– Hottest Game News Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:23:00 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Why Pokémon Go isn’t coming to the Apple Watch Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:23:00 +0000 Pokémon Go is an amazing game that, to date, offers only limited interaction with the world around you. You find the pocket monsters, you try to capture them in your Poké Balls and you play a basic minigame when you’re battling for control of a gym. All this is done via the touchscreen of your iOS or Android device. You can read our guide if you’re interested in the game’s basics, or get to started yourself.

It would be perfect for the Apple Watch, in fact.

“The Apple Watch’s purpose is to reduce the amount of time you spend with your iPhone, and a companion Pokémon Go app for your wrist could do so much more than just alert you to nearby monsters,” Macworld recently wrote.

“The smartphone game guides you to find Pokémon by indicating with one to three paw prints how far away they are,” the story continues. “To catch them, you flick Poké Balls at them from your smartphone screen … Any of this could be done on the wrist, and could result in longer game sessions if you can leave your smartphone’s display off for a few more minutes at a time, giving your battery a break. I’d even wager that a lot of Pokémon Masters would pay to unlock a smartwatch app as an in-app purchase.”

It’s also unlikely to happen in the near future.

Why the Apple watch doesn’t make sense for Pokémon Go

It mostly comes down to money, and the odd mishmash of licensing and companies that led to the creation of Pokémon Go. This isn’t a Nintendo game, nor is it sold for that company’s hardware or through its virtual storefront. In fact, it’s possible that Nintendo is making the least from the game in comparison to its partners.

“The title was jointly developed by Niantic, Pokémon Company and Nintendo,” David Gibson, an analyst at Macquarie Research, told Business Insider. “It is unclear exactly what their economic interest is in the game, but we presume that out of every 100 units earned at the app store, 30 would go to Apple, 30 to Niantic, 30 to Pokémon and 10 to Nintendo.”

This isn’t as dire as it sounds. If the game continues at its current pace, or even levels off in the near future, there will be plenty of money for everyone. Just keep in mind each dollar that comes into the game is cut up between many large companies.

Nintendo still has a vested interest in keeping you on its hardware, even if that ship has sailed when it comes to the primary device for Pokémon Go. Players may be willing to spend a few bucks for a smartwatch app that offloads some of the game’s functionality from your phone’s screen, but Nintendo and The Pokémon Company would much rather sell you the $35 Pokémon Go Plus hardware.

That hardware doesn’t have a screen. It has a single button and an LED. It likely costs nothing to make and sells for $35, if you can find one. They seem to be hopelessly sold out. The hardware is also compatible with both iOS and Android.

This is all great news for the companies involved; they get to sell their own high-margin hardware while creating a feeling of scarcity in the product that’s impossible with a purely digital game, and they don’t have to split any of the revenue with Apple or Google. Why undercut their own product with an app that may, in fact, offer a better experience on smart watches?

That’s not to say they haven’t thought about it.

“The game takes place in the real world; it just so happens that you interface through whatever device you’re using, a phone or a watch,” John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs, told Theimgame in a previous story. “All of the fun of the game doesn’t have to be encapsulated on the tiny screen of a watch; that’s just the input and output mechanism.”

There was a version of Ingress created for Android smartwatches, in fact. But that was a whole different beast, and it’s unlikely Niantic, Nintendo or The Pokémon Company is that interested in trying the secondary app approach again.

Releasing their own, affordable hardware instead of trying to capitalize on the relative success of the Apple Watch is a much better financial strategy, even if it isn’t ideal for players who already own a smartwatch.

Our Pokémon Go PokéStop​

Your source for all things Pokémon Go


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In Obsidian’s new RPG Tyranny, you play a bad guy in a world where evil has won Tue, 30 Aug 2016 04:18:00 +0000 Watch on YouTube | Subscribe to Theimgame on YouTube

When developer Obsidian Entertainment showcased its latest title, Tyranny, at the PC Gaming Show last week, it came with an intriguing tagline: “Sometimes, evil wins.” As it turns out, the world the game takes place in is exactly one of those times.

Not only has evil already won in Tyranny‘s world, but players will take on the role of a character allied with the evil emperor now ruling over that world. As told by Alec Frey, who works in quality assurance for Obsidian, this is key to what sets the game apart from other role-playing games.

