Hasbro, the company behind numerous board games and D&D, recently announced that it'd be teaming up with Italian developer Xplored to create physical / digital hybrids with "limitless digital expansions to physical games [and] seamless onboarding." That wasn't necessarily the headline, though; instead, mention of "AI-driven mechanics" took center-stage. Because artificial intelligence is such a touchy subject right now, some eyebrows were understandably raised.
To get to the bottom of the matter, I caught up with Hasbro Gaming SVP and general manager Adam Biehl to find out exactly what this means for some of the best board games, D&D, and beyond. For clarity, you'll find my questions alongside his answers below.
Wondering what Xplored's deal is? It certainly has the right expertise for the job. It's responsible for digital-tabletop hybrid Teburu, a system that I said might be the future of board games and D&D around this time last year thanks to it enhancing gameplay by automating 'enemy' movements or calculations. It also introduces contextual sounds for a more immersive experience, like the creak of a door if your character enters a room.
GamesRadar: Let's talk about those "AI-driven mechanics" for a moment. Can you clarify exactly what this means?
Beihl: Our approach here is to thoughtfully add multimedia content and digital capabilities to enrich storytelling, game mechanics, and player onboarding, while preserving what people value in board games, face to face interaction and the satisfying tactility of rolling dice and moving physical components. We plan to use AI and other software capabilities to create dynamic experiences that can instantly react to player decisions and rules resolution without the complexity of lengthy instructions.
GamesRadar: Will projects be designed specifically for this system, e.g. not available as 'traditional' physical games?
Biehl: Yes - most products will be designed specifically for this system. We are actively developing applications of Xplored's technology with our full range of game brands, as well as the development of entirely new games and licensed partnerships.
GamesRadar: The press release mentions that "Xplored will collaborate with Hasbro to develop a new tabletop platform." Is this still the Teburu system, or will it be an evolution of that?
Biehl: Teburu is serving as an inspiring starting point, but our intent is to leverage Xplored's technology to create a unique platform with broad applications across our portfolio of brands.
GamesRadar: Is there the potential for cross-compatibility between 'traditional' physical game releases and this platform? E.g. you unlock extra features if you have Teburu?
Biehl: Possibly, but we are not limiting ourselves to compatibility with the existing Teburu platform. Think of Teburu as a jumping off point by which we’ll continue to innovate.
GamesRadar: I'd imagine you can't go into specifics yet about the projects that will benefit from this collaboration, but is there anything in mind that would transition across to this system particularly well? I can imagine the likes of Descent would be good candidates, considering how much they already blur the lines between physical and digital worlds.
Biehl: We feel applications of this technology are incredibly broad and will allow us to reimagine our existing portfolio like never before, as well as inspire the creation of entirely new games.
GamesRadar: In a similar vein, has any thought been given to how this could be utilized for long-running franchises like D&D or Arkham Horror?
Biehl: As stated earlier, we feel that the applications of this new technology will allow us to both enrich our current portfolio of games and expand our horizons to entirely new games - we can’t say much more than that for now, but we are very excited for the innovations to come.
GamesRadar: What kind of time-scale are we looking at, in broad strokes?
Biehl: We’re very excited to get this technology into player hands. Our launch strategy is currently in development but stay tuned for future announcements!
Because it seems like anything developed as part of the collaboration is a ways off, we'll have to wait and see for now. In the meantime, sound off with what you think about all this in the comments.
This has been a big week for tabletop - Disney's new trading card game is making waves after press previews went live, and you can see whether it's worth getting excited about in my Disney Lorcana first impressions.