Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Discussion: Online Gaming

I find myself in a mood to run another game. The only problem is that as I've gotten older it has become harder and harder to arrange a night when myself and a group of people can all get together in one location to have game. It isn't the time or day but more the added hassle of travel and what that means. Now, time was - and I grew up as a gamer through this time - that if you couldn't get together in person there was no point in even trying to game. That seems to have changed now.

Aside from folks gaming together through Skype or over Team Speak there are programs like roll 20 that are specifically designed around online gaming. Even weirder for me is that I recently found out that the two players in my extended group with the least experience in roleplaying both have more experience with this kind of gaming than I do.

And so I find myself playing around with Roll20 and looking at it as a means to run a game. It can run through Google Hangouts and voice comm through a third party software doesn't seem hard - reports are the roll 20 native voice chat is a bit buggy. I suppose the only step left is to try it with something like a one shot.

My question to you all today is how many of you have played games through some online means? How did it go? What did you find it added to the experience? What did it take away?


  1. Over Roll20, I've been a player one remote session & GM'd two sessions. In addition, for the last six months or so, I have us using Roll20 for the campaign I run that is STILL in-person. We assemble in my living room all with our own laptop. It does seem that online RPG'ing really has seemed to explode in the last year or so. I've been a player using Fantasy Grounds software once.

    I find myself as open or more so to moving the 1+ year-old campaign I run to remote/online than my players. I suspect one big reason is that I do all the organizing, I deal with whether each session has enough players & I'm responsible for finding new players. I'm responsible that it all happens, so any tool that helps make that less of a headache is going to appeal more than players who don't deal with any of that.

    This may sound a tad strange, and I've never heard anyone else say this but, IMO, groups that like to use maps in their sessions are going to take to Roll20 much easier than groups that don't. Which is not to say non-map users are guaranteed to hate online gaming, just that I think it's going to be a strong factor. In the last 3 years or so there's been this powerful groundswell towards so called "story driven games" (SDG) (an unfortunate term I think, since it seems to infer other RPGs aren't really that concerned about story). In my experience those SDGs have a significantly tendency to eschew maps with the mindset, "This isn't Pathfinder". Roll20 excels at just precisely that - maps and the player experience with those maps. It's the *heart* of Roll20. So if your players enjoy maps, there's going to be healthy dose of, "Wow, I never realized how much your hand-drawn maps sucked - these are beautiful"...and they're going to be impressed with the Line-of-Sight & Lighting features. They're going to tend to think it's cool that their current view in the room their PC is in is different than their party member's, who's in a different room. Even if, at the very same time, they miss the positives of everyone being in the same room.

    Players who don't enjoy maps will have a tendency not to experience the positives of these aspects. For one thing, they'll probably be thinking "There's too many maps." They'll be focusing on the reduced interaction between players, because the communication pipeline over Hangouts is much narrower than it is when you're all sitting in the same room. The GM might be thinking that it's much harder to corral a difficult player online than it is in-person.

    Now, of course, that maps factor is going to be trumped by what is probably the biggest factor of all - playing or not playing. If you live in remote mountains and you like to game, than you LOVE online gaming because that's the only gaming in town. If you live in town but online gaming lets you game more than 1x/month, then you're probably okay with it, too.

    Lastly, I think attitudes will continue to shift about online gaming as it becomes more & more common and accepted - attitudes have already shifted quite a bit, as you expressed A.L.

  2. online gaming is my primary means of gaming. It is really convenient for pickup games and squeezing in games when real life doesn't leave you much time to game.

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  4. I find that trying to run a dice game online has a few inherent handicaps that aren't present when you have everyone in a room together. Google hangout does provide a credible way of communicating with a group, but it doesn't give you the kind of access to constant mood and body language that you can pick up on when people are actually in the space with you. This is of course balanced out by the fact that you can draw a larger group of people together from different parts of the world, and so online gaming is much more accessible.

    As the technology develops the ability to directly communicate and interact across the internet will improve, making the long distance tabletop experience better. In the mean time the internet is a great method for other role playing experiences such as narrative text based interactions and of course button mashing MMORPG's. In that way it makes sense that Roll20 would be better for map based games because video games have already paved the way for that particular mechanism. Moving forward all of these forms will inform one another to help develop the future of the genre.