January 27, 2010

The Apple iPad: It will change how we play


It will.


OK - I'm not really sure why - but if so long as Xorns eat rocks - I'm betting it will. Just think about what's possible! I mean, the screen size alone opens up a whole set of new possibilities for table top games.

Here's my 10-minute brainstorming  list  (some are available already using other devices like laptops, Microsoft Surface, PDA's etc) -
  1. Multimedia character sheets. Why stop at "interactive" character sheets - those have been around for years. With iPad, you could embed movie clips of characters you modeled your PC after, sounds clips of your game session or other snippets, images from online galleries, etc.
  2. Adaptive multi-media adventures and encounters. Drop the "for levels 1 - 6" tag, and just write the adventure knowing that the DM can just slide a bar to the left or right to raise or lower the difficulty of an adventure on the fly. 
  3. Real time combat maps. Real time campaign maps. Ditch the dry erase board. Buy digital tile sets and make your own virtual combat board without the need for a laptop, or projection screen. Use the touch interface to drag your virtual miniature where you want, etc. Zoom in to personal combat scenes, zoom out to view the whole overland map. Tag locations with event notes. Plot your campaign's travel log.
  4. VoIP and WebCam video make the game table virtual. WHy bother meeting up at all? Perhaps you and I could meet up and the other players can join in the game via their iPads from home. Attach a web-cam using the iPad docking port, watch the game remotely and interact with a shared map.
  5. More than one touch pad can reach out, more than one campaign can connect. Extending #4 above... just consider for moment if everyone who logged in could all interact via their own iPad device with the same campaign map. You could run, in real time, multiple campaigns using the same shared interface. 
  6. Virtual dice rolling in 3D. This has been around for a while now on the iPhone.
  7. Board games - on the iPad - could be really cool. Purple Pawn called it first
  8. Non-linear adventures become real digital supplements to your game. Dave Chalker had a great post recently over at Critical Hits ("Changing the Way We Think About Published Adventures") - now drop an iPad into the thinking well while reading that post and... yeah.. your head explodes [1].
  9. 200 Rule books. 1 Character Sheet. 2 Campaign Maps. 5,000 NPC Cards. 10,000 Miniatures. 10 Model Dioramas. 15 Terrain / Encounter Maps.   All for 1.5 pounds. 
  10. New games. The platform itself becomes something that the Next Gen of "table top" RPGs can build on. New RPGs, that maximize the technology, are possible. Social Media RPGs become a reality that people with iPads, iPhones, Androids, or GizmoWhatHaveYou can play. And play they will.
Cheers. I'm frakin stoked for the brave new future the gaming industry has ahead of itself. It's going to be a fun ride.

    [1] that's a good thing.


    1. It really doesn't seem like Apple's tablet brings a lot of new anything... maybe I'm missing something.

    2. All possible and even plausible, but...it all needs software and developers first. Without the software, none of this is very nice to do, and most won't be doing it without the benefit of a big suite-like set of tools.

      I also agree that the tablet won't bring much new (except to Macintosh users, maybe)...plus, most independent software developers tend to develop open-source, which means that they start with Linux and Windows.

    3. http://www.ideum.com/products/multitouch/

      That looks pretty awesome. And expensive.

      The thing that the iPad has that makes me go WOHOO is the price point. $500 is pretty cheap when you consider a KindleDX, with far far less features, is the same price.

      Plus, indy developers don't seem to be shying away from developing for the iPhone - I doubt iPad dev's won't be as scarce as you think. Once you consider the potential ('my indy app could be in the hands of thousands to millions of people') the draw is pretty strong.

      it actually makes me think I should start learning Objective C. I previously developed two apps for the gaming community, years ago, in Perl/TK and Java. Perhaps I should consider doing something again for the iPod. Hmmmm... the SDK license is something like $100; not to bad considering the potential. Something to chew on...

    4. @Jonathan: Developing web applications that any user with a browser can use is free... and the potential users is larger that the ownership of a single gadget.