“You have the ability to be judge, jury and executioner,” Frey told Theimgame. “You make decisions in just about anything that goes on in the world. You can issue your brand of justice.”

The bad guys may have won, but that doesn’t make Tyranny‘s world any less politically tense. As you play the game, you’ll have choose between multiple factions, many of which ostensibly serve the same evil overlord, but all with their own motives and methods.

Choosing which factions you support and building reputation with them will take up much of the focus of Tyranny.

“Reputation is a very important part of our game,” said Frey. “Not only does it change how people react to you in the story, it also changes what skills and abilities you gain access to through the game.”

Those skills are important, too. As in most RPGs, combat takes up a good chunk of time in Tyranny, and it’s as tactical and challenging as anything Obsidian has done previously. You’ll be able to use skills like Sunder to lower enemies’ armor, or Blood Soaks Stone to knock an enemy to the ground. That latter one is a combo ability — one that’s only available when you’ve built up a strong enough reputation with one of your party members.

When it comes down to it, skills define the characters in Tyranny in a way that nothing else does.

“There’s always anarchy options”

“It’s really skill-based and not class-based,” explained Frey. “You build your character based off what you have them do. If you give them a one-handed sword and then teach them fire spells, they can be a fire spell one-handed sword fighter. It’s all however you want to build your character.”

That freedom carries over to the story as well, of course. Beyond choosing between multiple factions that are serving the big bad guy who took over the world, you can make the decision to join up with the rebels and fight against evil. Or you can just make choices that no one will be happy with.

“There’s always that option if you don’t believe in any of the factions,” Frey said. “You can always say, ‘No, I’m going to try to take care of this my own way.’ There’s always those anarchy options.”

In our demo, we played as a fighter on the rebel side, defending a fort against two invading factions at once. But upon reaching the final boss battle, we decided to take that anarchy option, betraying the rebel forces while remaining hunted by various other factions. Frey laughed, basically suggesting that we had set our character on a very difficult path. But it’s a path that Tyranny leaves open to players at all times.

“One of the challenges when making a Dungeons & Dragons-style game is that in a video game format, you can’t quite do everything like you can in Dungeons & Dragons,” said Frey. “Something Tyranny really excels at is giving you options to take any path that anyone might want to take.”

While Obsidian’s last RPG project, Pillars of Eternity, gained a reputation for its unforgiving difficulty, the developer is hoping to make Tyranny a little more approachable. Frey said that the game will include a huge variety of difficulty options, including some that allow you to “just walk your way through it, killing everything.” If you want all the story and none of the challenge, there should be an option for you.

“Tyranny excels at giving you options to take any path”

The developer also says it’s keeping fan requests from Pillars of Eternity players in mind as it creates a game that’s easier to pick up and understand. Mostly, though, it’s just thankful to have the chance to make another old-school RPG like this.

“The biggest thing we learned from Pillars of Eternity,” Frey said with a smile, “is the fact that there’s a community out there that wants these games and absolutely is behind them. We’ve listened to those fans.”

Tyranny will be out on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems some time later this year. Check out our video at the top of this article for a look at the game in action and how things can play out with characters of different factions.

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Xbox One summer update begins its rollout to users Mon, 29 Aug 2016 09:18:00 +0000 Xbox One’s summer update has begun rolling out to users this weekend. It may take a couple of days for some to receive the prompt that downloads the patch, but the update delivering Cortana, background music and more is on the way now.

The summer update is the roughly same collection of features pushed to Xbox One Preview in early June. The two biggest inclusions are Background Music and Cortana, and the game collection window has been cleaned up and made more useful, particularly in installing and updating games.

Background Music supports the Pandora app, which will launch soon on Xbox One. Later on Groove Music and iHeartRadio will join the console. (Spotify will not; it is currently available only on PlayStation 4). As its title implies, Background Music lets gamers play their favorite tunes as they game on Xbox One.

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Cortana, the virtual assistant well known to Windows 10 users, comes to the console to help users execute voice commands, perform searches and join multiplayer sessions with greater clarity. Cortana hears the user through either the Kinect microphone or a headset microphone plugged into a controller.

