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Digital Playtesting

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Suff
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What are your thoughts on digital game creation, for playtesting purposes?

I just listened to the BGDL episode on digital prototyping and it seemed they breezed over one aspect that could be serious. You don't own the digital version of your game?

Is this an overreaction on my part?

Also what are some pros and cons to this style of playtesting? Has anyone had any experiences?

X3M
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Suff wrote: You don't own the

Suff wrote:
You don't own the digital version of your game?

Is this an overreaction on my part?


It was a reason for me to never ever look at it again.
Perhaps an overreaction on my part as well.

Suff
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Digital Ownership

With VR growing, I can see the industry using digital boardgames so players can "play at the same table". This would allow the sites to own this version of the game or possible try and prevent you from releasing it digitally if they own your prototype.

questccg
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Nothing beats playing the game person-to-person

This industry has such small margins that I wouldn't worry about Digital Ownership rights... From what I have seen in the Digital world... it is not at all the same experience as playing and HOLDING the cards themselves.

It very mechanical, "F"lip a card to see its backside, "Z"oom to actually be able to read what is written on the card, etc.

To me it's not as "Exciting" or "Exhilarating" as sitting down at a table and playing the game face-to-face.

But that my own experience... And from what I have tried to experiment with in the Digital world (TableTopia)...

questccg
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Double Post

*** Double Post ***

McTeddy
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I'm a little confused on

I'm a little confused on exactly what you're asking. I keep reading to separate, unrelated questions.

The first question is "How do you feel about digital prototyping" and the related aspects.

My thought is that it's a perfectly fine thing to do but there is a major difference between board game and video games. Board games require very little work to prototype and test, video games require alot of effort to prototype.

Even factoring out the engine work and making a TTS or vassal module building the prototype will take a while unless you are highly experienced with the engine.

Yeah, it's nice to be able to test with loads of people across the internet without PnP costs... but it's not always the wisest option to take. Most of the time, I find it quicker and cheaper to just bring it to random FLGS.

The second question I see was "You don't own the digital rights to your game?"

This depends on the contract. If you are self publishing, sure... you own it. But with a publisher you generally give them ALL rights. Physical, digital, international etc.

pelle
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Can someone explain the "not

Can someone explain the "not owning the digital rights to your game" part?

As a player I am highly against buying (or even downloading for free) things that I can not keep and "own" for as long as I want to, which is a big reason I am staying away from TTS for now. If they make a drm-free version that I can buy outside of steam and I can feel confident that they do not have the ability to block certain game modules I have bought or downloaded I will give it a serious look. Until then I stick to VASSAL (and I hope future versions of VASSAL or some other open source virtual table-top will be popular so players still own games in their collection).

As a designer for testing I sure hope that no one is trying to claim ownership over my game modules? I know for sure that nothing like that happens when I distribute a module for VASSAL. Does the owners of some of the commercial table-top systems actually claim that if you distribute a module for your game for their system they own all the rights to it? That can't be true since then no one would use that system, right?

let-off studios
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Personal Thoughts

I have Table Top Simulator and have tinkered with it on occasion, but shied away from subscription-based "services" like Tabletopia.

Personally, I prefer a physical prototype, even if it's a rough first draft cobbled together. I also have the advantage of a couple meetings a month with local designers, so it's worth it for me to have physical prototypes - and the crowd I work with knows that these are projects and not reflective of the final product.

It takes a little time to become used to the interface of TTS, and the relative ease of constructing a physical prototype outweighs the design time and learning curve required to create a project in TTS. However, if I didn't have local designers to work with so frequently, I'm sure I would be pouring more energy, effort, and time into TTS, promote its use heavily, and be an ace at the interface.

Suff
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Ownership

pelle wrote:
Can someone explain the "not owning the digital rights to your game" part?

As a player I am highly against buying (or even downloading for free) things that I can not keep and "own" for as long as I want to, which is a big reason I am staying away from TTS for now. If they make a drm-free version that I can buy outside of steam and I can feel confident that they do not have the ability to block certain game modules I have bought or downloaded I will give it a serious look. Until then I stick to VASSAL (and I hope future versions of VASSAL or some other open source virtual table-top will be popular so players still own games in their collection).

As a designer for testing I sure hope that no one is trying to claim ownership over my game modules? I know for sure that nothing like that happens when I distribute a module for VASSAL. Does the owners of some of the commercial table-top systems actually claim that if you distribute a module for your game for their system they own all the rights to it? That can't be true since then no one would use that system, right?

