Global GameSpace Founder: Offline Games Can Take a Page From the Videogame Playbook

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A new open-source project would allow board and card games to be played online prior to purchase, says the project's founder.

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What if players could try out a new board game before buying it? Or test variations on a game with people around the world? These are the questions posed by Global GameSpace, a new open source project aiming for a mid-2012 release.

"Originally we were aiming to design a tool for small game designers, so that they could playtest their games quickly and easily with people around the world," said Curtis Lacy, the project's creator and lead developer. "When you keep bringing very rough games to your friends, you quickly end up trying their patience. And what you really need is to put your games in front of strangers and see what they think."

Global GameSpace isn't going to be an online game in the traditional sense. Developers will make game graphics and rules available, but there's no need to program a computer opponent. "What we're trying to do here is recreate the tabletop experience," Lacy continued. "When you sit down with your family and friends to play a game, you just have game pieces and a knowledge of the rules. You simplify or add house rules as you like, and you play however you prefer. What Global GameSpace will provide is a sort of 'virtual table', that players who may not live close to each other can interact with."

This is not the first time a product like this has been created. Packages like VASSAL, ZunTzu, and the Battlegrounds Gaming Engine have addressed the problem of playing board games with friends who don’t live nearby. “We’re aiming to go one step beyond existing tools,” said Lacy. “Current tools usually require that you bundle up a game package and send it to everyone who wants to play. Global GameSpace data will all be stored on the server and pushed when it’s needed. We’re going to have an online scheduling and group management mechanism, so you can arrange games even with people who aren’t online at the moment.”

But will game companies be willing to post their games on a third-party server? Lacy says this isn't an issue. “That’s maybe the most exciting part. Since Global GameSpace will be free open source, a game publisher can set up the server themselves, and put whatever controls on the content they need. They can remain in complete control of their properties at all times, and get to embrace the ‘try before you buy’ philosophy that’s proved so effective in video games.”


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