A candid interview between TLG CTO, Rob Wyatt, with renown geek filmmaker and content creator, Ben Dobyns of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment.
Why should I trust you? Do you have the skills to pull this off? Will I receive what you’re promising? Do I want you to succeed?
Crowdfunding at a high level is a full-time job. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. Asking for money is hard and asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars is even harder. It’s also personal — a pledge is an emotional investment in a person or team who you believe in. Building that connection means being vulnerable, open, accessible for the equivalent of thousands of miniature interviews, and piercing internal monologue questions.
I’m in the studio when my phone rings. It’s the final week of a massive Kickstarter campaign and we’re live streaming like it’s a PBS pledge drive, celebrating every dollar as we inch closer to our $430,000 goal. The last thing on my mind is designing and running another campaign. But I take the call and listen to the pitch… and the more I listen, the more I realize that I’m going to say yes to help bring the Gameboard-1 to life. Why? It involves legendary engineer Rob Wyatt. If you’ve ever used an Xbox or a Playstation, you’re familiar with his work. He helped design them. And now he’s designed a console for tabletop gaming that’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.
It’s one thing to talk with the Gameboard-1 team and plan a crowdfunding campaign. It’s another entirely to learn about the sheer scope of the vision from the person who helped make so much video game technology a reality. So I jumped at the opportunity to interview the man himself!
Want even more detail? You can read the complete interview here https://lastgameboard.com/
What Rob Plays
Ben: I’m going to talk about the Gameboard 1 in a minute here, but I’m curious about the experience of actually playing games. Do you find yourself going in and playing on the consoles that you helped develop, or do you find that it’s more about, let’s get this functioning and then moving on?
Rob: I don’t really play games much anymore. I don’t like violent games.
Never really liked first-person shooters. For the most part, [that’s] all there is today in the AAA market. You get the odd oddball like Spider-Man, which was great, [but] the last games I really enjoyed working on were the Ratchet and Clank games at Insomnia.
Since then it’s always been like, too many first-person shooters, too much violence, and it’s not really my thing. If people make more casual games, more console-quality platform games, I’d happily buy then and I’d happily play them, but they don’t. So I haven’t played [those] games in a while, and I haven’t really been in the AAA game space for quite a while, I’ve been doing a lot of image processing and camera work. So the AAA space is now like, I have no idea what is going on to be honest.
But the casual games, and the fun elements of these small games: that’s kind of one of the driving factors that took me to the Gameboard, because that’s the sort of gameplay you’re going to get: board gameplay, interactive board games. You’re kind of going back to these smaller games, you’re not committed to violence for 80 hours straight. You might play for 80 hours, but it’s not violence for 80 hours.
Why Rob Plays
Ben: So do you find yourself with the time to play boardgames at all, or is this a case more of appreciating that people do it?
Rob: It’s a bit of both. I have a daughter […] and we play a lot of board games with her. She likes playing board games. It’s that social thing, I mean first-person shooters, although they have an online experience, they’re not social at all. The whole idea of social media isn’t social, because it’s locking you in your room, by yourself. Where, when you play games, or you play with your kids, or your friends bring their kids, it’s a full social experience. You could do so much better if you had digital versions of these games, where they’re interactive and they respond back, but you still get that social element because people have to be there.
You sit around one table, around one board, and you’re playing a game together. And it’s a real good family time, it’s good social interaction. It’s quality time for everybody. So that’s really, and I think if you combined the two, if you combined the core gameplay type systems that you got in the earlier console games, with the board game mentality, and the way you play board games, there’s a totally untapped market there, that no one’s ever even considered. You could do arcade style board games, what does that even mean, I don’t know, but you can.
How Rob’s work on Gameboard-1 is changing both game creation and experience
Rob: There’s also lots of other gameplay mechanics that you could factor into this as well. The pieces have RFID but they’re compatible with NFC. You can interact with them on your phone. You can have a piece, you can have a customized app for your phone where you can, imagine it to be like a pet, where you can keep it alive, you can program it, and you can do all things, feed it XP, from your phone, not even using the tablet. But this piece is now, the piece has the XP in it, not the server, or not some logged in account, it’s actually in the piece. So you could trade these pieces, you could build with the XP wizard, and then trade it. Because your wizard looks like this wizard, but it’s unique because it’s got a different XP.
The physicality and the way we can deal with the physicality fits very much into some of the D&D type play, and some of the mechanics that are required. And it doesn’t need to be online, that’s another big feature. You could be in the middle of nowhere and it all still works.
Another example of gameplay here, would be, I want to cast a spell, but I have the spell on my phone, so I’m going to take my wizard off the board, I’m going to program, the wizard with the spell, on my phone, where it’s all private, it’s on a private screen, you can’t see what’s going on, and then I’m going to play the wizard, and you guys don’t know what that spell is going to be until I actually play the wizard piece.
There’s lots of mechanics you can do. And then you build this into the high-speed play, and you’ve got turn-based play, you’ve got board game type play, you’ve got high-speed arcade play, you’ve got interacting with your phone and these physical pieces, where you can program them offline and program them on the board.
How you put it together is up to you, as a developer, to make the game you want to make. It’s not, we’re not saying every game has to have a physical piece, every game has to be a board game. We’re saying, we have these tools.
There’s a long way to go to get there, but I think you’ve got to start somewhere, and that’s where we’re starting. And that’s one reason why we’re letting people program their own games. We actually want it to be an inclusive thing.
Right now, [prototyping] a board game is really expensive. We’re going to make a construction kit for the Gameboard 1, where you can use a PC or a Mac, or Linux or whatever, or maybe the Gameboard itself, to make an actual game board, and you can program tags. So you can prototype your game board on the Gameboard 1, for your new custom boardgames, without having to print things. So the whole idea of construction kits and making new board games, and new gameplay experiences, is all part of the scope of the platform.
Gameboard-1 is live on Kickstarter
Their blog http://bit.ly/2VwlUMC
Their blog http://bit.ly/2VwlUMC