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Subject: digital board games development platform rss

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Pavel Kazatsker
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I would like to gauge people's interest on a platform that allowed for individuals to basically design, test, play, and ideally publish (through third parties) their own games.

The setup would be similar to "simple" programming interfaces and the skillset required would be similar to that of making custom maps in RTS games.

I'd hopefully create a community of developers, testers, gamers, and publishers.

Do people on here believe that an idea like this would generate enough interest to succeed?
 
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Dave Howe
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How would this be different from Vassal, Cyberboard, or other existing systems?

Would this be for a specific platform?
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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those are pretty similar to what i had in mind. The sites don't look particularly well maintained which leads me to believe that those systems follow the open source mentality of being (in my opinion) overly casual for the scope of system I had in mind.

The system I'm proposing would be entirely web browser based (and probably ported to mobile with relative ease); at least for the playing of games. I wanted to make a system that followed modern software development paradigms in which development is strongly separated by skills (in this case game design, implementation, and visual design).

I'd store the game deliverables (probably XML) server side and associated with system users.

I want to make the system development oriented with resources to meet other people with required skillsets, testing, and aiding with publishing.

In short, the question if there's room for a relatively more professional system for this
 
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Dave Dyer
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In a word, No.

Platforms like Cyberboard get as far as they do only because the worker bees are pursuing their own vision. There is no reliable way to get a bunch of qualified professionals to "do it your way" except to pay them. Any other effort to "assemble a team" is hopeless, as the difficulty increases as the factorial of the size of the team.
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Pavel Kazatsker
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I meant that the site would be professionally maintained and an (ultimately) paid service for hobbyists, I don't expect actual professionals to use this service unless they want a testing platform in general. As for the teams, I was thinking two people, one game theory/math/"tech" and guy to design the games and a graphic designer who likes the game mechanics.
 
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Hernan Ruiz Camauer
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Pavel,

This thread might be of interest to you. If nothing else, it might give you an idea of the sort of reaction BGGers have to commercial endeavors in the online boardgaming arena.
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Pavel Kazatsker
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The other forum is certainly relevant and interesting but I'm not sure what the overall idea of people is. Overall, I think the reception is positive and people seem to think that the capability to play these games with a mobile device is a gold mine.

I guess I would like to hear about what people think would make this idea viable (or not).

One of the popular opinions that I strongly disagree with is that free products are better or that being free offsets decreased product quality. From what I've seen, Vassal seems really scrappy. As a rough brainstorm of functionality that I could/would add to a system:

*Rule enforcement
*AIs (user created)
*conversion tools from other platforms
*generated XML source
*"black box" modding (people can add house rules/mods without the source for the game)
*basic graphics that improve in later iterations (ideally animations eventually)
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Joel Uckelman
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pashakaz wrote:
One of the popular opinions that I strongly disagree with is that free products are better or that being free offsets decreased product quality. From what I've seen, Vassal seems really scrappy.

What you're seeing is not caused by VASSAL being free, but rather by VASSAL 3 having a 10+-year-old codebase.

Quote:
As a rough brainstorm of functionality that I could/would add to a system:

*Rule enforcement
*AIs (user created)
*conversion tools from other platforms
*generated XML source
*"black box" modding (people can add house rules/mods without the source for the game)
*basic graphics that improve in later iterations (ideally animations eventually)

The features you're describing here are ones we're planning for VASSAL 4. VASSAL 4 will be a complete rewrite, using modern software design practices and the hard-won knowledge of how to do and not do things that we have from a decade of prior development work. Why not join us instead of duplicating effort?
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Joel Uckelman
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pashakaz wrote:
those are pretty similar to what i had in mind. The sites don't look particularly well maintained which leads me to believe that those systems follow the open source mentality of being (in my opinion) overly casual for the scope of system I had in mind.

What makes you think that the "sites don't look well maintained", BTW?
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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What you're seeing is not caused by VASSAL being free, but rather by VASSAL 3 having a 10+-year-old codebase.


