Brainstorming Session: Web 2.0 Apps for Games and Gaming.

edited July 2006 in The Best of Story Games
So, I have all this web space and a couple of domains. Ludolab was a crapout because it was (eventually) a paying enterprise. Instead, I've been looking to noodle out something new for the domain that I still own. I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about Ye Newe Web 2.0 (if you're unfamiliar, think Flickr, 9rules, Standpoint and other 'social web' applications), and wondering exactly what sorts of tools could be crafted for gaming and story-gaming in particular.

My (admitedly short) list is:

* Online playtest/dev environment, with whiteboards, database front-ends for character templates and whatnot.
* Collaborative world/gamebuilding.

I also own the domain, which I was planning to use to create an XML schema for world/situation building. But really, I think I'm stuck in some wheel ruts in my thinking (OK - I *know* I'm in a rut), and I'd like to get other folks' ideas churning in the mix to see what can come out of it.


  • Wikis are great for shared worldbuilding (or in fact for non-shared worldbuilding; I use one to plan my fiction settings and will probably use it for game settings too).

    What about collaborative modular gamebuilding, where people create modular elements covering a limited area (say, stakes setting) that can be snapped together into game systems? Mix and match?
  • The technology that's getting me excited is Ajax. In simple terms, it means that I can click something on my web page and it shows up on yours.

    I'm working on an online version of Breaking The Ice. I click a picture of a die to award you a Bonus Die; it shows up on your screen instantly. When you've got enough dice, a button shows up giving you the option to roll them. You get the picture.

  • edited July 2006
    Posted By: MikeRMWikis are great for shared worldbuilding (or in fact for non-shared worldbuilding; I use one to plan my fiction settings and will probably use it for game settings too).

    What about collaborative modular gamebuilding, where people create modular elements covering a limited area (say, stakes setting) that can be snapped together into game systems? Mix and match?
    The difference that I would want to bring to the worldbuilding thing is that everything would have a) situation hooks and b) would be templatish. Meaning: you wouldn't create an NPC for a wiki - you'd create a guild that the NPC belongs to, or a 'heritage template', to steal an Aria term. Then folks could take create a new object (a town, let's say), take one from Column A and two from Column B, and the end result would mesh together to create a unique situational space, complete with pseudo-code for their Game of Choice.

    And Graham - I'm all hot and bothered for AJAX too - I hadn't considered it for actual play, though - great idea. It'd work well for Fanmail in an online PTA game as well.
  • Web 2.0 is a slightly wincy term for me, it hides a load of great web concepts behind upgrade mentality and tends to get used overly much for marketing.

    For those with no idea what it is, it's worth reading Tim O'Really's article since he coined the term as it's currently used.

    But yeah, I've noodled around with an AJAX-based RPG chat client. Thought about character sheet microformats and mashup possibilities.

    Graham, I've had that very same thought regarding, so I'm glad you're giving it a shot.

    In general I think that some storygames can lend themselves better to using some web tools if they are somewhat asychronous, or at least can be modified to be that way. Moreover, we should consider if we merely want to connect people who know each other or to connect strangers who want to play but don't realize it (so there is a socializing feature).

    So, games that could/should be put into a web-friendly format:
    * Universalis
    * Breaking the Ice
    * Agora (see also: "Thomas's article":
  • AJAX and Breaking the Ice is a happy marriage, Graham. Think about the concept maps too, how cool.
  • BTW, a helpful drop of cold water: when thinking of building a fancy app, consider if it wouldn't be easier to do it with just a wiki or blog. This is a good baseline comparison.
  • edited July 2006
    I have grand designs for a php-based modification of mediaWiki to make it into an online random generation engine. Anyone (just registered folks?) could go in & edit random tables (instead of articles), then save them off for later use. From the main page, you'd have a generation string box that would let you reference any saved table or combination of tables and put their results in the context of a paragraph or whatever. Like, maybe you're playing Shab-al-Hiri Roach and you need a quick professor, so you type in

    Name: [[CreepyCampus.MaleFirst]] [[CreepyCampus.Surname]]
    Subject: [[AcademicSubjects.Main]]
    Languages:[[CreepyCampus.DeadLanguages]], [[CreepyCampus.DeadLanguages]], [[ModernLanguages.Main]]
    Quirky Habit: [[CharacterFillers.Quirks]]

    and hit the Generate button, and Ajax gives you your little dossier in the bottom half of the page while keeping the scripting box open for you to modify whatever needs changing for you to get the results you want.
  • Cool Dave, then of course XSLT to output your dossier to print or pdf. I want that yesterday.
  • yeah so do i - (you read my mind about output) too bad at my current rate of free time to devote to it, it'll be ready in 2008.
  • BTW, just a random piece of trivia: Vanilla 1.0 uses Ajax as well.
  • Erm, it's nasty to keep mentioning Ajax and not to link us!

