Feature Request: Tokens with Art

In the normal table based grid experience, our characters can be nicely painted (or not) miniatures who are easy to recognize. It’d be great to be able to give players tokens with art instead of just being “the red one”.

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I’ve had quite a few people bring this up and it’s been on my mind since before Shmeppy’s first prototype. I have some hefty concerns with it.

First it’d go against the 3rd trait of Shmeppy’s design pretty directly. As if to confirm that the painted duck effect is at play, I’ve had users say to me verbatim “I like how I’m forced to use more abstract tokens, rather than spending a ton of time finding the token image that’s ‘just right’”. So I think there’d be a significant downside to implementing this feature.

Second, on the “what it will do positively” side of things, I worry that it will only be marginally more satisfying than what we have now. Whenever I’ve used tokens (with images) in another VTT, I don’t feel like I’m using a handpainted metal miniature, instead it feels like a poor approximation.

I’ve got a plan forward for this feature though (that I came up with awhile ago). Specifically I’m not going to implement it yet. Instead I’m going to wait to see whether GMs and players who have used Shmeppy through several real sessions end up requesting this feature. My thinking is that If enough people who have given the abstract tokens thing a shot tell me that they’d really like images, it’ll be a good hint that the upside might be more than I thought.

But at the moment, the downsides seem to outweigh the upsides.

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I’d thought about how this directly conflicts with the 3rd trait of Shmeppy’s design goals. At the same time, I think this is probably the single smallest change that conflicts with the design goals that would most enable the ‘Staying Authentic’ bit for me.

I personally tend to spend a lot of time pre-drawing maps and creating specific paper pawns or getting hand painted miniatures, but tools like Roll20 tend to fall short due trap UX elements (Dynamic lighting & LOS, auto rollers that can’t handle situational modifiers), general buggyness of the network code (dropped pawn positions happen routinely in my experience), and lack of customer support (I tried to get Roll20 to help me triage the dropped position update issues as a pro user and got radio silence).

FWIW, I’m very excited about Shmeppy, but the lack of pawn images would stop me from trying to use it for a real game, so you may get less feedback encouraging this feature from people who have used it for an actual game.

I do think there is a trade off question with regards to enabling ‘staying authentic’ for more users vs the brutal simplicity design. Personally, I’m hoping that power user features can be introduced in a way that doesn’t disrupt the quick and easy play uses.

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You’re definitely not the only one who feels that way. I’ve heard at least a couple other sticking points come up around authenticity/realism too: diagonal lines and textures for the fill tool come to mind.

I was just talking with @xymostech about this in The three traits of Shmeppy's design. A big bet I’m making with Shmeppy is hoping there’s a market for a not-designed-for-power-users VTT. What really sucks about that is that some folks like you who are really excited about Shmeppy might ultimately not be well-served by it :frowning:.

Though I hope that even folks like you who really like spending a lot of time pre-drawing maps and doing lots of prep work, will still find it hella convenient to have a tool on-hand that doesn’t require that.

I also hope down the line I can find a way to blend the two worlds of power-user and non-power-user in such a way that, as you say, “doesn’t disrupt the quick and easy play uses.” I think allowing the uploading of pre-made map images (ex: those made in campaign cartographer) will actually go a long way towards that :crossed_fingers:.

These are all pretty high-level thoughts though. For each specific feature like this one, it’s gonna be a new decision. A new question of balancing “‘staying authentic’ for more users vs the brutal simplicity design”, as you say.

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I don’t feel a big need for decorating the tokens, it doesn’t detract for me. Also, at the pretty far-away zoom levels Shmeppy operates, which work pretty well, though maybe I could zoom in more, the token imagery would be very small.

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On the map visibility? Not as important.

Thinking more of an Shift-mouseover pop-up similar to menu selections (adding the Shift-) tool-tips you have now. Where you upload an image and assign it to a token, thereafter Shift-mouseover shows that image. This upload probably requires too much server overhead, though. And I saw another post about token assignments making the whole affair overly complicated – ownership, etc.

Instead, draw on another portion of the map (GM) each token’s pop-up picture – outlining it with a dedicated Edge color* for this purpose. (GM) Assigns each of these areas to its appropriate token and a smaller version of that drawing pops-up during a Shift-mouseover of that token. *or matching colors – Yellow token gains Yellow border picture assignment automatically – maybe some special area of map (or a layer to keep these edges separate from normal drawing). More complication comes if Yellow border picture needs yellow edges within its drawing (assuming limited palette). No upload required. Requires permanent color-token and color-edge association.

This remains a GM or backend (map/Game owner) feature the players would only see the effects of just as Fog of War and could not edit or make themselves.

I’ll quickly complement you on creating something that was greatly needed in the community.

In regards to tokens with art…that would be nice I guess, it runs similar in line with textures as stated. To me something like that is needed (both features) simply for clarifications sake. It doesn’t have to be tokens, but at least some way other than basic color to be more specific about map tokens and fill.

Maybe it’s just my players but I find I’m constantly reminding them what token is what. The work you have done with the auto sorting of labels is a great feature…but I still find labels constantly getting in the way and being in the wrong place during the tighter explorations and combat, so I feel that, while essential and helpful, I need a different tool in the tool box for our monkey brains to grok on.