I didn't know that the current iteration of VASSAL is that old. I feel like that proves my point more than refutes it. A paid system could have dedicated engineers and designers updating features, fixing bugs, etc. My issue is more with open source in general. While being a huge supporter in concept, I have to admit that commercial products tend to be better (I'm currently on a scrappy linux box in an office full of mac people, blech); or at least that the best product of each description was made for product (i.e. photoshop is more usable than gimp)

Quote:
The features you're describing here are ones we're planning for VASSAL 4. VASSAL 4 will be a complete rewrite, using modern software design practices and the hard-won knowledge of how to do and not do things that we have from a decade of prior development work. Why not join us instead of duplicating effort?


I'm certainly curious to see what VASSAL would turn into if a large number of features really do get implemented. I would totally be in favor of helping develop the next version of VASSAL but it comes back to the same problem: I (and I imagine I'm not the only one) don't really have the bandwidth to do this for free. That being said, I'd absolutely love to sit down with a group of VASSAL engineers/designers to get this planned out all with modern SE standards (and to convince me that I should help cause it sounds like a lot of fun).

Recent market trends (as I've seen them) lend me to believe that there is simply a lot of money to be made here in a way that would help gaming communities as a whole. The parallel I draw from is that of e-sports that are growing out of control. I think making this a paid service would allow the idea to grow into more of a community complete with events (both live and online), social media, and support from game authors and publishers. I don't think any of this is really possible if the concept is kept as an open source project.
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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uckelman wrote:
pashakaz wrote:
those are pretty similar to what i had in mind. The sites don't look particularly well maintained which leads me to believe that those systems follow the open source mentality of being (in my opinion) overly casual for the scope of system I had in mind.

What makes you think that the "sites don't look well maintained", BTW?


Just the look and feel of the site strikes me as very open-source.
 
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Hernan Ruiz Camauer
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pashakaz wrote:
Recent market trends (as I've seen them) lend me to believe that there is simply a lot of money to be made here in a way that would help gaming communities as a whole.

I think you might be mistaken with that assumption. What leads you to believe that?
 
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Joe Kundlak
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I too am interested in that money-making possibility...

If you would say "iPad boardgaming", I would say yes...
 
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Hernan Ruiz Camauer
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You might want to join this BGG Guild. It's not particularly active, but perhaps a new project like this would breathe some new life into it.
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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heruca wrote:
pashakaz wrote:
Recent market trends (as I've seen them) lend me to believe that there is simply a lot of money to be made here in a way that would help gaming communities as a whole.

I think you might be mistaken with that assumption. What leads you to believe that?


On the community aspect, I'd point to BGG. This site is a pretty awesome resource, pretty friendly, it monetizes. I'm open to sources of revenue that don't necessarily involve charging people up front but money in general does make a difference.

As for my perceived market trends. Its more the recent (I would say ~5 year) tendency for geek culture to seep its way into the mainstream. In my view, a few events point this out. First, there was casual gaming, people really started enjoying bejeweled and the like as well as that facebook stuff. Then a bunch of those games went mobile and some people started playing somewhat less casual games there (I see people with hack and slash games mashing away at their phones all the time). More recently, eSports has hit and is slowly working to convert the nonbelievers. What really makes me believe that this has a chance, however, is the presence of online board games already. Online Scrabble, classic card games, as well as games like Carcassonne for facebook and Ticket to Ride for the iPad are pretty popular. Whether or not a unified system can work is a different matter but I feel that digital board gaming (and geekery as a whole) is reaching an increasing mainstream status so it would make money.
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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Joeyeti wrote:
I too am interested in that money-making possibility...

If you would say "iPad boardgaming", I would say yes...


*cough cough taps microphone* iPad boardgaming

seriously though, the plan is to port this to basically all platforms and to keep it updating as more platforms come out. It occurs to me that I might want to push the iPad versions as iPad board gaming seems to be pretty well accepted
 
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Joel Uckelman
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pashakaz wrote:
Quote:
What makes you think that the "sites don't look well maintained", BTW?

Just the look and feel of the site strikes me as very open-source.

I'd like to understand what you mean, but you see that saying a site for an open-source project looks "open-source" isn't illuminating. Could you be more specific?
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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uckelman wrote:
pashakaz wrote:
Quote:
What makes you think that the "sites don't look well maintained", BTW?

Just the look and feel of the site strikes me as very open-source.

I'd like to understand what you mean, but you see that saying a site for an open-source project looks "open-source" isn't illuminating. Could you be more specific?


I'm trying to avoid coming up with a list of visual element on the site that seem like they could use work. I'm not a graphic designed and am better at saying something isn't visually appealing than pointing out what could be done to make it better. If I had to stop and thing about it, here are a few things:

*a lot of white space
*awkward choices of font
*aged-looking screenshots

I really like the Vassal logo though

I don't mean to be insulting, pages that don't have marketing intent look like they don't have marketing intent, its more or less expected.

The more I think about it, I think it makes somewhat less sense to "reinvent the wheel" but I think that if Vassal itself monatized (in a way that favors current users), it would grow into both a powerful community and a profitable business, if the current developers are open to some marketing considerations, I'd like to have some words with them.
 
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Peter B
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Oh yeah, this thread is gonna go places.

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Joel Uckelman
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pashakaz wrote:
Quote:
What you're seeing is not caused by VASSAL being free, but rather by VASSAL 3 having a 10+-year-old codebase.


I didn't know that the current iteration of VASSAL is that old. I feel like that proves my point more than refutes it.

I don't see how the age of the current VASSAL codebase supports your assertion. All codebases age, and there comes a time when things must be rewritten. What you're seeing now is VASSAL just before we do that, so it's at it's worst.

Quote:
A paid system could have dedicated engineers and designers updating features, fixing bugs, etc.

A paid system won't have the mindshare that a free system will and does, and will have to compete with free systems. It would be wrong to suppose that VASSAL doesn't have dedicated engineers and designers updating features, fixing bugs, etc.---not only are there developers like me, for whom it's essentially a full-time job, but because we are open-source, we can draw on a far larger pool of talent for transitory things like bug fixes.

I expect your criticism will be: If that's so, then why isn't VASSAL better than it is? This goes back to the age of the codebase. The current codebase wasn't developed using modern methods and has a lot of qualities which we've come to see as design flaws. Fighting with these things consumes a great deal of dev time. The rate of progress will increase dramatically once we're free of that burden, which could be as soon as a few weeks, once 3.2, the last major version on the old codebase, is released.

Quote:
My issue is more with open source in general. While being a huge supporter in concept, I have to admit that commercial products tend to be better (I'm currently on a scrappy linux box in an office full of mac people, blech); or at least that the best product of each description was made for product (i.e. photoshop is more usable than gimp)

I've had the opposite experience. I find closed-source software to be buggy and inflexible, and its authors to be unresponsive to bug reports and feature requests. I've seen open-source offerings become the best available in every category of software I use. This makes me think that in categories where it's not the case yet, it will be eventually.

Quote:
Quote:
The features you're describing here are ones we're planning for VASSAL 4. VASSAL 4 will be a complete rewrite, using modern software design practices and the hard-won knowledge of how to do and not do things that we have from a decade of prior development work. Why not join us instead of duplicating effort?


I'm certainly curious to see what VASSAL would turn into if a large number of features really do get implemented. I would totally be in favor of helping develop the next version of VASSAL but it comes back to the same problem: I (and I imagine I'm not the only one) don't really have the bandwidth to do this for free. That being said, I'd absolutely love to sit down with a group of VASSAL engineers/designers to get this planned out all with modern SE standards (and to convince me that I should help cause it sounds like a lot of fun).

I'm one of the developers, and the main planner for V4. I intend to get the plan I've had in my head for over a year now together with the things I've already written about it together into something that other people can read and pick at once we've released V3.2, or possibly a bit before. How would you like to proceed?