    Also, Polaris sounds like it would work great in such an enviroment.
  • Sorry. It's short for Asyncronous Javascript and XML - Wikipedia has a pretty good description. For a little more technical discussion, you might try the article that started the craze.
  • I think an online Capes would be cool. Do it very similar to the Agora idea, with a database of characters, their debt, and their history.
  • My perpetual-tomorrow project is a web-based, shareable dice table for Dogs (I have a working alpha which my group used for a while, and a half-finished beta with much nicer code). It rolls and displays the dice pools, raises and sees of everyone at the table and tracks fallout, ideally as a supplement to an AIM or IRC game. You'll be able to create and name a room, password-protect it if you choose, and save it for up to a month. Right now it's a standard LAMP application with a big REFRESH button, but damn, AJAX would make the whole thing a lot slicker if a) I had time to learn it and b) it didn't send accessibility down the crapper.
  • edited July 2006
    Brendan, see what Becky Gibson has to say about AJAX accessibility. I saw her present at CSUN this spring and there is some momentum in this area.

    edit: Apparently HTML is b0rken

    edit: maybe not
  • Jason, thanks, that's good reading.
  • I would love to see Agora be encoded into a webapp. As Thomas pointed out, it's pretty well-suited to the implementation. Sadly, I have no l33t skizillz with which to do it. I have one volunteer (who can name himself if he likes) who's already said he'd be interested in joining a coding team, but a team of one is probably not feasible for the project. Anybody else want to join in to build Agora Online? ;)
  • This is a great thread. There's not enough space to come back on all the things I liked that people said, but...

    Kuma, I love that XML world-building idea.

    Jason, that's a great article.

    Dave, online Capes is a great idea. I think the GM-less games would be the most interesting to go for: so you can sign in, see who else is online and play. The reason I thought of Breaking The Ice was because it's the most accessible game I know to non-gamers and you only need two to play. I like the idea of putting Gateway-ish games online, in the hope that non-gamers would happen across them.

    Generally: if you're thinking of learning Ajax, it's not that hard. I mean, it requires some computer programming knowledge. But I've taught myself Ajax since I set up my website two weeks ago. I grabbed examples of it from the Internet, fiddled about with them, and it's definitely working.

    The difficult point for me is chat. It'd be great, I think, to have an embedded chat in one browser frame and other game -related stuff (character sheet, clickable dice) in another. Does anyone have any idea how this would work? There's a few Ajax chat systems: are they any good? And then there's Jingle...

  • There are Java IRC clients. Could that be leveraged?
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyI have one volunteer (who can name himself if he likes) who's already said he'd be interested in joining a coding team.
    I am Spartacus.
  • I think you'll find, Dev, that I'm Spartacus.

  • Graham,

    I've been looking awfully hard at JWChat, a web-based Jabber client, for my chat ideas. It should be easy to modify to simply log into a single server, and it has the advantage of being built on Jabber, which has a lot of rather nice features built-in...

  • edited July 2006
    One project which I think could be really cool for games like Capes or Agora is Volity. It's a framework for playing board/card games over the Jabber protocol, with fancy-pants Java/SVG interfaces. I've had a look and I don't see any technical hurdles to playing RPGs over it, so long as someone gets around to writing a referee and interface. There's even been discussion on the volity-dev mailing list about adding support for channels, so OOC and IC chat could be separated. I'm sorely tempted to have a go for Capes. Probably Capes Lite, as I'd feel bad about putting up a game without supplying the rules, and I'm sure if Tony wanted his game up on the net for free, he'd have put it there.
  • What's this Jabber that I have seen mentioned a couple of times?
  • Jabber is an open source instant messaging/chat protocol: their homepage
  • For Skype games, because I some familiarity with my company's products, we've tried Google Spreadsheets and Writely -- both of which support realtime collaboration. In particular, Writely has worked really, really well for group note-taking whereas Spreadsheets worked surprisingly well for anything requiring calculation.