The improved Game Collection window helps users sort and view their installed games more easily. It also adds “Ready to Install” and “Update” tabs so that users can find games needing either process more quickly and get those downloads going.

Language independence, a highly requested feature, also comes with the summer update. It simply means that a user may set the language for his or her console to something other than the one used in his region; for example, using English even if they live in Germany. Xbox One will also be able to link a user’s Facebook account to find friends from the social network who are playing games. The console’s screenshot and video sharing has also been streamlined so that those tasks are more easily accomplished.

The summer update clears the way for the launch, on Tuesday, of the new Xbox One S (the 2 TB model; 500 GB and 1 TB editions go on shelves three weeks later). Other Xbox Live features announced at E3, such as Clubs, the Arena, and Looking for Group, will be added to the service with an update around the holiday season.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Spotify had an exclusive partnership with PlayStation. It does not. That reference has been removed.

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Overwatch has 10 million reasons devs should think about diversity Sat, 27 Aug 2016 16:41:00 +0000 I really enjoy playing Overwatch.

But it makes me think about an argument I had with a old coworker a few years ago about Team Fortress.

It’s shitty that Team Fortress doesn’t allow you to play as a woman, was my point. The game is clearly fun, but it could be even better.

I don’t really see the demand or need for it, was his.

It’s a game with an incredibly strong, deliberate design sense, and you can’t say the demand isn’t there when half the cosplayers I see are women doing genderbent versions of the classes. Half the fan art, too. They should add a female model for each class and let people choose, was my point.

That’s so much development work, was his.

Well, then they still could have just decided to make some of the classes default female during development, was my point.

But then people would inevitably complain about the roles they put them in being “stereotypical,” was his rebuttal.

And there were simply so many things to object to there …

  • That if they did it with even a little bit of consideration, they could avoid exclusively putting women in support roles or making them all roughly interchangeable sex dolls in a cast of male character models of all sizes and descriptions, two of the bigger problems with female character design in games.
  • That people would complain either way so why not take the time to put women in and do it right anyway, since representation for a greater variety of people is better than less.
  • That it was very clear from his tone that the speaker had already taken as gospel that anyone complaining about stereotypical representation of women in these entirely hypothetical class choices he was imagining was overreacting, wrong and probably not really interested in the game. You know. Not really.

… that I couldn’t form a response quick enough to stay on top of the disagreement.

Fast forward to me, and Overwatch.

Blizzard took the time in their development cycle to plan and create female character models in a variety of class roles, difficulty levels and silhouettes. They did it explicitly because they recognized that not doing so would restrict the game’s appeal. Overwatch isn’t perfect in its spread of gender and culture representations, but it’s a relatively mighty effort in its particular genre — and when one aspect, at least, of the game was criticized as being at odds with Blizzard’s stated goals of inclusivity and non-sexualized female characters, designers listened and adjusted course.

And it’s paying off. Overwatch had more than 7 million players at launch and has gained another 3 million in the following weeks. It’s a widely successful $60 game in a genre where the biggest names are all free to play. And that’s just the hard data.

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With my haphazardly put together list of followed blogs, my Tumblr feed is fandom heavy and only somewhat gaming adjacent — and even there it skews heavily towards story-focused RPGs. Overwatch is the only shooter I have ever seen crop up on my dashboard — and the game itself doesn’t even have a story. (What it does have is lore, an expansive timeline full of mysteries and hints, laid out piecemeal through official character descriptions, animated shorts and free comics — not in the game itself.)

I’m not a big shooter fan, but I dipped a toe into Team Fortress for a night because it was free and popular. It didn’t hold my interest. I pre-ordered Overwatch for the full $60, and I’ve been playing every spare evening since.

And I guess my point here is that one of the reasons I really enjoy playing Overwatch is that its success allows me to sit back like a tea lizard as every one of my old coworker’s excuses for leaving out playable female character models is ignored, subverted or disproved.

How many of those 10 million players are there because the game has an accessible backstory thick with a variety of diverse, strongly designed characters as well as a parent company that voiced its intent to do right by their representations of race, gender and sexuality and lent a respectful ear to folks who didn’t think their intent was following though? There’s no way to know.

