Tuesday, October 22, 2013

castAR: The Future of Tabletop RPGs?

If you haven't heard about CastAR, check out its kickstarter.  Its kinda like the Oculus Rift or Google Glass.. except that it actually projects multidimensional images, albeit only with the right kind of material.  This invention is brilliant, but not for its effects on console or casual gaming- no, no, this thing is going to redefine tabletop RPGs as we currently implement them.

Virtual Reality rigs have been a long time coming- often they fail because they cause sickness or the costs are too high.  Computers have increased fast enough that worrying about the costs of processing projecting images and capturing head movements is very low, enabling new VR and AR rigs to suddenly come into our space.  The Oculus Rift is doing that sort of thing, but its a closed system.  The CastAR, if it does even just a fraction of what it advertises, will definitely head a new kind of media I think.

Although the inventors have mentioned uses for it with miniatures and board games, that isn't the aspect I'm alluding to that CastAR scratches.  Not even the holodeck ideas, which seem to me to be a bit too far in one direction.  Lets focus on the now, the here and the now.

CastAR lets you project images.  There is a whole new form of digital sculpture waiting here: 3d models long just purely digital in a physical space.  Galleries can now display this new brilliant idea, and its the kind of idea we need to embrace in the RPG space.  This is the right kind of device to push for a toolkit.

The kind of toolkit I imagine is a mix of google image search and space manipulation.  While just focus on being able to generate Dungeons in it?  What about spacecraft?  Or consoles in said craft?  It should be like a version of minecraft for CastAR, allowing users to manip and alter images as they play.

Go a step further, think about if the space itself becomes our randomizer?  What if you can project virtual dice into your table?  With our current motion detection devices, you can come up with a motion that can let you roll them instantly.  Or maybe a whole new kind of randomization.  We can bring in mechanics from video games, without losing the core component of RPGs.

GMing could be two or three times easier.  You load in automatic statistics for your NPCs, and let the computer run the mechanical bits you usually forget.  Video Games already do most of this, but we haven't had the chance to create a medium that is both computer sim AND Roleplaying before.

By Jupiter and Cthulhu, can you imagine what LARPs will become with these?  Think about wearable reflectors, letting some people PROJECT virtual aspects onto themselves.  Its there, its possible, or closer anyway.  Say you are supposed to be playing a physically impossible race for humans, like Centaurs or Halflings- you can project a artificial doll version of your character, in front of yourself, for others in the AR to interact with.

I can't wait to see what happens, but please!  Someone develop open apps and tools for this.  There is entire communities of gamers out there waiting for the tools to create new things, new ways to enhance our role playing.  Give us the software to create wonders and we will buy them, I guarantee.