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Subject: Board Game Arena: Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know rss

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Sourisdudesert Sourisdudesert
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Hi, I'm Greg, founder of the website Board Game Arena.

A lot has been said in the last few weeks about BGA, but I have never had the time to make a proper presentation of this website here: why, who, how, ...

I hope this little "FAQ" will clarify any questions regarding BGA. If it doesn't, please feel free to ask by posting a reply to this post.

What is Board Game Arena?

It's a website where you can play board games online, in real-time, from your browser. BGA website has been online since December 2010. Supported languages are English and French.

Who are you?

I'm from France (Paris area), and I'm both a professional developer and a board games addict. I develop BGA on my free-time and especially during my daily commute by train (2 hours a day ...) My nickname on BGA is 'sourisdudesert'.

In February 2011 a friend of mine, skilled developer and game enthusiast (nickname on BGA : 'een') joined me to help with developing BGA further.

Why BGA?

Well, why not? I really like to develop software and always wanted to realize something in the board games area. In 2010 I discovered a technology (Comet) that, I thought, could allow a new generation of online gaming platforms. I created a prototype, then a "proof of concept" website ("Tournoi en ligne"). As many players were interested by this website, I found out that there really was something interesting to do with this concept: and then there was BGA.

Is BGA a free service?

Yes, absolutely. You can play any games, without restrictions. Just register, choose a nickname and you are set to play !

And yes, it costs money to keep this website running. It does not cost *so much* money because it's a fan project so we don't need to pay what a commercial website would have to pay (salaries, taxes ...), but it still costs money. You can support us by joining the "Board Game Arena Club". As a token of appreciation for their support, club members get access to some custom statistics (ELO rank...)

How is BGA different from BSW, Yucata, ...?

BGA concept is similar to BrettSpielWelt.de: real-time play and German-style board games oriented.

The main idea behind BGA is: "if you know how to play the original game, then you know how to play on BGA". For this reason we focus a lot on ergonomics and try to make the website as easy to use as possible. There is no software to install, no Flash plugin, no Java window: you just browse to the site and play in 4 clicks from the homepage.

What games can I play on BGA?

Dominion, Stone Age, Race for the Galaxy, Coloretto, Can't Stop, Haggis, Puerto Rico, Uncle Chestnut's Table Gype

Announced: GOSU

What is the legal status of BGA?

BGA has got a license/authorization from copyright holders for all available games.

It has not always been the case in the pase. At the time I created BGA as a proof-of-concept website I didn't dare to ask licenses to publishers while BGA had not yet reached a sufficient player base to be taken seriously - which was stupid, I agree. The website has grown faster than expected, and this created a difficult situation for us as some copyright holders discovered BGA without having been contacted first. Obviously, we had to remove some games because of this mistake. I was personally responsible of the situation and I apologized.

All new games published on BGA (since march of this year) are licensed/authorized by their respective publishers&authors. I would like to send a special thank to Rio Grande Games, Hans im Gl├╝ck, Franjos Spieleverlag, Alea Spiele and Indie Boards&Cards for allowing their games to be available online on our website.


What are your plans for BGA?

Well... as for every fan project, our plans are to conquer the world !

More seriously, we have fun with BGA and plan to continue having fun. A lot of players, from all over the world, like the BGA platform and we will do our best to have a lot of high quality online board games adaptations on it.

I want to help you. How can I?

We designed BGA to be able to host any board game, and to make the development of a new game as fast as possible. We are able to develop something like 2 new games of average complexity per month. But there is not just development involved : it also takes time to make contact and get licenses/authorizations for porting games on our platform... as it is today we don't manage to get 2 new authorizations each month.

So to sum it up : on the development front, we are not looking for more help (as managing a lot of developers would be unwieldy). But if you are a game publisher willing to license online versions of your games, we would be glad to hear from you !

Also, as english is not our mother tongue, please tell us about bad translations on BGA so that we can make them better !

[EDIT June 1st 2011 with new games]
[EDIT June 24st 2011 with new games]
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David Larkin
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An excellent site many thanks for providing it I would recommend it to anyone who wants to play realtime online. Ocassional hitches but almost always resolved by pressing F5.

