Tabletopia – Interview with the developers

We had the opportunity to ask developers of Tabletopia several questions. The game has a unique concept and if you love board games then this could be the choice for you.

Tabletopia digital board games
We wanted to make a funny let’s play and Livestream of playing a game from Tabletopia. Unfortunately, the quality of the video was not good enough and it’s hard to make another team of four players because most of us are from different time zones. However, we can say that the game session was FUN. And it’s possible to play with your friends very simply. Only one of you must buy and own the game on Steam and others can join the board through a browser. So if you love board games and would like to choose from several hundreds of them, Tabletopia could be the real deal and just for $10 which is much lower price than buying a new board game. And you don’t have to be even at one place which is another nice feature of this platform.

You can, of course, play with unknown gamers however that is not possible at the moment because of the lack of players. Unfortunately.

But let’s get to the interview and get some nice information directly from the developers 🙂

Your studio's name – Tabletopia – is interesting and unique. What was the inspiration for such a brand name? 

We were brainstorming for a long period and checked the domain name for different variants. And as we are making a huge international project we loved the name Tabletopia. It is like a country inhabited by people with a similar hobby, by Tabletopians (this word was invented by our active users by the way).

Your team contains members from Russia, Germany, Ukraine and other countries. Did you all meet face to face at one point, or is it all through electronic means like Skype?

We have meetings but not all of us can gather at the same time at the same place. That’s why we have lots of tools for remote cooperation. It is surely good to have an opportunity to work at one space, but at least we are not geographically restricted in searching for talented people and companions.

Tabletopia cardsTabletopia reversi

How did you get the first idea to start working on Tabletopia?

I’ve seen a multiplayer platform where users could move magnetic letters but don’t remember what it was. This was the first time when I thought about such a platform for board games.

Does anyone in your team play Magic the Gathering, a popular trading card game?

Yes, we play hundreds of games. I personally have more than 700 games in a collection and a board game publishing house in Russia. It is named Igrology and we have already published more than 30 games.

As seen on your website, your team has obtained funding via KickStarter. Was the fundraising campaign difficult or rather easy? How long did the whole preparation process take?

The main difficulty was to explain that Tabletopia is not just another virtual table. We try to give all gamers the opportunity not only to play high quality licensed games but also to explore the gaming catalog. Subscription model gives a chance to play hundreds of games for one fee and don’t forget that basic subscription will be for free. We also try to create a good tool for designers and publishers.

This might be a tough question. How far do you plan to take this concept? How much development and refinement do you see for the future? From my point of view, there were pencils, then pens, computers, and eventually tablets. How do you see card games and board games fitting into this evolution of tools for creating and presenting games?

We do not want to stop at any point. We’ll keep developing new features and tools. We are also planning to add new platforms such as smart TV etc.

From the start of this project, did you plan to prepare a platform for lots of board games? Or did that idea come after you started to develop the first game in Tabletopia?

This is our main focus – to recreate the atmosphere of the real gaming table and give an opportunity to easily make a digital version of the game for play-testing, promoting and also monetization.

For someone who never used or tried Tabletopia or a similar board game sandbox: Would a player or administrator be able to make their own game with its own rules? As your presentation tells, within a few hours one could do that. But would that person be able to make a new board game even with a novice set of skills without the knowledge of programming?

Tabletopia does not involve a hard rules implementation, just tools that make the gaming process more comfortable. To play a game you need to know the rules and you can play any games with your own home rules.

To create a game you do not need any programming skills, we have a huge gallery of basic objects: cards, tokens, tiles, meeples etc. To make your first prototype you can use all these objects and start play-testing very fast.

Tabletopia Alien FrontiersTabletopia Terra Mystica

I must say that the graphics for the games presented already look amazing. Are all the graphics in 2D like on a traditional board game or would there be 3D features, like hills rising on the map?

We are  planning to build a big library of objects which will allow game creators to encase their games – it will include miniatures, elements of landscape etc.

Tabletopia already features an in-game voice chat. Will there also be a video chat for users with webcams?

Now voice chat is possible only between steam users, later we will make a cross-platform voice feature, and video chat will come later.

What's the situation with animations? Will character figures feature smooth movement? Do you need to prepare an extensive amount of animations for this, thinking about the implementations? Will there be some editor for this?

For all game objects we have its typical animation but by the end of this year, we are going to introduce custom video effects – like sparks, smoke etc.

Will Tabletopia be a one-time purchase, or will there be microtransactions and DLC for extra resources? How will the game's store work? If players will create their own games and would like to sell them? There is a PDF file telling us about the rules, but is the store already prepared?

We run a subscription model. All gamers have access to all games of a free catalog and all paid subscribers ($5 or $10 per month) gets an access to all games from a premium catalog. We like Spotify approach – better to have access to all catalog to explore it and find for yourself many new titles, but not to buy titles one by one – as it was previously for iTunes. Any player can create one game with a free designers account and send the game to a moderation to the free catalog. To monetize the game you should have a paid designer account, it allows you to send a game to moderation to a premium account.

You have a huge amount of publishers cooperating with you. Is this a result of your unique approach for desk vs tablet games? Or did something else contribute to these partnerships and affiliations?

Board games market needs its own digital platform (like Kindle for Books). We want to become such a platform. We have a progressive business model and useful tools. As I am both a publisher and a gamer I try to create a product useful from both of these perspectives.

Tabletopia Swords and SorceryTabletopia Village

You have mentioned 'Private Virtual Rooms' What is that exactly?

Private virtual gaming room is a gaming table that gives some useful tools:

  • management of access to the room – like giving keys to your friends (they can not have Tabletopia account)
  • customization of the game client (look and feel) 
  • and most important – you can invite your friends who are not premium subscribers to play any premium game with you (The important bit here is “with you!” You can not just give everybody the keys and allow them to play without you, you need to be one of the players) 

The private virtual testing room is a special mode to preview and test new game prototypes. This room will give you different additional features:

  • different access rights for your team
  • the option to modify your game directly on the fly during testing 
  • the option to make notes and systemize information during testing 

If we get to the business model, will the income come always only from the game itself, or will be there more possibilities? Something more integrated into the game?

Our main business model is subscription fee from gamers and designers. We are also planning to add advertisement monetization in future.

How many games are already ready for the release date? How many of those are your creation, and how many are from other developers or contributors?

Right now there are  more than 200 games. We do not create games, we help publishers and board game designers to implement their existing games. By ourselves, we add games from a public domain like chess, checkers, dominoes etc.

What about HW support? Will you prepare also cross-platform support so users of the Steam version can play with users of the mobile versions?  You have mentioned other platforms earlier, but at the time being there is only iOS and Android…

Tabletopia does not require any special hardware. Minimum hardware requirements are:

  • 1.2 GHz (Gigahertz), 2 cores 
  • 4GB (Gigabyte) RAM 
  • Graphics card: 512 MB, DX10 capability (everything made in the last 3 years should work) 

Tabletopia is a cross-platform system, you can easily connect your Steam account with other web browser profile, facebook etc.

Would you like to say something more to our readers?

Have a nice day! Play board games! And see you on Tabletopia!

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