Project statement

This is the place to contribute to the next version of ZunTzu.

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Jerome
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Project statement

Post by Jerome »

[EDIT: this information is mostly obsolete as of october 2012. ZunTzu 2 is not developed using Silverlight.]

Here is a short description of what I have in mind for ZunTzu 2:

ZunTzu 2 is about improving ZunTzu 1 while keeping the same philosophy of the virtual game table.

I believe ZunTzu 1 is suffering from these limitations:
  1. it is not a web application, and thus could be intimidating for new users
  2. the connectivity issues can drive users mad
  3. there's no lobby service to meet players, chat and discover games in progress
  4. there's no tool to help with game box design
  5. finding and sharing game boxes could be made easier
  6. the user experience can be improved for some types of games: collectible card games, some dice scenarios, some card scenarios, game money, score tracking, ...
  7. game editors will welcome conversions if they are given more control on how their games are used online
Regarding 1: Silverlight would make ZunTzu feel like a web application. Silverlight 4 looks promising and fun, with support for microphones and webcams. Its current support is limited, but it should expand quickly to Mac, and possibly some handheld platforms. I'm new to Silverlight, so I still have to assess its possibilities and - more importantly - its limitations.

Regarding 2: Silverlight has serious cross-domain networking limitations for security reasons. The idea would be to tunnel all communication through a network of Access Points. Access Points would communicate with each others using UDP. Users with UDP connectivity could host an Access Point on their computers, others would connect from Silverlight to an Access Point shared by another user. The list of Access Points will be maintained by a centralized server.

Regarding 3: the lobby service will be built into ZunTzu 2. The list of games and users will be maintained by a centralized server.

Regarding 4: the design tool will be built into ZunTzu 2. The design process will be kept simple - it's a strong point of ZunTzu. Users will be able to tweak game mechanics during games, to lower the complexity during the design phase. All existing game boxes will be compatible.

Regarding 5: users will be able to download missing boxes from other users as they join a game. It will thus be possible to have games mixing components from several different boxes - game extensions!

Regarding 6: this will be the most fun obviously, and probably the most difficult to make right. I'm thinking about multi-selection, viewports, undocked dice, blocks, timestamped notes, bean bags, score-o-meters, timers, ...

Regarding 7: the centralized server could be used for License Activation. Here is an example of a typical licensing scenario: each cardboard game box packs a paper with a product code to unlock the game in ZunTzu.

Some proof-of-concepts will have to be made to investigate possible issues:
- how to display huge graphics efficiently? ZunTzu 1 uses hardware-accelerated graphics and compressed textures - not useable with Silverlight. Is there a limitation in the memory working set of Silverlight?
- how to implement voice communication? With the lobby service and users moving in and out of games, using a third party tool will become more and more difficult. A built-in voice communication system will be a big plus.
Last edited by Jerome on 05 Oct 2012, 08:06, edited 1 time in total.
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Bill Barrett
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Post by Bill Barrett »

Jerome,

That all sounds fantastic and well worth doing :D

My only real concern is with the graphics issue - if Silverlight isn't able to match the performance of ZunTzu on a standalone PC (with a good graphics card) then it would be a retrograde step.

The zooming/panning power of ZT is far and away its greatest asset in my opinion...

Regards, Bill.
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Jerome
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Post by Jerome »

I agree.
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thitan
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Post by thitan »

Jerome you are doing a good work. I was doing a game box and i saw many things that you can do.

1)many game box use counters in the place of cards, this do that the player use many time in the setup of the game. i think that you could do a deck option on game box to the games that have a pre-made deck. move all the card of the deck is good.
2)select many thinks per time like pressing the left button and move, like the windons software, to select many counters or cards.
3)apear a text box to the players can write and another box to see the moviment of the others players.
4)a way of the player can control the other player movement. to they can't take counters when don't are their time to play in the turn. i see two ways to do this:
a) a player that host the game will be the unic player that can take all in all time and other are limited because they not a host.(this is a option of game creation or gamebox)
b) do a time limit to play in your turn or liberate the moviment of the other player when you pass your turn (this two is the options on the game creation)

5)friend list will be a good idea.
6)liberation to players can do game boxs and create all that they can imaginate, many peoples can do a game and many of these have good ideas to boardgames. i think that zuntsu can help these pleople to do new boardgames. doing tutorial to do game box and a creation box interface.
7) a shortcut to the player can see the rules. the player will download a .pdf rule if he want, and add in the zuntsu folder to see more fast in the game.

all these are ideas. i think that are many stuffs to do. and i know that is hard.
congratulation to the work!!! zuntsu rocks.
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Post by bggames01 »

Silverlight is a very young, immature and unproven technology. I am worried about the performance and the general pain that web applications are. It is nice to have cross-platform ability, but I'd rather see a well performing windows only application than a cross-platform hog web-app. A non-web app doesn't need to be intimidating to new users if it has an easy to understand and use interface, just as a web app can be intimidating if it has a horrible user interface. It is not the technology that makes it easy to use, it's the design. On the other hand, no matter how horrible the interface, if it has the features people want they will still come to it (VASSAL).

What is the plan B if your proof of concept(s) show Silverlight can't do it?

