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hpox
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Jeff proposed a virtual playtesting software in this thread.

I had the exact same thoughts during the holidays! A "generic" application that you can feed all pieces of your game in and manipulate them over the internet with other people.

The difference with Vassal, Toth or Apprentice is the goal. Or rather, the users: playtesters and designers instead of players. Providing tools for the designers would be one of the top priority.

It means that the interface can be counter-intuitive and by that I don't mean a stupid interface. I mean a powerful & coherent interface with a high learning curve. A player alone would not put up with it but a playtester will be supervised by the designer. Also, the software does not have to prevent cheating, have high security, fast real-time speed, etc...

Tools such as the possibility for the designer to highlight insightful comments during the game so he can review them later. A playback system where the game can be viewed again and again (at variable speed) in the same exact way it was played, with all the talk and notes taken.

FastLearner
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While Vassal isn't perfect for this, I reviewed it today and it can automatically log all moves (not as good as playback but still good). It also has a shared Notes window where you can keep notes (including an area for private notes) that are saved with the game.

It seems to me like it mgiht be a good place to start. I'm not sure how the server system works with it, whether it all has to go through vasal.org or if we are supposed to set up a server here.

-- Matthew

hpox
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Software: Playtest Workshop

Here's what I have so far:

3 pieces of software would be needed : A server, a client and eventually a tool to package the games.

The server might be run by the designer, a playtester or be dedicated. It could be like a chatroom with permissions and the possibility to kick, ban, silence. We'll need a distinction between spectators & players. Designer (or someone acting as the GameMaster) can be a spectator or a player.

The server handle the game "world". It receives requests from the client (what they want to do with the objects) and make the changes (if accepted), then send update to all clients.

The client simply receive geometry information from the server and displays it. It also send action requests to the server. Send & receive all chat messages too. That's it. Of course, there's all the question of the interface what option to give.

A game could be many files (images, data, objects, templates) packaged in a compressed file and distributed previously by web or email. The server could also send it (or the diff.) to the client if they don't have it (or an earlier version). The objects or pieces of the game should be defined here using object oriented thinking, you have base default objects and you can get more precise by defining your own and what action can be used on them. Of course, it can be written by hand but a tool would become necessary once it's pretty complex.

Another thing to consider is the interface. What should be possible? As much as possible.

hpox
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Software: Playtest Workshop

FastLearner wrote:
While Vassal isn't perfect for this, I reviewed it today and it can automatically log all moves (not as good as playback but still good). It also has a shared Notes window where you can keep notes (including an area for private notes) that are saved with the game.

It seems to me like it mgiht be a good place to start. I'm not sure how the server system works with it, whether it all has to go through vasal.org or if we are supposed to set up a server here.

Pretty interesting, I'll investigate a little bit more. Of course, re-inventing the wheel is not often the best. If we can start using Vassal right now, that would be super!

FastLearner
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Don't get me wrong -- the software sounds like great fun to write, and I'd love to be involved in it's design and, if desired, programming. I'm just noting (as you commented) that Vassal might be a good place to start playtests while (a) we figure out what we do and don't like about Vassal, to help with the design of something else (if needed), and (b) we create the alternative.

One thing Vassal can't do -- and something that's hard to do in a physical playtest, for that matter -- is allow one person (like the designer) to see what everyone's secretly holding (like cards) unless everyone can see them. I think this would be key for PlayTestOnline (PTO), or whatever it would be called.

-- Matthew

sedjtroll
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FastLearner wrote:

One thing Vassal can't do -- and something that's hard to do in a physical playtest, for that matter -- is allow one person (like the designer) to see what everyone's secretly holding (like cards) unless everyone can see them. I think this would be key for PlayTestOnline (PTO), or whatever it would be called.

I don't think that's a big problem. Players could talk about it after the game.

Also, I like PTO (PLayTestOnline) for the name :)

- Seth

FastLearner
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sedjtroll wrote:
FastLearner wrote:

One thing Vassal can't do -- and something that's hard to do in a physical playtest, for that matter -- is allow one person (like the designer) to see what everyone's secretly holding (like cards) unless everyone can see them. I think this would be key for PlayTestOnline (PTO), or whatever it would be called.

I don't think that's a big problem. Players could talk about it after the game.

While it's not a problem, I think it would be extremely cool if the designer -- who could simply sit the session out -- could see what each player was picking from and glean insight that way.

