To view the latest and greatest improvements in 3D Virtual Tabletop, you can check out the video below. It’s a walkthrough video of the latest version and I’ve included a part where I create a miniature from a picture on the Pathfinder blog, to show you how easy it is to bring your own pictures and creativity into the tabletop. Even though the video is of an Android tablet, you can do the same things on an iPhone or iPad.
Lots of people ask me where they can find maps to use with 3D Virtual Tabletop, so I’m pleased to announce today the inclusion of 15 maps from DramaScape. They come bundled in the app at no extra charge, but feel free of course to look at their other maps to see if something suits your fancy. The maps included cover a wide range of genres, from traditional fantasy, to modern, and futuristic sci-fi. Hopefully there is something there to get you started.
Maps have also been one of the major issues for me in my own use of 3D Virtual Tabletop for my Pathfinder campaign. I’ve made it easier to import your own maps, but providing maps that are this high quality really lets you see what the virtual tabletop is capable of. My own maps that I create aren’t nearly as good as these, but of course, even just a simple map works really well.
The update that contains the maps will be available for Android on Google Play several hours after this was posted, in a few days on the Amazon Appstore, and within a week for iPhone and iPad on the Apple App Store.
The next update for 3D Virtual Tabletop for iPhone, iPad & Android is coming soon, so I thought I’d give you a little taste of what’s to come. It feels like everyone has been asking me when they are going to be able to put miniatures of different sizes on the map, and the answer is in this next version! Check out the screenshot. You can have bigger minis too, the dragons that are included with the app are now available in gargantuan size, which is 4x4 squares, they look great on the map, much more frightening. I can’t wait to put one of those big guys down in front of my group. This is good timing because the Pathfinder party that I am running has just got to 5th level so they’re going to be facing some tougher opponents, some of which are at least going to be large.
Another very popular suggestion that I’ve had is for putting down flat tokens. A lot of you like the top-down view, I know my group is a big fan of it for figuring out distance and area of effect. You can also use the flat tokens for things like throwing out a coin with a light spell on it, which isn’t appropriate for a stand-up pawn. Something I hadn’t expected, but which is really cool, is a message from a guy wanting to do starship battles, simulating a tactical display. It’s also necessary in this scenario to have the minis stay pointing in a particular direction, and not to face the camera. That’s what they now do, you can place them facing the way you want, and they will keep that heading. This goes for stand-up minis as well, you can see in the top screenshot that the elf that is facing away from the camera, towards to the ogre, is shown in greyscale, this lets you know that you’re looking at the back of the figure, but still gives you the detail to know who it is.
Hopefully this update will be out in a week or so, I’ll let you know when it hits.
The map in these screenshots is from DramaScape.
You’ll be pleased to know that the Android update for 3D Virtual Tabletop is finally here, it’s available right now in Google Play, and has been submitted to the Amazon Appstore. I’ve implemented the top 3 requests so I hope you’ll be happy with it. You can now add your own miniatures and maps from pictures stored locally on the device. You can also zoom in and out, and change the camera angle. The tabletop is also now brightly lit, so there is no need for light from the miniatures.
Adding new miniatures is easy, just tap the “+” on the Miniatures screen and you can select the image to use from the Gallery, or your favourite file browser. Miniatures can be made from pictures of any size, they are shrunk down to a more appropriate height for the virtual tabletop. I’ve found this especially handy when a druid my game summons animals (Or a nature’s ally in the Dungeons & Dragons vernacular). I can do a quick search on the internet for the creature and download a good image, then access that image from within the app to create a scene that exactly matches what just happened in game. This is also great because you can play games of any genre and get exactly the right portrait for your character in there.
Loading maps is now much simpler, and getting maps that work with the virtual tabletop is much easier. Maps no longer have to be a fixed size, anything less than 2048 x 2048 pixels will do. The images for maps are imported at the same size pixel-for-pixel. All you have to do is resize the image so that the squares are 25 pixels wide, and the miniatures snapping to the grid will work perfectly. An easy way to do this is to have a 2000 x 2000 px image that has 40 squares along each side, or a 1000 x 1000 px image containing 20 x 20 squares, either will work.
The most popular request I’ve had is for a top-down view and now you can do it! Simply move two fingers up and down the screen and you can change the view from an oblique angle, which was used in the previous versions, to a top-down view, and even to an over-the-shoulder view almost parallel to the ground. This lets you get the perspective that you want, for counting squares, or for getting into the head of your character to see what they see. Along with this new gesture, you can also pinch to zoom when rotating the map around. As a DM I’ve found this brilliant to get my bearings in a dungeon by zooming right out to see the whole map, then focusing in close on the room where the action is happening. It all works very smoothly and feels like a natural way to interact with the tabletop.
