Bigger playing area, part 4… or not?

Hi again,

I was working on my last idea to make the table bigger. A picture is worth a thousands words, look at this mockup (miserably done with Paint, so it’s ugly).

Groups on table Mockup

My idea was to put the groups back on the table (instead of at the bottom of the GUI). Also, the hand is layered above the bottom of the table and responds a bit like a MacOS docking bar. It expends itself when the mouse is over it. One could have seen other people’s hands by clicking on their name or something; it would have swapped the displayed hand.

Doing so, there are almost nothing left at the bottom of the screen and I could collapse the region a lot more. In the end the table is covering nearly 100% of the screen.

I started to work on that, and I encountered many problems:

  • One has more table space, but more is wasted by groups. This is especially true in games with many players. With the older layout, no matter how many players there was the same space was available for play (because groups were in tabs). Now if you play a 6 or 8 players game, you have that many groups on the table.
  • Placing the groups on the table at startup is difficult (it depends on the game and the number of players obviously). The groups can be moved around, but the goal is not that every time you start a game you have to do some housekeeping.
  • Groups on the table don’t play too nicely with the zooming feature. You start with bigger cards because it’s cool. If the game goes out of hand you simply zoom out. But then you may wish to move all your groups around and it’s not that cool.
  • When you’re zoomed out, the groups may be small, I find it nicer to have big groups at a convenient place like the previous interface had.
  •  The hand is overlapping the table, and it will hide some of your cards / make interacting with them difficult. Or you pan/zoom the table so that no card is under your hand but then… it’s wasted space, what was the point about doing all that!

So, putting the things on the table is giving me trouble, and I less and less feel that it’s
a good idea. The older layout wasn’t bad anyway, the change was motivated by the will to have more table space. Now I’m considering keeping the old layout, maybe tweak it a bit to make better where it’s not that good…

Ok: I know it’s very hard for you to get a good picture of all this, especially since you have never actually played with it. Screenshots don’t tell the whole story. But anyway, I am interested in your opinion / feelings. So please post your comments!


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33 Comments on “Bigger playing area, part 4… or not?”

  1. Ormiss Says:


    This is my first comment on your blog, so let me start by saying that I think it’s really cool that you’re working on this project, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product. My friends and I play a lot of casual magic and OCTGN is really the only program that does what we want.

    To be honest, I’m not sure what you mean by groups. Do you mean that each player (or group of players) will be a “group” and have their cards displayed at a different orientation? If that is the case, I don’t think that’s all that necessary.

    Another thing: I’m not sure how you intend the mana pool to be used, but I figure that it’d have to be used manually, and I personally don’t think that such a feature would be necessary. I can’t see myself using it; keeping track of mana is seldom a problem since you count as you tap your lands/artifacts/creatures and play spells, and if you lose track, you can just go back and count again. I wouldn’t use the mana pool, myself, so it’d be nice if it were possible to toggle the view of the mana pool icons in the client.

    Also, I’m guessing that the purple “drop of liquid” icon next to the life total is a poison counter? Unless I’m mistaken, it’s my personal opinion that you could do without it. Poison is used only in a negligible number of decks, and if you do play with or against a poison using deck, it’s no great sacrifice to simply create a token card labeled “Poison” and then put charge counters on it or something.

  2. roblethal Says:

    jods, mate, looking good. Anxious over here.

    @Ormiss: you are thinking too literal when jods says groups. He’s talking about software design, not MtG or game play. The Different groups (deck, hand, chatbox, counters, etc) were in a GUI panel (sort of like MODO, and like OCTGN 1.x). He was experimenting, at least I think, by separating the groups independently on the play area…). Hopefully, I’m not all wrong here, 😛

  3. Fork Says:

    Difficult to say as this needs definitely a testing session, but according to your explanation and screenshot I can say:
    -Mac OS style hand at the bottom of the screen looks definitely the way to go: I’ve received some feedback from other players and having a hand visible at the bottom of the screen has been requested as it is easier to visualize.

    I am not too sure about the zoom vs. groups, that is one field that can only be judged by testing.

  4. Viparas Says:

    Something that MIGHT work would be having the hand be in a small window that overlaps the play field that can be dragged around. It could be minimized to a tab in-game to be removed from the field when you need a better view, and if you ended up needing to see an opponents hand for whatever reason, a second window would pop up showing their hand. if there was a constant effect that revealed everybody’s hand, then all of them could pop up in windows and be minimized to tabs. This could look something like the tool windows in Photoshop, and better, could involve tabs flashing like minimized windows in the windows OS do to notify you of changes that have occured while tabbed. Graphically, you could either have the cards in the hand be represented by text, as they were in 1.5, and then have the full size card fade into view when you hover the mouse over them, or you could have them shown in thumbnail size with the hover-over enlarge.

