Monday, July 27, 2015

Smartwatch RPG Apps I'd Like To See

Smartwatches are taking off in a very big way. Motorola, Samsung, LG, Microsoft, Asus, Pebble, and Apple all have smartwatches on the market. I own the Apple Watch, which despite some rather nifty notification features, has a lackluster app selection so far. I know apps are subjective and one person's killer app is another's entirely unnecessary app. Still, my take on many of the current Apple Watch apps is that most are just gimmicky and useless regressions of far better iPhone apps. Why use the small watch for something your phone does bigger and better?

Smartwatch app developers need to start thinking outside the box to create apps that take the small screen into account.  Simple apps are needed and RPG games are a perfect place to start. I understand that many people like playing games the old fashioned way with pen and paper and such. That's fine. This is not an argument against traditional play. This is just a post about modern tech play and how modern smart devices can aid, or be used for, traditional games. As a gamer I have a few ideas for apps I wish already existed. I did a few mock-ups to help illustrate what could be...

Dice Roller: A nice RPG dice roller app for any smartwatch could be simply awesome. Choose the dice you want to roll, then shake the watch or spin the crown, and presto! The dice randomly rolls and settles on the result. Multiple dice could be gathered for more complex rolls. Most smartwatches lend themselves perfectly to this task. Since many smartwatches are tethered to their phones, results could be displayed on a phone for all to see.
Simple Dice Roller App

Character Sheets: I know many serious RPG players use a zillion stats and complex income tax-style mathematical acrobatics to play games. Here at home with my kids we typically use HP, AC, SP and a few other basic abilities. Games tend not to suffer much from paired-down stats when imagination and storytelling excel. A simple character sheet with editable HP would be awesome on my wrist. I want this now!
Character Sheet Stat App
Maps: Viewing maps on a smartwatch could be amazing. Imagine scrolling around a map with your finger or only seeing a limited view of a larger map. If and when all devices can truly work together, a DM can put a large map on a cell or tablet and players can see a portion on their watch.
Map App
Minis: There are thousands of RPG minis out there. An app for viewing a virtual mini for your character could be a lot of fun. If you play multiple games you could have multiple character minis stored so you could scroll to the one you are currently playing with. This idea could easily be incorporated into a character sheet app. Since I'm not a developer and I'm just tossing out ideas, I'm not sure how much can be combined in one app. My instinct with smartwatch apps is, the less complex the better.
Mini Viewer App

Art: Players, monsters, non-playable characters, items, settings, etc. could all be displayed on a watch. Traditional modules could be created, very simply, so a DM could run a game from a phone and text or communicate small bits of information and images to players. A module app that loads small bundles of art to aid with storytelling and gameplay could be a lot of fun.
Module Art App

This short list is just what has come off the top of my head. Feel free to suggest other ideas. Remember to keep it simple. Smartwatches are small and intimate and there is no need to stuff large concepts into such a small device.