    (And we found a little trick which lets Spreadsheets cells act as dice!)

  • Let me just remind everyone of this thread on modular minigames.
  • This just popped up today at Lifehacker. It's a free incubator for social web projects:


    If you have a social game, or want to create your own Kuma-like project-based web-thingie, it might be worth looking into.

  • Holy Crud! GE has just put up a web based whiteboard that needs to be seen to be believed. It may just be fantastic. (Source Lifehacker)

    -Rob D.
  • Posted By: Rob DonoghueHoly Crud! GE has just put up aweb based whiteboardthat needs to be seen to be believed. It may just be fantastic. (SourceLifehacker)

    -Rob D.
    Holy fucking shit, this is great!
  • That has been around for a long time, in various incarnations.
  • Well, yes, but most of them have sucked. :)

    More seriously, a lot of companies have lived and died by their promises of online collaboration, and with the exception of Subethaedit, they've all pretty much fallen short of their goals, sometimes dramatically. In terms of drawing function, this one is nice (The graph paper background is a nice touch) but yes, nothing new. The part I'm curious about (and have not yet had a chance to test) is how well the collaboration component ends up working out.

    That said, if there's a better sharable whiteboard, I definately want to hear about it. I've been using webex for it to date and, frankly, anything would be an improvement.

    -Rob D.
  • Are you aware of Gametable? It's a shareable whiteboard specifically for RPG, by Andy Weir, who does the webcomic Casey and Andy (the first webcomic to get a GURPS supplement, but don't let that put you off).

    I haven't used it but it sounds pretty useful.
  • I think a Rails solution would work very nicely for this sort of thing, in terms of being rather easier to develop in than Java (ugh). The code is easy enough to read that someone with no prior programming experience could probably come up with a character template (which actually ends up being a set of database tables) in pure Rails. That could then get uploaded into a shared server, which could have Ajaxified chat, character sheets, etc.

    Of course, it's easy to talk about this sort of thing--I'm thinking of trying to prototype something in September when I have a bit more time. In the meantime, if you program, and haven't seen Rails yet, do check it out:

  • The only problem with Rails is that there's a rather short list of shared hosts that will allow you to install it, so far.

    I really wish I could have Rails on my site - but there you have it.
  • Yeah, same here for theoretically working on Agora Online. Rails would be good, but PHP (right now) is much esier to deploy.
  • Suppose I need something like Writely, an online word processor which others can view as I change on real time, and I need it ASAP, help?
  • If you're a Mac guy, trye Subethaedit, and if not, try Moonedit. I can't vouch for Moon, but I've used SubEtha many, many times. When Fred & I brainstorm, it's tremedously useful for us to be using it.

    These kinds of apps are usually designed for collaborative programming (EXTREME! Programming, even) so the trappings will be kind of indicative of that.

    -Rob D.
  • I use Windows, or I wouldn't cry over VoodooPad :P
  • If people wanna fiddle with Rails, there's some cheap hosting, and I'd be willing to (gasp!) pay for it.

  • So no one has "Writely" for Windows that one could get currently instead of waiting for them to re-open applications?
  • J B, if you want to just fiddle with rails on your own machine, all the software required to run it is free and downloadable (just set firewallage apropriately). There's some combined installs kicking around somewhere that'll install all the necessary.

    As to writely sign-ons, existing users can still invite (otherwise it doesn't work or collaboration) as far as I know...

  • Anyone wants to invite me? :)
  • I've sent a share to a test document to your profile email, let's see if it works.
  • It works!

    Now, not only can I play with the test document, but open my own. Thanks a bunch man!
  • edited July 2006
    No probs. Have fun!

    Oh, while on the topic of Web 2.0 RPG stuff, anybody seen, like Digg, but for RPG-related stuff.
  • I feel like I lived in a hole.

    I never heard of Digg till a month or so back, nor Boing-Boing....

    Also, don't edit for new content, since then we don't know you posted :)
  • Much better than just a whiteboard...

    Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate
  • Backpack, and the whole suite of 37 signals stuff is, in fact, pretty awesome. I dig it enough that I bought their good but stupidly overpriced e-book. That said though, though I find them generally more useful on the project level than for really immediate stuff. Campfire is the only real product playing in that arena, and it is (I think) their weakest offering.

    But if you want to collaborate or plan a project, be it a game you're writign or a game you're running? MIGHTY!

    -Rob D.
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