We attended PAX East with Mesa Mundi again this year. We had a lot of fun and got some good feedback about our games. It was great to see Toby, Rebecca, Matt and Laura again and nice to meet Liz and the guys from Lifeform Entertainment. It was also exhausting and stressful, but it is worth it to see people enjoying our games.
This year we stayed with the rest of the Mesa Mundi team in Norwood (about 25 miles out of town) and rode with them to and from the convention. We got to spend a lot more time with them this year and even met Toby and Rebecca’s kids. It felt more like we were members of the team.
We attended PAX again this year to demonstrate our games at the Mesa Mundi booth. We had a great time playing our games with the attendees and demonstrating Fire Platoon. The Mesa Mundi booth was larger this year and we had a bigger space and a much larger table.
We were on a 60″ table using the new SensaTouch IR sensor and modular wooden table frame. It did mean that we were standing all weekend, but it was actually easier than sitting and leaving over to touch the coffee-table sized screen we were on last year.
From the time the hall opened at 10, till it closed at 6, we were always busy playing games. We mostly played Pair Soup because it is super easy and cooperative. People could walk up and join a game any time. By the end of the weekend we had played 160 games of Pair Soup. That adds up to about 13 hours! We were really glad to have the new tile sets.
There was an overhead walkway above us, and many people stopped at our booth saying that they had seen the game from above and had to try it out. We also played quite a bit of Fas’Jack, Dungeon Raiders, Got It and Yacht with people who stuck around for a second or third game.
We played several games of Fire Platoon and people seemed to enjoy it. People didn’t have trouble learning the game and controls and the tablets worked well. The WiFi was much better than last year, but it was still hard for some people to connect to the game.
The other quadrants of the booth were occupied by d20 Pro; a system for running a role playing game, another game table running a fast paced competitive game called WhackIt, and a demo of the modular table system.
There are lots more pictures of PAX and a few of Boston in my gallery.
We attended GenCon in Indianapolis with Mesa Mundi. Mesa Mundi had a booth setup in the vendor room where they had two Monolith touch screens and a Microsoft PixelSense screen. They also had a table in the exhibit hall with another touch screen where attendees could come for hour long games on the table. We spent most of our time in the exhibit hall running games of Hansa Teutonica, Bio Infiltrators and the rest of our touch games. I enjoyed the convention and really liked watching people playing Hansa.
We went to PAX East to represent Machine Code Games at the Mesa Mundi booth. PAX East is held each year at the Boston convention center and draws some 90,000 people.
Machine code games was assigned one of the touch tables at the booth and we ran demos of our software. The booth was very busy and people were playing our games almost all the time. We were very happy with the reactions that we got from people. They seemed to really like the games and were always impressed with the touch hardware. You can see more pictures of the booth during PAX here.
We are headed to PAX East in Boston to join Mesa Mundi’s booth and demonstrate some of MCG’s touch table software. Mesa Mundi is going to have several touch tables setup and our software will be running on one of them.
We are planning to show off the new mini-games, which are on sale now at Mesa Mundi’s site, along with Hansa Teutonica and a new game in development where players can control the action with a web browser on their phone.
D20Pro will also be on hand at Mesa Mundi’s booth to show off their role playing system. It should be an exciting weekend where we can see how people react to the touch tables and our games. Mesa Mundi has a short write up about PAX here.
Battle Home, one of the games that MCG is developing for Mesa Mundi, has a lot of options which dramatically change the rules to the game. For previous games, we have created instructions by making one or more graphics in Powerpoint or Photoshop and displaying that graphic on the screen. For this game, each combination of options was going to require another set of images. It would be much easier if we could create the instructions dynamically based on the options selected.
Enter Awesomium, a C++ library that lets you put the Chrome/webkit web renderer into your application. While it was not trivial to integrate Awesomium into torque it does allow us to display any HTML or public webpage within our games.
The IR sensor for the touch table arrived today (Actually, it arrived Friday afternoon. FedEx failed to leave a note.) Here is a link to the product page at Mesa Mundi. This is the third post about the touch table. Here are the others: MultiTouch, Demo/TV
It came in a large tube:
The tube contained:
The four sides attach to each other with an HDMI plug and one corner has the USB cable. Once connected, the corners each have two screws to lock them together. It is powered through USB and is quite thin. We wont be using the included tape since we want the minimum spacing between the sensor and the TV. Overall, the assembly was simple.
