The Phuture of Gaming. It's sooo Kewl.


Well...it should be. After all, I saw Star Wars. They don't use wood in the future. No cardboard either. Way too... primitive.

That's why our friends at Phillips are hard at work developing a product they call Entertaible. Eh, not the coolist name, but look at it! A shimmering 30" touchscreen LCD panel embedded in a plexy table and plastic cube bits that the table can track. No wood here, so it must be the future. The imagination soars. Technophiles salivate at the prospect of adding a new gadget to their favorite hobby. On the other side, purists cry; their fingers already anticipating the lack of fiddling stimuli. For the moment, this is for public use (restaurants, etc), not home use. If not this Entertaible, perhaps, as a Danish student posted on BGG of late, an epaper device might elevate this hobby to a more fitting place in our households. In the present day, Ravensburger/Knizia have experimented with conductive inks to create interactive boards and games.

Sounds exciting. Maybe. Ward Batty is excited. So are a lot of other people. Right now I feel the need to reflect on what we have, what we might lose and what there is to gain. Then I'll get excited. Maybe.

Um, if this is the future, I'm going to be pretty pissed. I need more bits. Uggg. Not another basted computer screen with garish colors.

So how will the future measure up? You're guess is probably better than mine. But here's my thoughts.

Bits
:) - NOW: Variety of materials: cardboard, wood, plastic
:| - FUTURE: Plastic and epaper (tiles?), Perhaps custom wood?

:) - Supplied custom for each game title
:( - Cost associated with this restricts designer's options
:| - Comes with system (perhaps with upgrade options through publisher or 3rd parties)
:)) - Drastically cuts costs for publishers of games who don't have to supply for each game which allows for:

:) - More games released?

:) - More chances to be taken?

:( - Could limit designer who must always think in standard few presupplied shapes

:)
- Upgrade options great for individuals looking for show off value of their sets
:) - Upgrade options can address individual's aesthetic/tactile needs

:) - Wood bits are often stock, sometimes custom
:(( - Wood bits an optional upgrade? Most probably never avail. custom made for a title?

:)) - Plastic bits are mostly custom and very thematic
:(( - Generic plastic bits standard. Most probably never avail. custom made for a title?

Tiles
:) - Cardboard tiles are always customized (printed) and can be a variety of shapes and sizes
:( - Limited space for graphic information
:| - Static. Though placed bits on top of tiles can change tile's state
:| - Epaper tiles? Comes with system?
:) - Tiles can have multiple states/screens allowing for secondary information to be revealed
:(( - Publishers might not go to the trouble of programming for epaper tiles (if this is infact more work). In that case, all tiles are on screen, which is a big tactile loss. Maybe there won't be epaper tiles in the first place. Bummer.
:)) - Dynamic. Tile status can change state.

Cards
:)) - Coated paper, sometimes with weave texture and can be a variety of shapes and sizes
:( - Epaper? Can they be coated to feel like cards?

:| - Static state
:)) - Dynamic state


Boards
:) - Cardboard board sometimes in weave texture with printed art
:( - Mostly static boards (graphics are set), exceptions being Tile placed boards
:) - Board size can vary widely
:| - Needs adequate light to view
:( - LCD screen illuminates image. Sleek look but harsh on the eyes (lacks mellowness of printed board).
:| - Epaper board closer in finish to paper, but still lacking in feel

:)) - Dynamic boards

:(( - Board size set by system
:(( - If the Phillips unit is any indication, board size might be quite small, constricting graphics and creating some challenges for certain games.
:) - (LCD) Can be played in a dark room (allowing for mood lighting)

Gameplay
:| - Almost no computations built into game
:| - Occasional lookup tables of varying complexity (Amun-Re, Power Grid)
:)) - Computational power opening a whole world of possibilities
:)) - Information only provided for players to assess possibilities/chance not for implementation of results


:( - Gameplay has many static elements
- Dynamic elements can include:
- Variable board setup (Settlers/Carcassone style)
- Card order
- Tile order
- Different scenarios
- Multiple boards
:)) - Gameplay can be very dynamic
:)) - The state of anything can change


:( - Whoever shows up for game night/day are the one's available for play
:) - Perhaps a player might pop in remotely

:( - Games must be played during the session or left out for the next time (which never happens)
:) - Games might be stopped and stored to resume again at another time

Dice (when applicable)
:)) - Wonderful, tactile rolling action
:| - Almost always combinations of 6 sided dice to cut costs
:(( - Limits designers as they must think in terms of 6s
:( - No dice? Certainly, they won't be needed
:(( - Immediate results? No player interaction (roll dice, etc)
- Can something be developed to give player a sense of control here?