Quote:
Also, I like PTO (PLayTestOnline) for the name :)

Ooh, maybe even PLATO (PLAy Test Online). :)

-- Matthew

FastLearner
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Or the science-fictiony sounding PLATEON (PLAyTEst ONline). :) But only if PLATO is already some kind of commonly-used software.

hpox
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While we're at it, let's find a recursive acronym!

PLATEON : Plateon Ludic Activity Testing, Extensible & ONline

sedjtroll
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hpox wrote:
While we're at it, let's find a recursive acronym!

PLATEON : Plateon Ludic Activity Testing, Extensible & ONline

Allright, allright... settle down...

- Seth

FastLearner
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It's all about GNU!

phpbbadmin
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Suggestions...

I like the object oriented approach..

Each object could have different 'states' which are basically the graphical view of every way you could think to manipulate the object. Let's take a card for example, it might have 8 'states'; up, rotated right, upside down, and rotated left for face up, then 4 of the same for the face down graphic.

Also it might be neat if you created objects by using animated gifs. Each frame of the gif could correspond to a particular state of the object. I'm not sure if you can jump to a specific frame in a GIF random access style, but if so then it would be an elegant way to implement the objects.

I like the idea of a 'dumb program', I.E. All you can do as a player is manipulate the virtual game table. So as a designer all you would bring to the game table were the objects, and possibly the initial layout (Thoth does this, although I can't say it does it well).

A few things you might want to implement:

    The 'layered effect': Like in photoshop and other graphics programs, the ability to bring objects to the foreground or send them to the back, or back one, etc.
    Sticky objects: Grouping two or more objects together so that when one is moved all are moved with it. Useful for counters and such.
    Object ownership: Combined with a 'peek' option, would allow the owner of an object to view the state of an object without showing the state to everyone else. I.E. Look at a face down card.

I like the idea of combining this with a chat client... I think it's essential... The log is a good idea too. A special pane that had a copy of the rules might be neat as well (or just the ability to pull up the instructions easily).

Sounds like a decent project... I agree with Fast, Vassal may be able to do what we want it to do. I think Brykovian uses it a lot and I even talked to him earlier about contacting the author to make the engine more board game friendly.

-Darke

[/]
Anonymous
Software: Playtest Workshop

Why don't you just use some sort of messenger service and CyberBoard?

Tyler

phpbbadmin
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Why?

Quote:

Why don't you just use some sort of messenger service and CyberBoard?

Tyler

We wan't real time! Play be E-mail just won't cut it!

-Darke

Anonymous
Software: Playtest Workshop

But.... but.... the engine is built and capable of handling pretty much anything.....

...AND... unless your POP3 server is a hampster wheel, email is pretty damn close to real time. Coupled with some sort of instant messenger or chat room and it's done.

Why re-invent the wheel?

Tyler

Brykovian
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FastLearner wrote:
One thing Vassal can't do -- and something that's hard to do in a physical playtest, for that matter -- is allow one person (like the designer) to see what everyone's secretly holding (like cards) unless everyone can see them. I think this would be key for PlayTestOnline (PTO), or whatever it would be called.

Actually, I think there are some work-arounds for that, since it allows for "GM'd" games, where 1 "player" serves as a referee and can see all other player's pieces.

As for the server, from what I've seen, they have a centralized server that the client all connect to. They organize "rooms" for each game module ... players load up the same module, join a room, then the host launches the game.

It really seems like it would be good for most board-gamey things ... probably a bit weak on the card-game side of things.

-Bryk

FastLearner
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Brykovian wrote:
FastLearner wrote:
One thing Vassal can't do -- and something that's hard to do in a physical playtest, for that matter -- is allow one person (like the designer) to see what everyone's secretly holding (like cards) unless everyone can see them. I think this would be key for PlayTestOnline (PTO), or whatever it would be called.

Actually, I think there are some work-arounds for that, since it allows for "GM'd" games, where 1 "player" serves as a referee and can see all other player's pieces.

Ah, excellent! When looking at how player setups were done I was only able to find the ability to either (a) make all players omniscient or (b) make no players omniscient. I'm glad they have another option.

Quote:
As for the server, from what I've seen, they have a centralized server that the client all connect to. They organize "rooms" for each game module ... players load up the same module, join a room, then the host launches the game.

It really seems like it would be good for most board-gamey things ... probably a bit weak on the card-game side of things.
Good to know.

-- Matthew

Torrent
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Random_Person wrote:
But.... but.... the engine is built and capable of handling pretty much anything.....

...AND... unless your POP3 server is a hampster wheel, email is pretty damn close to real time. Coupled with some sort of instant messenger or chat room and it's done.