So I am not a lawyer. Sometime law jargon does confuse me. That said,the section 6 of the Tabletopia terms of use is what worries me.

https://tabletopia.com/pages/terms-of-use

sorry about formatting. I'm on mobile right now and still getting used to bgdf

McTeddy
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Oh, this I can do. You know

Oh, this I can do.

You know the big terms of agreement that you click "I agree" when installing nearly all digital games? They usually explain that you are not purchasing a product, but a "License to Use" the product.

If they violate the agreement, they reserve the the right to revoke that license. You DON'T own the product, you own the license. Heck, where the digital storefronts are concerned, sometimes they take it away anyways.

Exactly how it works in practice depends. I have a handful of games on steam that were removed from the store either because of contract running out, companies withdrawing, or steam banning them... With steam, they still let me download those games.

One the Google Play on the other hand? I lost access to them completely when the store decided to terminate the relationship. This bothered me and signaled the end of my collecting for their store, but I agreed to it with my initial "I accept" button.

- - -

TTS isn't selling you board games, they are selling you a virtual tabletop with which you play games except for their few individual featured games that you pay for. This is legally important.

The vast majority of the modules on TTS (And Vassal) are copyright violations. Unless it's a module put up by the designers/copyright holder as an alternative way to play the game... they had no rights to transfer or reproduce the game.

You don't own them because they were never Vassal's to give away. It's the same as if you bought a stolen watch... the watch will be returned to the original owner because the thief had no right to transfer ownership in the first place.

Now, it's important to say outside of legal aspects... most publishers and designers don't mind virtual tabletop play. They let it happen because the benefits outweigh the costs and we're glad people can play the games online with friends.

But in cases where they don't feel that way, publishers can and do have the modules removed. There are many modules on Vassal that are missing play tables because the publishers specifically demanded it so that only owners of the real game can play the virtual version.

The copyright owners are the ones who own the rights.

If you create your own game from scratch and put in on vassal... that makes you the copyright owner. If you recreate Fantasy Flight's latest game... they are the copyright owner and they may not be happy.

Suff
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Ownership

@McTeddy

So if I design a game using TTS or whatever. I own the licens, but that can be revoked at anytime. What about the rights to my game? If it's revoked than the service would own the rights?

questccg
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Explanation

Suff wrote:
So if I design a game using TTS or whatever. I own the license, but that can be revoked at anytime. What about the rights to my game? If it's revoked than the service would own the rights?

I think you are not understanding. TTS is LICENSED to you. You DON'T OWN IT. Therefore what that means is that TTS reserves the right to REVOKE YOUR license at ANY GIVEN TIME. They don't OWN the rights to your game... They own the rights to the TTS platform/software. And they don't guarantee that you own anything that belongs to them...

Like McTeddy explained, you're only a licensee. Service can be REVOKED at any given time... Like a buy-out or a bankruptcy.

You own all the rights to your own TTS module (are they separate files???). I'm not familiar with TTS... But my guess is that you own whatever your own module is and whatever content you upload (Images).

For TableTopia, you OWN the IP of all the uploaded content. It's ALL copyright and only the owner can USE it in any game online. But much like TTS, TT offers you a license to use TT. You don't own the platform (how could you, it's all online). Everything you upload, you must certify that you OWN the IP. And by uploading you agree with the terms & conditions of using that IP online.

Maybe that's a bit more clear...

tikey
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I've used Tabletopia for

I've used Tabletopia for playtesting purposes and I found it quite convenient, since it's very hard for me to arrange a "physical" playtest", so for that middle stage where selftesting by myself is not enough I've found digital playtesting with friends over the internet quite useful. Obviously it's not the best tool for every single part of the design process but, like all tools, it has its uses.
It's also convenient for showing the game as you don't have to carry it everywhere with you.

The Professor
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Digital playtesting

Without stepping into the minefield of "ownership rights" and other legal conundra, I'll simply answer the question as it relates to playtesting.

Given the technology at our fingertips, it's an essential aspect of playtesting. As a developer, I've recommended this approach to designers as it permits a much wider audience to playtest the game. As someone who has shipped games around the country, it's labor-intensive, not particularly timely, and costly.

I've found it much easier to establish dates and times for playtesters to get together into the virtual room, with the game already set-up and playtest for an hour or two, rather than try to get folks over to someone's house or a public space to do so.

Digital playtesting will only grow in the years ahead, due to the ease by which one can create the prototype and the accessibility for the playtesters.

