Tabletop role-playing games have been popular for over 40 years, but organizing a game isn't always the easiest of tasks - especially if some of your friends live far away. But this may soon change, as VR company AltspaceVR has announced a partnership with D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast that will bring the world of Dungeons and Dragons into an online virtual reality setting.
AltspaceVR says its free service "provide[s] the most complete, effective, and fun way for people to be together when they are not in the same physical space," and supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Perception Neuron, Leap Motion, and Microsoft Kinect. It works a bit like a 3D version of Skype (using simple graphics), with users able to create rooms and invite people into private sessions where they can interact in virtual reality.
"D&D is extremely social, which is why we are so excited to offer it in AltspaceVR," Eric Romo, founder and CEO of AltspaceVR, said in a statement. "Players love it! We've seen them hang out together for sessions lasting six hours---previously only developers spent that long in VR."
For the D&D game - based on the 2014 version - players are represented by an avatar as the session is played out on a virtual tabletop inside a tavern. There are 2D 'tomes' positioned around the table for players to access their character sheet and stats. These also act as web browsers so players can look up game rules or research enemies (there are a lot of both).
Additionally, players can use the many-sided dice - a core mechanic in D&D games - by selecting them from their position above the table. This makes them perform a virtual roll that does a pretty good job of recreating the real thing.
"AltspaceVR bridges the gap between Dungeons & Dragons video games and physically sitting around a table with friends," added Nathan Stewart, brand director for Dungeons & Dragons. "You get the same sense of excitement and drama in the AltspaceVR tavern, from laughing at your buddy's funny goblin voice to watching the d20 bounce and finally land on the natural 20 you needed to hit the beholder terrorizing your party."
Recreating the tabletop experience online has been tried many times before but it never managed to capture the feeling of the physcial games. AltspaceVR's D&D game looks like it may change this, and could lead to other traditionally offline games entering the virtual reality space.