Hey everyone, we’re back with a new Tabletopia blog entry! In the last update, we were talking about digital lifehacks for board games, and now we’ll get into other actions which are much easier in digital format. And we will start with accessibility.
My kingdom for… a bit of information!
Quick and easy access to information plays a tremendous role in the game flow of board games. Counting the objects, finding or clarifying the rules, reading the description of a card – we’re trying to make all of this as easy as possible for our players. Here are some examples of how this works on Tabletopia.
- Hover the mouse cursor over a deck of cards or a bag to instantly see how many objects are in it!
- Unless the information is restricted by the setup creator, everybody can see how many game objects each player holds.
- The chat window shows a short summary of the game. Player moves, turn outcomes, the number of various objects, etc. This feature is still in development, so expect even more later!
- The game creator can use the meta-information of any object to display useful information to the players. For instance, a detailed description of the cards or game hints. Player can easily read that information in preview mode. This feature is still in development, but the idea is that a player can get the information in just a click.
Of course, this is not a complete list. We have many more ideas on how to help game creators build tutorials and implement context help for their games.
However, it’s not always wise to allow players to know everything, and this brings us to the next topic.
Do you have anything to hide?
In many games, withholding information is just as important as revealing it. And for that we’re using a concept that is familiar to everyone – a player’s hand. Each player can keep a number of objects in his hand, and all of those objects are neatly separated by type and size. We have plans to add more criteria, but for now the sorting we have should be enough for most situations.
We also already have what we call “Blind auction”. This functionality allows you to take any number of game objects and hold them above the table. They will not be visible to other players until you drop them onto the table. Sound useful? Expect more features like this to come in future!
Counting the stars
Now back to keeping track of the numbers. Obviously, we don’t expect you to write them down on a piece of paper! Instead, we have counters. You can add a counter to almost any object, a group of objects or an action in the game and display a counter anywhere you want. How many cards are there in the deck? What are the hit points of that warrior? How much gold does the player have? Whatever you want, we can count it – the basic functionality is already in Tabletopia, and there are more different counters to come!
Here we use counters for both – bidding and scoring
At the moment you need to enter numbers and increase/decrease them manually, but soon it will be done automatically. Our development plans include the addition of smart counters. To explain what those are, we will provide a couple of examples. Imagine there’s a counter on the table which corresponds to a certain area on the game board. It counts the number of certain objects in that area, the ones you choose: for instance, either by type, color or shape. Another example is a counter tied to the player’s portrait. That counter can also be set to display a certain number, for example, the hit points or gold the player has.
Sandbox versus Rules Enforcement
Our philosophy is to provide a platform which allows building games with different levels of automation – what we call modes or layers. However, our priority will always be Sandbox mode. Basically, the name speaks for itself.
- It allows building any game very quickly and cost-effectively.
- It gives the players full freedom and option to play with any home (custom) rules.
- It is exactly what people are used to on a real table.
Another mode is Rules Enforcement, which will be implemented later. The name is also self-explanatory and, naturally, enforcing rules will demand more effort from the game creators. For this mode to work, all game objects must be submitted into the system with parameters. Game boards and other interactive objects have to be divided into action zones. A list of rules should be implemented. The advantages of this mode are as follows:
- It allows new players to understand the game rules faster.
- It doesn’t allow cheating and minimises players’ mistakes.
- It also makes the gameflow faster by automating a lot of actions.
But even Rules Enforcement is not the final step in terms of automating the game. Because you still need human opponents to play against, don’t you? This brings us to the last theme of this blog.
Playing Against the Computer
Naturally, adding an AI for the game is the ultimate step in automating the game. While it’s advantageous to all kinds of players (especially if the AI has various difficulty levels), creating an AI for a modern board game is a really complicated task. We will only be able to do this for the most popular and commercially successful games. Or for the games that have experienced programmers among their fans, who are willing to spend many hours of their free time to implement an AI. And for those people, we will implement an API allowing them to do just that.
However, as much as we’d like to provide that functionality, our more immediate goal is putting out tons of games in digital format. We are talking about thousands and thousands of board games: published, out of print, unpublished prototypes, etc. The list would include games that are nearly impossible to build in real life: ones with large game boards or a huge number of game components. Our goal is to make playing digital versions of board games as easy as possible. But even more important is to let you play all of them with little effort!
Alas, it’s time to finish this blog entry. Stay tuned for more updates next time!