Surfacescapes : D&D Concept on Microsoft Surface

This is amazing.

Dungeons and Dragons played using Microsoft Surface Technology

It’s only a proof of concept with a linear demo right now, but how cool is this? Imagine the possibilities, not just with D&D, but with table top games in general. Can you picture Warhammer played like this? Maybe a Total War hybrid? Awesome.

I’m a big fan of the tactile interface in general, and hope that we’ll see it making a dent in the market in the next few years. I love the mouse, and it’s certainly an easy to use and learn interface option, but tactile interfaces can offer so much more detail and depth, in both everyday applications and gaming applications alike.

Anyway, I just thought this demo was cool and wanted to share. Enjoy.

Interesting concept, but do I have to let the wookie win?

This sort of technology thrills and excites me in ways I shouldn’t discuss on a public forum. I can’t see myself jumping at a $15k MS Surface dev kit to get in on this action but if they can get this sort of thing down to $1k or so I might just bite . . .

And the next step is just to play the whole board game on the computer.

This is technology for technology’s sake. How does this improve a game of D&D? Why is a virtual D20 better than a real one? As far as I can tell it slows down combat and becomes a barrier to the real point of the game.

Its one of those things that would be fun to play with for 10 minutes, then it would get tossed aside so that real gaming could happen. As for other board games I still think that playing on a real surface is ideal for face to face gaming and playing on normal computers is better for virtual.

Because you do not lose 5 minutes looking for the damn thing when it falls off the table.

But you do lose 2 seconds every time you want to roll the damn thing while the animation of it appearing happens.

That would get turned off quickly.

At every single one of my games, the iphone users have trotted out their dice rolling apps. They use it for about three rolls then decide it’s better to roll real dice.

Because it is.

They’re selling the wrong things here. What we want in a virtual tabletop is to reveal the map as we go (instead of getting up and drawing shit), to do spell effects, traps, and other area effect things quickly and easily, and to quickly do movement without the hassle of counting squares.

This does all those things, and actually adds value (maybe not $15k worth of value) to the game, but they’re not emphasizing what would be important to a DM and players who would use this.

To me this seems like it would allow for much greater immersion and much easier setup. Having landscapes, buildings, critters and treasures appear on the digital map alongside your minis makes the whole thing come to life a little more vibrantly than me drawing a crude map and some symbols on a plain while sheet of paper. Call me a visual stimulus whore, but I like the feeling of peering down into the realm where my character is having his adventure.

On the setup side, it seem to me it would be a lot easier for DMs to create adventures for players using a toolset and this system. Also, for those groups without a dedicated DM, this would allow them to download modules directly into the system and play them as a group without anyone having to slave for hours prepping the adventure. That’s an attractive feature for more casual players. That also translates to other table top games as well. If you don’t have hundreds of hours and a nice big basement to craft your Warhammer playscape in, then this will do the trick nicely.

Granted, it’s far too costly now for those applications. It’s exciting technology though, no doubt.

I quite agree, but it’s a nascent technology. Even a small amount of testing with real D&D players will let them get rid of the rubbish like auto die rolling and focus on the really key bits, which is virtual maps/battlemats that require no dry erase markers and virtual character sheets that can’t be accidentally left at home. A back end wiki interface for exploring all the game’s data objects (PCs, NPCs, maps, etc) would just be the delicious gravy on an already tasty dish.

I tend to view programming as my day job and not something to do with my free time, but if I had a surface unit I would definitely write some open source applications to handle all this. Just so I could have them for my own gaming sessions really.

I’ve never used miniatures or tabletop maps in any of the RPGs that I have run. In my opinion, those things eliminate the #1 advantage of tabletop roleplaying, which is that you are only limited by your imagination, and have the ability to ad-lib content when the need arises. If you have to prep a visual representation of every place the players might visit… man, what a chore. You’d have to limit what the players can do to what you have prepared in advance, which means railroading players through a limited number of predetermined locales. At that point, you might as well just play a CRPG or an MMO.

It seems a little silly for RPGs, but I think Surface could be nice for board games. It would let you easily save and restore state, and program a lot of the logic of the game into it so calculations could be done automatically.

Some of the most fun I’ve had playing D&D was where it practically crossed with Diablo. I took a 13-level randomly created dungeon (using the 1st edition AD&D DM’s guide appendix) and populated it on the fly with pre-made encounters, NPCs, and loot. I justified the wackiness by calling it a “pocket world of the negative material plane” or something, and gave it the hook of being a potential source for a special power for the party’s cleric. If I had something like this to load up tactical maps based on the pre-made maps, it could have been even quicker to set up the set-pieces. Hack-and-slash at its finest.

In my opinion the very best tabletop RPG experiences sit between, and enjoy the benefits of, spur-of-the-moment improvisation and prepared situations. Some ad-libbing is necessary to let the players really feel they are in control of their destinies. To really enrich the experience and present interesting twists, prepared props and staged fights are also vital.

Well, there’s a random dungeon generator in 4E as well, and this is kinda like the shallow premise for my random dungeon crawl.

Though I have to neckbeard this and say that attacks of opportunity are not facing-dependent, so the wolf would still provoke an AoO with the given movement pattern.

This clearly needs to be hooked up with Natal and a few over-board cameras, so you could roll real dice and have the game just know what you rolled.

Then it also needs a real 3D display so you can reach out and pick up your little holodudes and move them where they should go (since Natal is tracking your whole body over the surface).

God, I love the 21st century. All this shit is just a couple years away at this point…

The surface is supposed to be able to read patterns, so maybe it could be programed to do some image processing and figure out what the dice roll is from what’s on the bottom of the dice. And also have one of those dot patterns like in EoJ to identify all the character pieces

Ok so that is really fucking cool. You guys are just jaded.

I could see it ushering in an age of social PC gaming, where everyone takes part, around the table, in playing a PC game. Thing is, how long till enough of these are in people’s houses? I don’t see a massive rush by folks to compute on the flat.

I watched that video…not impressed.

If you’re going to show us a video that supposedly makes your system look good, at least have it work a little bit…?

There are so many more ways they could go with that and they went with dice rolling and radial menus…bleah.

This. It’s bleeding edge tech, for chrissakes. It’s not like at the end of the video the guy said “…and it’s available right now!”. They’re obviously working on the broad strokes. I’m sure they know the dice thing is dumb.