Engineer because that’s what made the most sense at the time. And I guess I’m a creature of habit because I’ve been writing code ever since.

And how did you end up getting into VTT coding?

Anthony: I somehow avoided it for a long time, but it slowly crept up on me, haha.

At first, I was just a volunteer moderator of the Foundry VTT subreddit. I thought it would be cool to highlight all the new game systems that were coming out for Foundry VTT. Many TTRPGs have their own subreddits, so I thought that by crossposting “Your game is now on Foundry” to those communities, it would get us more people and some exciting comments.

I wanted the large D&D 5e audience on /r/FoundryVTT to see this excitement for new game systems, and hopefully get curious to try games other than 5e by downloading a new system. I also wanted people to request their favorite game systems so that everyone could see some demand for game systems other than 5e.

A few months into that, the League of Extraordinary Foundry VTT Developers posted the results of their first “Package Jam” to Reddit. I got an inkling that something social/collaborative was going on between developers, which made me curious.

Package Jam September 2020 Winners

I discovered that the League’s activities were a natural extension of what I was doing on the subreddit. I introduced myself and quickly got involved in the discussion for several initiatives. I didn’t actually publish a module until much later, but by then I was very invested in the people I had met through the League.

Being part of the Foundry VTT community is still my main motivator for coding. I’m not typically the kind of person to mix hobbies and work, so I don’t have a ton of hobby code projects from before Foundry VTT.

What is/are your favorite TTRPG(s)?

Anthony: I started with Call of Cthulhu and still hold a place in my heart for horror gaming in its many forms (Lovecraftesque, The Yellow King RPG, Thousand Year Old Vampire, Brindlewood Bay).

A few years ago I accidentally landed in OSR communities and found myself most at home there. Old-School Essentials is my favorite, but I’ve been known to play Mothership, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mörk Borg, and Troika. Like many people, I come to old-school gaming for survival-style gameplay and not for nostalgia reasons.

Anthony: Are you referring to Tabletop Marketplaces? Because I have another one that’s just rating all the pierogi places I’ve eaten in, haha.

I don’t know about "muse", but I’ve been addicted to learning my whole life. If I’m not reading off a screen, I’m probably listening to an audiobook while cooking, or a podcast while on a nature walk.

But it’s not just learning for learning’s sake. I’m constantly forwarding articles to friends and prodding them for their comments. Sharing knowledge is the most important part.

When sending my clients their monthly updates, I used to sneak in links about cool new platforms/tools. I eventually realized that it’d be smarter if I put that energy into a newsletter instead.

You have been active in the Foundry VTT community since the beginning. How has your active involvement in the community, and especially your unique insights from /r/FoundryVTT community moderation, shaped your perspective on VTTs and their development?

Anthony: A new VTT launches at least once a month, and yet enfranchised gamers (gamers who buy every new D&D book on release day, for example) can only name a few.

Foundry came at a good time, but Atropos used Patreon and Discord extensively as feedback centers and likely skipped out on a lot of sleep. Excitement around the project, and lots of videos and articles to share, meant that it spread to places like Reddit, and Twitter, and directly to the ears of game publishers.

What’s important is that Atropos didn’t spend those extra hours on social media self-promotion. He spent that time talking to GMs and players. The most successful paid module creators also spend a lot of their time talking to their communities.

What initiatives or projects have you led at the League of Extraordinary Foundry VTT Developers, and how have they contributed to the advancement of Foundry VTT?

Anthony: The advancement of the VTT? Eh, I leave that to the hard workers over at Foundry Gaming.🙂

I have always been more interested in ways that the League community itself could be improved. The League was always a group effort, and I most often supported the ideas and the work of others with notes and research, rather than lead new initiatives.

That said, I was very proud to lead a collaboration between the League and the Rensselaer Center for Open Source, a student-run organization at my alma mater. This collaboration allowed us to mentor a few students and have them contribute updates to a module of their choice.

