A/N: I recently spoke to our friends Tomi & Jouni - the founders and creators of Dized! Now available in Early Access, Dized is the ultimate companion app that lets you throw out the rulebook and learn as you play! Download it on iOS or Android today and give it a whirl!
Tomi: Hello, and thank you for having us! So, we call Dized "The Ultimate Companion App". What we mean by this is that we want Dized to be the one app you'll want to make your tabletop game night better. In short Dized has digital content that you can use along physical board games.
We're focusing first on getting into games easier with interactive tutorials. It's like bringing the demo person to the table and you can jump into the game straight away. And then the app supports your further gaming sessions with digital rulebooks and other digital content, like score counters, soundtracks, new mechanics, game expansions and even dungeon masters - basically anything that a smart device is suitable for. We're focusing on building this platform and the content itself is created by publishers and other content creators.
Jouni: Good question, as we've actually done a lot of research and testing on this. In short the essential thing is to offer a good first time playing experience, and make sure people learn the correct rules. This itself is pretty universal to any game.
For more complex games it becomes more important to teach the rules gradually. Dized tutorials aim to get the players into the playing phase as soon as possible, as it's better to teach the rules when players are implementing them immediately. This way the knowledge becomes a skill in short intervals which makes learning bigger games more comfortable.
Another thing Dized can do is to adapt to the play group and the game itself, which allows a lot of the information to be either left out or to be taught later on. For example, if there are 3 players at the table, the tutorial doesn't need to cover special situations for other player amounts. Or for example maybe the player has been introduced to 5 different actions and they need to take one, like in Blood Rage, and let's say the player chooses to take the invade action. Now the tutorial will walk the player through how to do exactly that, while leaving the rest of the detailed walkthroughs for later, when someone is actually taking one of those actions.
There are quite a few other methods as well how Dized tutorials make the whole learning experience better, for example allowing players to determine how fast they want to proceed.
Tomi: As I mentioned, there’s much more to Dized than tutorials, that’s for sure. While the tutorials are meant for players playing the game for the first time, the rules on Dized incorporate indexed rules with a living FAQ and a search function. So when you have that one specific rule question, or just can’t remember how a single rule played out, it’s very easy to find it in the rules.
The FAQ answers are cross-referenced with the game rules, and we're soon adding a feature where players can ask questions that aren't included yet. The publisher can then go and answer them, updating the service for everyone at the same time. Oh, the rules are updated easily in a web browser by the publisher so it's easy for them to keep them up to date. Plus you'll always have the correct answers and rules!
Jouni: You know, the weird thing is how that time flew for us. We can't believe 3 years went by so quickly! Basically, we've been just creating this platform. At any time we've had at least 10 full time people working on this product.
We had done some mockups before the Indiegogo campaign and had a plan how to build this platform. At that time we were sure developing this wasn't going to take that long. Boy were we wrong. There have been quite a few frustrating uphill battles where we have realized we need to do more development than what we anticipated. This happened multiple times in areas where we had an idea which technology we were going to use, and then implementing it turned out to be a nightmare, or maybe that technology wasn't supported anymore. We had to build a lot of things from scratch instead of being able to implement something that would've already existed.
One thing I wish we were able to communicate better was how complex this platform really is. In simple terms, yes - it's a content creation tool with a distribution platform. But in fact it's a platform that allows you to animate and program a whole variety of companion app contents, which are technically straight up video games, and you just use them along your physical tabletop games. Creating the tool that allows the publishers to produce this content at a very low cost was the big challenge, and frankly why it has taken so long for us to achieve that moment.
Tomi: It’s like when asking from a band “what’s your favorite album to this date” and they always answer the latest album. So I’m going to go with that answer and go with 7 Wonders.
Jouni: Personally I have a soft spot for the Time Breaker tutorial, as it was the first tool made tutorial that was published on Dized. And it's a great example of how Dized tutorials work.
Tomi: But definitely Blood Rage is something that is worth checking out as well. Although it’s not built with the tools as it’s a part of the handmade pilot project library, it’s still a really good looking and sounding tutorial!