In a similar vain the texture would be nice…if only to indicate some additional things like stairs. Or to differentiate between mud and a tree, grass and a tree…I might change my mind with a bit more play (on the texture subject).

I think “labels getting in the way” is a problem that can be addressed further. I’m very hesitant to add a second feature that is trying to do the exact same thing labelling is trying to do. My worry is in the vein of “why have two tools that work sorta poorly when you could have one that works really well.”

I have a plan to address these kinds of map features. I think my plans around “labeled areas” will be able to solve this. Though I’m not sure if I’ve made a forum post about this tentatively-planned feature yet, or if I’ve just talked about it on Discord.

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Valid point, I think that’s probably the proper line of thinking in this regard, if you already have some ideas down that line.

Maybe just basic letters with the option to identify people by name with the option to change the color of each letter, that would give plenty of options for characters to identify themselves without taking 10 hours to decide on a picture.

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It’s a tempting idea and one that’s come up before.

I think it would be less damaging in terms of “the painted duck effect”, but I’m not quite sure I understand the problems its trying to solve.

One person did mention awhile ago that they’d like to mark “special” tokens via a symbol on the token body itself. I’m not quite sure what the criteria for specialness is though (my guess is the big bad boss?).

I’ve also heard requests to use them to track status effects.

What problem are you hoping this would address?

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One thing I don’t see mentioned here and that seems to fit with Shmeppy’s design: Generic tokens. There was a recent Reddit Post with 4 tokens in different variants that was intended to cover all possible use cases (look for the reply by the original poster with the details of the icon language used).

There is also Sly Flourish’ generic monster tokens PDF which I feel look a bit better but aren’t as comprehensive as the language in the previous post.

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In in-person play I have multiple sets of d6s. Then if there are like 3 goblins, i’ll use the red d6s and turn them so they are numbered, 1, 2, and 3. Then the towns people may be the green d6s. Players have to protect them. This helps people identify who theyre attacking/protecting. Also it lets me indicate which baddies/goodies are taking action.

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When I try and figure out whether to implement a particular feature. I tend to focus on the problem being addressed rather than the specifics of the feature itself.

For this feature, one problem that (some version of) this feature could attack is “I want a more immersive experience.” I talk to that in my first post in this thread and it’s generally a problem I’m willing to let lie and not attack directly.

So my question for those of you who are interested in this feature (or some variant of it): what problem are you trying to solve?

Disclaimer: I have not actually used Shmeppy in a game yet (I discovered it yesterday). So this is based on theory, but in my professional life I design visualizations, so I’m familiar with the problem space.

Problem that I would want this to solve: Rapid ingestion of map state.

I expect the current colored markers + labels to be slightly slow to interpret, and thus be a distraction during play. It is possible that people will so fully learn the colors that it won’t work that way - but my gut instinct says that a set of icons will be quicker/more intuitive to interpret than a set of colored circles. Colored circles also have clear problems for color-blind people.

While I’m not necessarily interested in art (I fully agree with the minimalistic design principal), there is some difficulty surrounding the cluttering of text tags on tokens in tight situations. If you have a group of player characters with their named tokens, or a tight cluster of enemies, it results in a bit of visual clutter. I think one solution that doesn’t compromise the design (In my eyes, solely as a user) would be the ability to number tokens.

I’ve provided a map below and snipped out a section of it for a mock of this concept. In our game, we abbreviate the names of mooks/enemies, and use full names for specific players/NPCs. In this example, M would stand for Monk, G for guard, and there is a named NPC with them at the table.

This isn’t a direct feature request or anything, but I am curious about your stance on the concept of numbered tokens.

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I’ve thought about making it so that when a token label could fit within a token, it renders on top of it like this. I think the interface would be a little weird, especially while editing the label, but it could help the label clutter for a decently common situation.

I haven’t given dev time to improving the label clutter in awhile, and this is just one possible solution to that problem, so I’m not sure whether it’s the best one/a good one to do.

In theory, it seems reasonable though. And is certainly a solution I plan to explore a bit when I turn my gaze to token labels again.

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My personal take on this discussion is that adding image imports is unnecessary, but adding some form of on-the-token identification could be extremely useful. I’ve run three sessions so far in Shmeppy, and their only complaint about tokens was “Why do we need to have our character name on them when we could just have a symbol?”. They don’t want to have to read their name to figure out which is theirs, and they are notoriously bad at remembering their assigned colour. I think a small library of basic shapes and symbols could help with the clutter of names and this problem. Nothing too complex, maybe an X, a crescent shape, a star, or other simplistic symbols that wouldn’t wreck the look of the tool. I would argue that this goes right to the core of basic “this is a whiteboard that i slapped onto my kitchen table” gameplay: we never used words, we used buttons, dice, pencil sharpeners or in one memorable game, a blueberry. There may be some drawbacks to ease of use with this, but I feel as if it follows the original guidelines of Shmeppy.

The absence of art is a crucial attraction of Shmeppy. Many VTTs allow for (require) detailed artistic work to craft basic maps. The maps usually require the import gorgeous full-colour artwork. The endpoint of this is an expensive, time-consuming map that can divert us from our imagination. Words + Shmeppy allow for a balance between creativity and game organization. Being image and rule agnostic will enable us to use our imaginations and not pocketbooks to build stories. Eventually, each group will develop its own image language.

Shmeppy is the art.

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