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Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 03:26 PM #1
Scout (Lvl 6)
DDI Virtual Table Beta Tour and Future
The opportunity came up for me to spend some time touring, and playing the D&D Virtual Table with Rory Madden, Producer for Game Table Online the company responsible for bring you the D&D Virtual Table. Always looking for a new way to possibly improve my game, I jumped at the chance to see what the table can do although I have never been a fan of MMO's, or online rpgs. I have always been a face to face gamer. I was aware that the beta test had been going on for some time but since these sorts of programs have cast Confusion spells on me in the past, I had not looked at the Virtual Table much.
I took a look into the technical aspects of the table to make sure that I understood how it worked and was relieved to find out that it was Java based and wouldn't be a problem working across operating systems. That took care of my first hurdle and objection. Mac, Linux, and Windows would all work without issue. So I sat down to play a session with Rory in the DM role and myself taking up the role of the player. I quickly set the microphone up, which was a relief since when I tried this with Ventrilo and Baldur's Gate I was disappointed. The voice was excellent, much better than XBox Live and I could set it to press to talk, which eliminated background noise. So far so good although I still needed to find out if the virtual table could play D&D?
The dashboard controls really have everything you need to play any edition of D&D. You have a pointer so that you can interact with icons on the map. There is a line of sight feature which makes it easy as a click to tell if you have it or don't. There is another which lets you fiddle with area of effect templates. There is a pointer so that you can point things out to the other players and a feature so you can zoom in and out on the map. The DM has a tool available that allows for areas on the map to be revealed area by area. There is also a paint feature for the DM to use.
I have always been under the opinion that the role-playing element in the game would suffer in an on-line format. That is until I learned about the voice fonts the virtual table offers. This amazing feature alters your voice to about a dozen different voices. I liked the voice font that changed a man’s voice into a female voice or an elderly female voice. I think this is a great tool even at the face to face game table for that player that loves to play but perhaps is a bit reserved. The virtual table also has several sound effects such as a sword swing or a bowstring twang that are fun extras which help in an immersion process.
The game started quickly after that. I selected a premade character for ease, a revenant vampire, although you can easily use any character from the character builder. It is easy to add or delete a character from the game. We used the initiative roller and into a quick combat to see what the table could do. It was easy to track effects and for all the players to see what creatures were under what effects by moving their pointer over a creature token. The tokens automatically reflect the bloodied and dying conditions. As each round went by my proficiency with the table increased quickly and so did the fun I was having. You have a tool to track any notes you need as well. There wasn’t a private messaging system for the players so you will need to use another app if you require that. There was a journal feature for use in and out of game.
The interface was easy enough to play and Rory said that it took a couple of hours to put together a good map which is fine with me because mapping is something I do not enjoy by hand. The system also interfaces with the DDI Monster Builder so adventure design is even faster. I was disappointed to find out that the system didn’t support clouding or swapping maps and encounters with other players. I did point this out as a great feature to look into in the future. I was also surprised that the table didn’t auto track more statistics but then was surprised to find out that was by design. By allowing you to easily track stats yourself and to reveal those stats to the players with the tokens the table could easily be used in any edition of D&D with relative ease. I am going to remain positive and say that was forward thinking for the application to be used with the new edition immediately upon release. When I asked Rory about this his response was, “We also designed the tool with the flexibility to support integration with tools, stat-blocks, and skins for all editions of D&D, including future ones.” Wizards of the Coast have no official announcement regarding 5th Edition support for the Virtual Table.
You do get a nice selection of tokens to use and more will be offered in the future as the tool gets out of the beta test phase and launches entirely. The cost of these tokens is not yet known. I think the tour of the Virtual Table was great and from what I playtested of the 5th Edition already see no reason why it can’t be used to support gameplay in that edition. With a HDMI cable and a nice tv or a LCD projector maps, terrain, and player tokens are easily viewable by players in the same room and all the mapping can be done ahead of time. No reason to stop the game to draw a map or lay out dungeon tiles. If you are a DDI member go and play with the table some and see for yourself it can enhance your face to face game experience or your online game play experience.
Last edited by Gaming Tonic; Wednesday, 25th January, 2012 at 04:41 PM.
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Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 03:47 PM #2
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Nice review! Thanks.
Well, just as long as they don't go back to their "collectable virtual minis" nonsense...You do get a nice selection of tokens to use and more will be offered in the future as the tool gets out of the beta test phase and launches entirely. The cost of these tokens is not yet known.
Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 03:53 PM #3
Lama (Lvl 13)
I have to say that for me the inability to download maps or portraits is the only thing why I am not hyping this . Since WotC does not have a picture for every monster they have, nor do they let us use the picture that is on our DDI character sheet there are going to be many times when I have to point something out and say that's not a goblin it's a gorilla. I think the delay in adding this feature is because they are trying to monetize it and I just think that's silly. DDI is a cash cow for them. They get all kinds of money from each subscriber for very little overhead comparatively. There is no need to try to charge for virtual pictures.
If they do want to make some money off of this, they should do all the work for me in transfering their modules into it. Where all I have to do is pay a few dollars and I have all the monster tokens and maps I need to run an online game using one of their published adventures. That I would pay for because it does take time making that kind of stuff for an online game.
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Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 03:59 PM #4
Scout (Lvl 6)
I did make the suggestion that being able to purchase adventures for the table that are pre-generated would be a great boost to the versatility of the table. Importing in maps and adventures from other DDI subscribers would be another huge advantage. The future is bright and I think the powers that be are listening closely. Thanks for the comment.
Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 04:14 PM #5
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
This looks NOTHING like the game table WotC promised. Why should I use this when I can use D20Pro and have a stable, well-tested system for $25?
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Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 04:28 PM #6
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Anthro, if you're talking about the Virtual 3D Table shown years ago, that was scrapped long ago, along with the plans for the 3D character visualizer program.
This program runs cross platform, seems like it's intended to support, or at least allow for multiple editions of dnd, including DND Next I'll bet.
And while programs like Maptools, and others offer similar or in some areas better offerings, the tie in to DnD 4e suite of programs, might make it worth it to many players.
And currently is accessible for all DDI subscribers.
I'm not sure if they plan on allowing for non-subscriber game invites, haven't checked into that.
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Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 04:34 PM #7
Good question... because it is included in you subscription and maybe because it is easier to use?
Maybe there is no reason...
Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 04:42 PM #8
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Now, whether that is worth a monthly subscription fee or not is a different question. One that is personal to each person.
Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 04:49 PM #9
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Thanks for the tour!
More about non 4E support please: How locked in are you to the CB? Can you just use the VTT as a ruleset-agnostic battlemat/dice-roller/initiative tracker?
Can you load up your own maps?
Is it a hosted solution or do you need to use your own PC as a server (and do the whole port-forwarding thing)?
Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, 05:03 PM #10
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
I will answer as best I can, but have not tried to use it for this, so I may be wrong...
So far no.Can you load up your own maps?
It is hosted by WotC, not the players.Is it a hosted solution or do you need to use your own PC as a server (and do the whole port-forwarding thing)?