Friday, December 30, 2011
Actually Pretty Cool - Swapnote
As with many things that are on the 3DS, I have been completely oblivious to the existence of a things called Swapnote until today when I found out something pretty neat about it. From what I can tell, Swapnote is basically PictoChat from the original DS (basically a service that allows you to implement something of a chatroom setup with friends, using text either written or typed and drawings to talk) but does what I wanted PictoChat to do: be viable as a thing to use when not surrounded by friends. Basically, try as I might, I couldn't figure out a way to connect with anyone on PictoChat without being right near them and, well, if you're that close, why not just talk to them? There are reasons, of course, but I found more that I hoped to be able to open my DS, find one of my online friends and draw little pictures back and forth at them.
Swapnote proves to be able to do this with the added security of knowing that any Note you get through this is from someone you've already friended on your system through the 3DS' Friend Code. As such, should you find a picture of a wang sticking out at you (literally), well, that's your friend doing that, so you either find it funny or you need new friends. Where it really starts getting impressive is when you get into it a bit more and realize that it's more than just "Here's a picture" "Here's a picture in response to a picture" in that you can apparently bundle four screens-worth of notes together to send as one to be scrolled through. This is handy, of course, as I'm sure we've all often found that limits actually do get in the way of some things (character limits on Twitter, space limits on pictures, etc.) so something much looser, as four screens is, can only help. If you need more than four screens then, well, you're being a bit ambitious but perhaps not overly so.
I don't think I will ever not be amazed at what some people can create with the simplest of tools. Nor do I think I'll ever be able to have the kind of intuitive creativity some people display with this sort of thing. How do you get from "This thing that sends four screens of info" to "Let's play some gatdamn D&D on it"? Apparently the sight of what looks like a graph paper background, which, admittedly might have sparked it for me as well. (As a young'n, I once attempted to make D&D maps using Excel after changing the visible cells to little squares. It actually worked in theory as I never got to use the maps, but they looked pretty cool.) After figuring out he could make maps on it easily, the next step was trying to figure out how to build an actual game around that which I think was handled fairly brilliantly.
It seems like, after watching the above video, that it might not be that intuitive to use/work with, and someone would likely say "there are probably better methods of doing this" and you'd certainly be right; being that you have to at least somewhat know the person enough to get their friend code, it's entirely possible you're already in contact in another fashion where doing this would be a little easier. Message boards and Chat setups (IRC and IMs) can likely be setup to be at least a little more elegant than the Swapnote solution, though they don't allow for as much freedom with pictures (aside from linking). But the point of it all is that this is honestly so impressive on merit alone that it seems at least worth a shot. By the same virtue of pointing out that Chat/IM could be offer better implementation than Swapnote, you could make an argument that Real Life is better than Chat/IM which might not be open to you. Use what you've got, is the basic message here and if you use it well (Like this usage of Swapnote) then it will at least be fun for everyone involved. Provided you can wrap your head around the execution and work out mechanics with the buddies you want to play this with (which could honestly be fairly easy to handle with Swapnote itself), it could be one of the more memorable uses of a Free App that you could get from a handheld.
I will say also that the 'turn-based, person-to-DM' system this presents might actually help games get played in all honesty, which has been a problem in my endeavors into D&D and the like. It's too easy to get distracted with shooting the breeze and before you know it, you've realized that you've talked about the virtues of a certain class over another for half an hour while your buddies have talked about how awesome this other campaign they've been in was, and you're all thinking about how awesome it was when you actually played the game. With only four screens to respond back and forth with, the DMs is the easiest four to fill which means the responses back and forth between player and DM should be easy enough to handle. Just another thing to look forward to for when I ultimately pick up a 3DS sometime down the road.