Cheers,
Joe

pelle
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VASSAL has a very powerful

VASSAL has a very powerful logging feature. You can add logging commands to almost anything. One that is I think enabled by default (or very easy to add in a dialog) is to report whenever a token is moved on a board, or a card placed or removed etc. Dice that are rolled are also logged the same way, and all messages typed by a player.

If the log file is sent back to the designer they can step through the game session one little thing at a time, seeing every part move, and any messages added by play testers (so you could ask them to just type comments into the chat if they think of something).

pelle
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questccg wrote:Suff wrote:So

questccg wrote:
Suff wrote:
So if I design a game using TTS or whatever. I own the license, but that can be revoked at anytime. What about the rights to my game? If it's revoked than the service would own the rights?

I think you are not understanding. TTS is LICENSED to you. You DON'T OWN IT. Therefore what that means is that TTS reserves the right to REVOKE YOUR license at ANY GIVEN TIME. They don't OWN the rights to your game... They own the rights to the TTS platform/software. And they don't guarantee that you own anything that belongs to them...

Like McTeddy explained, you're only a licensee. Service can be REVOKED at any given time... Like a buy-out or a bankruptcy.

You own all the rights to your own TTS module (are they separate files???). I'm not familiar with TTS... But my guess is that you own whatever your own module is and whatever content you upload (Images).

For TableTopia, you OWN the IP of all the uploaded content. It's ALL copyright and only the owner can USE it in any game online. But much like TTS, TT offers you a license to use TT. You don't own the platform (how could you, it's all online). Everything you upload, you must certify that you OWN the IP. And by uploading you agree with the terms & conditions of using that IP online.

Maybe that's a bit more clear...

The "single point of failure" remaining with VASSAL is that all games online are played through a central server. (You can still play off-line for solitaire testing without having to connect to any server.) But the plan for the next version is to remove that remaining obstacle by making possible for anyone to host their own server, so if you use VASSAL you will truly be in full control and not rely on the whims of some IP owner or server operator. Also since it is open source they can not hide any remote kill-switches (like how steam or google play can remote-delete any app you have installed if they find a reason to).

ElKobold
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What Joe said,

What Joe said, basically.

Tabletopia saved me countless hours of life and tons of money not spent on prototypes and shipping.

Once I went digital, I will never go back. (Except to design a dexterity game).

That being said, it does not completely replace the usual playtesting. Just lets you only do it when you really need to.

gxnpt
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Digital playtesting

Lacking local playtesters, my game designs reach print-and-play supposedly ready for blind playtest stage. Then I work on digital playtest versions from the PnP version.

I figure that anyone who is willing to playtest a digital version should be able to have (as much as possible) the same "possession of prototype file" capabilities as the print-and-play people would have.

So, Vassal is suited for some (Alchelemental and Mind Game both have Vassal modules) but is more of a pass&play or PBEM type format.

Tabletop Simulator is better at emulating real time activity - I have done a TTS version of both Alchelemental and Mind Game, the (not so suited for Vassal) silliness of Sky Pirates and the Quest for Helium, and now that I have a functional equivalent for game purposes of a souffle sauce cup am doing a TTS version of Fleet Admiral - Singularity.

My TTS modules are done using no outside of steam cloud files (all mesh objects etc in TTS steam cloud) so any playtesters have a working copy dependent only on TTS/Steam maintained cloud content instead of also relying on external links. Making them available this way in the TTS workshop has always struck me as basic courtesy to playtesters.

(Making those modules available to all - publishing them - in the TTS workshop and on the Vassal website - vs posting private links only - is just a way of trying to gather up a few more playtesters while placing the files themselves on "trusted" sites vs my own website. It has no impact on my copyright for the game itself.)

Not publishing the modules (distributing them privately to selected playtesters) vs publishing them makes no difference to any copyright.

Having people use print-and-play files to make their own copy has no more effect on copyright than printing them yourself and mailing out the resulting copies.

BUT - once things enter the digital world they are easily duplicated and distributed beyond your control.

Suff
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Joined: 07/24/2018
I think I get it. All that

I think I get it. All that text about TT owning without limitation was what started this. Just looking to move onto my next steps in prototyping and digital would allow blind playtesting conveniently. I get the benefits. I just wanted to make sure that the game is mine even if I used TT/TTS to create a digital version. I know margi s are small and likelihood to publishing is slim, but working so hard on something, I'd prefer to own it out right and I just wanted to make sure.

Thanks everyone

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