Saturday, August 13, 2005

Board games and computer games

Board games have a few things going for them that computer games don't. They're a social experience, and a physical experience. You're touching the pieces, holding the cards, and sitting right next to the people you're playing with. You're having a conversation, and it isn't just through a chat window or even a headset. Those things alone can have a tremendous impact on the quality of the experience. They also have one thing that I've overlooked until now: you know all of the rules, and you see them happening.

In computer games, you have some vague idea of the rules, like what all of the various statistics are for, and "you can't go here until you've been here," and "I'll do 100% extra damage if I get a critical hit," and so forth. Heroes of Might and Magic is on my mind, and Heroes is a curious blend between computer games. It's really a board game that takes place on a computer. But, the things that it simulates and keeps track of are way too complicated for a board game; the upcoming Heroes board game is vastly simplified in a lot of ways. Hit points, melee attack power, ranged attack power, attack damage, defense power, stack quantities, and a lot of math is condensed down into three numbers. The way that the computer game works is actually explained in the manual, but it's way too much stuff to keep track of in your head. But, there's definitely something to be said for knowing exactly how the rules work. Knowing this really helps the experience for me; I feel like I'm in full control of everything that I can control, and I know exactly where the points of randomness lie: the die rolls, the card draws, et cetera.

Of course, computer games make a lot more things possible, including a wide variety of other genres. I'm just talking about the computer games that work like board games right now, like anything turn-based.

Sometime before I die, I want to see table-sized electronic board games. I'd love to see some kind of computer game that everyone sits around, and the board does all of the math for you. You can kind of do this now with hotseat games, but it's not the same as sitting around a table and playing a game that everyone is watching basically all the time. You couldn't bump the pieces, you could pack it up and come back to the game later, and there would be sound effects. Right now, that would be way too expensive, but I think that it's reasonable to assume that it would be more feasible sometime far down the road.


Matthew Beermann said...

Reminds me of "Knights of the Old Republic"... hardly the first or last computer game to be based on a D&D engine, of course, but it's so graphical that it always shocked me when I'd call up the screen that showed me the dice rolls the engine was performing in the background. Imagine if you could pull up the relevant dice rolls that occurred in the course of your real-life day...

Travis said...

Drat! I lost my saving throw versus annoying people who stop by the office to ask questions they just asked over email. Now I'm paralyzed for 3d6 minutes and can't cast spells.