  5. Bjorg Says:

    Hi I am also new to this blog.
    First of all, thanks for your efforts, your project looks awsome.
    Second, sorry if this is not related to yourproject, but cardfloppers have been down for a while and I need some info and dont know where to ask.

    My background:
    I have been playing MTGplay for the last few years privately with friends until I found out about OCTGN last week end. Their website is down, but I managed to get a copy of OCTGN iso via bitorrent. The installation was a breeze and it even imported my decks and cards from MTGPlay. However I have a few questions.

    What is the current version of OCTGN?

    When I host, I am immediately switched to spectator mode and I cant get back to player mode. However, when I try and connect to the public servers, I can act as a player. Is there any option to solve that problem?

    Finally, can anybody send me the latest version of OCTGN (without the cards) to my email: (use if the file is bigger than 10 megs)

    Thanks in advance and looking forward to play with you guys via the OCTGN chat room when it gets fixed.

  6. Viparas Says:

    bjorg, this is a blog for OCTGN 2.0 development. However, you can get all the information you need from the Octgn IRC channel on in the #octgn channel.

  7. Discord Says:

    For my two cents worth, I think groups belong off the table.

    As you’ve mentioned, a number of problems need to be dealt with as soon as you decide to have them floating on the table….and I don’t think these problems are worth the slight increase in table size.

    With the zoom-out feature for the table, you’ve already given us all the room we could possibly want…we can afford to lose a few pixels from the bottom.


  8. Kempeth Says:

    Hmm. Sorry if this is a dumb question. But what are these groups you are talking about?

  9. Bjorg Says:

    I can connect to that chatroom using the octgn chat shortcut. However I cant write anything or see people writing. Maybe it has to do with my config or maybe it is just down. Or should I try downloading MIRC or something external to octgn to connect to that chatroom?

    Anyways, thanks for the reply Viparas.

  10. Bjorg Says:

    Never mind, I just found the website. I will try and get info from there late tonight as it is valentines day! Thanks for the info Viparas and happy valentines day to all. And again, sorry for the spam in this blog.

  11. Dude34 Says:

    mockup example:

    – No mana pool (or option to hide the manapool)
    – MacOS docking bar hover thingy
    – automatically card overlap to make space
    – Player life in the top right corner

  12. Viparas Says:

    The mockup Dude34 posted is pretty nice, the problem arises from situations where you need to be able to see how many cards are in the opponents hand, or have the top card of their library or yours revealed to other players at all times.

  13. jods Says:

    Thank you all for the input! Unfortunately there are too many comments for me to answer each one individually. But be assured that I’m considering everyone’s opinion and I am trying to come up with the best experience.

    After thinking, tweaking and toying a little while I don’t think that having groups (@Kempeth: like graveyard, draw pile in MtG. Group is just the generic term, because 2.0 isn’t tied to any game in particular) over the table is really a good thing. They need attention from the players (to move them around), take space (especially with 4+ players) and really create me more trouble than they’re worth.

    So I am going back to something similar to the old design, although I will try to make it slicker. Thank you very much Dude34 to have taken the time to create a very nice mockup. I know it takes time. The final design will be quite similar to your mockup, I think. The only problem I have with it: 1. It doesn’t show the other players’ stuff. 2. Although you may consider life as the only relevant counter for MtG, you have to keep in mind games, which have more than one relevant counter. 3. Also, I want to integrate the turn structure with the players display (like pass turn to next player, halt at the end of turn, etc.).

  14. none Says:

    When octgn software will be ready to play magic?
    Could we download anywhere and play it waiting nnew software relese,
    thank you

  15. Dude_34 Says:








  16. jods Says:

    The answer has already been given on this blog, I think. OCTGN 2 is not ready yet. And because it is a hobby and I have a job, progress is made in an unpredictable way. Moreover it is A LOT of work to build. So it is too far from complete now to estimate when it will be ready. The only thing I’ve said is that I hope it will go public during 2007, which I think is possible.

    Thanks for the work. Creating a good design is hard work and takes time, so your work is very appreciated. It helps me go faster!
    I like your ideas and they bring new perspectives. When it comes to creativity, the more minds, the better.
    I would love to incorporate some of your ideas. How would you accomodate the following points:

    – You are very MtG oriented. But remember that the client must be very generic. As such, it has been decided that OCTGN will present ONE table – like the real thing – and not one area per player. This is because some games can’t be played on distinct areas (e.g. Dungeoneer) while on the other hand every game can be played on one big table.

    – How would you adjust your design if I tell you that the game needs more than one counter? If you need one example to work on, can you submit one design with the manapool and the poison counter (even if you don’t use them).

    – How would it look for an 8 player game ?

