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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Ten Years After

"What changes do you see coming to the hobby over the next 10 years?"

Ten years ago, fewer games named their designers. There was no online play, very little play by email (PBEM), few German games were known here. Magic was huge and Sid Sackson games were ahead of their time. War games and miniatures already seemed like a niche hobby to me.

I won’t offer predictions on what I don’t know very well: so no clues on war games, miniatures, role playing games or live-action role plays. But I’ll happily make some guesses on where I’d like to see things going.

1. There will be more opportunities for online board game play. Not only for smaller publishers to demonstrate their games, but perhaps something akin to blogging – where anyone that does some minimal work to get a game’s pieces and rules up online can host a small game site. This should also mean less traditional play by email where one just types in their instructions to a third party game master.

2. Essen in 2005 had more countries sending game designers than ever before. In the next ten years more designers from more countries will introduce games to the market, partly based on the lower expenses to release games via “print your own” and small subscribed print runs. This means more mechanics, more ideas and more interesting themes in games than the “traditional” Euro designers have ever thought of.

3. There will be more expensive versions of games offered for collectors and snobs to show off, like the all wood Settlers of Catan and the custom built Puerto Rico. At the same time, more cheap games (both in component quality and gaming goodness) will be on American store shelves, continuing to choke out any chance of good designer games making it into mainstream US stores.

4. Higher postage costs will make it harder to trade games with other hobbyists, especially our friends overseas. This will reduce the chance for game collections to grow in depth and width and expose our group to bizarre hard to find titles that turn out to be gems.

And the next few are just my wishes for games I want to play in the next ten years.

5. More games will come with computer power – if they can out a chip in a greeting card, they can sure get into game boxes. For instance, I want a smart pad for Tichu. After a hand, you place your stack of tricks on the pad; it reads your cards and scores your team and the other team as well. It displays current scores when asked. A smart chip for any game that has lots of bookkeeping would be awesome.

6. Next step up. When we need another player for a game, we often have a “cat” play – an extra player for whom all game decisions are made by the group, either as a whole or in rotation. Well, I want a computerized cat (Ccat) that plays various games with me. I tell it which game (using a menu, a plug-in, whatever) and it plays a random yet reasonable strategy. Yes, it requires that the game being played is also “smart” – since the Ccat has to have visual game information such as where are the current tiles and leaders on the board in Tigris & Euphrates. But with a set of games that the Ccat could play, it could actually come in handy when you’re short of players or want a challenge.

7. And this one for game design. There should be some way to write up a set of specs with needed images and have an online service make me a folding board, a set of playing cards, some nice tiles in various shapes, a box, whatever. Sure it might be costly, but what a service. There could be some great games out there that never get tried simply because the designer sees the game in his or her head, but can’t find the resources to get it in physical form.

Wonder if I'll even remember I did an article like this ten years from now ...

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