But 10 million players should make you think about it.

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Report: High-end PS4, codename ‘Neo,’ to be detailed next month Sat, 27 Aug 2016 12:50:00 +0000 Sony will unveil an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4 on Sept. 7, according to reports from Vice Gaming and Gameblog. The announcement is said to come from an event held in New York City, similar to how the current model PS4 was unveiled.

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Further details remain scant on both the reveal and what the high-end PS4 will look like. The new console is referred to by the codename “Neo,” as reported back in April, and is said to have 4K support and other, more powerful specs. Sony itself confirmed that another version of the PS4 was on its way later this spring.

The PS4 “Neo,” PS4.5, PS4K or whatever name consumers know it by will be sold alongside the current model and at a higher price point. Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Andrew House called it a “complement” to the standard version back in June, adding that it will support the majority of PS4 games. The upgraded console skipped E3 this year in lieu of the separate, full-on reveal.

We’ve reached out to Sony about the public reveal and will update with more.

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J.K. Rowling responds to racist critics over casting in Cursed Child play Fri, 26 Aug 2016 18:06:00 +0000 J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and the upcoming canonical play, The Cursed Child, had a few choice words for racist critics upset that they had cast a black woman in the role of Hermione Granger.

Rowling, who said she knew the “idiots were going to be idiots” told The Guardian that she was expecting some backlash over the decision. She added that after shutting down a few of them on Twitter, the best decision she could make was not allowing herself to get too agitated over it and focus on the larger portion of fans who were ecstatic with the casting.

“I decided not to get too agitated about it and simply state quite firmly that Hermione can be a black woman with my absolute blessing and enthusiasm,” Rowling said.

The controversy first started when Rowling and the team at Pottermore, the author’s website dedicated to the continuation of the Harry Potter universe, announced that Nona Dumezweni, a veteran theater actor in England, would play Hermione.

The character’s race is never specified in the books, but after being famously played by Emma Watson in the film franchise, many assumed the character was written as white, despite a longtime theory that Hermione was black.

Rowling’s co-creator on The Cursed Child, John Tiffany, said that he was shocked over the backlash they had received following Dumezweni’s casting. He said that he hadn’t “encountered Twitter’s dark side,” adding that the experience was awful and disappointing. He added that he stopped reading the comments after a while, acknowledging that “anonymity breeds horrors.”

“But what shocked me was the way people couldn’t visualise a non-white person as the hero of a story,” Tiffany said. “It’s therefore brilliant that this has happened.”

Rowling said she couldn’t be prouder and happier to have Dumezweni on board. She said she’s been a fan of the actress for years and recalled an earlier workshop she had seen Dumezweni in which cemented their decision to cast her in the crucial role.

The Cursed Child, which follows an adult Harry Potter and his youngest son, Albus Severus, as they take on a new evil threatening the wizarding universe, will debut in London’s West End later this month. A novelized version of the play will be made available on July 31.

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Prey shows the industry is terrified of new names, but not new games Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:27:00 +0000 The original Prey was released in 2006, after going through multiple versions across multiple engines and multiple teams. It took 11 years for the game to go from announcement to actual product.

Bethesda announced a new Prey game last night, although it was referred to as neither a sequel nor a reboot. Arkane Studios, fresh off the success of the first Dishonored game, is developing the game.

And it’s fascinating to see people excited about a game that now feels a bit obscure. It had a Native American hero, and an interesting portal mechanic that played with the physics of the game’s world. It was a hit, and rather fondly remembered by those who played it, including me. The first Prey sequel languished in development hell for years before it was cancelled — or at least most if not all of the work was scrapped before Arkane took over the project.

And a leaked e-mail published by Kotaku seemed to more or less confirm that Arkane had some good ideas, Bethesda had some IP laying around, so they got together to try to make something work. Fun fact: Colantonio later complained about “press sneak fucks” in a later leaked e-mail, which seem to have been referenced in the “sneak” T-shirt he wore during the press conference. Easter eggs are fun!

The original concept for Prey 2, which was planned to be an open-world game that linked to the original through a plane crash that was glimpsed in the first game … before the game’s hero was taken to an alien planet and worked as a bounty hunter. It was already linked to the first Prey by the thinnest of strings, and fans of the original would be hard pressed to find even that tiny pretext to connecting the “sequel,” now just called Prey, to the original 2006 game. And the Prey we saw last night has no real connection to that!

