Thursday, February 23, 2006

Play By Web

At this point it looks like 2006 is going to be the year of the explosion of Play By Web games. Many of these games are gamer's games, and they are being implemented exceptionally well. Good graphics. Good interfaces.

For me, it's been an opportunity not only to play games I haven't tried before, but also to play games I don't often get to play face to face. I am not familiar with every Play By Web site, nor all the games on the ones I do play on. This is my scorecard for those which I have. Games in red are possibly under development.

MabiWeb: A

Hansa, Richelieu, Samurai, In the Shadow of the Emperor

This is the newest of the bunch, and the best. It's currently lacking in variety, but the developer is active and mentioning lots of great possibilities. The interfaces are exceptional. Consider Hansa, for example. Click the stacks to replenish. Click on the destination city to move the ship. Click on a disc on the board to buy it. Click on a disc in your reserves to build markets. Click "sell" to sell the checked discs. He's even going out of his way to accommodate us with tweaks as we play the games.

The server has a game manager, showing all your games in progress, and the completed games of the previous month. The site also has a nice forum.

SpielByWeb: A-

Amun-Re, Reef Encounter, Wallenstein, La Citta, Santiago, Caylus, El Grande, Hacienda

Very close behind is the other relatively new site that was recently a victim of its own success. It was getting so many hits, the owner had to shut down one of the more popular games until he could find a new home.

Like MaBi, SbW uses actual game graphics with very good interfaces. They are slightly lacking in reasonable screen layout for most of their games, and the in-game messaging system is poor. They also have a nice game manager and forum, and are fairly active.

Ludogora: B

Medina, Through the Desert, Vinci

Good games. Good interfaces, although Through the Desert could have been a little better. The main reason for the B is that there's no real game manager. Each game listing is per game. With no cookie support, you need to login each time you take your turn. Thank goodness for browsers with password support.

Boite A Jeux: B-

Alhambra, DVONN, Finstere Flure, GIPF, Torres

This site's games are well implemented, but that is far overshadowed by the terrible game manager, lack of passworded game support, and general slowness of response. Also, you do not get emails (at least I don't) when it's your turn, forcing you to check frequently.

Yucata: C

Kahuna, Rosenkonig

This site has a general lack of interesting games, a poor game manager, and no way to view other games in progress.

BoardGameGeek: D-

Euphrates & Tigris

Even with as much love as I have for BGG overall, I cannot bring myself to say good things about their one good game implementation except that "it works". I can't really imagine a way to make it worse than it is. The graphics and colors are horrid. The way you interact with the tiles, leaders, and the board is ridiculous. And the off-board player information is laid out like it's been through a blender. If Aldie were to ask me how to fix it--and I doubt he has time for blogs--I'd say redo the entire thing from scratch. There is absolutely nothing to save. And if that wasn't bad enough, it doesn't even implement the rules correctly.


Overall

I am excited about things potentially coming down the pipe. Even with Play By Web, you can still use Skype and almost turn it into a face to face experience.

My one huge pet peeve is that everyone seems to be coddling those with 800x600 desktops. Most of the games I play go only half way across my screen, with the players tables going off the bottom. Why is it ok to make me scroll down, but it's not ok to make them scroll right? Is it really that difficult to generate CSS that accommodates, say, two resolutions? Every game I play, all the information could fit on my screen with no scroll bars. Such a waste.

The SpielByWeb crew had once mentioned the possibility of opening up their site for others to develop games there. Legal issues aside, that would be a fantastic thing. Not only could we see more of the games we love, but we could also implement our own game designs to share. Think of the possibilities.

14 Comments:

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Ryan Walberg said...

Ahhh, you beat me to it. I was just going to write up a comparison.

I'm huge on boiteajeux.net right now. Their Torres implementation is excellent. Having no passwords isn't bad as long as you know the usernames of your invitees. I suppose that even saves them a step. Fearsome Floors takes too many turns, though.

Can't wait for Hacienda and El Grande!

 
At 12:08 AM, Blogger ekted said...

The problem with no passwords is that often I want to invite a group of friends from a private forum. I tell them all the password. First come, first served. Having to invite specific people means having to wait until those specific people are available, or planning it all in advance, both of which take extra time. Passworded games shared among a larger group start very quickly.

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Awww you're too harsh on BGG's E&T Jim. It's not THAT bad. Ok, compared to the spiffy SbW and MaBi looks, it's like Warfrog vs HiG, but it's functional.

Good overview of the places to play tho. The only ones missing are the Gipf sites, but I suppose you omitted those deliberately.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger Ryan Walberg said...

Hey Jim, I wonder if your post wasn't noticed by the BaJ folks. I just started getting e-mails when it's my turn in Torres.

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I am not trying to be mean or giving it a low grade simply in comparison to the others. It is just plain bad. However, it isn't as bad as some of the junk on BSW like Settlers (which gets an F).

 
At 12:12 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Ryan, if I had known I would have an effect, I would have offered more specific comments. I suppose they can always ask me.

BGG: ekted

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger gnome said...

I know I'm not going to say something relevant to the conversation, but just wanted to thank you... excellent article. Great. Thanks. etc etc

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

Great article. But in what way are the BGG T&E rules incorrect?

 
At 11:34 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Cool post. Will look into these. And I agree, T+E on BGG looks horrible.

 
At 4:01 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

Great article. I'm wanting to start playing more online games, since I don't get to play face-to-face as much as I would like. I actually have a 'date' to learn about BSW tonight.

What I'd love to know is how many of these are turn-based and how many real-time -- are these games that can play out over several days or weeks, regardless of players' timezones, or are they games that need to be played by people who are all 'present' at the same time.

 
At 6:53 AM, Blogger ekted said...

Melissa, all Play By Web games are exactly that. You play them in your browser. They are turn based. When it is your turn, ostensibly you get emailed, you login, and do your action(s). If players are active, you could play a game in a day. I've played some games over a period of 3 weeks.

Matthew, BGG's E&T implementation does not allow you to remove a leader from the board. This has resulted in more than one improper loss. I suspect if MaBi or SbW implemented E&T that virtually no one would play it on BGG any more.

 
At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Ray Petersen said...

I'm a big fan of http://www.youplay.it too.

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger Kevin Devine said...

If you are looking for more reviews on Online Gaming Sites, please check out my podcast at http://onlinegamingpodcast.blogspot.com.

I enjoyed reading your review and I have to agree with a lot of your comments.

 
At 1:13 PM, Anonymous siegeltoys said...

Very interesting old blogs.

 

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