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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tabletop Gaming: Final Part

So what does the future hold for tabletop gaming? I'll take some guesses and share some thoughts today on the final blog in my series.

It's obvious to say that new systems will come and go, in a variety of genres with plenty of great art, fantastic miniatures and ideas. We can also expect for there to be a new round of licenses from the console and PC publishers. MMO's are very popular and it makes sense to translate a world that has already been created into a videogame. Game Workshop already has a Warhammer MMO out and a 40k one is on the horizon. Blizzard might or might not have a StarCraft version to compete when that happens. If and when Rackham has a videogame based on Ragnarok the world should take notice. Will Sony finally wise up and license AT-43 in favor of another Killzone? Both are made by the French after all. Look at the systems by smaller companies, HORDES or WarMachine by Privateer Press is perfect for an MMO, a RTS or even adventure game. The possibilities are endless with the various IP. Plus the casual and intermediate systems, the collectable card games and board games like Talisman are being turned into Xbox Live and Sony Home games. Of course this is a two way road and we can expect to see tabletop companies license the more popular videogames and at the very least make a board game or collectable card game out of them. The cultures are starting to find things in common and we can expect a lot of back and forth influence.

An example of a merging of several cultures comes out in an old game called "Dust" by Paolo Parente. Dust is an alternate-Earth WWII game, a system that predates most of the other AE WWII titles I mentioned. The world of Dust established in several comic books with limited-edition 12" figures and models being offered for the game system. This is bringing in elements of toy and figure collectors, people that like Maschinen Krieger or Zero Metal Defense, plus tabletop gamers, comic book fans and exclusivity junkies. Some more information about Dust can be found on their old site. Perhaps this is an example of a person using the medium to get his art across or a person that sees the potential for synergy. Either way Paolo was ahead of his time but we can expect collaborations like this more in the future. Look at McFarlane's WoW figures for proof of this.

The designs featured in tabletop games will continue to influence videogame design. Did you really think that the designers behind God of War (or Gears of War for that matter) came up with the material all on their own? Movies, television, literature and tabletop games are all influencing factors here. The more you study art and design from the various systems the more you will see the influence and draw parallels between the tabletop and video game. The more savvy game designers get about tabletop systems, the more likely they are to begin to incorporate that design into their games. The influence to both the industry and culture has been around since the days of Zork and Zelda.

As for tabletop games themselves we can expect to see a few changes over the years. Judging by what Rackham and Fantasy Flight Games is currently doing and what Games Workshop has already done we can draw out the future. We'll see systems designed for ease of use as well as to attract new players. These hybrid systems will feature pre-painted minis some with clix-style bases and cards to keep track of stats. The cards will also be played as a stand-alone game. Collaborations between tabletop publishers and big game publishers, like Milton Bradley will start up again, these board games will be easy to play and act as an introduction to the hobby.

We should also expect to see a renaissance within the culture. The book industry feared that small press and desktop publishing would mean an end to the market. Yet book sales have never been bigger. Hollywood feared that VHD and DVD would kill the cinema, yet people still come out in record numbers to see summer blockbusters. By the same virtue the tabletop systems have not been replaced by videogames. If anything the latest round of MMO's have made people more aware of the tabletop (or analog if you prefer) counterparts. Small independent studios pop up every year with fantastic sculptors, a diversity of genres and watertight gaming systems. This forces the bigger companies to step up. A diversity of systems from new and old publishers should be expected along with a boost in quality. Perhaps Games Workshop will rethink out-of-print systems and modernize them, or at the very least license them for videogames. With the abundance of highly-talented sculptors, and those using computer modeling, advances in miniatures, terrain and accessories will happen sooner rather than later. This will include changes in paints and manufacturing which will mean for higher-quality products for reasonable prices. This will extend to pre-painted and traditional miniatures for beginning and advanced hobbyists as well as new board game designs.

The future is looking bright my friends. Tabletop systems are here to stay and they will only continue to improve and amaze. I really hope you are considering getting into the hobby or at the very least keeping tabs on these systems so that one day when you overhear some kids snickering about how Warhammer is biting WarCraft you too can set them straight. Be tolerant of your analog cousins that roll dice and move miniatures rather than right-click and deploy a group. After all, we are all gamers of one format or another.

I had fun writing this series and now look forward to returning to my regular videogame blogs tomorrow. I'll be sure to drop a link or two on tabletop games down the road. Until then take care and be sure to leave a comment or a thumbs up!

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