If you asked me to defined what made a Prey game a Prey game, the first thing that comes to my mind is years in development hell as it passes from team to team before turning into a relatively fun game. But so far only one game has been released! It’s the oddest name to resurrect for publicity purposes, but any familiarity is seen as a plus in this business.

It’s very possible that the new Prey ties strongly into Prey through the story or characters, but I’m not holding my breath. Bethesda and Arkane also didn’t think it was that important to make any such ties explicit, even though the game’s name recognition seemed surprisingly strong on social media.

But it’s not like most players know the pillars of what makes a good Prey game. We’re aware of what we want out of a Doom game, the speed and violence and satanic imagery were all executed by the latest game and were celebrated by fans, but what exactly makes a good Prey game?

At this moment, knowing as little as we do about the game, my excitement comes 100 percent from the fact that Arkane has executed so well on the Dishonored series. The fact they’re using an existing IP for this game doesn’t really register.

From Bethesda’s point of view there’s no downside, though. The few people who remember Prey may have liked it. Recognizing the name helps when it comes to getting coverage for a game and getting people excited, and even that small advantage justifies its use. It’s unlikely that Arkane feels constrained by what people expect from a Prey game, as this is a opportunity to define what those opportunities even are.

The gaming industry tends to be terrified of new names, but it’s not rare for a sequel to be used almost as a back door excuse to launch what amounts to a new franchise. We’ll learn more soon, but Prey as a reboot seems to be more about risk mitigation than a creative decision.

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No criminal charges in 38 Studios case, say Rhode Island officials Wed, 24 Aug 2016 23:10:00 +0000 Rhode Island authorities closed a four-year investigation into the collapse of 38 Studios with a decision not to bring criminal charges, saying that a bad business deal does not necessarily make it a crime.

Rhode Island’s attorney general and the superintendent of the State Police there announced the decision yesterday, noting that the Rhode Island taxpayers, who guaranteed $89 million of 38 Studios’ debt, would not be happy with it.

“A bad deal doesn’t always equate to an indictment,” Steven G. O’Donnell, the Rhode Island State Police superintendent, said at a news conference, as reported by The Boston Globe.

A federal case alleging bank fraud in the deal still is pending. Two individuals have settled charges brought against them; the case is proceeding against a third person, Wells Fargo, and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.

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38 Studios was to have been the second act for the former baseball player Curt Schilling, who moved his venture from Massachusetts to Rhode Island in 2010 under a loan and incentives package, totaling $75 million, that was crafted by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.

But 38 Studios went bust in 2012, leaving Rhode Islanders on the hook for its bad debt. Various probes into the deal have revealed that even the size of the state loan package would not be enough to keep 38 Studios solvent while it made an MMO based on the Kingdoms of Amalur continuity. The game it did launch in 2012, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, was successful but faced wildly unreasonable assumptions about its sales potential.

O’Donnell said that State Police investigators, who interviewed more than 140 people, found that Rhode Island officials failed to do enough due diligence in analyzing the deal and 38’s prospects for success with it. Schilling’s celebrity, as a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in their championship years of 2004 and 2007, likely affected that lack of review, O’Donnell said.

Schilling himself went through personal bankruptcy after 38 Studios went bust and was sued by the state of Rhode Island in November 2012. Though he appeared not to be a target of the criminal investigation, Schilling still had strong words about its outcome.

The 38 Studios venture ended up a miserable experience for all involved, especially the 400 employees who lost their jobs and the taxpayers who had to back a bad deal. Rhode Island lawmakers were faced with the choice of picking up 38 Studios’ loan payments or seeing its credit rating suffer. At one point, they debated willfully defaulting on its debt obligations, but the state has continued to make its payments. To date, the state has recouped about $17 million through financial settlements of the lawsuits brought against those responsible for the deal.

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Pokémon fans can finally sit on Snorlax’s face this winter Mon, 22 Aug 2016 05:38:00 +0000 ThinkGeek is now taking pre-orders for a bean bag chair inspired by the sleepiest Pokémon, Snorlax. For $149.99, Pokémon fans can spend all day and night on a slightly smaller but no less adorable Snorlax plush.

