Much to my pleasure, I got an invite to the D&D Virtual Table beta a week or so ago, and after some things got straightened out with my account regarding an endless looping redirect on the customer service site, I was able to set up an adventure for last night. I ran the Red Box Game Day adventure, Sunderpeak Temple. It's a fun little oldschool dungeon crawl that presents some challenging map drawing and presents a good variety of types of encounters to deal with, so it seemed like a good test of things. I also ran as a PC in a game earlier that day.
So, my thoughts from running and playing with it:
Currently, things are best from a player perspective - The character interface is fairly smooth, it will actually sort your powers based on whether they're at-will, daily, encounter, etc. Very few complaints on this end other than that Character Builder integration someday would be much loved, and that editing your HP needs to be more intuitive and faster. It would also be nice if it would automatically calculate things like ability modifiers.
In general, there are some things that need to be a bit better as a quality of life thing - Editing HP is quite irksome currently and not very intuitive. There's no ability to set a number of dice in the dice roller proper, nor the modifier. There are indicators for Area of Effect, but they can be difficult to see, and can't be dragged, so if you make a placement mistake you have to delete it and try again. The voice chat has some bugs, and both I and a couple of players had to leave the table and come back before our voice chat would work. Better tracking of conditions would be nice - There's a bloodied condition that can be set, but it isn't automatically applied, and I had trouble with marks. No durations are kept.
From a DM perspective is where it's currently roughest - Making maps can be quite a pain. First, there's a bug that occurs with maps that have a lot of drawing elements where it glitches out and says that the adventure has become too big and elements need to be deleted. This will stay with the map triggering it even if it's exported into another table and loaded by itself and elements removed - Indeed, it will keep occuring no matter how much is removed and start locking up the VT. The only solution seems to be to delete the map in question and start again on it. The map I encountered this one was rather complex, with lots of diagonal angles and semi-circular niches and elements that had to be hand-drawn due to complexity and lack of a fitting tile.
Monster token creation needs work - There's no place to indicate speed, vision, modifiers for skills except the notes tab, which isn't convenient for looking at those things, and skills you can't set up to have automatically rolled unless you enter them as a power. If you just try to use the in-game roller, it's actually faster to just grab the d20 that's probably lying somewhere on your desk and give it a roll and mentally add the modifier.
The worst part of the monster tokens as it currently stands is that the powers have no sort other than automatically being sorted alphabetically. This is painful and makes it difficult to run monsters with a lot of powers. And you can end up with your aura buried in the middle, your triggered action as the first thing and your minors moves and standards all mixed up. It frankly kind of sucks. There also needs to be a more intuitive way of getting to the monster information you need rather than looking through a drop-down list. Compendium integration would be useful as well, since some monsters have statblocks that read like novels.
There needs, needs, NEEDS to be a way to group-set invisible/visible on monster tokens. I had my maps done with the monster tokens all already placed but invisible for the sake of not having to try to spend time figuring out where everything went. It did still save time since I didn't have to figure out what went where, but it was a bit of a pain.
For people who don't have microphones, the chat needs some way of denoting in-character vs out-of-character speech, and for the DM it would be nice to have some way to switch personas for typing. Some people aren't comfortable with/capable of using voice chat, so support for them would be nice. I didn't try them myself, or have any use them, but some of my players also noted that the voice fonts they found to be nearly unintelligible when used. I also object to the term voice font. It's not a typeface.
I had trouble getting my monsters' damage noted properly. I may have been doing it wrong and trying to heal them rather than hurt them, but either way, it's still a pain, especially if there's a burst. A targeting system that automated things would be a big help there, or at least faster more intuitive HP editing. I wound up tracking my monsters' HP and conditions on paper like I do for RL games. This worked out faster, even with my terrible math skills, and since I didn't have to worry about trying to click through menus and pushing to talk at the same time, I was able to continue on better while working on damage entry.
For long descriptive text, a voice *toggle* key would be helpful so I don't get halfway through and realise that hurr, I accidentally let up on the push to talk key several sentences back.
One thing that is sorely lacking is something for tracking skill challenges. I was glad my PCs skipped the room they decided to skip, as the encounter in question had a skill challenge as part of it.
Overall, it needs some features and some improvements. That's the negatives. Now the positives:
All things considered, it works quite well. Other than a few minor things, I had no troubles using it. Multiples of the same monster are automatically numbered, so you can just say 'Orc 8' to indicate who's attacking/attacked. The map hide/reveal works just fine. I've heard call for automatic reveal based on light sources and vision and where light sources are placed in the map, but I'd actually prefer not to have this - It drove me nuts the few times I tried to get into Maptools. I'd rather just have the current area reveal.
One huge, huge, HUGE plus: It works. Period. You launch it, and it's there. Everyone can just connect. There's no flailing about with setting up Hamachi or anything. It's just there. This is marvelous and fills me with happy. The voice chat largely also just works. No need for a separate voice chat program. That's lovely.
The drawing tools are limited and could use more options, but they're easy to use and fairly intuitive. Could use more colors, but the snap to grid option is glorious. The tiles are a bit more squirrelly, but just add a few more and make them a bit easier to manipulate and it's gravy. It's nice to have that instead of trying to find/make a library of tiles like most other tabletop software. I like that circles are drawn from a center point rather than having to figure out where to corner start them from.
The pointer works nicely and does its job.
The dice roller, other than needing more options for manual input, works just fine even with ludicrous numbers of dice. (I tried rolling the damage for the 3E Epic spell Vengeful Gaze of God, which does 305d6 damage.) It will give you all the individual rolls rather than just a sum as well, which is nice. It could use options for best x of y, though, or brutal. It's not likely to be needed much, but there's no option for odd die sizes. You can use them as part of powers, but not from the roller. Minor annoyance that's pretty much a non-issue. Nobody actually uses d7s for anything.
The DM leaving does not kick everyone from the program. This is great, as I had a glitch at one point where it wasn't letting me use the monster panel at all and I was able to just leave and come back to fix it. No 'OK, everyone come back in 5 minutes' like I've had with Fantasy Grounds in the past.
Overall, I found it to be a nice usable little program that let me set up for an adventure fairly easily, and let me spend a gross snowy Saturday sitting around with Mountain Dew and some guys playing and running D&D with little fuss. And that's an excellent thing.
I'm pretty damn happy with it at this point, and look forward to seeing what they do with it in the future. :D
I didn't take any screenshots during the adventure because I was more worried about running it, but here's one that shows the downstairs map and one of the PC's notes. The PCs and monsters are staged, we skipped that encounter, but they were all still on the map so I moved them around. :P
The PC tab, showing one of the session's characters. You can see the sort of powers:
The initiative tab:
The monster tab: You can see some of the problems caused by the alphabetical sort and how things get cut off.
Drawing mode. The blue areas are from the Area of Effect tool: