As I mentioned last time, I will be posting a couple old blog posts that I was able to recover from the posts I wrote on my old homepage www.gamesbyray.com. The next entry was originally posted on February 11, 2016 and is all about digital alternatives to traditional prototyping.
I regularly listen to a great podcast called Cardboard Architects that I highly recommend for any new game designers. One of the hosts is a big fan of digital game design, which is something that I had never thought or heard of. In today’s post we are going to take a quick look at 4 digital alternatives to traditional prototypes for play testing.
Traditionally game designers will print out prototypes for play testing. This can get fairly expensive, and really limits you on how many play testers you can use all at once. One solution that is becoming more and more popular are to use virtual table top programs which allow you to take your digital art and create virtual versions of your game that you can then invite other users to play your game with you online. This process opens a whole new avenue of play testing because you can now use play tester from around the world, and can do it fairly cheaply or even free.
The four more popular options for virtual tabletop gaming are:
- VASSAL (free)
- Tabletopia (paid) funded through kickstarter Q3 of 2015 and is in final stages of production
- Tabletop Simulator (paid) loads like a PC game through Steam and then you create and run mods(the board games themselves) to the base game
- ZunTzu (free)
At first glance, this process can look really intimidating and appears that it will take a lot of time to setup. The important thing to remember is that you really only need to do the initial setup once – after that it is just a matter of making any changes you need to make. Just think of all the time you would have spent printing and cutting your physical prototypes if you had gone that way.
I should also mention that these simulators have no way of enforcing rules. It is up to the individual players to know the rules and abide by them. They simply give you the ability to make virtual copies of your game pieces so that you can play online with other players.
While traditional physical prototypes still have their place, using them as your sole source for play testing is no longer the best option. I highly recommend checking out these different alternatives and take advantage of the online communities to get your games virtualized. Your play testers will appreciate it, and you will be able to get a wider variety of play testers which is imperative for making your game the best it can be.
What do you use for your plat tests? Do you have any experience using virtual tabletop platforms? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below or by sharing on social media.
That is everything for this post. Until next time, happy designing.