You’ll be seeing these improvements come to the iPhone & iPad, as well as the demo on this website. To make these improvements possible, I’ve had to revert to full global lighting, without fine-grained control on each miniature, but overall it’s now feasible to use the Android version to run a game around the same table. I’m also planning to have another Android update out soon to fulfil some other popular requests. Number 4 on the most popular request list is about to bite the dust and I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with it, bringing another dimension to the game. I also have some very exciting news to announce soon that will really take this thing to the next level, stay tuned!
Now that 3D Virtual Tabletop on iPad and iPhone has been out for a few weeks, I have put together a short video that shows you what you can do with it. There are 5 main improvements, which make it a more practical tool that is an asset at the table. More miniatures have been added to the collection that comes with the app and you can now add your own from pictures stored locally. Lighting has been improved in 2 ways; you can set the ambient light level, and when bright lights come together, the intense light no longer washes out the map. Finally, the greatest change is that the app is now much more responsive and familiar to use because it was created especially for the iPad & iPhone, which also paves the way for a more spectacular tabletop in future updates.
The total number of miniatures available is now over 150, in line with 3D Virtual Tabletop on other platforms. This covers the most common monsters in the 3.5 d20 System Reference Document. Of course you are no longer limited to selecting from just those miniatures, you can now add new minis to the collection from the Photo Library on the iPad or iPhone, or with a new photo taken with the camera. This also means you can now easily use it for role-playing games other than Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons.
One of the first requests that I received was for having control over the light level, because some maps are better lit than others. You now have complete control over how much ambient light there is, with a simple slider that lets you set it to any value between light and dark, which I’ve found handy for twilight encounters. In those situations, the characters can still see, but have wanted to light a torch or cast a light spell on the right person so that they can get a better idea of what is going on around them. Seeing that on the virtual table really helps set the mood. Having multiple light sources in use, especially when it’s not completely dark presented some issues in the past because their combined light was so bright in places that the details on the map would just be all white. This has been fixed, so that now even when miniatures are in bright sunlight and have a light on them, you can still see full detail on both the map and the miniatures.
Getting the lighting right was only possible because I tailored this app specifically for the iPad and iPhone. Doing that also improved the frame rate to make the tabletop more responsive, to glide underneath your fingers. Another benefit is that even with lots of lights on the map, it still reacts well to your touch. My players had a situation where they were expecting an attack at night and they set up 8 torches in a perimeter around the campsite, to supplement their own torches and light spells, as well as the campfire in the middle. With all that going on, I’m please to report that 3D Virtual Tabletop handled it well. Targeting the iPad and iPhone specifically means that the all of the screens are fast and fluid too, and let me directly access the Photo Library and Camera to make it easy and convenient to add new miniatures.
I’m currently working on bringing these improvements to the other platforms. If you’re keen to see them on your device sooner, let me know what you’re using and I’ll take that as another vote to make it happen earlier on that platform.
If you’ve played with 3D Virtual Tabletop on your iPad or iPhone and have been waiting for an update, you’ll be pleased to know that it should be touching down in about a week. Yesterday I submitted a new version to the App Store. Last time it took 8 days for it to be approved, so I’m hoping that it’ll be in your hands early next week. I’ve been using it in the weekly Pathfinder game that I run, with a large monitor connected to an Apple TV that mirrors the screen on the iPad. We just pass the iPad around for people to move their miniatures, and we can all see what’s happening on the monitor.
The most requested feature that I’ve had so far is for you to be able to use your own pictures for the miniatures on the table top. Your wish has come true! You can now choose any picture from your photo library on the device, or even take a photo with the camera, and use it as a virtual miniature on the map. One great thing about this is that it opens up the possibilities beyond role playing games like D&D and Pathfinder, to any rpg out there, even sci-fi, modern or western, whatever game you like to play.
There are four other great improvements incorporated in the new app, which really make a difference. They are ideas you have suggested to me, and things I’ve come across as I was using it myself. Stay tuned, I’ll tell you about them when 3D Virtual Tabletop is approved and available in the App Store for iPad and iPhone.
