This will be a long post with many picture, so bare with me. Now, we have had the opportunity to test my GM Visual Aid in real gaming conditions. First, the background to the application, Daniel’s custom made game table screen.

It all started when my friend Daniel decided to make a game table out of a flat screen. He got himself the cheapest Dell flatscreen, and the with help of him brother in law (who happens to be a furniture carpenter and has the right tools for the job).

Here is the screen, ready to be converted into a gaming table.

The material used for this is MDF as it is easy to work with and pretty cheap too. First, a front is measured up and holes are made for the LEDs and power button of the screen.

Then the fame itself is manufactured using a milling machine to get perfect shapes. The frame pieces are glued together.

Now the front is mounted on the frame.

Here the LCD monitor is fitted into the game table, leaving enough room for air to pass to avoid overheating.

As you can see, the fit is perfect.

Power on, and it’s alive!

Ands here is 4EYes on the game table.

As you can seem this was a while ago. After this, the game table has been blessed with several coatings of paint, black paint. And this is where I come into the picture. Now Daniel had the great game table, but no software to do what he wanted, so I slapped together GM Visual Aid. It was developed on my dev machine with two screens, and Daniel tested it on his game table during the development phase. The big day was coming, time to give the piece of carpentry and the piece of code some real life testing. Here it is, hooked up to my 17″ MacbookPro. I’m gonna run the first episode of the Serenity campaign I’ve been working on, and it used both maps and a lot of handouts, or pictures that I would love to avoid to print.

Here is a shot from the GM side of the screen, you can see the PDF with the adventure and the GM Visual Aid not taking too much screen estate.

And here is what you see on the game table (sorry for the reflections). You can see the figures on the game table. For Serenity we used my sons old MicroMachine toy figures, and could scale down to about 1/2 inch squares to fit more map on the screen. This is a huge ship as you can see.

And here you can see the game table as seen by players.

After the Serenity session we ran a session of DnD 4E, Daniel ran the new essentials start adventure (thumbs up to that, good work WotC for a change).

In 4E, we needed larger squares, so we adjusted the scaling in GM Visual Aid to roughly fit 1″. (And the map was moved just before this shot was taken, thats why everyone is standing out of sync with the squares. And here you can see that FOW (Fog Of War) works, we cannot see what is in that house, yet.

But as I said before, I also used it to show pictures. Here is a picture of one of the playing characters.

And here is the picture if the planet system they are in.

So, what is the verdict then? Was it a good or bad experience?

First, it was awesome, until the sun decided to peek through the clouds and ruined some of the visibility. It is a cheap screen, so it lacks really good viewing angle (making it hard to see for all players), and sunlight somewhat ruined the perfect experience. But it works really great, specially with the pointer. No more bending over the screen to point out things like You hear a sound from here… Overall this was great, I have some minor things to tweak and fix, one is to be able to set pointer color, as translucent white on a white map was hard to spot, specially in sunlight. What improvements did we see then? The bigger the better for screen size, but a 32″ is rather cumbersome to transport on the other hand. GM Visual Aid would work with a projector, but then again, black out curtains would be a required.

As for GM Virtual Aid, it will soon be available for a small amount of platinum pieces, for Mac OS X 10.6 or later. The startup adventure campaign “Promised Land” for the Serenity RPG, it will be available as a download here on 4EYes when it is finished, due to complicated Intellectual Property rights and licenses. Maps and Pictures will be sold for a few gold platinum coins as well to cover expenses, as donations doesn’t really seems to work.




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