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:
- “Dungeons & Dragons done right on Microsoft Surface”.
- “SurfaceScapes Follow-up: Bringing D&D to Microsoft Surface”.
- “New gameplay video with D&D on Surface”.
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.