A lobby service and centralized list of games is really useful and wouldn't be that complicated to implement if done right from the start. It will have to be smart enough to handle different versions of gameboxes, and not annoy box developers during testing.

If I understand point 2 correctly, the actual games are still peer-to-peer, and the ZunTzu server will simply keep a list of open clients? So NAT/firewalls will still be a problem to play even though it's a web app?

Will it be possible to, for example, play solo offline without the ZunTzu server?

Is the idea still to have the community develop gameboxes? Or is the goal to make ZunTzu a platform for commercial gaming? Who will make those gameboxes that will require a license? Have you been in negotiation with publishers?

If you can get cross-platform voice chat working through a web app, than cool, but I wouldn't make it a priority. First make sure it has proper text chat (not the buggy feature-starved chat ZunTzu currently has).
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Post by Jerome »

bggames01 wrote:It is not the technology that makes it easy to use, it's the design. On the other hand, no matter how horrible the interface, if it has the features people want they will still come to it (VASSAL).
Point taken. The idea is to port the existing look-and-feel to Silverlight. The user experience will be the same - except for the setup and the new features.
Nevertheless I think the current setup experience can be frustrating: 3D graphics, microphone, network... Many things can go wrong.
bggames01 wrote:What is the plan B if your proof of concept(s) show Silverlight can't do it?
If the proof-of-concept fails, I will open the source and develop ZunTzu 2 based on the existing .NET technology.
bggames01 wrote:If I understand point 2 correctly, the actual games are still peer-to-peer, and the ZunTzu server will simply keep a list of open clients? So NAT/firewalls will still be a problem to play even though it's a web app?
Yes, it will be peer-to-peer and the list of open access points will be maintained by the master server. Joining a game will be a simple matter of selecting a game session in a list.
The NAT/firewalls problems will not annoy the casual users anymore because it will be addressed by the more knowledgeable users hosting access points.
Users hosting access points will share their bandwidth with the community and they will have a better game experience in return - reduced lag.
bggames01 wrote:Will it be possible to, for example, play solo offline without the ZunTzu server?
I don't see why it wouldn't be possible.
The master server will probably be required to play with other people through the Internet. It's a price to pay for simplicity. I suppose it is a reasonable risk according to the past records of my hosting service.
bggames01 wrote:Is the idea still to have the community develop gameboxes? Or is the goal to make ZunTzu a platform for commercial gaming? Who will make those gameboxes that will require a license? Have you been in negotiation with publishers?
Yes, everyone will be allowed to make ZunTzu game boxes.

Most ZunTzu game boxes are based on existing published games, and that raises some issues. Not all game publishers welcome free conversions of their games, and I think it's legitimate:
- Some publishers are happy to advertise their games and offer free online play to their customers. In my opinion they make some of the best-looking game boxes.
- Some publishers are not aware of ZunTzu or don't care or prefer not to be involved. They let users share home-made game boxes as long as it is not detrimental to their business. Sometimes it is just too difficult to track the right owners to get the authorizations (designer, artist, translator, ...) so everyone is enjoying the situation - I call it the YouTube model.
- Some publishers simply don't want their intellectual property to be used. They send me mails to remove links from the Files list - some mails are friendly, some are not.

Enabling encrypted images in ZunTzu has been beneficial to the community: some publishers gave their permissions only because of that feature.

I theorize that if a license scheme was available, some game boxes that do not exist today would be made possible. Those game boxes would not necessarily come at an additional cost - for instance a publisher could decide to ship a ZunTzu code in every cardboard game box sold.

I have be approached by some small publishers who were interested in selling ZunTzu game boxes. Right now I'm not sure how the license scheme will be implemented. I'm not even sure it can be done as part of an open source project because every DRM I know relies on some form of obfuscation.
bggames01 wrote:If you can get cross-platform voice chat working through a web app, than cool, but I wouldn't make it a priority. First make sure it has proper text chat (not the buggy feature-starved chat ZunTzu currently has).
Voice chat is not a priority.
I wasn't aware that ZunTzu's text chat was buggy or feature-starved - I'm not a text chatting person. Please explain! All inputs are welcome! ;-)
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Post by bggames01 »

I think I misunderstood the part about the access points.

The problems with chat are (unless I missed something):
- no history, once the text fades it's gone, and that is not always convenient, it means you have to keep paying attention or you might miss something
- some of the player colors make text chat very very difficult to read (mostly dark blue)
- when a game is running for quite a long time (1 or 2 hours) the text starts to stay on the screen (it no longer fades properly), the whole screen (on the left chat side) starts to be covered by the text. At least it allows you to see what was said before, but the way it looks I don't think it was meant to work this way
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Post by Jerome »

bggames01 wrote:The problems with chat are (unless I missed something):
Now I understand. Thanks. We'll have to do better in the next version. ;-)
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Gamebox creation tool

Post by greyowl »

I believe that the creation and proliferation of game-boxes will greatly increased with such a tool(ZunTzu Designer). Many users have the ability to point and click. A tool that would effectively create the .xml for them after designating image files and answering a few questions/fill in the blank forms would allow those who are less tech savvy to create game-boxes. Can't wait for ZunTzu 2.0!!
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