Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Scope: Play with Your Toys, But with Rules!

There's something elementally pure about tabletop wargames.  Sure, the mere mention of the term brings up images of sweaty men crowded around tables loaded with pewter miniatures, who spend most of their time measuring distances and arguing about positioning.  However, if you tear away all the obsessive military recreations and space marines, then you're left with a game where you pit your toys against another person's toys.  The only difference between a wargame and what you probably did as a kid is that wargames have rules.

Lots of rules, actually.  Which are pretty expensive.  So are the miniatures, for that matter.  Especially when you add in the cost of paint.  Makes you wonder why most people prefer to play video game?

I bring this up because of Scope, an project that attempts to use augmented reality (which is essentially virtual reality's practical younger brother) to create a tabletop wargame with the streamlined interface of a video game.  What really makes this project interesting it the you supply the minatures for the game in the form of your old toys.

As far as I can deduce, the game works by using a combination of special markers and a camera-equipped, head-mounted display.  The camera reads the symbols and feeds them back to a computer, which in turn feeds images to the glasses.  Actually picking the symbols seems to be done by focusing on them.

The end result is you have basically have a wargame with a video game-like interface that effectively deals with hassles typically associated with wargames (most of them involving distance in some form).  Furthermore, the game is can also take obstacles into account for things like cover, which you can supply in the form of boxes, old building blocks or anything along that line.

Perhaps the only bad thing about Scope is the same problem associated with any augmented reality project: the technology involved is probably too expensive to seriously consider as a retail product.  At least it doesn't risk potential safety hangups like some other augmented reality projects.

Scope via GameSetWatch

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