The 3D Virtual Tabletop app on Android has just been updated with the latest improvements that are in the online demo:
- More realistic miniatures that really look like a card on a plastic holder
- Now includes more than 100 miniatures that you can add to the map
- A light source can be added or removed from each mini
- Load your own maps to explore
It was great to see these features come to Android. Improved lighting is the next thing that I’m going to put in the Android version, that’s still one aspect that is not quite as good as the online demo. I’ve still got some more miniatures to add to the collection too, I’m hoping to end up with more than 150 packed in there. That should cover most creatures that characters will encounter in a standard fantasy role playing game, with a wide variation of monsters to have a good substitute if the exact one is not available in the included menagerie.
Loading of maps is fairly basic at this stage, you need to have one set up to the right size and scale before you load it in. Hopefully it won’t be too long before you can scale and shift maps within 3D Virtual Tabletop, which will make it a lot easier and quicker to use. I’m looking forward to enabling maps of higher densities too, like 50px per square or 100px per square, as they make it look amazing and will really bring your rpg to life.
Updating 3D Virtual Tabletop for Android has been a difficult process that has taken longer than it should have because I don’t have an Android device to try it on. I’m currently looking at the available Android tablets to see if I can pick one up at a reasonable price. That would really help and bring updates faster to Android. If the table top is not quite working right on your phone or tablet, let me know, but with the wide range of devices out there, there is only so much I can do.
An old role-playing buddy of mine came back to town for a visit a few weeks ago. Until the end of last year he had been playing in my Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition campaign. It had been going for three years, but he got a new job in a different city and had to move away. It’s always a shame to lose a good player, especially from a party that’s been adventuring together for that length of time. I can’t wait to get him back in my game with 3D Virtual Tabletop, he’ll be one of my first guinea pigs ☺.
He’s also one of the new breed of mobile computer users. He has a netbook that he hardly uses, and an Android tablet that he uses for everything else when he’s not on his phone. In this new “Post PC” world, I’m betting there are lots of other people in the same situation and many of those are bound to be as keen on role playing as I am. It would be a shame for those RPG enthusiasts to miss out on playing with their friends via virtual tabletops, so I’m making 3D Virtual Tabletop more inclusive, and expanding it to run on tablets and phones.
When I first tried out a new version of 3D Virtual Tabletop on my friend’s Android tablet, I was amazed at how good it felt to use. He generously let me borrow his one for a few days so that I could get the virtual tabletop working on it. Even though I wasn’t initially going to do the tablet thing at all, I really enjoyed the experience, it’s much better than you could ever get on a laptop or desktop computer with a mouse. Flinging the minis around with your finger, and moving the map to and fro with a swipe is lots of fun. Spinning the map around with the twirl of your fingers has got to be the most easy to use and intuitive interface that I’ve ever seen on a virtual tabletop.
The culmination of all of this is that 3D Virtual Tabletop is now available on Android. The application itself is little more than a demo at this point, given how early this is in the development of the virtual tabletop, but the Android version will be improved alongside the online version - at the same time and at the same rate with the same features. You can find the Android app in Google Play: 3D Virtual Tabletop. I’ve also made short demo video, trying to convey how smooth the whole thing is to use. That’s the video near the top of this post, and it’s also available directly on youtube: 3D Virtual Tabletop Demo on Android.
“Really cool” is the feedback I’ve received so far when showing people 3D Virtual Tabletop running on Android. Another friend of mine has a Samsung Galaxy S II phone and I’m pleased to say that it ran well on there. I’ve put some effort into scaling the interface and graphics so that it suits both the large screen of tablets and the small space available on phones. Using Skype for voice along with the stunning visuals of the app will make a great experience for Android users. I’m grateful that I’ve got the opportunity to enable people to play a real game of D&D anywhere that they can use their phone, from relaxing on the couch, to sitting underneath a tree by the river.
The other day I came across a post on Reddit, that supposedly explained Dungeons and Dragons to someone as if they knew as little as a five year old. The top voted answer was similar to many I had seen before, the first sentence contained the words “multiplayer tabletop RPG”. While being technically correct, it is not a good answer because it does not convey the feeling of playing D&D, and contained very little that someone completely alien to that world could relate to. A dungeon master that I played with in high school could explain what D&D was in a way that really evoked the experience, and not only that, but it was also brief, clear, and memorable.
