I know many of you are not much interested in a digital game for A&A, but I have been thinking about it incessantly for years and I want to share some thoughts with you on how to transition from analogue, to digital, back to analogue again in relatively near future.
First, whatever your position, I'm going to state up front, that I think A&A needs a standard digital game which accompanies the boxed game. There are many reasons why I think this, but first and foremost, it is as a way to establish a central distribution channel for maps and rules. My idea for the way to handle this is a Legacy game which includes all past versions of the A&A boardgame (following the look and feel and showcasing the artwork of each individual past release). Any new purchase of a board gives you access to previous editions, as well as that current game. Any updates or future versions can be acquired with the purchase the latest new board. The idea is to create a repository of past games and past rulesets transferred into the digital arena, to form an Axis and Allies Legacy game.
I envision support for tablets and smartphones as well as PCs. I have been thinking about how to handle map zooms, where touch devices, when flipped horizontally, show the map scaled out to a wide strategic view, flipped vertically it scales in to a combat view with a more narrow theater focus. Now anyone with a phone or a tablet, who buys a game board, can learn the new rules and set up quickly and find opponents easily to play against. At the same time you create a digital warehouse or central depot, where everyone goes for updates and information.
That is step one, on the way to the future. This is step two...
Get ready for it, because the way 3d scanning and printing technology is going, it is entirely conceivable that within ten years, the cost of manufacturing this game will be gone! That's right gone, or rather, the cost of manufacture will be shifted away from developers/producers onto the consumer. This will mean a lot of things (but don't freak out) because it is all to the good in the end. What will happen is this. The cost of development will be front loaded, and the money moved forward in time. Instead of first developing and manufacturing the game, then selling it. We will be able to cut out the manufacturing cost. What people will pay for is the updated rules, the model information, and the right to print.
Imagine now, for all you wargame geeks like me, what will happen when the cost of 3d printers comes down (the way the cost for personal computers, and laser printers for paper came down) and you are able to print all your own maps and pieces and markers. It will revolutionize the way this game is played, it will increase access and our potential playerbase, and all the makers out there will be able to glory in analogue gameplay once again.
But here's the thing, during the interim period, while everyone (born after the advent of the internet) is out downloading apps and playing games on the their tablets and smart phones, we need to find ways to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant to this ever expanding younger player base.
This is why I propose that we seriously consider thinking about how to make a digital format for A&A that is consistent with the all the games that came before. That does not simply mimic them, but actually looks like them. I mean, it is at the point now, where you can literally scan the old boards, the old box art, and the actual 3 dimensional pieces, and then port that into a working digital framework. A digital game that doesn't look digital, but like the actual physical board. We are at the point where this in not only possible, but comparatively easy to do.
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but just think on it. Think of all the glorious possibilities, and then tell me whether you think, as I do, if this is something we need to start pursuing?
Admit it, it's fun to pretend you're in some bunker controlling your mighty armies. And the sculpts (when done right) are really cool to look at and imagine with.
So, what I think would be cool is some way to make the physical game easier to play with some digital help. I know there are some calculators and some game trackers out there, but what would be really cool is some sort of digital companion that provided rules, historic context, strategic plans, dice managers, money counters, etc. This in conjunction with the physical gameplay would be awesome.
There are of course many ways that you could streamline or augment the physical board digitally, but the simplest way to do this would be to build all those features into a legacy game. The salient idea here, being to keep all this stuff in one place. One massive depot, where everyone goes for the things they need. Whether it's something as simple as a calculator, or as you say digital companion information, or the game itself in a fully playable digital version.
I mean, the main thing for me is getting players to play. People here may not have this problem, but there are people out there who buy this game and never even get to play it on the board. They just look at it, and wish, and admire the pieces, and pine away, if only someone was around to get down for a few rounds. Or if they do find opportunities to play, it's less often than they might like. Having a digital game available at launch, means that anyone who purchases a boxed game can play immediately, form player groups, learn the new mechanics and all the rest.
They could also enjoy the art of the old gameboards, or experiment with games and rulesets that are now out of print and hard to acquire.
I can just visualize how clean and beautiful and usefull it would be to have this. And it makes my head hurt to think that this isn't being worked on with more seriousness and more consensus from our community. Freeware substitutes are insufficient, for one because the work is done for free, just from the love of the game, and so lacks the polish necessary. For this to work it has to be official, and expansive.
One-off deals like Game Table Online are insufficient, because they lack the flexibility and scope to bring all the A&A games together with the same functionality, and the same variability available in any cardboard and plastic boxed game.
What is needed is a legacy game, LEGACY, the way I am trying to describe it, as an all encompassing digital complement to the physical game. Every A&A game since 1981 (the year I was born! and when this thing was first put out!) right up to the latest incarnation of A&A. With updates to follow, whenever new games come out.
Later, when the technology arrives in full, this is the same place where you would go to download your 3d unit models, and maps, and rules. To print your own physical board whenever you need it. And in the meantime to play with other people on the digital board online.
I truly believe this is the way forward. This game already has the Legacy, it just needs to be tapped into and presented for future generations, using the systems and devices they are most comfortable with these days. Dice are never going away, we will always be pushing plastic across the board, those of us who love this thing, but that doesn't mean we can't find new ways to adapt this game and carry it forward at the same time.
Truly, "push-button and user-friendly", I could not put better. That is what we need. I envision something epic, but I also would not underestimate the value that old very basic Hasbro cd had in introducing people to A&A.
The benefit relative the initial cost is huge. I think it should take priority over the development of any new board games.
Honestly, if the issue is funding, then launch a kickstarter campaign and start taking donations. Especially with a thank you gift, like a small grab of bag of plastic units, or a special edition game card, or whatever, everyone here would contribute I bet. I just can't see why it would be very hard or particularly expensive to develop. Especially if you don't waste money and dev time on unnecessary things like cinematics, or overly intensive 3d animations. Just a mimetic copy of the physical board, exactly the way it looks now, but digital.
That's your base right there, that and a way to play online. Anything beyond it is like icing.
What is needed is every A&A boardgame up to the most current one, with the attendant rules, maps, units etc.
Flexibility enough to incorporate common house rules or to resolve complex game situations, ergo the ability to edit the digital gameboard and game information on the fly.
Just in the same way that on the physical board, you can move a game piece, or re-distribute cash, or adjust a combat error by replacing/moving something, you need to be able to do all that in the game. It needs to be functionally equivalent to the real game board in all the major ways.
These games already exist. They don't have to be invented, or re-invented, or jazzed up, just translated directly into the new medium.
A basic AI, for new players to learn the mechanics against.
The ability to mod or add custom content.
All the things you'd want in your A&A digital game. Which is information that can be collated while the funding is underway and while the game is being made. That is the way to do it. The best way to develop a community around the game is to involve players in the development process (as this site proves.) It brings out the best and most creative in everyone.
We haven't had a proper computer release for A&A in a very long time. Almost 20 years. I don't mean a game release tied to someone else's digital platform, but an independent game, that doesn't rely exclusively on 3rd party software to play. The same way as it used to be, you buy the dvd, or download the game, and it's yours.
I think people would go for it. I really do. I've even hooked up a name ready to roll...
Axis and Allies: Legacy Edition
I mean, it's got a nice ring... no?
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