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Thread: Why no 3D?

  1. #1

    Why no 3D?

    Fantasy Grounds is super cool in terms of rules and dice, no doubt about that. But, let's face it - you can add all the dynamic lighting and colors you want, but it still looks terrible compared to so many other things - because it's still 100% 2D. I mean, yeah, at least it looks better than Roll20, but so does any teenager's web site. Looking better than Roll20 is a pretty low bar.

    I don't follow every announcement from Smiteworks, so maybe they have addressed this or have it on a roadmap somewhere, but as a backer of FG Unity, I know I didn't see it addressed anywhere in all the lists of upcoming improvements or roadmaps at the time I pledged. I remember being highly disappointed that it didn't even appear to be anywhere on the radar. Whether that's changed, I don't know.

    In 1998 - 22 years ago! - the game Baldur's Gate was released for desktop computers. It was one of the very first CRPGs to use an isometric "2.5D" perspective. You couldn't rotate the camera, but at least it looked 3D from the default angle. And since then there have been hundreds of CRPGs that are in 3D. Diablo, Pillars of Eternity, Divinity, etc, just to name a very few. "But those are huge triple-A games", you're saying. "Those games have million-dollar budgets and huge resources that Smiteworks doesn't have." Well, I can point to dozens of small, indy games that are done by just one or two people that have at least simple 3D graphics - even if they aren't animated.

    I was watching a random video on Youtube the other day and came across the screenshot I attached below. I don't even know the name of the game, and the art and models are pretty simple. But they're still far ahead of FG. They show that it's hardly impossible for a small indy team to at least have some basic 3D.

    You might think "Who cares? It's just eye candy!" Well, no, not really. We play RPGS because they're fun. We like to pretend. And anything that adds to that atmosphere makes the game better. It's called immersion. There's a reason people turn down the lights and put on candles. There's a reason FG has themes and fonts. There's a reason people put on music or use Syrinscape. Because anything that helps us pretend to be other people in other places doing cool stuff is a good thing.

    And of course the visual sense is probably the most primary at all. When I'm fighting a dragon, it's pretty lame to just see it as a 2D circle that happens to have a bigger diameter than my character's little 2D circle. It's not scary or intimidating or anything. I want to see it towering over my little dude! Look at the image I put below. It's not super fancy. It's not high res. The models may not even be animated. But it gives you a sense of the atmosphere and the scale and position of things. But it looks a hundred times better than the current FG.

    Now, I know that Smiteworks is not a huge company. I know there isn't a big pile of money hanging around to spend on modelers, animators, and extra programmers. But it doesn't have to go from 2D to 4K realtime ray-traced overnight or anything. I would be happy with just a basic start. And, happily - finally! - the game is on the Unity engine which happens to handle 3D internally quite easily - even with physics support! (can you say "knockback", anyone? "Fireball explosions"?).

    So the engine can now handle it. And there are a lot of folks out there with Unity experience. The only possible issue might be obtaining or developing a library of licensed 3D models, animations, and special effects. But even that doesn't have to be a big deal. There are lots of ways of obtaining them, and again, it doesn't have to happen all at once. Of course Smiteworks could make some themselves (maybe just one guy doing the most-common models like player classes, Orcs, furniture, etc). There are also libraries of pre-made models and textures that can be purchased. There are a whole slew of free, no-license-needed models out there in copyleft-land. And of course, players and users of FG could make and submit their own - subject, of course, to an approval process, or maybe only use them locally.

    At any rate, I'm a huge fan of FG and Smiteworks and this is not at all intended to be a screed or complaint. All I'm saying is "I'm a customer and a backer and it makes me sad that apparently there are no plans to take the game into 3D. Well, now there is the easy capability do so so - when can we expect it to start happening? It doesn't all have to happen at once." Seriously, I'd be happy at first with just static, unanimated models that move like chess pieces. There's so much that could be done with FG. Of course Smiteworks wants to maintain control and not have it be a free-for-all, and they have shown a lot of flexibility with allowing fans to develop their own extensions. It's awesome and I applaud them for their good community relations. I think that a bold, super cool new thing like this is worth putting a lot of other minor features on the back burner for. I hope they keep up that kind of transparency, and perhaps even extend it a bit into an even-more collaborative effort with the users in the area of graphics and 3D.

    Well, I guess I've had my say! Have a fun winter everyone, thank goodness we have games and FG to pass the time!

    Attachment 41269

  2. #2
    JohnD's Avatar
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    If you want 3d, get ready to play 1 game every 6 weeks or so. It will take your DM a lot longer to prepare sessions.
    DMing since February 1979. FGC & FGU Ultimate License holder.

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  3. #3
    mattekure's Avatar
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    What would 3D add to a virtual tabletop? Its not a first person shooter, or an MMORPG where all of it is made for you. Its a simulation of a tabletop to facilitate playing with friends. I dont see what 3d would add to that.

    and I agree with JohnD. Prep time would be insane if DM's had to do 3d modeling for everything.

