One of the most difficult parts about getting new games to the table is the barrier to entry many rulebooks represent. Even well-written rules can be a slog to get through. A small Finnish company is working on an app that will take all of the hard work of learning a new game, and simplify the process. The idea is like having a game teacher by your side as you start to play. We got a chance to chat with Tomi Vainikka, one of the founders of Playmore Games about their upcoming Dized app and the Kickstarter that will be launching soon.
How do you choose the games that you feature of Dized?
The games we’ve announced to date were handpicked pilot projects. In the future, publishers will decide the games they want to have in Dized, so I’ll talk a bit more about the process we used to choose what titles are in our initial library.
When we were starting Dized, we had – and in some sense still do – the chicken and egg problem. We needed content to attract users and users to attract publishers – to get content. So that’s where the pilot projects came in, which are our way of showing that we can actually solve the rulebook problem with interactive tutorials and show the industry how Dized can benefit their games. So we picked a variety of games that exhibit simple family games like Carcassonne and more difficult hobby games, such as Scythe or Blood Rage, and everything in between.
As our intention has been from the beginning to build features that help us to scale the production (which has turned in to the toolset that we’re releasing to the industry right now), we needed games to help us do that. We needed games with as different styles as possible; so when we crack one problem, hidden information or dice throwing for example, we can build those elements in to the toolset, making it more robust and versatile.
And of course, the popularity of the titles and the wishes of both the players and the employees had some impact on this as well!
What is the toughest barrier to entry when learning a game from a rulebook? How does Dized remove those barriers?
As everyone playing board games knows, rulebooks vary massively from title to title. Both in the amount of rules and the teaching method. But no matter how well it’s written and how few rules it contains, picking up the actual rulebook and playing those first games while trying to decipher the rules at the same time can easily ruin the whole experience for a group. It’s not uncommon to play with the wrong rules (or house rules) either.
Also, picking a completely new game for a game night and learning it from the rulebook while playing is still (at least for my group) a very rare thing. How to play videos help with this, but it requires for someone to do prepwork, and in the end you end up playing with the rulebook anyway.
Most of the players we’ve asked have told us that if they could choose, they’d learn a game from a friend who knows the game already. That’s what we’ve designed Dized to be, it’s like a friend at the table who knows how to teach the game. So all the players need to do is to relax and enjoy the game. In the future Dized tutorials will also tailor to each groups’ experience, so beginners will get more information while veterans can get through the tutorials faster.
Another big feature of the app the Rules and FAQ section that caters to the returning players. Finding that one specific rule in the rulebook or internet forums can take anywhere from a minute to half an hour. With Dized, players can ask quick questions, such as in 7 Wonders: “how does the 2nd stage of Halicarnassus work” and get an immediate answer. And if there’s not an answer, Dized can relay that question straight to the publisher who can add the answer for that user and all futures ones.
How long does each game take to complete on Dized?
This depends heavily on the game and the amount of players, but the statistics we’ve gathered puts Kingdomino from sitting down the table to packing up the game to under 30 minutes and Blood Rage from sitting down and finishing Age I (at which point Dized has taught all the rules) to under an hour.
So overall it lengthens the game with about 25-35 % compared to a group who knows how to play, which is of course significantly faster than popping open a new game and starting to learn from the rulebook.
What kind of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been fantastic! We’ve had hundreds of players learning games with Dized in expos and thousands after opening the Early Access to everyone on iOS and Android. I can actually link a video here from some of the feedback we received during UK Games Expo. In short, players love the idea of having the possibility of sitting down with a new game and playing immediately – as you could with a video game. Other aspects people have liked is the possibility of learning at their own pace, always getting the rules correct, and easy to find information. We’ve also received lot’s of good feedback from groups that typically have a hard time learning new games such as groups with young children or people with learning disabilities for example.
Every now and then we receive some complaints from the groups who already know how to play the game or have someone in the group who does. Dized teaches the game gradually, so if we have someone at the table teaching rules before hand, it can easily derail the whole experience. I think when people get to know how our tutorials work, this won’t be an issue as we go on.
What are some of the goals of the new Kickstarter?
One of the reasons we’re going to Kickstarter is to solve the chicken and egg problem I mentioned earlier. The bigger the community we have behind us, the faster publishers and designers will start creating that content in Dized. Also, the more people we have testing out the app, the better it will turn out. We’re building this FOR the community WITH the community!
Of course, we have a long road ahead of us with all the features we’re building, and we need more resources to create that one app that every board gamer will use in all aspects of their hobby. Such as one of the most requested features, the adaptive and learning tutorials, that tailor to everyone’s own profile and experience. Doing a successful crowdfunding campaign will help immensely in scaling up the production.
How do you approach publishers when looking to add their games to Dized?
We’ve done literally hundreds of one-on-one meetings in expos around the world that have led to the situation where we are now in: publishers know what Dized is, what what it can do, and that we can actually pull off what we’ve been talking about for so long.
Now that we’re rolling out the tools to allow publishers to create the content themselves, we’re nudging the players to also message the publishers to get their favorite games on Dized. Since if we get a request, we need to tell that to the publisher anyway!
What other ways do you see crossover between analog and digital in the gaming world?
The last few years in the board gaming industry has already proven that “the digital” is here to stay. The success that Asmodee Digital alone is having with their lineup of digital board games and Fantasy Flight with their board games that benefit from apps (such as XCOM or Mansions of Madness 2nd ed.) have shown that there’s definitely demand for a crossover. This goes the other way round as well; blockbuster digital games have been translated to massively successful board games. Little by little, the audiences are blending in together.
With Dized, our approach at this stage is definitely more with the companion app. Dized makes board games and the whole hobby better. Whether it’s learning new games with a tutorial, or finding that explanation to that one difficult to interpret rule in the FAQ section, or creating an atmosphere around the game with an intro movie and a soundtrack – all is aimed to get in to the hobby more easily and get more out of the games.
Dized presents an interesting integration of digital into the analog world of games. It doesn’t seek to become a part of the game, but it uses the technology we have available to us to streamline the gaming experience. Their Kickstarter campaign is launching soon and you can already download the early access version for iOS and Android.