Last night I started working on a computerised version of Sumeria. Why invest the time and effort to make a computerised version of an existing board game? What's in it for the (potential) customer?
- It allows people to quickly and easily see if it's a game they would like without the expense of a purchase.
- It's a chance to learn the rules where they are constrained and don't rely on someone's interpretation of the rulebook.
- It allows you to play when you can't get a group together.
- Some allow you to play offline - i.e. each player takes his turn and then notifies the others it's ready for theirs - this requires much less player time in one go than a full face-to-face game.
- In a thinky game, perceived downtime is reduced since you're not sat waiting for an opponent to have a go - you're just notified when he has.
Sounds good so far. So why don't all publishers make (or allow to be made) computerised versions of their games?
- It might lead to fewer sales: why buy a game if you can play it online for free?
- It's expensive in terms of time and effort. Programmers aren't cheap - I know - I used to be one.
You can do essentially three different type of computer-based board games:
- Real-time against the computer (AI)
- Real-time against human opponents
- Offline against human opponents
Each has their pros and cons. Against the computer only means you don't have to worry about network programming or database interaction - the whole thing can be done more simply. In one sense - you need to come up with some AI that the computer players use, which is more difficult. Real-time against other people means you don't need to write any AI, but the downside is you need to write all the code necessary for client-server interaction. Interactive games are probably better for simpler, quicker games, where there is little downtime waiting for an opponent to have their go. You will probably need to provide some form of instant communication too - a chat window or voice communications. Finally, the offline method is like an old play-by-email game, but with a better interface. On your turn you get a notification (via email for example) that it's your turn. You get to see what has changed since you last looked and then you take your turn and the next player is notified. This method will turn a short, fun game into a very long experience, but for the more complicated games it might take the pressure off a bit, allowing players to concentrate more on their strategies without the pressure of the other players leaning over the board asking you to hurry up!
I'm thinking I'll try to get version for Sumeria against the computer working first, if that works ok I can always look at getting the offline version done afterwards. I'm working in C#.