One minor annoyance, in Dominion the other players actions come up in French if their language is French, making it difficult to track which cards they have disposed of with the chapel etc.

and it wouldn't let me register as Zark as it was already taken! BGG names should be pre-reserved! Any chance of kicking the imposter out and altering my username (currently Zark007)

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Josiah Miller
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I played Haggis on BGA last night for the first time. I thought it played smoothly and quickly. Thank you for providing an online outlet for one of my favorite games. Fans, indeed! Thanks for your hard work! I look forward to seeing you succeed and hope that more people check out the site and support your efforts.
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Wade Nelson
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I really like what you're doing with the site. There are a couple quirks here and there (French opponent cards in Dominion, as mentioned) but I really like the interface.

One thing that keeps me away from other online boardgame sites is a lack of intuitive interface. I think ergonomics could be one of the big things setting BGA apart.
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Luiz Geron
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Have you considered opening your source code?

I know this is a hosted application and you certainly don't want other people setting up clones of your website, but the potential for collaboration is huge. I personally would contribute a lot, if not on the server code (I really dislike php) then on the interface (I could already add some things here and there). I love hacking as much as the next guy, so I understand managing more people is not what you want to do with your time, but accepting/rejecting patches isn't that much work, and you can always control what goes on to your site and what not.

BTW, how do you manage to use comet with php+apache? Are you sure it will scale?
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Adam Brant
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BGA is a great site. I've recently played Haggis on there and couldn't be happier.

I've actually been using it on a BlackBerry Playbook and have no major issues. However, with that said, when a round of Haggis is finished, the popup dialog showing the scores for the round can't be cleared on a PlayBook (at the time of this writing). I can't seem to hit the X on the window. Can you maybe implement the round score without using a popup?

Has anybody tried this site on an iPad? If so, how did it do?
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Sourisdudesert Sourisdudesert
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Thank you all for your support.

Here's are quick answers:

_ We don't plan to support iPad and others tablets. I know BGA is working on some tablets - at least partially, but we don't want to compete with publisher's applications on these platforms.

_ We are using 100% open-source software for BGA hosting. We don't plan to make the source code available because as you said clone websites would divide and kill the community of players ...
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Zark wrote:
One minor annoyance, in Dominion the other players actions come up in French if their language is French, making it difficult to track which cards they have disposed of with the chapel etc.

I LOVE BGA!! Seriously though...probably play at least one game every day...if not 30 games every day. The only problem I see also is with Dominion and the language issue in the comment/action tracker. Although...I am starting to learn french...one card at a time.

Keep up the good work!

EDIT: I must also add that this is the absolute best way to learn a game that does not have a solo option that you are on the fence about. Plus, I have had nothing but great experiences with the other players. One person even spend an hour walking me through a game of Dominion when I first tried to learn it. Now I have like 100 games under my belt and win about 40% of the time. Needless to say...Dominion will be my next purchase.

I am starting to give RFTG a go, but that is a whole other beast.
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Marc Lanctot
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I'd like to echo the great implementations. Nice job! I know how much time and effort these things take, so I'm quite impressed. I hope you succeed on getting the last permissions you need and glad to see you'll be making sure you have them before implementing new games. I'm also impressed with how quickly you can implement new games.

Two huge things, IMHO, have made it a success for me and friends I've introduced it to.

1. Awesome implementations, in general, but specifically: no client download! Niiice. Works in Firefox under Linux "out of the box". Seems like there is no need for flash either? I don't know much about the technology you are using, but it certainly was a good design choice. This alone got my girlfriend onto the site (no way she'd get into GTO or BSW).

2. The community. My experience has been that they're more patient, sociable, etc than the BSW community. I feel a lot more at home playing a game on BGA.

Keep it up! Don't quit your job and don't move closer to it.. we are benefiting from that long commute
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Quote:
BGA has got a license/authorization from copyright holders for a large majority of available games. We are currently waiting for the last agreements that we need to reach 100% licensed games. We have made contact with every copyright holders (sometimes with the help of game authors), but some of them haven't gotten back to us yet.

Greg, maybe you don't know, but when you make use of someone else's copyright and continue to do so, you actually put their copyright in peril of being invalidated such that any company anywhere may violate it with impunity.

That's how copyright law works: copyright holders have to actively shut down infringers to keep their copyrights.

You really should *remove* any game to which you do not currently have a license. You are actively hurting yours and your community's favorite game designers and publishers as well as opening yourself up to legal action that could lose you all of *your* work. As long as you continue to violate copyright, you could be liable for triple damages.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I work in an IP heavy field.
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Neil Wehneman
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Laughing Cow Cheese wrote:
Quote:
BGA has got a license/authorization from copyright holders for a large majority of available games. We are currently waiting for the last agreements that we need to reach 100% licensed games. We have made contact with every copyright holders (sometimes with the help of game authors), but some of them haven't gotten back to us yet.

Greg, maybe you don't know, but when you make use of someone else's copyright and continue to do so, you actually put their copyright in peril of being invalidated such that any company anywhere may violate it with impunity.

That's how copyright law works: copyright holders have to actively shut down infringers to keep their copyrights.

You really should *remove* any game to which you do not currently have a license. You are actively hurting yours and your community's favorite game designers and publishers as well as opening yourself up to legal action that could lose you all of *your* work. As long as you continue to violate copyright, you could be liable for triple damages.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I work in an IP heavy field.

I am a(n IP) lawyer, and feel the need to point out that this post is factually wrong. It appears to be confusing copyright with trademark.


Copyright lasts for a fixed term of either life + 70 years or 95 years if WMFH. There is no requirement of policing in copyright in order to enjoy the full term.

Trademark lasts for as long as the public associates the mark with a single source for the goods or services, whether that be for one year or centuries. Unauthorized use of the mark by others, that isn't shut down by the rights-holder, can cause the mark to lose its value.


As to damages, trademark provides for treble damages in a variety of circumstances, but there is no such provision in normal copyright. Rather, there is the availability of statutory damages (which are often much more than treble compensatory!), and these are available if the work is registered pre-infringement or within three months of initial publication.

There is a treble damages provision for repeat offenders of anti-circumvention, but that's ancillary to copyright and not relevant to this discussion.

- Neil Wehneman


Edit: As is the case for most of my posts, this post assumes U.S. law applies (which may not be the correct presumption, based upon a variety of factors).
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Neil, thank you, you're right, I had a total brain fart.

It does still apply however that if Greg is using the trade dress of the games (such as their names) he is imperiling their trademarks.
 
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Sourisdudesert Sourisdudesert
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Thank you all for your support & comments.

Translation bugs for Dominion will be fixed in the next days, and an explanation video for Haggis will be added too.

For the IP issue I'm not an IP lawyer too but I'm going to contact Neil privately to get some advice on "what to do", and suspend some games if he thinks it is wise.
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Kay Wilke
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sourisdudesert wrote:

For the IP issue I'm not an IP lawyer too but I'm going to contact Neil privately to get some advice on "what to do", and suspend some games if he thinks it is wise.

The only "correct" way would be to suspend the games until you get the licenses. Now you are putting the copyright holders into a situation where they have to take your game down instead of just saying "No" to an early request. From what I've seen so far you handled it very gracefully when a publisher didn't give you a license and you just took the game offline without any bad publicity for the publisher. That's good.

Queen Games has a bad experience with online games and that's why they don't give any licenses now. There's nearly no chance that you'll get your implementation of Alhambra legal. And the publisher doesn't have to say "no" to your question. Not saying "yes" is the same. That happened to me with Kingsburg: German distributor said "yes", author said "yes" but publisher didn't answer.

I spoke to Michael Schacht about Coloretto and he inquired with the publisher and the answer was "no" for some commercial reason. So your chances are also not very good here.