A good explanation needs to immediately pull you in, rather than make your head spin. Typical explanations like the one on Reddit start off with jargon, such as “role playing”, “tabletop”, and “rpg”. Soon afterward they launch into races, classes, bonuses, and rolling dice. While all these terms are great for us in the hobby, they serve as barriers to people that don’t have our inside knowledge. You don’t have to tell people the rules right away, the first step is to get them to see the joy in the experience. I would even argue that launching into a discussion of collaborative storytelling is going too far too fast.
We need to be welcoming and inclusive when we tell other folks about D&D and tabletop role playing in general. This hobby is on the fringe enough as it is, without us turning others away from it. If you’re anything like me, you probably know someone who would enjoy pen and paper rpgs if they gave them a chance, but they don’t even consider playing. For many there is a huge chasm between their own self image, or what they view as fun, and the idea of participating in a game of Dungeons and Dragons around a table. The best example of this is probably all of those wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends out there that have never experienced the game that takes up so much of the lives of their significant other. This is the greatest loss, the loss of an opportunity to share part of your life with the person you care most about.
An explanation that can resonate with just about anyone, the one I first heard from a friend back in high school, went something like this: “Have you ever seen a movie where one of the main characters does something stupid, and whether out loud or in your head, you wonder how they could get it so wrong, knowing that you would do so much better in the same scenario? Dungeons and Dragons is like being in the movie, where you find yourself in that situation and you can make the smart choice, rather than doing something dumb to advance a contrived plot that doesn’t make any sense.” That explains it all, nothing else it necessary. It conveys the fun and excitement of a Hollywood movie with the limitless potential of actions being defined only by your imagination. The kicker, and the real twist to the story, is the secret that you and I know – that campaigns are often a litany of disasters, wrong turns, and errors of judgment perpetuated by the PCs. Of course this is all still great fun, the only drawback being aging your dungeon master beyond her years with all the stress.
The more the merrier, we could all do with the greater opportunities provided by a larger number of people being involved in tabletop rpgs. For all those that play fantasy football and enjoy the Lord of the Rings movies, but shy away from D&D, there lies in front of them a world of fun and adventure, if only we could help them make the step into that foreign world. They may not like it as much as you or I, but by explaining it to them in a way that resonates with them and their prior experiences, you are at least giving them the option. Appeal to their emotions and they may just end up laughing themselves silly while cautiously investigating the ruins underneath an ancient city.
The Virtual Tabletop demo went live on the website last week. I showed it to my role playing buddies before I put it up and they thought the tabletop was a good start. The table top is not ready for playing any rpgs on yet, but I’m going to get there as soon as I can. So far I’ve had quite a bit of interest, with some signups to the Virtual Tabletop Early Access mailing list just days after it went online. It’s an encouraging start and I can’t wait to make the virtual tabletop useful for real role playing.
My role playing friends definitely liked the look of the tabletop. Since the lighting effects on the virtual tabletop really represent what the characters are seeing in the game, it can really change what people do. One of my friends playing in a Pathfinder game has had situations where the room they were in was only partially lit, but was fully drawn on the map they were using. As the characters moved around the room, people lost track of which parts of the room they could see, and which were in darkness. It’s also simply easy to forget that the room is not fully lit when you can see it all on the table in front of you. In one particular encounter, a wizard cast a wall of fire, sealing off a portion of a room, but he cast it on a part of the room that he had never seen. Those sorts of events are the reason I created Virtual Tabletop.
Other advantages of virtual tabletops are the ability to measure distance, determine line of sight and mark areas. There are more fundamental features that must be included first, but Virtual Tabletop will have those more advanced functions in the future. Physical tables do not have those capabilities either, and are still perfectly good for role playing, so the initial emphasis is going to be put on mimicking what you can do on a real table top. The aim is to get Virtual Tabletop to the stage where you can play D&D on it, even unassisted (except for lighting effects), as soon as possible.
Signups for the Virtual Tabletop Early Access mailing list started almost as soon as I put the demo up, I’m glad that it inspired people to get more involved. As Virtual Tabletop becomes more capable I will update the demo and send out an email so that people can keep up with the progress. If there is something in particular that you need the virtual table top to do to be useful for your own role playing, let me know so that I can put that in sooner rather than later.
This is just the start of a journey which will no doubt be continual improvement over many years. Virtual Tabletop will be released when it can be substituted for a real table top, which will be in a few months. Moving miniatures around with light sources that get dimmer over distance, and are blocked by walls, should make an exciting enough experience for the first version. From then on it is really up to you to give me feedback on what you need from Virtual Tabletop in your rpg sessions, be it areas of effect, line of sight indicators, initiative tracking, or something else.