Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Future of Game Tables

Ever since seeing rear projection video table I've dreamed of using them for games. I'm less excited these days having become less excited about tactical miniatures game play in RPGs. They are still geekly awesome. The more rules a game has the more I desire to computerize those rules so I can ignore them and get to playing. So, I still dream...

This one is display only, no feedback of mini position, no touch (well there is the light pen so I guess it's halfway to feedback). On the other hand it's relatively simple to put together. They get mad props for using it for their actual RPG and having fun!

I'm kind of meh on this one. I don't think the UI is very good, the single state and requiring use of activation token looks PITA. Any successful electronic table has to be at least as fast and easy as just using miniatures.

The UI here is much more. I adore radial menus, learned about them long ago from some CS paper but actually used them in ToEE, a totally freakin awesome game. Those menus would be perfect for picking 4ed powers. Interesting use of minis, I thought they would be too small for fiduciary markers. This is comes very close to my vision of ultimate electronic table for tactical minis based RPGs like 3-4ed D&D, miniatures games such as warhammer, and numerous wargames. Too bad it needs darkness to work.

But these days this is probably closer to my ultimate game table!


  1. All Ultimate Game Tables must come with representatives from Evil DM's Wednesday photo models. For... uh... setup help. Yea.

  2. Those demos ate up entirely too much of my holiday, but damn they were cool.

  3. My ultimate game table can't be seen beneath the collection of character sheets, books and snacks.

    In effect, if it can hold our stuff, it is more than sufficient. But then again, we never use miniatures for any of our games.

  4. While not the ultimate game table, I think MapTool on a TV screen works pretty well. I wrote an article about this over on The Dice of Life.

    Essentially, you can do most of the same thing with just a laptop, a TV, and along video cable. The difference being that you no longer depend on minis.

  5. I wonder, though, where is the line drawn between a computerized gametable and a video game?

  6. @chgowiz yep.

    @Zzarchov good. now you know what your blog does to me.

    @Dyson yep and tidy up your game area!

    @kristian yep, the first video is using MapTool (or similar). just their "TV screen" happens to be horizonal and in a table.

    And re video game, absolutely! I started a list of table "must haves" and realized It was a computer RPG feature list so deleted it.

    For me the allure of computer assited gamming is a method of virtually converting rules-heavy systems into rules-light ones.

  7. I think that would be largely dependent on the game system (i.e. - D&D, Savage Worlds, True20, etc.) and how clean its rules are. 3.5 was a game of corner case exceptions which is impossible to program perfectly. 4e is a bit closer. Savage Worlds would be too dependent on the individual settings' rules.

    In the end, if the game is so streamlined that it could be scripted, it wouldn't require scripting to begin with.

    Personally, I think a basic digital map with digital tokens including individual token vision, lighting effects, and object manipulation like opening a door is about as far as we need to go. The rest should be focused on UI to manipulate the map, tokens, and objects.

  8. @Kristian I disagree very much with your characterization of 3.5. One of the best (as far as rules implementation goes) CRPGs is ToEE using 3.5 rules. It is in fact what brought me back to D&D.

    Savage worlds is already rules lite, no need to computerize it.

    Rolemaster is an example of a rules heavy game that could be streamlined a great deal with computerization. Anything with lots of charts, math, options. Cruncy with lots of rules. The rules lite games tend to be vague and depend on GM adjudication and thus can't be computerized until we have decent AI, if ever.

  9. @Nroman ToEE was *based* on 3.5. They were not automated versions of the 3e rules as written in the core rulebooks.

    If you were to take into account every 3.x supplement and the character options within the (i.e. - classes; tactical, reserve, or divine feats; PrCs; alternative class abilities; incarnum; invocations; maneuvers and stances; etc.), you'd never be able to create a computer application that could adjudicate all of the nuances of every rule to precisely emulate tabletop gameplay.

    The system just wasn't streamlined or consistent enough to be able to handle it. Name one character generator application that has completely accommodated all of the different types of feats and class abilities and their effects on character creation and leveling. And that's just creating the character, not even playing the game with that character.

    Savage Worlds is rules simple, not rules light. The core rules work fine for computer adaptation, but as soon as you start checking into other settings, those rules change. Now you're in the business of managing every rules variant for every setting that has been or will be published. Luckily, Savage Worlds is straightforward enough that you don't really need automation for it. We seem to agree on that point.

    By the way, this has been a fun and civil dialog so far, and I've enjoyed it. Thanks! :)

  10. @kristian

    I learned 3.5 from playing ToEE. There were a few minor differences such as Dodge feat (which is so fiddly I house rule it into the ToEE version). I'm not the only one who believes ToEE is 3.5.

    I think the basis of our disagreement is on the definition of what 3.5 is. I consider 3.5 to be the core books PHB and DMG. Supplements are just that. In fact they are less *based* on 3.5 than ToEE is. Also, re: every supplement humans are incapable of the feat you describe.

    I think I'm gonna go play some ToEE now, so no more replies from me :)

  11. That's all well and good, but we're talking about playing the tabletop game on a digital gametable. Why should a supplement be excluded because of on person's personal definition or preference. If my group wants to use psionics why should they be left out?

    This is the exact same issue that came up with e-tools. Core rules were supported, but any auxillary subsystems had to be shoehorned and barely worked right.


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