  4. #4
    Kelrugem's Avatar
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    I did now not read everything, but yes, surely it would add extremely to immersion, and I think that in the long run VTTs will move towards supporting 3D, but I would not expect it in the short term (though there are already VTTs out there supporting 3D, but their 3D assets.... well, let us say, most 2D maps look way better )

    But, as the others said, 3D support cannot come without enough support of (nice-looking) assets for that, and modules having prebuilt 3D things would be probably needed, too. Many people use official adventure bought in the store; when the publishers like WotC do not natively support 3D stuff there, it is unlikely that there will be 3D maps and so on such that such a feature would not be used a lot (when there would be now suddenly such a feature)

    However, I think that this feature will and should come in the veryyy long run, before that I suppose that isometric/2.5D stuff gets more popular (and I am already excited about using isometric maps but I would like to have more support for that before) Maybe think of vtt development as a much slower but similar evolution as for computer games in that regard

    So, it is not just about whether or not the engine is able to do 3d stuff, it also depends on many other things to make something like this viable for a company like SmiteWorks Before that, features like dynamic lighting are way more important (from which 3D would also benefit) support of animations is also probably something which comes before that, and so on

    EDIT: In general I think that with enough support to reduce the preparation it will surely work out, just arguing with preparation time would lead to denying all new possible features (animated maps, sounds, etc.; hell, how much time I spent for sounds! ), and people who do not want to spend time on that can still use the typical things I know people who build a lot of 3d assets for their games at real tables, and their is a market for these 3d things; so, in general I do not see a reason why it should not be possible to have 3d vtt Just a matter of support and interest etc
    Last edited by Kelrugem; November 18th, 2020 at 03:00.

  5. #5
    I would love to see it (heck, Pathfinder Kingmaker is Unity, so basically what the OP is saying).

    There is Tabletop Simulator. I have not played a game in it but a Savage Worlds blogger is a big fan and post videos of it. It looks like what the name says - like tossing out terrain for your tabletop (and all the limitations - "that fig over there is really a fire giant, not a frost giant cuz I have not found a fire giant yet).

    One of these days, all the cool features will merge into one platform. I'll probably be too senile to appreciate it.

  6. #6
    JohnD's Avatar
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    This is a true situation.

    Before I found FG, I ran games using Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2.

    NWN2 had a lot more 3d in areas.

    I spent 46 hours working on an adventure area. 46 hours on top of family commitments, work, errands, etc....

    Well, my group of players spent 40 minutes on that.

    So 46 hours of work on a visual environment for not even an hour of actual game time.

    That's an example of what your DM would be working through unless they used pregenerated content that already had this stuff done.

    So... a lot more time spent making the adventure meaning fewer actual game sessions.
    DMing since February 1979. FGC & FGU Ultimate License holder.

    Currently GMing:
    * C&C Greyhawk | Yggsburgh and Castle Zagyg (Monday | Friday)
    * AD&D The Night Below (Wednesday)
    * Rolemaster Greyhawk (Thursday)
    * AD&D Bandit Kingdoms (Friday)
    * AD&D Kron Hills (Saturday)

    Thanks for 8+ years of gaming via FG my friends (AD&D 2e / 3.5e / Rolemaster Classic / Castles & Crusades / Pathfinder / Savage Worlds / 5e / Traveller 2e)!

  7. #7
    Tabletop roleplaying games are not computer games and VTT software is not Infinity engine. 3D is cool, effects are nice gimmick, but the more and more emphasis is put on those, the less quality and the actual role-playing diminishes. As JohnD said, timeprep will be horrible. Today I waste most time on finding nice looking or creating a map for the VTT. Before pandemic, we played face to face with Chessex wet-erasable battle matt and it was much better and faster than any VTT to set up ad-hoc encounters. But it is what it is.
    The past is a rudder to guide us, not an anchor to hold us back.

  8. #8
    I know the discussion here is about 3D visuals, but I think it is interesting to bring up 'mechanical' 3D also.
    I don't want to spend more time on assets, so 3D maps are of no benefit to me (yet). However, MANY rulesets include flight and even without this there are situations of higher ground/lower ground.
    Implementing the distance measurement and potentially LOS implications of this would be where I would like to see improvement first.
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  9. #9
    Kelrugem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Valyar View Post
    3D is cool, effects are nice gimmick, but the more and more emphasis is put on those, the less quality and the actual role-playing diminishes.
    What do you mean with that? I never understood that argument, so, why should RP be less when there are more graphics used? Or is it just about that more time is spent then on the map such that less time is spent on preparing the RP? Then yes, I understand But when something takes too much time for one, then I would simply not use it, also just theatre of mind is possible in FG (and with FGU one may be able to simulate your table experience when it is about the drawing stuff, though there is still the method with using just a generic background with global mask and then to unmask it to simulate the "drawing")

    But that is why I said that enough support is then needed, to avoid that it takes too much time Depending on assets, quick battlemaps should be as quickly done as 2d ones; when it is about details, then it will surely "eat" time, because one may start to search for certain assets (but then I'd prefer just to mention that detail via words as I already do when the 2d map does not show certain things)

    Bmos mentions a good point, mechanical 3D is indeed more important and I would really like to see features for that, because that is indeed something which one faces very often, regardless of the number of dimensions of our maps

  10. #10
    I may be wrong, but I think the original poster was not talking about all things 3D. The examples given were explosions and graphics behaviors that would come from the engine as the result of some spell/action/token overlay. That is zero setup from the DM's perspective and purely a glitzy option for the game developers to provide.

    So while I agree with the Neverwinter nights variety of 3D map/sound/etc stuff being horrific for the DM to prepare - adding explosion graphics (think batman tv show in 60's BAP BIF BOOM) in 3D on a 2D platform is still sort of cool. And as locations and map distances come into play graphically representing auras, areas of effect, and spell results with a bit of 3D zing is not a burden to any DM.

    Having said that, the game dev's have a long way to go to get the simple 2D tabletop world and interfaces into it fully working and fleshed out before they should even contemplate doing this. IMHO.
    Last edited by SilentRuin; November 18th, 2020 at 15:39.
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