:) - Variables don't have to be developed in terms of 6s

Storyarch/Theme
:| - Generally a give and take between mechanics and theme
:| - Low theme often = purer mechanics
:| - Richer theme often = more rules (chrome)
:| - Requires great designer skill to keep rules from becoming too unwieldy
:) - Theme can be richer as complexity can be handled by computer

Rules
:( - Slowly absorbed through careful reading of printed material – usually multiple times
:)) - Multimedia potential. Demo walkthroughs.

Packaging
:(( - Bulky, requiring storage
:)) - Wonderful childlike feel of opening a gift
:) - Satisfaction of punching chits out and organizing pieces
:) - No packaging; downloadable; storage issues removed
:( - Lack of physicality reduces some emotional attachment to game

:( - No ritualistic experience attached to acquiring game

Portability
:( - Individual games are relatively portable, though hauling multiple games can be prohibitive at times, particularly on longer trips.
:)) - 'Soft boards' – epaper – could be extremely portable allowing for whole collections to travel at a time.
:| - 'Hard boards' – LCD options – would be more troublesome, requiring care for travel, but whole collections could travel at a time.

Prototyping
:) - A variety of levels to create prototypes starting from bits of paper and pencil/pens to simple computer executions. Post-Its and other simple techniques can be used to make quick changes, on the fly.
:( - Testing with others demands either their physical presence or multiple prototypes be made and shipped to parties.
:( - Testing with certain individuals may be put off until a con where they will meet.
:( - If seeking a publishing company, separate prototypes need to be created for multiple publishers as they might not be returned promptly.
:( - Creating prototypes might demand more specialized knowledges in programming. It would be ideal if developer packages were created which allowed for quick, easy programming of the board and components on the fly.
:)) - Prototypes can be downloaded by others who can play remotely, if necessary.
:)) - Prototypes can be sent to unlimited publishers at one time with ease.

Game production
:| - Graphic designer/artist needed for thematic art and informational design
:(( - Very expensive initial costs needed for materials and shipping from multiple countries
:(( - Production restricts distribution (fewer sets made)
:( - Graphic designer/artist and programmer needed for thematic art, information design, motion graphics
:( - Graphic design is going to need more care as the board and possibly tiles and cards will have different states/screens. This could get really unwieldy if not handled well.
:)) - No materials needed drastically reduces costs
:( - Development costs go up as more art will be needed (additional screens) as well as a programmer
:( - Resolution will vary depending on device. LCD might not be so great. Epaper might approach what we have now.

Customized components
:(( - Custom sets of favorite games are generally very difficult and costly to make. Examples are wood versions of boards, new graphics and found stock bits.
:)) - With standardization game units, 3rd party companies might offer a variety of standard upgrades for game systems. This could include: wood housings for boards, tables with recessed units for boards, cabinets for bit storage and a variety of bit types.

The game purchase
:(( - Online: wait for shipping
:) - In-store experience immediate gratification, if they have in stock
:(( - Need to purchase before going out of print.
:(( - Out of print games run the risk of never being published again or long waits to subsequent runs
:)) - Online with immediate download – instant gratification
:)) - Titles will always be available, years after release


Updates/skins
:(( - Purchased games are fairly locked down. New rules may be posted, but might take some searching. Changes in game cannot effect artwork or components very easily, if at all.
:| - Fans can create additional or supplemental player aids, maps, scenarios, etc, but these generally need some construction and don't feel like the 'real thing'.
:)) - Patches could be automatically sent to owners of the game which can address any problems, graphical or otherwise which would seamlessly be integrated in the games.
:)) - Fans could potentially create new patches for game variations, etc.
:)) - Fans could potentially create new 'skins' or graphical looks which would require no user assembly.

Popular opinion of boardgaming
:(( - Old fashioned, childish or freeky geeky, not cool, boring
:)) - Modern, trendy, hip ???

It would seem that options made available with the technologies could open up whole new spaces/mechanics for boardgaming or a new type of gaming. It will be interesting to see if these new forms of boardgaming would gain wider appeal. Also, for the hobbyists, how will they view the ‘old stuff’ – the games we’re playing now? Certainly, our Eurogames are wonderfully crafted products worthy of longevity. One might argue simplier games like Chess and Go have stood the test of time so why shouldn't the best Euros? I would say Chess commands more skill and is a lifelong pursuit. Such games also have had a massive player base which is difficult to dismiss. Wargames seem a natural fit for these devices given their complicated rules, intricate setup and computations needed, though board size is going to be an issue.

For me, I tend to go with the flow of things, but I really won’t be happy if the aestetics take a nose dive. I imagine much will be defined by the needs of mass market games in terms of establishing standards. Let’s hope we don’t lose too much in the process.

- Mike