Tomi: We founded the company with Jouni in 2014. It was our love for board games, and games in general for that matter, that was the spark that made us found the company. However, we do have pretty varied backgrounds especially heading up to the years when we found Playmore Games. After educating myself in IT, I trained to be a chef and afterwards a journalist and worked on both professions for some time.
Jouni: I also have a background in IT and afterwards studied to be a youth worker, though I didn't work in that field for long before I started globetrotting. That took me around the world during which I had several kinds of jobs from road construction in Christchurch, New Zealand after the earthquake to scuba diving in the Caribbean.
And we definitely need to mention our awesome team too! We have employees from several different countries and they have shown over the years their passion for board games and Dized. It's a team effort trying to make board gaming better for everyone and we are humbled, and frankly feel quite lucky, to get to work with such amazing people every day.
Tomi: Well, of course, the product itself! What is Dized really? When we started with the idea that we want to do something in the digital space of board gaming we consulted publishers and other industry operators. It turned out everyone had their own unique needs or sometimes even obscure ideas about what we should be focusing on. Maybe we could be a service that delivers missing game pieces? Or an app that stores rulebook PDFs for all games? Or a retail store locator. Actually, one retailer told us they will not be part of any platform that offers a retail store locator, because they didn't want their customers to find out about other close-by stores.
Finally we did nail down the universal need all publishers had, which was removing the rulebook issue and making games more accessible. But that was only the starting point, as even when we knew exactly what it needed to be, we still had no idea what it needed to be. Tabletop games are household entertainment products and we wanted to come up with a service that made them "plug and play", or rather "sit down and play" in this case. It took quite a bit of research and testing to figure out how that could be done in an affordable way for any kind of tabletop game.
Jouni: Yes, anyone familiar with digital content creator tools such as Photoshop or Wordpress is fully equipped to create content in Dized, for example a tutorial. Tutorial is actually one of the more complex projects, as it's a lot easier to create rules and score calculators and stuff like that.
There are several phases when creating a full tutorial. First you obviously have to learn the game inside out and especially how to teach it. After that there's creating the story, or script, how that teaching should go. Dized tutorials are created as a flow chart so the tutorial creator can decide where the story goes in certain situations. After the teaching method and logic is in order then it's adding the audio-visual elements. In other words, bring in the necessary assets and animate each tutorial step, and add voice overs and music. Finally it's playtesting, possible fixes and publishing it into Dized!
Creating a tutorial, once you know the tools, typically takes from a few days to two weeks. This heavily depends on the game's complexity but also other factors like how complex is the tutorial itself and what is the production quality desired. Dized does a review for all the content before it's published. There is a certain standard for that as we want to make sure players get good quality content, but we have already been happily surprised to see publishers are exceeding those standards.
Now one thing that needs to be mentioned is that since content on Dized includes publisher owned intellectual properties, or IPs, all content published in Dized has to be approved by the IP owner, or the licence holder. This is one thing Dized checks in its review. So, if someone wants to make a specific content into Dized, they need to get permission from the publisher.
Tomi: I’ve played a lot of co-op games lately. Dark Side Rising has been fun. Legendary games like Marvel and Aliens also keep drawing me back to the table. XCOM is still also one of my favourites, the way it combines digital and analog is fantastic.
Jouni: I'm also into co-op games and the crime solving ones have been on the table lately, like Chronicles of Crime from Lucky Duck Games and Detective from Portal Games. I also find Fidget Factory hilarious, as it's basically a co-op game about running a start-up. Maybe I like it because it's a short game and very much less stressful than running a real one!
Tomi: For Dized, we’re expanding the tools and the platform with new functions and possibilities. But we’re also looking into supporting everything we have released so far, to make them more sleek and user friendly. For the company, we wish to keep expanding our networks and meet new people and operators in the industry. Hopefully make a positive impact for all the gamers out there and make board game hobby even more inclusive for everyone.
Jouni: Dized app is free to download for iOS and Android, so you can check it out immediately. There's actually some free content being offered right now, though we also recommend supporting the publishers by buying their content too!
We are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, just search for Dized, and more information is available at dized.com. We would especially love to hear from people who want to start creating content into Dized!
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