      The Touchbook also looks really cool ($299-399), though it's not Mult-touch (just single touch) It's open source, you can multi-task and it has a comparable battery life. It has about .9" less diagonal screen, but at the same resolution. It also has an accelerometer (and there are videos of it using cracked iPhone apps).

      As a developer, I refuse to pay a premium to develop for someone else's product; I'm doing them a favor by developing for it.

      Lenovo has the S10-3t 10.1-Inch Netbook/Tablet priced at $499. It is also capacitive multi-touch (though widescreen) and runs Windows 7.

      Don't get me wrong, the iPad (god, I think of tampons whenever I read that) is dead sexy (the only area I really think Apple excels) and they totally surprised me with a $500 base price, but for 4e D&D players with DDI, it might be disappointing... DDI uses a lot of Flash IIRC.

      The tablet platform with a natural user interface is the really cool part, but Apple doesn't have a monopoly on it.

    5. Right now, the only thing that I can see this changing for how I play is that I could bring PDFs to the table in a convenient way. A laptop with a big enough screen has a huge footprint and blocks sightlines, so PDFs have been a no-go for using at the table.

      The rest really depends on what apps (web and iTunes Store) are developed for this. And, being Apple, the device is likely to be locked down hard so I won't be able to run existing things that would make all this happen immediately, like maptools, rather than after a programmer gets around to it.

      That said, I really like what it would do for PDFs. I'm just sceptical about the software support for such a niche hobby. Dicenomicon would look pretty awesome on it, granted.

    6. Tablets might change the way we play. The iPad won't.

      Apple will have a stranglehold on apps. Web apps might get around that to a degree... but only a limited one. The iPad won't run Flash for example.

      Character sheets? eh. I'd like to edit them on my PC. With a keyboard.

      For multi-person viewing, the pad form factor beats my netbook (which costs $150 less), but that is the only relevant thing that I can think of in which it isn't inferior to it...

      Also, to change the way we play, you need widespread acceptance. Apple has been moving in a direction (lock-in, anti-consumer rights) that has alienated a lot of tech-savvy people. If they continue down the path they are on, they will alienate more.

    7. DDI uses... no Flash? I use the Compendium on my iPhone; it's a bit cranky but it's an HTML problem, not a Flash issue.

      Since there are zero tabletop gaming apps that I know of that need Flash, I'm not too concerned there. I'm not sure why people are bringing that up as a reason why it's a bad gaming environment.

      Check out HTML5. I am unconcerned.

    8. Agreed. Flash is just another closed system anyway. HTML5/CSS4 is likely the near to mid term future for content delivery - I don't the iPad is going to be hurting for lack of flash that much. Heck... I even saw a streaming video wrapped inside an ePub format eBook recently... all done with HTML5 - it was pretty nerdishly cool.

    9. @Bryant: Your right, DDI no longer has any Flash components, but I do have a .swf from early on that I ripped from their website. But, the really powerful stuff from DDI (character builder & adventure tools) require .NET 3.5 and a download.

      @Jonathan: Flash does has open source development and if HTML5 is where it's at, what is special about the iPad?

    10. The one thing the iPad has that most other devices do not is the potential for developers to create software which is so engaging, it makes the hardware disappear. This is the space I hope to be working in. Most other hardware/software combos have too many layers in-between the user and the software. In fact, many of the "features" that more technically savvy users say the iPad is "missing" just get in the way of the user and the task they want to perform. Ask the proverbial "Mom" what is more important to them, Open Source, or intuitive software which does what one expects. I'm a big supporter of Open Source when and where it makes sense, but there is not a lot user-facing applications where I would say Open Source software wins. I challenge those of you who are dismissing the device to go out and use one for 15 minutes once it is actually out.

      @MadBrew DDI requires .NET 3.5 because WotC had old code laying around which was .NET based, and couldn't bear to think of wasting it. There is absolutely nothing there which "requires" the "power" of .NET." They could, and should, completely rebuild the tools using HTML5, which would then allow DDI to run on any platform. What makes the iPad special in this area is it will make one hell of an HTML5 device. However, no matter how good web apps can be, native apps will always be better.


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