I belong to a Yahoogroup about the game Warpwar (among other things). That game is having a 35th anniversary coming up. What’s Warpwar? Well, check out the Microgames Nostalgia page. In short, it’s a cool diceless combat space game, the first big Micro format space game, and many regard it as an enduring classic. There’s been a big push to recreate the game in a more portable format, with better artwork, for the 35th anniversary. As a result of that effort, the group published the first (so far as I know) Microgame in the portable epub format.
Creating Epub rulesets wasn’t exactly the prime focus of the 35th Anniversary group, but it made me think.. isn’t this a great format for smaller games without a ton of pictures?
So you’re saying to yourself, “Self, why make a big deal about this? I can purchase Wargame rules as PDF files already, what’s the big deal?” This is a handy concept for a few reasons. As EPUB is a fairly widespread format, it is accessible on most commercial reader tablets, and works on Ipads, Nooks and Kindles. It is designed to be read using a device and not printed out– though that’s possible as well if you use a web browser with a plugin (see the Epub Reader plugin for Firefox, for example, or Adobe Digital editions). As such, it might be a very interesting choice for deploying games. Yes, commercial games are already sold (and also available for free download) as PDF files, which also work on tablets, Nooks, and Kindles. The big problem with the PDF format is the space requirements for the physical file, as it relies heavily on Postscript to define graphics, and that can lead to file size bloatage. Epub is a lot leaner, but the downside is that it is a lot clumsier to format and doesn’t handle graphics as easily as PDF will. Still, as you can see from the pictures above, it’s a format with some promise. Smaller games don’t have nearly the graphics requirements as some 50 to 90 dollar behemoth with color pages, and could really benefit from the epub distribution. I could easily see a set of epubs supporting a game, 1 being the text of the rules and 1 or 2 epubs being cheat sheets for easy reference, so you could actually play a game using a tablet computer. Now that might not appeal to a lot of the older generation of gamers that either love the feel of a paper book, or kind of set in their ways. That’s understandable. The fact is, I rarely reference a full rule set during the course of a game. I use some cheat sheets which I print out many copies of (which tend to clutter up the table and make it less than pretty). If there were a few tablets around with access to the cheat sheet, you might not need to print ANY paper out eventually. Yes, I know, it’s not going to happen overnight, or at least until tablets become a more eponymous feature of the gaming landscape. Still, Epub is an interesting alternative to PDF distribution.