The Future of Tabletop Games? D&D on the Microsoft Surface

18:15 Fri 26 Feb 2010
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Microsoft Surface is an advanced touchscreen display built into a table, backed by a fairly advanced suite of software for gesture recognition. I hadn’t seen many compelling uses for this technology… until SurfaceScapes, a group at the Carnegie-Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, released demos of Surfaces customized to hangle playing miniature-based D&D on them.

I strongly recommend watching the video of the demos, and reading the commentary and an interview with the project lead:

Some of it is quite clumsy, but the potential is clearly there. And looks amazing. While this could definitely aid the playing of D&D, there are many games that could benefit from this kind of treatment. Specifically, any games that benefit both from having people physically present and that would also benefit from computation and helpful interfaces (yes, I’m looking at you, Twilight Imperium) could get a huge boost from this technology.

It’s a long way away from being available or affordable, and probably a long way from being easily modifiable, too. But we don’t seem to be that far from having commonplace enhanced tabletop games. In the meantime, for roleplaying games there’s the RPTools suite—a suite which may well eventually be a big part of an open source tabletop gaming toolset.

One Response to “The Future of Tabletop Games? D&D on the Microsoft Surface”

  1. Kevin Teljeur Says:

    That’s just reminded me of something; one of the two issues of ‘Stardate’ (Star Trek-orientated role-playing games magazine) which sits in my recycling bin had an article which has always stuck in my mind, about the ‘Parrot on the shoulder’ situation; where the captain asks the other player something, the player asks the games master, the games master responds to the player, the player tells the captain, and so on. It could get tedious and particularly in Star Trek. However, they suggested a ‘cue card/information card’ approach, where the games master tells the player a response number, or hands a card with the response to the player, and the player can make of it what they will.

    I’ve always thought that this would be great in all sorts of situations, particularly with hidden knowledge, or generally in games for information. Image that with, say, iPads (Or any similar ‘pad/slate’ device)? The information could be updated continuously throughout the game,but without interfering with the actual playing experience. I think the technology is there, similar to the Surface table, but for a more intimate role-playing experience.

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