The next step is to place the sensor on the TV, attach it to the computer and install the driver. After installing the driver, and rebooting the computer, the sensor was detected and the control panel allowed us to calibrate the screen.
We assembled the screen upstairs next to a bright window and the light was too high for the sensor. We found a setting in the control panel for bright light later, so it may have worked upstairs, but we had planned to set it up downstairs anyway, so we went ahead and moved it down.
Here is a picture of the current setup. Installing the software was also easy. The control panel has options for palm detection, speed vs accuracy, and lighting levels. The touch detections can be sent out as either TUIO events or windows events. The computer is currently running Windows Vista, which doesn’t support multitouch, so we haven’t tried that out yet. In windows mode the touches are converted to mouse clicks. In TUIO mode, we were able to get about 30 simultaneous touches registered.
A friend is planning to build a custom frame for the TV and sensor and we are eventually going to replace the PC with a laptop.
The IR sensor was mounted to a 46″ Sony (A Google TV). It is a very thin system, at most 1/2″ thick, and could detect more than 20 fingers at once. They were using it to run the D20pro role playing system (which was pretty cool). That system was not really designed with a large touch screen in mind, and some of the buttons and menus were a bit small to hit accurately. The sensor also had a higher latency than we had hoped. If you moved your finger across the screen, the cursor stayed a few inches behind.
William’s GemHoarder software ran flawlessly on the screen. The screen was sending out TUIO events and the game connected and played just fine. See a video of GemHoarder here.
The demo was enough to convince us that the IR sensor system was the way to go and so we bought the TV that we are going to attach the screen to. The TV was recommended by the helpful owner of Mesa Mundi as being a perfect match for the 46″ screen. It is the Sony Bravia NX720:
There are several features that make it well suited for our setup.
It is very thin which will make mounting it in a table easier and will leave plenty of leg room under the table.
There is no bevel around the edge. We need the screen to be as close as possible to the IR overlay so that there is a minimum of distance between when a touch is detected by the IR sensor and when your finger touches the screen.
The viewing angle is excellent, even from the top and bottom. The top/bottom viewing angle is bad on many monitors because you are rarely looking at a TV from significantly above or below it (as opposed to sitting off to the side). But we plan to have people sitting all around the table.
It was on sale at Best Buy for the super bowl.
It may be the only one of its kind that was sold during that sale that wasn’t used to watch the super bowl.
A multitouch table is a computer with a large display that can detect multiple fingers and or objects that are touching the display. Each of these fingers/objects can be tracked by the computer and used to control the software. Think Minority Report.
Imagine being able to play board games without having to waste time setting up and putting away the game, without having to have a ‘banker’, without misinterpreted rules. Or imagine playing computer games where your team or opponents are sitting around the table with you. Currently, the price of these systems put them outside the mainstream, but as the technology improves, I think they will be adopted by more and more people.
William has been in the market for a multitouch table for a long time and has considered several options.
Projector and web-cam with acrylic screen
Microsoft Surface and Surface 2
Each of the options above has some advantages and disadvantages:
The projector/web-cam approach is what he considered first because it allows a large screen while keeping the cost low(ish). The main concern with this option is that there would be a lot of trial and error involved in getting the projector and camera setup in a reliable manor.
The Microsoft surface is a nice, if expensive, system. The original surface was a $7000 30″ unit. It was a little small and the sides of the table came straight down making it inconvenient to sit around. Surface 2.0 just came out. It is $10000, has a 40″ screen and looks like a normal table. It also has a per-pixel camera system so that it can detect objects and read bar codes on the bottoms of objects set on the surface. Another disadvantage is that the computer is built into the surface which would make it difficult to upgrade.
Multitouch monitors are smaller than we are looking for in a gaming table. And the large ones are prohibitively expensive.
The IR sensor system is an overlay that you can place over the top of any monitor that detects objects that break the ring of IR lights. It is a cheaper solution. William recently found a company called Mesa Mundi which sells large multitouch IR sensors. It turns out that an early prototype of their system is being used for a D20 gaming session being held at Gryphon Games in Fort Collins this weekend.