Why re-invent the wheel?

TylerActually, my mail server IS a Hamster Wheel, and cheese is not as easy to cram through the ventilation slots as you'd think.

Even if you went with some sort of IM, wouldn't you still need the client/server bit's to deal with the emails/IMs to interpret them into game moves.

I looked at Vassal last night. Atleast the site I saw had a tool (atleast the tutorial on how to use it, so I assume there is a tool) to build games. It seems like it has all the flags and stuff that you need to make games, including hidden info and whatnot.
What would be neat for initial playtest is having no hidden info. Play an open game and talk through decisions. The games don't look that hard to build and/or change.

Andy

phpbbadmin
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Trailblazer?

Well, would one of you folks who is familiar with Vassal be willing to test it out by creating a game in it and hosting a test session for us to play in? Doesn't have to be one of your games, could be a preexisting game; just so we get a feel for how it works? Perhaps even a quick start guide from a player stand point, and then also from a game setup standpoint (unless such aids already exist)?

Thanks,
Darke

doho123
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Shockwave (and I think Flash now) both come with a multiuser server component. Just reading over this thread, I've just started thinking how one would go about the process of creating a generic 'board game builder' software do-hickey (as if I were to create one in shockwave). It seems that there's quite a lot of things to consider in order to make it as open ended as possible for a non-programmer to do.

FastLearner
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Re: Trailblazer?

Darkehorse wrote:
Well, would one of you folks who is familiar with Vassal be willing to test it out by creating a game in it and hosting a test session for us to play in? Doesn't have to be one of your games, could be a preexisting game; just so we get a feel for how it works? Perhaps even a quick start guide from a player stand point, and then also from a game setup standpoint (unless such aids already exist)?

I'm not familiar with it, but am trying to get Everest into it.

Based on how little success I've had so far, though (man, the documentation really sucks), don't hold your breath. Don't even breathe shallowly.

-- Matthew

Brykovian
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Re: Trailblazer?

Darkehorse wrote:
Well, would one of you folks who is familiar with Vassal be willing to test it out by creating a game in it and hosting a test session for us to play in? Doesn't have to be one of your games, could be a preexisting game; just so we get a feel for how it works? Perhaps even a quick start guide from a player stand point, and then also from a game setup standpoint (unless such aids already exist)?

A handful of weeks ago, when I first bumped into VASSAL, I knocked together a quick module for "Castle Danger" ... took about a half hour using graphics that had already been made for the next computer version I was planning on programming.

Over the next night or three, I'll try to break that back out and see how it works. Once it's ready, I'll bump whoever's here at the time to see if we can get a test session going.

-Bryk :)

Brykovian
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Well, I have a mostly-finished VASSAL module for "Castle Danger" available to anyone who'd like to test it out. (I still have to figure out how to mess with the Help files ... I even accidentally removed the "About VASSAL" item. :oops: )

You can retrieve it here: http://www.mwgames.com/_ufiles/CastleDanger_VASSAL.zip

Warning: Don't UNZIP it ... simply save it and open it as the module. Rename it with a "MOD" extension if it helps you out. ;)
(My webserver is behaving oddly and won't find a ".mod" file right now ... my admin says he'll look into it.) :)

Anyway ... hopefully we can test it out against their server and see how things work.

-Bryk

Pt314
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OOooooh. I like this idea. Is there any projection of its release date? :D

Since I can't get Thoth to work on my computer, I think I will begin to program my own version to design (card & board) games on.

Brykovian
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Pt314 wrote:
Is there any projection of its release date?

What's release date? The VASSAL engine (which is already released, and a continuing open-source project: http://www.vassalengine.org), or the completed version of my "Castle Danger" module for it? If you're asking about the latter, I hope it'll be by the end of February.

-Bryk

Anonymous
Don't re-invent the wheel!

I'm the author of VASSAL. Matt Worden pointed me to this discussion, and I thought I'd chime in.

It's true that VASSAL does a lot of what you're talking about, including the ability to support real-time internet play. VASSAL has in fact been used for a number of playtesting efforts. Probably most intensively by the testers for Shrapnel Games' Lock 'N Load, where the group of playtesters coordinated regularly via their email list and set up live games using VASSAL to test out rules changes.

And probably the best thing? VASSAL is open source! If you've got people with the ability to program in Java, you can make your own modifications to add whatever features haven't made it to the general engine. For example, a "God user" who could see all hidden units of all players could be added to the engine in a matter of hours.

rk

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