App Review: Midgard Atlas for iOS from Open Design and WyvernX

The realms of Wolfgang Baur‘s Midgard setting have been revealed slowly over the last many months as Open Design has been working on a slew of titles – Midgard Campaign Setting tome, Journeys to the West, Midgard Tales, and more… And many of us have been eagerly anticipating learning more about this world we’ve only read about in bits and pieces through the Midgard Bestiary, Tales of Zobeck, and more… Each tantalizing piece of the puzzle has hinted at other equally tasty morsels.

Somehow, in the midst of all the anticipation, Open Design slipped in the Midgard Atlas designed by WyvernX! What is it you ask? It’s an interactive atlas available for the iPad (running iOS 5.1+). But where other atlases offer visions of the real world (or other real-world physical bodies such as Mars or our moon), the Midgard Atlas offers an interactive map of Midgard – from the Western Ocean to the Dragon Empire.

And yes, it has all the things you’d expect in an atlas. Beautiful maps of Midgard drawn by Jonathan Roberts. Zoom and pan capabilities with the touch of a few fingers. Links to detailed maps of nine major cities. Clouds lazily drifting by as if you are watching the world from low orbit… And you can even turn on or off some of these features like map text, the linked maps, and the clouds. It’s a fantastic marriage of art, imagination, and technology that I wish we saw more of from other publishers.

Now… Is it perfect? No. It’s as though this is the first iteration of the concept and when they hit all the major points I just mentioned, they decided they were done. There are a ton of features I think could be added easily and I hope that there’s more coming.

What’s missing? Odds and ends. The list is endless, but I’d like to see:

  • “X Marks the Spot” – Have it remember where you were the last time you closed the application or enable it to include several markers you can put down yourself and easily navigate to.
  • “Fog of War” – Offer a way for GMs to apply a mask across the map so players can only see what they’ve explored so far.
  • Distance Calculator – How far is it from Point A to Point B? There’s no sense of scale like you have on traditional maps. There’s a compass rose, but no adjusting scale.
  • More maps, from published adventures that take place in Zobeck or elsewhere in Midgard. Or the ability to upload and link your own maps to locations on the map. Or the ability to have nested maps (world/city/building/encounter)…

As tablet computers become more and more accepted around the game table, I think we’ll see an explosion of tools like this and many we haven’t though of yet. It’s more than maps, character sheets, and virtual battle spaces – there are GM campaign analysis tools, module/encounter design tools, and who knows what else. I hope that other publishers take note and start to expose their gaming properties to a whole new audience this way.

That actually brings up one other possible issue with this app. It’s iPad only, leaving the folks out in the cold with Android tablets. As the Kindle Fire and other small tablets become more commonplace it would be nice to see more of this sort of application be cross-platform.

Even so, for $3.99 through iTunes, I have to say this thing should be an automatic purchase for any fan of Midgard and Open Design. Who wouldn’t want to share these glorious maps in full color with a gaming group? Pick up a copy even if all you do is gawk and watch the clouds float lazily by. 🙂

For more about Midgard and the Midgard Atlas

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