The bean bag chair is four feet tall, making it shorter than the six-foot-eleven Pokémon’s in-game height. It’s also shorter than the $456 Japanese Snorlax cushion that starts shipping in August. That pillow is nearly five feet tall and weighs 26.5 pounds.

The bigger Snorlax cushion is a Japan-exclusive, however, so American fans will have to make do with ThinkGeek’s version to get their cuddle time in. Although it’s officially licensed, according to the retailer, the pictures of Snorlax in action are currently “pending licensor approval.” In its current state, though, the chair looks perfectly suitable for a good, post-Pokémon-hunting nap.

Snorlax is due out sometime this December. ThinkGeek makes sure to note that the item “does not ship with a [Poké] flute.” That’s the item trainers use to wake Snorlax up from its deep slumber — so if you ever want to get the Snorlax bean bag chair to wake up, you’re on your own.

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D&D on your tablet and in your browser, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master Mon, 22 Aug 2016 02:48:00 +0000 Roll20, one of the most popular virtual tabletop solutions, will now offer officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons content from Wizards of the Coast. The browser-based software includes both video and voice chat, and even integrates with Google Hangouts. A version will also be available for iOS and Android tablets.

“While Roll20 was designed to play nearly any tabletop game, the spark that pushed us to start the product was Dungeons & Dragons,” said Roll20 co-founder Riley Dutton, “Our very name, ‘Roll20’ comes from the concept of a ‘critical hit’ as popularized by D&D. For us, D&D represents an evergreen part of our gaming lives, and to be officially working with its creators and caretakers certainly feels like we’ve made a winning roll.”

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Originally funded through Kickstarter, Roll20 has experienced incredible growth over the past few years and recently ticked over 1.6 million users. The secret is the ease with which people can join a game. Game masters just send out a web link, and one click later players are looking at a map and ready to roll for initiative.

“This is the simplest way to bring an online group together,” the website reads. “You spend more time playing, and less time swearing at firewalls.”

The first D&D module available on Roll20 will be Lost Mine of Phandelver, the same module that launched the fifth edition of D&D with the most recent Starter Set. For $19.99 it will include all of the content needed to run the game, including pre-generated character sheets, maps and player tokens. Roll20 says that other licensed content will follow, including the latest D&D adventure module Storm King’s Thunder in September.

“We’re always looking to broaden access to Dungeons & Dragons, and Roll20 already plays a significant part of that expansion,” said Greg Tito, communications manager at Wizards of the Coast. “We are excited to see what the future brings.”

We spent some time reacquainting ourselves with the Roll20 platform over the last few days. It’s grown so much from its launch a few years ago, both in terms of features and stability. With the addition of these pre-made, officially licensed D&D modules it’s hard to think of a better solution for getting people together and playing traditional RPGs online.

Access to the system is free, with memberships for enhanced features starting at $4.99 a month. There will be a fee for licensed D&D content.

Roll20 is a surprisingly modern solution with plenty of bells and whistles. For instance, video and voice chat are standard. They’re also fully integrated into the system. It’s not a bolted-on solution, or a series of programs requiring multiple screens to make sense of. You, your virtual miniatures on the table and the real-time video feed of the people you’re playing with are all contained inside the browser window.

Parties even have the choice of Roll20’s own integrated video solution or Google Hangouts.

This isn’t the first time that Wizards of the Coast has licensed its content to a virtual tabletop. Just last year it made a splash when it brought D&D to the Steam storefront with the venerable Fantasy Grounds system. But in our opinion the Roll20 solution is a few steps ahead.

One of the latest additions to the platform is a lighter version of the client designed for in-person play on a tablet. Available for free on the iOS and Android app stores, they give game masters powerful tools for organizing their campaign and taking it on the road.

D&D is currently experiencing a growth spurt of its own thanks in no small part to the proliferation of Twitch and YouTube streaming. It’s something we’ll be chatting with their team about at this year’s Gen Con in Indianapolis. Theimgame’s coverage begins next week.

For more on tabletop games, see our dedicated section here.

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