Thursday, May 10, 2012
Kickstarter proposal for software to make online play of tabletop games simple for non-programmers
Several years ago I tried to find out as much as I could about the effect on sales of tabletop games when an online version was available for play. My conclusion was that not many people were likely to pay for the privilege of playing a tabletop game online, so any commercial advantage would come from the publicity and the ability to “try the online version before you buy” to improve sales of the tabletop version. I have several games myself that I would like to see playable online as a way to generate interest that might help me find a publisher when I get to that point, but I’m not enough of a programmer myself to make such versions. See BGG discussion and my blog post.
Curtis Lacy of globalgamespace.com has proposed a solution for this and for people who want to find playtesters online for their tabletop games. He wants to create a program that makes it easy for nonprogrammers to create online games, whether for playtesting or for publicity purposes, or both.
Curtis devised a list of 29 (later expanded the 60) functions that would be required in his software, and explained many of them in interesting videos. I’m sure he has received further suggestions since then. These videos are available at globalgamespace.com.
Curtis lists many existing programs (“prior art”) that can provide some of the features he has in mind, program such as VASSAL and Magic Set Editor. His plan seems to be more comprehensive than any of these programs that I have looked at.
The list of 60 features alone will be interesting to game designers and those interested in the theory of what games are and how they work.
Curtis has reached the point of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money so that he can spend his time creating the full software. (You’ll see from his videos that he already has mockups.) The software will be released under a “fairly permissive license” which Curtis calls a modified MIT license, details linked at the Kickstarter site.
I have never supported a Kickstarter campaign, but this is the kind of thing that could be very worthwhile. It is not a product that’s going to be created through the commercial world because, as I’ve said, there doesn’t seem to be much money in online play of tabletop games in and of itself.