Table-top games get a Technology Upgrade

PlaneQuestA new games genre is emerging in which players use special conductive miniatures and two-handed gesture driven interaction to play tablet-centric games. In these games, the tablet surface becomes the game world, and users move about in them to fight and interact with digital characters in real-time.

Since the emergence of D&D and tabletop games, people everywhere have enjoyed playing with beautifully sculptured miniatures on table-tops in turn based games. A new company however, TabletTop Interactive (TTI), is aiming to give this genre a technology upgrade and modernize the gaming experience by drawing upon a host of new technologies. By taking advantage of tablets like the iPad and a new breed of large touchscreen devices, TTI is working on shifting the table-top to the “tablet-top”.

The result is a new class of games in which players use miniatures to move about and adventure in digital worlds via touchscreen gestures.

This is achieved through the use of special TabletTop Miniatures (TTMs) with conductive bases that allow each unique figurine to be recognized and tracked in the digital game world.

Players hold their character with one hand, whilst using the other hand to pan around – and hence walk or run – through large environments. Two handed control facilitates intuitive combat and interaction with digital characters that are viewed from a top-down perspective.

TabletTop Interactive has overcome a variety of obstacles and worked out some interesting features that facilitate a very natural gameplay experience. These features are demonstrated in their new game under development called PlaneQuest: Champions and include the following mechanics:

  • Each TTM has an associated TabletTop Avatar (TTA), which is the digital representation of the miniature in the gameworld. The position of the TTA is always directly under the miniature. This approach allows each miniature to cast realistic shadows – as if standing in the gameworld itself – and lets the digital inhabitants see and interact with the player’s character. This approach also prevents players from sliding their miniature through onscreen obstacles: attempting to do so, creates a disconnect between the miniature and their avatar. Players quickly learn not to try to move through walls or other obstacles because they are forced to move their miniature back to reconnect with their avatar in order to continue. In the case of small obstacles, the avatar slips around them to reconnect automatically with the player’s miniature.
  • Adding or removing miniatures from the TabletTop is catered for in the design of the game and lies at the heart of PlaneQuest game dynamics. Lifting a miniature up, or placing it down on the tablet equates to phasing in, or phasing out, of the current Plane of Existence in the game (in the game, this is called Flaring in and Flaring out, due to the burst of scintillating light produced when a person moves between dimensions). This feature lets users swap Champions in real-time to take advantage of the different strengths and special abilities of each character (though this action comes at the cost of health and power). Mastering each character is the key to successful advancement through the game.

The Kickstarter campaign behind this has gone live and is called, “PlaneQuest, where Miniatures + Tablets = TabletTop gaming!”
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tablettop/planequest-where-miniatures-tablets-tablettop-gami

A shorter, more accessible clip of gameplay excerpts can be found here:
http://www.tablettop.com/gameplay.html

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