    Don’t get discouraged by my remarks. This is hard stuff, and you are very helpful.

    Have a nice day,

  17. Ziktur Says:

    Well I was sitting here bored and stoned on my day off so I thought to look over here.

    Since you liked my theme, I thought to throw my thoughts around in here too. LOL.

    A thought on the zoom out idea. Why not just make the desktop zoom out, and not the overlaying gui?

    When zoomed out, you could see a small box line indicating someone in the game can’t see that far and will have to scroll over like in a civ game or zoom out more.

    Thinking that might be possible, I thought of this layout, a modification of yours.

    I’m also wondering, how easy is it going to be able to make one generic layout for all the different games? Will each game, when you load it, load a different layout with different icons for that said game?

    Thats why I went with just colored gems for the mana colors.

    Hopefully you like. I”m just bored. LOL

  18. Dude34 Says:

    Hi again! Some new stuff in this image, ONE table and Manapool counters. And 8 Players should be no problem.

    – One big, undivided playing area, just like in OCTGN 1.0 (except larger!)

    – All windows are semi-transparent, and can be moved, resized, or hidden at will. In addition, window “components” can be “docked” against each other (sort of like the windows in Adobe Photoshop) so they can either be moved as one or separated as the player pleases.

    – As default, cards are displayed side by side in the player’s hand (Player 1). If the player has too many cards to display side by side effectively (Player 2), the game automatically overlaps the cards to fit the window

    – The card that is “highlighted” in player 2’s hand is highlighted because player 1 is focusing his cursor on it. This enables player 1 to select and discard a card or do other actions (if given permission.) Think about playing Hymn to Tourach and getting to pick the cards yourself (it’s half the fun!)

    – The Manacounter window shows mana on the left side. Remaning life and total cards on hand on the right side

  19. Ziktur Says:

    On a side note, I was at work today and a friend was talking about role playing. That made me think. If the desktop area, not the gui, just the desktop area could be zoomed in and out, could players make jpg maps to use as backgrounds and do over the comp roleplaying with a mic and stuff?

    Just a thought. Never hurts to try and utilize as much potential as OCTGN can produce.

  20. Viparas Says:

    I’m with ziktur, that would be totally awesome.

  21. I agree – it’d be awesome to include some kind of ability for the host to set up some kind of shared background for all the players to use – would allow for all sorts of crazy board games!

    On a related note, are there any plans for custom dice yet? Some games use them, would be cool to have (you could specify an image to use for each face or something like that)

  22. Endurion Says:

    So what happened to There seems to be some sort of error with billing at the hosting company, it says.

    Where can a chap find OCTGN otherwise? Could anyone post a copy to usenet or something?

  23. Kempeth Says:

    A few days ago there was this page online saying that was hacked.

  24. Endurion Says:

    Well, if anyone has access to the application files, I would greatly appreciate a copy! If you could, please send me the installation file at endurion (at) gmail -dot- com… I would really appreciate it.

    Also, if this is going to be a long problem for cardfloppers, we should think of setting up some mirror access for the files. I have space and bandwidth that I would happily donate to the hosting of the file.

  25. Draxanoth Says:

    Hi, I was looking at your creation and thinking about the whole zoom vs groups. What if you don’t do either one, and make a panning type system.

    Shortcut keys, 1-9 or whichever, could be used. Sort of like the camera swinging around the table from each player. Zooming out could remain simply for a large overview.

    So imagine the number pad, pushing 5 would zoom out, 2 would show your own section, then 1 would show the next player to your left, 4 would be the player after him/her, etc. Smaller table layouts for less players. I’m not sure how small things look zoomed out, but if you can at least tell what the card graphic is, you would only need to closely examine them every so often. With 2 players using the standard screen works great, with 8 though this sounds like a decent middle ground.

    I Like the idea of the MAC style hands. It can shrink to be a minimal element of the table, but enlarge enough that it’s useful. You need some sort of tracking bar though. I know the whole mana pool thing sounds like useless extra, most people can count, but consider if you’re doing other games. LOTR you could change one of the mana counters to be the twilight pool, Star Trek you need points and play counters, etc. WoW, Star Wars…. Gods forbid… Pokaman *shudders* It’s a small piece of screen space for so many uses when other games are adapted. Not to mention the tabletop RPG element that was mentioned.

  26. Kempeth Says:

    ok. I’m horrible at graphics stuff so lets just describe my idea…

    Im thinking of a panel on the right side of the screen (could be left as well I suppose) with subpanels for every player. In standard view they would only show the most important info about a player: Name, hand cards, deck size, scrapheap size, life or whatever there is for a certain game. then you can unfold it like the panels on the left side of a windows explorer to show more details. Your own panels would be unfolded by default. If you unfold more panels than there is space you get a scrollbar.

