An All-Digital RPG: The Flip Side

Jul 13 2011

"Shanghai | Hazy Lujiazui - PuDong, Shanghai" by Ikiller123 on Flickr

"Shanghai | Hazy Lujiazui — PuDong, Shanghai" by Ikiller123 on Flickr

I wrote a little while ago about a model for an RPG handled entirely via apps and software, in which all the mechanics are run by computers and the humans just see the results.

This is conceptually elegant; let computers handle the number-crunching they’re good at.

But there are problems.

For one, the system has to have apps for many different devices. In the current market, that’s a lot of work. This means, at minimum, an iPhone app, an iPad app, and at least one Android app for each major version of Android on phones out there.

(Required caveats: Yes, I know you can develop one app for both iPhone and iPad, but you need separate UI designs for each class of device to be effective. I’m not familiar with Android development, but I understand that different phones are locked into different major versions of Android, so you can’t always have one Android app for every Android phone.)

You have to get every single player to download the apps, set them up, etc. It’s not as easy as loaning someone a book and a printed-off character sheet. Harder adoption rate.

If it’s a paid system, the developer has to choose effective prices, which would be harder in an unproven frontier like this than in the more tried-and-true markets that currently exist. What are players willing to pay for? Which parts of the system do you charge for?

GMs can’t fudge the system, or invent their own house rules. This is a major problem for a lot of gamers; adjusting a game to one’s play style is an important part of the experience. Can a system be built that people wouldn’t houserule?

You have to trust the software. When every calculation is opaque, it’s easy to wonder how fair the software is. Or if you’ve set up your character correctly.

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