Days Of Wonder has just pushed out a big update to Small World 2 which adds real-time and asynchronous cross-platform multiplayer match-ups across iPad, Android tablets (including Amazon’s Kindle Fire), and PCs via both Steam and Days of Wonder Online.
At the heart of the new online play is a brand-new player lobby system (called “Online Arena”) similar to the one used for company’s other hot digital board gaming property, Ticket to Ride. It has real-time, persistent chat, list of connected players, game creation and list of open games to join, so finding someone to play Small World 2 with has never been easier.
In the Online Arena you have a choice of two game modes, Single Session and Multi Session. Single Session games are your real-time match-ups (just like online games of Ticket to Ride on the iPad) where an AI player takes over if a player (rage) quits the game or gets disconnected.
Multi session games are the asynchronous version of the game which already exists, but when accessed via the new Online Arena you’ll be able to play with anyone in the arena and cross multiple platforms as well. Plus you’ll even be able to start a game on one platform and pick it up on another.
The Online Arena allows for Tournament-Style multi-player by enabling a chess clock-like feature whereby the player creating the game decides in advance how much time will be allocated to each player for the entirety of the game. Anytime it is your turn to play, you are eating away at your timer. This is a great way to keep asynchronous games from dragging on and being forgotten or orphaned forever. Playdek utilizes this mechanism in a number of their games as well and I love it! Days of Wonder however, have taken it one cooler step further and instead of the player just automatically forfeiting the match when his or her timer expires, an AI player steps in so the game can still be played to completion. Better still, even if the replacement AI player were to win the game, the original player who timed out still records a loss for that match.
Aside from potentially speeding up asynchronous online play, this player clock is also a great feature for anyone wanting to play in a tournament environment where every player gets the exact same amount of play time. It is adjustable down to the minute and comes with a number of preset durations.
When I asked if the folks at Days of Wonder if the Online Arena would be replacing the existing “Online with Buddies” and/or “Online Quick Play” options, I was told that there will still be “two separate places you can choose from the main screen. The renamed ‘Invite Buddies’ option allows you to quickly access your buddy list to start a private game which are all Multi-session games. Or you can go into the Online Arena – also from the main screen to start either single session or multi-session games with buddies or with players you don’t know.”
For a company with just sixteen employees, it is rather impressive what Days Of Wonder has been able to accomplish over the past eleven and a half years. The original Small World was one of the first board games developed for the iPad, launching on the same day as the first generation iPad nearly three years ago. The franchise as a whole (physical game, expansions and digital game combined) has generated more than $20 million global sales, with the board game selling more than 650,000 copies worldwide across its digital and physical versions. While these numbers pale in comparison to DoW’s Ticket to Ride, which was (as of last year) reported to have sold more than 2 million physical copies of the game and nearly that many copies on iOS as well, it is still quite impressive given that “a ‘hit’ independent/hobby board game typically sells between 5,000-10,000 copies”.
This update should be rolling out momentarily and is a great addition to the game, that should bring in a lot more varied and active community of opponents…I for one can’t wait to get my butt kicked by even more people. 🙂