The basic game play is that there’s a monster and a ball in the middle of the arena, in a maze. Outside the maze are goals. Get the ball in the goal and you score a point. To encourage dynamic, self-organizing teams, each goal has two players color; both players get a point.
I created the map in Gimp. Each different feature (walls, floors, goal stripes, etc.) were a different layer. The walls were pencil lines with a slight jitter, filled with a brick pattern. The floors started as a simple slate pattern fill, then I added a maze. I drew a control layer of the maze walls (filled in), and applied a Gaussian filter cropped to actual wall boundaries (i.e., removed the halo). I then used this control layer as a bump map on the floor.
For the goals I wanted the appearance that they were painted on, but faded. I used a gradient to create diagonal stripes, then added an alpha channel for partial transparency. The alpha channel faded near the edges, so the goal fades out. Finally, to facilitate grid alignment, I added a tic-tac-toe board outside the arena.
To actually run the arena, I used Maptool. The fact that it was cross-platform helped; we had a mix of Windows and Linux laptops. I simply told everyone to go to the website and run Maptool. My big fear when using computers during gaming sessions is that they tend to suck people in, lessening the interaction, so i was careful to limit the role of computers. We were all in the same room, on various couches, and i wanted us physically talking with each other. We used Maptool only for mapping and token movement. All other game interaction was done classic style — talking and physical dice rolls. Apparently, the players had a lively chat going in Maptool, but it wasn’t game related. It worked well. The map made it real and let us figure out precise tactical play, but most of the action stayed in our imagination.
All in all it was a nice fusion of computers and pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons.