Over the next week while I’m in Malaysia, I will be playing in at least one, if not two gaming sessions at various times. One will be the next-best thing to an actual face-to-face game, using Google Hangouts and TableTop Forge to do video conferencing. The other uses MapTools and is a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game.
Of the two interfaces, I prefer MapTools for the actual game play. It’s got much niftier macros, is user-editable (and given the proclivities of the group I game with, I don’t have to do hardly any of it), and has really neat tracking features for GURPS I’m sure it also has nifty tracking features for other games as well. The die-roller is top notch, it can (and does!) have critical hit tables built in, and it will parse out text and dice in one line (to be fair, TTForge does the same thing, but less so).
The thing I really like about Hangouts is the video aspect of it. I find it more immersive to see people’s faces, and interact. I feel worse about leaving the gaming table to do other things than the MapTools game, which is chat-based (it may well have video; we do not use it).
Given how hard it can be to find 6-10 available folks to come over, leave their home, family, kids at a given time on a given schedule, being able to play with people anywhere in the world is just awesome.
And when you combine that with the power of the medium: the computer’s ability to handle complexity, seamlessly build in many levels of rules and rolls? Clearly this has the opportunity to be the platform of the future.
I’ve heard of folks using MineCraft to design 3D dungeons. I’ve heard about other packages being used too, such as CAD tools and even things like Home Designer Suite. It would be fairly straight-forward to make map-creation be a few clicks, and then a beautiful and rendered 3D environment could be presented to the players, from nearly any view using the various camera features available in packages.
The rules engine could be automated or semi-automated, pulling from a character-creation program like GURPS Character Assistant.
Defaults, skill checks, and not having to worry too much about the “one roll is good, two is barely satisfactory, and three rolls to do a task slows play unacceptably) because all of that can be handled with a button click? I think that would be great, though it could also promote lazy game design.
All in all, I of course don’t expect to see GURPS Fifth Edition, AI-enhanced any time soon. But it’s logical to imagine the blending of computer game aids with actual rules and resolution mechanisms.
Boy, though: that would be skill-intensive. Not only would you have to be a good game designer, but you’d also have to have some mad coding skills. Perhaps a sufficiently strong mechanics-engine could be made in a rules-neutral way for any company to build on (yeah, I don’t see that happening, but it would help).
Until that time, I will revel in the ability for me to participate in a game where “the guy seated to my left, well, on the left side of the screen” is probably 9,000 miles away, and be able to laugh real-time at the bad jokes.