Wouldn't it be cool if the very table you were playing Dungeons & Dragons on enabled you to fully visualize your game? Now it can.
The Surfacescapes team from Carnigie Mellon University are working on a proof-of-concept project to show how tabletop games could be played on a Microsoft Surface Table. The Microsoft Surface is basically a table-like computer that features a large horizontal touch screen that can receive multiple inputs at once. Using Dungeons & Dragons as the basis for their first prototype, the team plans to bring a brand new level of immersion to the tabletop genre.
There may be some that think something like this would only ruin the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons, and those people have a point, but this looks so awesome I can't imagine that every tabletop player doesn't want to get their hands on it right now. Surfacescapes plans to eventually create a 15-20 minute demo showing off the full capabilities of their system, but this shorter work-in-progess demo already shows a huge amount of potential. The Surfacescapes team is not changing tabletop gaming, but enhancing it in every way possible. From the team's website, they plan to implement the following features:
1. Automatically tracking combat states and statistics.
2. Tracking character information.
3. Providing audio and visual feedback for player actions.
4. Use of physical objects which the Table can detect, such as miniatures, themed "control objects" and feat cards.
5. An intuitive and visually appealing virtual UI, in addition to incorporating physical objects.
6. Ability for the Game Master to alter the map on the fly.
7. Uploading of custom and premade "story slides" to enhance the narrative aspect of D&D.
8. Ambient sounds and lighting to aid in storytelling.
9. Enhance story telling by streamlining a lot of the book keeping that the DM usually handles.
The way that this demo's UI conforms around the miniatures placed on the Surface looks really futuristic. The only thing that I might disagree with is the use of the Surface to roll the dice. Ripping the 20-sided die out of peoples' hands almost seems criminal, though maybe it can be gotten used to.
This semester, the Surfacescapes team is focusing fully on the player experience with only a basic GM (game master) screen. Next semester, the Surfacescapes team plans to expand the abilities of a GM, adding "a robust map editor and a variety of campaign creation tools" according to their their website. This is very compelling work, and a perfect fit for a piece of technology like the Microsoft Surface.