League RCOS Presentation

Very often, students don’t get to see code written in the wild, and the code they write doesn’t get used except by the person grading their assignments. We gave students the opportunity to make something used by hundreds of people and gave the community updates to some modules in need of help.

Another unique advantage of RCoS’s program is that students get university credits to contribute to open source. By my math, it was $8,000 worth of credits per semester. This is probably in the top 90th percentile for open-source compensation.

How do you see the role of developer communities in shaping the future of VTT platforms?

Anthony: Oh my, this is a huge question, haha.

In 2020, community was a buzzword that had a significant hold on the tech world. It was magnified by social distancing measures that forced everyone to convene in groups online, and everyone saw “online communities” as a powerful force motivating social change. It was weaponized by Web3 proponents especially, knowing that only by “harnessing virality” they would reach wide acceptance of their rather empty products. By 2022, community as a corporate buzzword was dead.

And yet it’s still happening in virtual tabletop. Owlbear Rodeo has an extension library now. Roll20 still maintains hundreds of game character sheets solely with user contributions. As I’ve discussed with people at the Sustain Open Source community, play is an important part of the community. That’s why most corporations can’t necessarily sustain what game communities have done.

After taking over Old-School Essentials maintenance for Foundry VTT, you brought the project to life with impressive results. So, what challenges did you face in reviving the project?

Anthony: The OSE fans brought back the game, I just typed a few lines and clicked buttons.🙂

I don’t think I would have been interested if it weren’t for the fact that multiple OSE fans had joined the League’s Discord server, all asking for help with updating OSE. Once I said I would look at it, they wouldn’t leave me alone!😂 But I’m really glad for them because as I said before, the community is a big motivating factor for me.

The previous maintainer, U~man, had a very decent base for us to start with, and most of our efforts have been to make the code base easier to extend and easier to maintain. I have to especially laud the efforts of co-maintainer Wyrmisis in that, but we’ve had a dozen invested contributors on the project since I started with it.

Can you share some examples of how user feedback and collaboration with fans of Old-School Essentials influenced the development of Old-School Essentials for Foundry VTT?

Anthony: From the beginning, as soon as a person has shown interest beyond making a single contribution, I usually give them complete power to review, approve, push, and release code. It’s ok to give that power even if it could be misused; everything’s reversible, and no one has actually abused that responsibility so far. More importantly, I want to show contributors that they can really shape the direction of the software if they want to put the effort in. I try to encourage that as early as possible.

We’ve experimented with various formats for taking user feedback outside of GitHub issues and Discord. I’ve done a Google form, I’ve done 1-on-1 interviews with users, I’ve responded to feedback on /r/osr, and of course, since we’re selling premium modules, I have standard email support. I’m going to continue to experiment with taking user feedback.

What do you consider the most significant achievements or milestones in your involvement with the Foundry VTT community?

Anthony: Other than the student program, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes infrastructure to making VTT Red run as a business that I’m very proud of.

Just like most devs who only ever put out free modules, I didn’t realize the “glue” I needed to collage together the apps that make premium modules possible. I’m proud that the glue has held up well, and a little sad that I can’t really show it to people, haha.

What inspired the establishment of VTT RED, and what niche does the company aim to fill in the consultancy space?

Anthony: Everyone asks about the name. I bought the domain name vtt.red to host my Foundry instance because it was short and relatively cheap. When I needed a name for my company, I said “Well I already have a domain name for it.”

In truth, the OSE community asked me for a way to bring paid modules to Foundry VTT. They didn’t want to input hundreds of proprietary monsters, spells, and treasure themselves. So I mostly have the community to thank for the business side.

In the context of VTT publishing, what role does VTT Red play in bringing gaming content to the digital realm?