Quote:
Recent market trends (as I've seen them) lend me to believe that there is simply a lot of money to be made here in a way that would help gaming communities as a whole. The parallel I draw from is that of e-sports that are growing out of control. I think making this a paid service would allow the idea to grow into more of a community complete with events (both live and online), social media, and support from game authors and publishers. I don't think any of this is really possible if the concept is kept as an open source project.

I don't see any incompatibility between having a free, opens-source program and taking advantage of social media and running events. I also don't see any incompatibility between that and support from game authors and publishers, for the reason that we're already doing it: VASSAL has a great deal of support from game authors and publishers.
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Joel Uckelman
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pashakaz wrote:
uckelman wrote:

I'd like to understand what you mean, but you see that saying a site for an open-source project looks "open-source" isn't illuminating. Could you be more specific?


I'm trying to avoid coming up with a list of visual element on the site that seem like they could use work. I'm not a graphic designed and am better at saying something isn't visually appealing than pointing out what could be done to make it better. If I had to stop and thing about it, here are a few things:

*a lot of white space
*awkward choices of font
*aged-looking screenshots

Regarding these: I would argue that almost all commercial sites have too little whitespace, and look cluttered as a result. I'm curious why you think the screenshots look "aged"? They're both from games which were published relatively recently.

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I really like the Vassal logo though

Thanks, I'll let our graphic designer know.

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I don't mean to be insulting, pages that don't have marketing intent look like they don't have marketing intent, its more or less expected.

And I'm not being insulted, I only want to understand what you mean. What you said originally was "looks unmaintained", but now you're saying "lacks marketing intent". Those aren't the same to me.

Quote:
The more I think about it, I think it makes somewhat less sense to "reinvent the wheel" but I think that if Vassal itself monatized (in a way that favors current users), it would grow into both a powerful community and a profitable business, if the current developers are open to some marketing considerations, I'd like to have some words with them.

It depends on what those marketing considerations are. Care to elaborate?

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Pavel Kazatsker
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Quote:
---
Regarding these: I would argue that almost all commercial sites have too little whitespace, and look cluttered as a result. I'm curious why you think the screenshots look "aged"? They're both from games which were published relatively recently.



Quote:

And I'm not being insulted, I only want to understand what you mean. What you said originally was "looks unmaintained", but now you're saying "lacks marketing intent". Those aren't the same to me.


I don't really have enough of a background in visual design to make a strong argument about this but my impression as a web developer (with a computer science and Human Computer Interaction background) is that its not appealing.

Quote:
The more I think about it, I think it makes somewhat less sense to "reinvent the wheel" but I think that if Vassal itself monatized (in a way that favors current users), it would grow into both a powerful community and a profitable business, if the current developers are open to some marketing considerations, I'd like to have some words with them.


Quote:

It depends on what those marketing considerations are. Care to elaborate?



I guess it depends on your stance and why exactly you're pro-open source. In short, I think that you should be open to making some money and that you can do so at little (or no) cost to the users and in a way that will greatly improve user experience.

I think its cool that you're willing to put your time into this; possibly to the point that I'd rather not try competing. For me personally (and I'm inclined to think this is true for many developers) money is the difference of man hours per week from 5 to 60.

I'm only willing to post so many specifics in public forum. If you want to get more of my thoughts, email me at pashakaz@gmail.com . I'd also love to add input into current design plans (for free).
 
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Greg Langmead
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Vassal -> Kickstarter -> $$$
 
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Pavel Kazatsker
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glangmead wrote:
Vassal -> Kickstarter -> $$$


I don't think Kickstarter is the correct outlet, but I agree with the spirit of that comment. I think you should go out and get actual investors.
 
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Not even remotely interested. Whats the business model here?

VASSAL is free. VASSAL has developer support. VASSAL is free. VASSAL has a worldwide established player base.

Why would anyone other than developers be interested in paying for the cow when they already get the milk for free?
 
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