Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rules Update

The first draft of our rules which can be downloaded here have been fully integrated into our VERY EARLY ALPHA prototype engine allowing us to play-test.

We know that play-testing the core rules of the game will be an extremely important part of getting this project right.  

As we've said before, we're very interested to hear any thoughts or ideas our followers may have, this project is not just about offering the opportunity to play more, but to also offer a great new war-gaming experience.  How better to do that than listening to the passionate community of gamer's all over the world.

We're expecting to have numerous iterations of our rules before we make the first public beta of the game available, so we wanted to take this opportunity to explain some of our thinking as we evolve the rules.


Playing more

One of our core hopes for this project is to allow tabletop miniature hobbyist's to be able to play more.  Yes it won't quite be a tabletop battle, but we hope it will offer a fun, easily accessible alternative until your next tabletop game comes around.

When offering a turn-based online strategy game it seems there are two very different playing opportunities.  The first is Correspondence based game play.  In this scenario players may go minutes, hours, days even weeks between making a move.  The second is Real-time, in this scenario players take turns making a move immediately after one another.

Real-time game play is how traditional tabletop games are played.  You make your move, and then your opponent makes theirs.  While we believe this offers the most exciting option, it does limit a players opportunity to engage in a game, simply because they must have the time to complete a game in one sitting.  For this reason we want to offer the opportunity for players to play both Real-time and Correspondence based games.

How does this effect the rules?  Many tabletop skirmish games offer activation mechanics that are not as simple as - Player 1 goes first, Player 2 goes second.  As an example some games offer a system whereby players take it in turns performing actions with a single miniature.  Whilst this offers exciting strategic possibilities, it does form somewhat of a roadblock to Correspondence based gaming.  If players went a day between performing actions with a single miniature, a game could likely become quite dull.

For this reason our rules have players perform actions with all their miniatures at a single time.  We did opt to separate the Movement and Action phases.  We felt this would better offset the power of the Initiative, as moving second can provide some strategic advantage against that gained from performing actions first.


A Skirmish, a Battle, a War?

One thing we keep asking ourselves is how big should a game be?  How many miniatures should a player command?  Some skirmish games typically have a player commanding maybe 4 to 8 miniatures, others have the player commanding 20, 30, 40 even more.  Whilst we want to offer some flexibility to the size of a game, we also want to have a "sweet-spot" in mind to which we can design the game around.

At the time of writing this we're thinking 20 miniatures would be a pretty good number to focus on.  This would provide a number of strategic options and offer a game duration that would be under 30 minutes.

Here are some screenshots from our current Alpha Testing..
A starting setup of two opposing Starsapien forces.

In this simple test we just advanced directly towards the enemy

Before long all kinds of combat commences

4 Turns in and the forces are thinning out.


Note - These screenshots come from an extremely early alpha build and do not reflect the final product.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Welcome

This is the development blog for Virtual Miniatures.  The hope is that we can share our progress in the making of a "Digital tabletop experience".

What we're working on is a game that will be played on your computer, but will try as hard as possible to play like a traditional tabletop miniatures game.  

We're tabletop gamer's, we love to gather around a miniature battlefield with friends, roll dice, share some laughs, and compete for the win!  The problem is as we've gotten older the opportunity to gather with friends and play has reduced.  So we had a vision, to build a game we could play online, but would go as far as possible to scratching the itch of playing a real miniatures battle.

I'm a software engineer, have been for 20 years.  I've worked on all kinds of technical projects and this one really excites me.  I wanted to make this first post about the vision we have; what we are doing, and why.


It starts with the game

The most important thing is to build a great turn-based strategy game.  We're approaching this as we would if the game was a physical tabletop experience rather than a virtual one; starting with the rules.  You can download the first version of our rules here.

A window to the virtual world

Once we had a first draft set of rules we started translating them into code to make a playable prototype.  What was important to us was to make the experience feel like a window to a tabletop experience rather than a video-game.  Below you can see a screenshot from our first prototype.


Strategy in many forms

We remember all those hours in our youth spent perfecting the perfect "army-list", and the discussions with friends that could go on for days, long before a single dice was thrown and a list truly tested.  We desperately want to recapture the buzz of the army-list, so it's important that we provide many opportunities for customization of an army, and plenty of options for different factions.

As we're building a game that will be governed by the computer, it occurred to us that we can increase complexity within the game, without increasing the complexity for the player.  One example of this is our "unit-shield" and "friendly-fire" rules that we feel can bring increased strategy to game play, making maneuvers such as flanking a real strategic threat.  You can read more on this in our rules here.

Playing with friends in a community

We have a concern that video-games can (not always I stress) be played in a disrespectful manner.  We don't want people to give our game a try, only to be put off by being matched with an opponent who perhaps acts less in the way we'd expect from a tabletop gamer.

To combat this we hope to build a thriving community within a mini social-network of sorts.  The idea is you will only be matched or given the opportunity to play against friends within the network.  

We'll leverage this network to run tournaments, league's and other competitions.  Not to forget the network will allow players to discuss all kinds of things about the game such as battle strategy, army-list creation, and whatever else players want to talk about.

Finally we'd like to add the ability to create and share battle-reports.  The game will allow players to review their completed battles, grab camera shots from pivotal moments and then compile them into a battle-report they themselves can write.  We love reading battle-reports, and we're sure many of you do too.

Little extra's

We really want the Virtual Miniatures experience to be something you can indulge in whenever you have some free time.  To aid in this we hope to release a companion mobile app that will allow you to create and tinker with army-lists, interact with the community, read battle-reports and more.

Making the vision a reality

We intend to release the first beta of the game with 2 factions, but then provide expansions including new factions, weapons, and additions to existing factions as time goes on.

The network is set to be released as part of the beta to facility multiplayer options although it's full feature set will come over time.  The mobile app will come after the beta release.

Help us help you help us

We have a lot of idea about how we can best approximate a tabletop experience on your computer, and about the rules to which the game should be played.  But the game is not just for us, and so we'd love to here any ideas, thoughts or anything really that you think could make the experience better.  Drop us an email ideas@virtualminiatures.com .  Thanks in advance.