Anthony: I usually hand each publisher a checklist with a red checkmark next to all of my responsibilities. They try to read the Foundry VTT Publisher Handbook for example and their eyes glaze over. It gets technical/jargon very fast, and most of them have never even used Foundry VTT before. I tell them why they might want to be on Foundry, Roll20, Role, etc, and then write a basic plan for them to get started.

They give me the files they have (PDF, raw images, InDesign), and I will take care of literally everything except the contracts they have to sign with each platform. The goal is that they don’t have to know anything about Virtual Tabletop to make their games available to fans on VTT platforms.

What open-source initiatives have VTT Red been involved in, and how does the company contribute to the open-source community?

Anthony: I’ve unfortunately had some roadblocks in having my company contribute financially to other open source projects or other community projects. Personally, I contribute to Patreon campaigns and Kofi’s of people who are important members of the OSE or Foundry VTT community because it’s the right thing to do.

I’m still active in open source wherever I can find the time. I’ve recently written some replies to issues on the note-taking app I’m writing this on! I might have a pull request for them soon.😀

How does VTT Red engage with the gaming community, and what efforts are made to gather user feedback for continuous improvement?

Anthony: Right now, I’ve been really tapped out with lots of responsibilities, and actually, I haven’t been in touch with the community as much as I’d like. That will change in the future.

What are the future plans and aspirations for VTT Red?

Anthony: I have a ton on my plate right now, but soon we’ll be launching vtt.wiki and vtt.app.

The wiki is not your standard wiki, it’s aimed at tabletop game industry professionals (designers, publishers) who want to explore different options for growing their virtual tabletop presence but have no idea what to do because all of the VTT documentation is too technical.

vtt.app is my brainchild for a way to automatically turn a PDF into game content for a game on VTT. The waitlist is live already but it won’t be launching until later this year.

Do you have the opportunity/time to play games by yourself? If so, what game systems do you play?

Anthony: Not recently to be honest! I will be getting back to a regular Old-School Essentials campaign soon, and maybe some other mini-campaign or drop-in/drop-out campaign my friends are running.

What features or what kind of improvement would you like to see further developed in Foundry VTT?

Anthony: Rather than new features, I’m more excited by experience improvements. I think it would be great if Foundry’s website, installation screens, and tutorials were translated for each of its existing communities to make the first 10 minutes of using Foundry bearable for non-English speakers.

What advice do you have for aspiring developers who are interested in making modules for Foundry VTT?

Anthony: Put all of your self-doubts away, there’s no need for it. You do not need a Computer Science degree (you don’t even need one to work in tech).

First, learn to code without including Foundry VTT in the mix. I recommend The Odin Project as a more traditional resource, but I know the importance of fun and stimulation in the learning process, and The Coding Train is my favorite “alternative” learning resource.

It’s probably a good idea to finish one of those free courses, but if you truly get bored of those there’s no reason not to just jump into Foundry coding. I still think Spacemandev’s Intro to Foundry VTT Development tutorial is the perfect way to dip your toes in.

Unfortunately, a lot of deeper Foundry coding tutorials go obsolete, so even though I can link them for you, you will need to ask questions when you get stuck. This is the most frustrating part about coding anything in my experience. The best place to do that is still the League of Extraordinary Foundry VTT developers.

I made a GitHub Gist filled with several resource links here.

And last but not least.🙂 You started working at The Forge recently.🎉 For those who don't know, where did the initiative come from?

Anthony: It was all the idea of KaKaRoTo, The Forge's founder, haha!

I met up with KaKa, DestinyGrey, and Rughalt at PAX Unplugged, and they told me about some cool projects they were working on. We talked for a few hours and of course, by that point, I was very invested. KaKa convinced me to write up a proposal, and that was that!

I’m very excited to one day be able to tell the world what I’m working on!😀

Thank you very much Anthony for such great answers. It was a real pleasure to do this interview with you. And once again, welcome to The Forge team!

Anthony: Thank you! I loved your questions.🙂

Anthony Ronda GitHub
Anthony's work on The Forge-Foundry Tips