Eon Altar: Setting a New Standard for Tabletop Gaming
You might wonder why you are reading Eon Altar on this site since it is not even close to an MMORPG. What it is though, is so cool a concept that we felt we had to tell you, our readers, about.
What it is, is the name of the first fantasy RPG campaign that Flying Helmet Games is bringing to us on iOS, Windows 8 and Android. The premise is elegant. Instead of bring campaign books, rule books, hex boards and dice to a gathering of friends to play a table top campaign, all you have to bring is your tablet and smart phones. Everything else is contained within game and client app.
There were four of us sitting around a coffee table in the lobby of the Sheraton with a demo large Android tablet on the table and iPads in our hands. As the screen rotated to face each of us, we selected the character we wanted to play and embarked upon the journey to find the Eon Altar. I picked the Shaman and at my turn, I could touch the screen and see how far my character could move and cues popped up. I could search dead soldiers, break barrels, get within range of enemies. Whoops, don’t want to do that especially if my tank was out of range – cues showed who would be involved in the encounter too. As we moved and explored, we received on our devices cues for our character. Dialogue to be read and shared, or kept secret as we chose. Especially when we came across an ancient scroll first and made our language roll.
Speaking of rolls... Dice rolls are also made on the hand-held device. Be it phone or tablet, put both thumbs on the screen, shake and release. Complete with sound of dice shaking and virtual dice rolling across the large screen so everyone can see your roll. The dice roll is actually physics based and not completely random and that brought some of the table top feel to the game. Unlike most table top games where XP is handed out at the end of the campaign and skill training performed in town, we gained XP after each encounter and could distribute our points if not actively involved in combat.
Just like a table-top campaign, the decision one character makes can and will affect the path the story takes. However, unlike a table-top campaign, the decision made cannot be so off-beat that the DM goes home, buries his head under his pillow and wonders how the heck he’s going to be able to steer the ship back on path. The biased DMs showing favoritism is avoided, there’s no bribing of DMs, and there’s also no killing off annoying characters. But again, you don’t have to revive your dead compatriot. “Sorry, out of scrolls.”
The game will support up to five in your party and players download the client for free and connect via Bluetooth or Wifi, whereas the campaign modules are purchased. Somewhat akin to having to buy the rule and campaign books but being able to copy and hand out character sheets.
Depending on the campaign, players will not necessarily start with new characters each time, but could bring characters they have leveled and skilled up. Other purchasable items kicked about at this time are cosmetic character customizations and simple party buffs purchased in the tavern prior to your journey.
I was more excited by the technology then the campaign, I will have to admit. The demo we played was obviously in early development. UI was clunky, the berserker hit a bug and received only one dice to roll, but the premise was promising. Very promising. Each player is able to perform all character functions on their own device. Managing inventory, applying skill ups, selecting targets, etc. so that basically kept the main screen free for other players to use. Graphics are 3-D but at this time, with little animation and pretty ho-hum. However, I can certainly see the potential there of prettied-up graphics, combat being played out after the die roll on the big screen. A world that’s tuned and polished, great story writers bringing us exciting campaigns.
The Indie studio hopes to launch Eon Altar in 2014 but apart from showing off the early gameplay and technology, there was little else they were revealing. There is talk of a possible crowd funding measure once they are closer to launch, but little information about the game world, the campaigns, the writers or the game system – whether they are basing it on an established system or writing their own. Just a few years ago, I would have had doubts, but at this time, when even kids under thirteen are running around with smart phones, this technology just might be the wave of the future and I wish them all the best in bringing this venture to fruition.