Sunday, November 21, 2010

Multi-player board games via Smashtalk text messaging. Good or bad idea?

Imagine playing Monopoly or Bridge or Yahtzee via text messaging. Smashtalk is designed to support applications sending and receiving Smashtalk text messages. Player A starts the game on their smartphone and invited 3 friends to play. The invitations are sent from the board game. Players B, C & D receive the Smashtalk message and activate their copy of the game on their smartphones. Now the games communicate with each other using Smashtalk messages.

The "Reply All" feature allows for each player to communicate with the other players just by replying.

When Player A takes a turn, the update to the game board is sent to the other players' instance of the game via Smashtalk message. The result of Player B's turn is sent via a reply all text message to the other players.

OK. Obvious questions.

Why not real-time instead of text message? Connectivity requirement. Text messaging does not mandate continuous real-time connections. Commuters on trains or passing through tunnels are unaffected. Connection speed is not an issue either. There is also the issue of playing a game as time permits. Each player takes their turn when they get a free moment whether that be at work, school, traveling or at home. Near-real time has some distinct advantages.

Can't this be done with old-style SMS? Yes but with a lot more human intervention. Smashtalk uses the CC: list to know who the players are and who needs to receive the game's update messages. Old-style SMS would require the players to build the player list as a part of starting the game and then make sure the SMS interface in the game built each SMS with the text address of each player. Smashtalk automates this function. Starting the game is simply a matter of accepting the invitation.

Wouldn't the games eat up a lot of text messages? Games would likely need quite a few text messages but an unlimited plan makes the problem go away. As more carriers adopt data plans with limits, unlimited text becomes the most cost-effective model.

So what do you think? Would you be interested in playing popular board games with your friends via your smartphones? Would the use of text messaging as the update mechanism be an advantage or a nuisance?

I want to hear your thoughts.