The Origin of Battlegrounds: RPG

A "blog" of sorts to track development progress, discuss design theory, etc.
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The Origin of Battlegrounds: RPG

Post by heruca » Wed Nov 23, 2005 10:59 pm

I first started working on this project around 1999. As is so common nowadays, my group of friends had drifted apart geographically after college. Since the existing Virtual Tabletops on the market at the time didn't support GURPS, I decided to make my own GURPS-specific game engine that I would use to play with my friends online. At the time I called it GURPS Internet Collaborator, or GURPS IC.

For a while, Steve Jackson Games was interested in the project, but were unable to fund it in any way, and were unwilling to give me the rights to use (or even license) their artwork from the Cardboard Heroes line of paper minis, which I had scanned in and was using as the basis for the figure and prop artwork.

The project went into limbo for a number of years, until early 2005. I found myself unemployed and decided to resurrect GURPS IC, and see if I could sell it as shareware.

That's when I stumbled across the Dundjinni mapping software, by Fluid Entertainment. Seeing the beautiful output from DJ, and the enormous amount of free artwork posted by their fans, well, that changed everything.

I decided that if I was going to sell this as shareware, that I'd want as wide a user base as possible. So I ripped out all the GURPS-specific code and functions and rewrote the program almost from the ground up to support ANY RPG ruleset.

This required adding support for square grids, since GURPS IC only used a hexgrid. The Dice Roller in GURPS IC was for d6 only (since GURPs uses nothing but d6), so I added all of the usual polyhedral dice. About the only thing I kept from GURPS IC is support for multiple computer platforms, which should really appeal to gaming groups that might have a mix of Macs and PCs among their members.

To better support DJ artwork and maps, I added support for PNG files (previously I had been working with JPEGs), and added tools for customizing any artwork brought into the game. I also increased the size of the battlemap to match the size of DJ maps.

Of course, I had also learned a lot more about programming since 1999, so I was able to optimize a lot of the pre-existing code to be faster, more efficient, and more stable. The result is VERY stable. Sure, I get error messages once in a while (quite normal during the development of such a complex project), but it never actually crashes.

The multiuser code was totally rewritten from scratch, and is now far superior and much more responsive compared to what it was in GURPS IC.

Another drastic change was to the user interface. Whereas GURPS IC used to have a menubar and a toolbar across the top of the screen, I decided to redesign the interface so that it is hidden away whenever it isn't needed. This should also make Battlegrounds much more appealing to people who plan to use the software with a projector in their face-to-face sessions.

The UI changes ended up making the program a lot easier to learn & use. Something that had always bothered me about existing Virtual Tabletop software was the steep learning curve, not just for GMs, but for players, as well.

Lastly, since RPGs exist for many different genres, I made sure that everything about the game was generic, and not themed to any specific genre. That genre-neutral philosophy applies to everything about the game, from the application's custom icon to the game's logo. I even picked the name "Battlegrounds" because it works with any genre. Most of what happens on a battlemap is, of course, combat, so the name "Battlegrounds" really appealed to me. So if any of you were wondering, any similarity in name to Fantasy Grounds is completely coincidental.

So there you have it, the complete story of how Battlegrounds game to be.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Halebop » Thu Nov 24, 2005 1:15 am

Cool background. An epic in the making.

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Post by Kepli » Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:23 am

:D
Nice to read where this is all coming from :wink:
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Post by dDemonicAngels » Thu Nov 24, 2005 9:00 pm

I love a good backstory. Now let the adventure begin...

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Post by Old Sparky » Mon Nov 28, 2005 8:54 pm

Thanks for thinking of my needs so far in advance... even if you had me pegged for the wrong game system.


What? Not about me? Sure feels like it is... I can't wait to play around with the demo.
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Post by heruca » Mon Nov 28, 2005 9:32 pm

Heh, but are you SURE you're using the right system? :wink:
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GURPS and Mac Support?!?!?!

Post by unteins » Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:40 am

I must be dead or dreaming as a product is released that supports both GURPS and the Mac....unreal. What's even more amazing is that it was originally a GURPS based product. Very cool.

As a GURPS player and Mac user I usually get left out in the cold. I wish I could get my brother online more, but he's out of the country and our schedules don't mesh well.

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Post by heruca » Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:49 am

Welcome, unteins.

Always nice to see fellow GURPS players. How did you find out about the site?