For Dominion and Race for the Galaxy I received an "ok" from Jay but only until something commercial might be available which might be soon or not. I decided to not to take the risk of having to take the games offline soon after the implementation. But at least for the moment you're legal here

Good implementations by the way.

/Sparhawk
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Steven
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I love your site. Thanks for all your hard work on it!

I'd like to request that you guys implement 2-player versions (even if they're variants) for your games. I notice that Coloretto and Alhambra don't have the 2-player variants. I'm hoping Puerto Rico will. I realize it's a lot of work, but at least I can ask!
 
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Steve Haywood
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I've just played my first game on Board Game Arena - Stone Age - and I must say I was very impressed with how well implemented it is, really easy and enjoyable to play. I've played the game on Yucata a few times, but there's nothing like a decent real time multiplayer version. Good luck with developing the site.
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Rick Baptist
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Fun! Just played Can't Stop and I thought the interface was great!
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Sourisdudesert Sourisdudesert
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Thank you again for your comments.

Puerto Rico will implement 2-player version.

Following private discussion with Neil and explanation from Kay (above) we are going to suspend Coloretto and Alhambra if we get no news from their publishers in the meantime.

During last week BGA received a lot of very nice propositions from game publishers: the next months are going to be very exciting !
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Really excited about PR with 2-player variant!

Sad about the possibility of Alhambra being taken down. My wife beats me EVERY SINGLE TIME! This is the only way for me to practice. lol
 
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David Larkin
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It might be more appealing to copyright holders if you do it like on line Agricola. They bought several copies of the game and then limited the number of tables to that number (with agreement of the copyright owners). Or you could just pay the cost of the game for the number of tables you are implementing (I can't see the point of actually buying the physical game then locking it away!). You might then want to limit access to people who have contributed to the site, but I don't see that would be a problem (as long as you can still play some games for free to try the site out).

I do actually own most of the games I play online and expect others do as well, so copyright holders aren't necessarily being done out of their dues anyway
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Kay Wilke
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Zark wrote:
It might be more appealing to copyright holders if you do it like on line Agricola. They bought several copies of the game and then limited the number of tables to that number (with agreement of the copyright owners). Or you could just pay the cost of the game for the number of tables you are implementing (I can't see the point of actually buying the physical game then locking it away!). .

Especially for the Agricola case this is not appealing to the copyright holders at all!

It was not an agreement between the online site and the copyright holder that they should buy the games and then they would get a license.

Instead, it seems, there is an American law (or something similar) which says that if you own a game you may play with it and also offer a table online. So, if you own x copies of the game you may offer x concurrent games.

From what I know the publisher asked the online site to take the game offline because of a missing license, the online site cited the above rule and then the two agreed on a certain number of tables which, from what I understand, was later unilaterally increased by the online site.
But my info on that is pretty old.

For the publisher it doesn't make any sense at all if you put a certain number of games in your cellar. Either they give you a license for free or they ask for a license fee but what would be the sense to waste the printed games (except for the above rule)?
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Drew Dallas
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An American (as in US) law allows this? Has anyone else ever heard of this, because this seems like the kind of stuff US law would not allow.
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Sourisdudesert Sourisdudesert
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Just for the record: I don't know if there is a law or not, but this is not the intention of BGA to do what Agricola Online is doing.

We asked Lookout Games for a license for Agricola and unfortunately rights were not available.
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Neil Wehneman
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Darksbane wrote:
An American (as in US) law allows this? Has anyone else ever heard of this, because this seems like the kind of stuff US law would not allow.

The law that's being referenced is First Sale, and it provides a limitation and exception to the distribution and public display right, but not to the reproduction right (which would be implicated by the online version).

Buying a number of copies equal to the number of tables could arguably help Fair Use (the most flexible U.S. L&E), but the effect would be minimal.

- Neil Wehneman
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Corey Fry
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What a great site! I joined yesterday and played a couple of games. The interface is wonderful, and the userbase is even better. People are very friendly. I'm expecting this site to boom soon, and I really hope it retains the friendly userbase.

Where would you like the comments to fix bad translations? I notice a couple here and there, but I don't know a good way to report them.
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