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I’m Attacking The (VR) Darkness

First things first — Star Wars: Battlefront releases today, and if you haven’t already, head on over here and check out Orion’s excellent op-ed on the game. He spent a good chunk of time in the beta, and wrote a well-argued piece from a place of love. I highly recommend it.

And now, because I have my finger on the pulse of Relevant Topics, I’m going to talk about something entirely different.

(And no, it’s not Guild Wars 2. Yet. Or I guess, again. Hush, you.)

A screenshot of AltspaceVR's D&D program, via one of their YouTube videos.

Dungeons & Dragons-on-computers is something people have been trying to make work for a long, long time, and now AltspaceVR is taking a shot.

In partnership with D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast, they’ve put together a special edition of one of their beta programs, Table-Top Gaming Program V20, and given it a D&D implementation. Users can don their Oculus Rift DK2s and push minis around a tabletop in a virtual tavern, dungeon, or otherwise, joining a DM who has a few extra powers (just like in paper D&D).

Neatly, AltspaceVR (which raised $10.3M in funding in June) sidesteps a major possible issue of VR-D&D by integrating 2D browser panels into the interface. This makes it easy to have reference materials, Google Docs, and any of the thousands of RPG-assistant websites handy on a moment’s notice — something that would otherwise be difficult when you’ve got black plastic goggles the size of a Brandon Sanderson novel clamped to your face.

It looks, in a word, promising.

A screenshot of AltspaceVR's D&D program, via one of their YouTube videos.

Now, I’ve been playing D&D for close to twenty years (he says, eyes narrowing like Clint Eastwood as he remembers the days of THAC0 and actuarial tables full of obscure polearms), and I have to say, the thing that makes me happiest about this news has nothing to do with the program at all.

Wizards of the Coast has never, ever been top-of-the-line when it comes to their digital offerings. Ever since the days of that little “Character Generator 1.0” CD in the back of the Third Edition Player’s Handbook, many of the various programs, promises, and plans Wizards puts out have been plagued with issues.

(Notably, Wizards had some much-ballyhooed plans for a “Virtual Table” for D&D Fourth Edition that were scrapped outright, and if you ask a Magic: the Gathering Online player what they think of the program they use, their eyes will probably narrow much like mine did two paragraphs ago.)

So I’m very glad to see them hand the reins for this off to a born-and-bred Silicon Valley tech company. It’s a great step forward — let AltspaceVR do what’s within their expertise, and stick to keeping pen-and-paper D&D a vibrant cultural touchstone, like it’s been for the past forty years or so.

Now to go bug Kevin Carbotte and see if he’ll let me borrow our Oculus Rift DK2…

Jesse Mackenzie is the Managing Editor of aybonline.com. He can be reached at jessem@aybonline.com, and his opinions are his own.

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