As for playing with your brother, if you really can't find a way to be online at the same time, you might be interested to know that in the not-too-distant future it might be possible to use BRPG in a play-by-post mode.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by unteins » Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:27 am

I think I found the site through a San Francisco GURPS Yahoo group maybe. About a week or two ago I opened up the page, but I just got around to reading the site.

That's interesting to know about play by post. I've been wondering if BRGP and iChat's audio chat will be a good playing experience.

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Post by heruca » Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:29 pm

I'm a big fan of iChat, but other voice chat software (like Skype) might be more viable if some of your players are on Windows PCs.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Old Sparky » Fri Dec 02, 2005 10:42 pm

heruca wrote:Heh, but are you SURE you're using the right system? :wink:
Well, I wouldn't go that far either... after all, in addition to the current version of D&D, my friends and I still enjoy the hell out of ye olde Marvel Super Heroes RPG, too. And surely, that just cannot be right!! 8)
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Post by Mind Flayer Monk » Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:37 am

Nice read.

I'd like to hear more about some of the problems you faced in the design and features you added etc, and the pricess of how you did it :D

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Post by heruca » Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:59 am

Yeah, I'll need to post another installment to this thread soon. This one's getting old. :)

For now, I'll mention that one of the challenges facing me right now is avoiding feature-bloat. Some people seem to want just a simple tool for moving minis on a map, nothing more. Others want me to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. My goal is to please as many people as possible, without the software becoming too difficult to use. I want people to be up and playing just minutes after installing the software, and not have to spend hours or days learning how to use it.

I also want to get the software released as soon as possible, so that people can start to use it and can provide more concise feedback. If I wait until I have every possible feature I want, we'll all be waiting for a VERY long time.
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Post by masterlurker » Tue Dec 06, 2005 12:12 am

heruca wrote:For now, I'll mention that one of the challenges facing me right now is avoiding feature-bloat. Some people seem to want just a simple tool for moving minis on a map, nothing more. Others want me to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. My goal is to please as many people as possible, without the software becoming too difficult to use. I want people to be up and playing just minutes after installing the software, and not have to spend hours or days learning how to use it.
It's a subjective subject: having a simple tool for moving minis is fun, but if you have to pay for it most people would want as much bang for thier buck as they can get. At the same time, anyone who's ever played Chivelry and Sorcery or Rolemaster and didn't like it can tell you that feature bloat is a real pain. Personally, I'd like a lot of optional features, as long as it didn't interfere with the main focus of the game--playing the role of someone else. Technically, all you need to role-play online is AOL Instant Messenger and a JAVA-based diceroller, but we all know what kind of people rough it like that ("and then we had to walk uphill, 8 miles, in heavy snow, just to get to our dungeons...") :P

Just my 0.02$, might want to make a poll someplace to gauge your community's overall opinion.
~lurker~
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What a long way it's come

Post by heruca » Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:28 pm

This is the first ever screencapture of what was eventually to become BRPG. It's laughable, of course, but every journey begins with a first step. The graphic is dated October 30, 1999.

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:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Kepli » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:55 pm

Aha ... GURPS <grin>
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Post by Halebop » Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:37 pm

hehe. Not quite Dundjinni is it?

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Post by Scrotok » Tue Mar 14, 2006 2:54 am

Awesome, Heruca! WOOHOO!!!

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Still reading

Post by stargazr » Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:18 am

Heruca,
Just wanted to let you know people were still reading these threads :roll:
Everyone presumably starts out life with lots of luck and very little in the way of common sense...the secret is to have lots of common sense by the time your luck runs out.

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Post by heruca » Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:34 am

:)

Maybe this story can come full circle soon. I'm thinking of contacting SJ Games again soon to see if they'd be interested in a GURPS-specific version of BRPG.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Sholari » Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:25 am

I've been searching for a tabletop online tool for years now, with my main focus being to convert the system to a Gurps based system. I had invested alot of time and energy in modifing Fantasy Grounds only to have my work become obsolete when FG became FGII. Stumbling across Battlegrounds gives me hope. Thanks!!!!!

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Post by heruca » Sun Nov 25, 2007 11:38 am

Welcome, Sholari.

Always nice to see a fellow GURPS player on here.

Just wait until BRPG v1.3 comes out. I think it will take things to a new level, and not just for GURPS players.
Last edited by heruca on Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by tdwyer11b » Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:27 pm

Sholari wrote:I had invested alot of time and energy in modifing Fantasy Grounds only to have my work become obsolete when FG became FGII. Stumbling across Battlegrounds gives me hope. Thanks!!!!!
You weren't the only one Sholari, guess that's why we're here now ;)

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