ACM - Computers in Entertainment

An Integrated Development Framework for Tabletop Computer Games

By Yannis Lilis, Anthony Savidis
Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment, [Vol. 12, No. 3]

DOI: 10.1145/2702109.2633423

We have implemented an integrated development framework for tabletop computer games focusing on the aspects of terrain composition and input management. To support multiple game genres and varying board setups we propose a generic terrain structure based on a directed graph where each game node is represented by a graph node in the underlying structure. To capture and express the repeating path-patterns commonly found in tabletop games we also utilize reusable building blocks called structured tiles. Structured tiles combine information about graphical representation, geometry as well as path structure, essentially constituting sub-graphs of a respective tile image. In this sense, the terrain is composed by assembling sub-graphs and the resulting complete graph can be used to perform semantic terrain analysis like node connectivity and reachability checks. Finally structured tiles can be used to standardize common game mechanics like plausible path computation, path selection by players, and in-path movement and incorporate them into the game engine. To support the various and dynamically changing input configurations required by the pervasive nature of tabletop computer games we also propose a multimodal input system that allows game actions to be performed via numerous virtual input devices abstracting over physical input devices, while supporting their dynamic plugging or unplugging during gameplay. The input system keeps track of the physical input devices associated for each player and it can dynamically identify missing game commands caused by the unplugging of a device. To prevent stalling interaction in such cases, we introduce animated interactive panels encompassing the required game commands. These panels, called soft dialogues, require only pointing input and allow maintaining interaction regardless of the type of game input required during runtime (e.g. keypad, or switch-based input). Soft dialogues also help achieve input accessibility by combining them with scanning interaction techniques. Overall, our framework constitutes a complete solution for the development of tabletop computer games facilitating the authoring and management of complex and large terrains while providing a reusable and extensible input infrastructure that significantly reduces the need to implement common input elements across different games.

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