    The original idea for the playing area was a endless table, right. If you need more space you just drag-box your cards and move them away from the others.

    How about the idea of two buttons ‘less space’ and ‘more space’. If you click them they rescale the playing area by a constant factor. All cards that are closer to each other than a certain distance stay together and form a “ResizeGroup”. ResizeGroups keep their relative position on the board thereby, proportionally increasing the distance between them. The only exceptions would be the outermost ResizeGroups. These would keep their absolute distance to the table border.

    Another question I would like to ask is about card orientation in multiplayer games. If you play a 2-player game you obviously face each other and so do the cards. In a 4-player game you probably sit on a rectangular table and your cards are played in right angles to the others. Now a 3-player game could just omit one player spot of a 4player game. But what do you do in a 5 or 6 player game?

  27. Draxanoth Says:

    If orientation is a problem you could create it like a long narrow table, 3 on each side, etc.

    You could eliminate the entire table of >2 all together. Just make every game 1 VS 1 in view, but expand to show whichever player you specify in the opposing view. Like a slide show, hit 2, player 2s play area would slide over the top of whoever you were previously viewing. Roll the mouse button maybe and it’ll slide through the opposing players in order.

    All this resizing talk sounds really complicated. There’s going to have to be compromises with the exception of 8 monitors ;), but the less physical manipulation of views the better. You already have to drag and move cards, do you really want to move, resize, expand, and place views every 2 seconds as well?

  28. Draxanoth Says:

    Here’s a rough example. Roll your mouse one click and player 1 slides out and player 2 slides in. Then 3 can see what he’s doing.

    Granted it’s not a shiny 8 man table, but it’s clean, large graphics like OCTGN 1, and probably easier to make. I’ve only had 2 years of programming, I’m a network guy *ducks the projectiles*, but tracking all players as their own little table, then displaying them as such, is probably easier than creating the controls for all the resizing.

  29. Kempeth Says:

    Draxanoth, it’s not that easy. Not every game is like magic where you have your stuff and they have their stuff…

  30. Endurion Says:

    Does no one have a problem with the fact that is GONE? Does anyone no of a way to get a hold of OCTGN? Please help!

  31. jods Says:

    Wow, thanks for the many comments!
    I don’t have time to answer everyone individually but I’ve read all of it and here are a few generic comments:

    – OCTGN will keep one big, shared table. Many games can’t get played on a “splitted” table (à la MTGO).

    – Designs, which need the game definition to specify how the GUI is laid out, are rejected, too. When the 2.0 project started (long ago) we wanted to create a specification of what our file formats are and how the network protocol works. Doing so, everyone has the possibility to create a new compatible client. For example a client to play one specific game (and hence with more GUI customization than is possible with a generic one). Or a client for other platforms. Actually, it all started with 2 teams. One to develop OCTGN on .NET, providing a rich experience on Windows. And another one to develop a JAVA version, making OCTGN cross-platforms (Win, Mac, Linux, and the likes). I haven’t seen the java team for a long time now, so the argument is not as important as it was. But I still would like to stick to it because the idea is neat. Maybe when OCTGN 2 is out, the interest in a java version will raise again.

    – I’m not all-in for the floating things, because I’ve noticed that when you put something on top of the table, you basically can’t play under it anymore. Hence you’re taking a table space, but in a way which gets annoying when you start to move or zoom the table around. Moreover your opponent may not have his GUI at the same place as you do, creating additionnal problems. Although I’d like to keep the idea as an option.

    – Someone suggested to put things in a sidebar. The problem with that is that most controls are more “horizontal” than “vertical”, which implies that the side bar would be quite large. It’s more efficient to dock things at the top or the bottom rather than to the sides.

    So, for now I’ve decided to revert back to a layout very similar to the first one I had made. It will be quite similar to Dude34 suggestion, too. Except that the bars aren’t floating (yet?).

  32. Tzion Says:

    When will you finifh the program(not the exact date if you don’t know)?
    Will it have solitaire game(playing with yourself)?
    Can we put cards of whatever we want in easily(no matter what ccg/tcg game)?

  33. jods Says:

    >When will you finifh the program(not the exact date if you don’t know)?
    Sorry but it’s too early to make a good guess. The problem is that development is very irregular… Sometimes I do giant steps, and sometimes I do nothing for weeks. It really depends on my real life (real = away from computer), and it’s something which is very unpredictable. Stay tuned on this blog if you want to know more about progress!

    >Will it have solitaire game(playing with yourself)?
    Yes, if you open 2 instances of OCTGN on your computer. Further support is not included in the 2.0 roadmap.

    > Can we put cards of whatever we want in easily(no matter what ccg/tcg game)?
    If I understand the question correctly, the answer is yes. 2.0 has far better support for games than 1.x has.

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