I’m Chaz Marler from Pair Of Dice Paradise, and last time, I was in the process of responding to a viewer question:“Hey Chaz, what are your thoughts on Tabletop simulator?”
Well, last episode we discussed just what Tabletop Simulator is. This time, I’ll conclude with my impression on its place in the board game hobby.
In many ways, Tabletop Simulator reminds me of the computer game Neverwinter Nights, published by BioWare in 2002. It was an RPG computer game based on the D&D universe, and it included a quest generator sandbox. You could create maps, NPCs, script interactions and conversations. Oh, how I waited in anticipation for that game to come out. And when it finally did, I filled a notebook with maps and campaign ideas, sat down at my computer to construct it, and then: “Alright… uh-huh.... mm-hmm… (PAUSE) This is a lot of work. I’m gonna go do something else. -OR- I quit.”
Similarly, while I think Tabletop Simulator has potential, but potential and popularity are two different things. To increase its chance of success, I think several things would have to go drastically in its favor.
First is gaining the involvement of board game publishers. For example, I believe that publishers have provided art assets to Board Game Arena, which has benefited the development of games on that platform.
Speaking of Board Game Arena, is its popularity due, in part, to its development environment? How does this compare to Tabletop Simulator’s development environment? Is theirs proprietary? Is development obfuscated by a GUI interface, like Neverwinter Nights?
Then there’s potential barriers to entry. Tabletop Simulator is a super-neat concept, but will the $14.99 price be a barrier deter potential users when there's multiple free alternatives available?
And is the lack of rules enforcement actually another barrier? Now, I’d think building in rules enforcement would not only be a monumental undertaking, but it may even be the antithesis of what the system was designed to be in the first place.
But the most critical critique about Tabletop Simulator I’ve heard was simply: is this really much better than just playing together with a webcam over Skype?
Now, don't get me wrong, I've daydreamed about a tool like Tabletop Simulator for years, decades even. Oh, man, I'm old. And I would looove for it to succeed, but I think it has quite a few substantial hurdles to overcome in order to do so. For now, I think its greatest potential is as a tool for RPG players. But even then, I can’t help but be reminded of what became of Neverwinter Nights. Not much.