Tuesday, 4 August 2009

To webcam or not to webcam...

My gaming group is caught in the jaws of a dilemma at the moment. Our gaming schedule has been going to pot for some time now. Real life is getting in the way of regular games and its starting to get tiresome. That's no reflection on the group, everyone has good legitimate reasons for not being able to make games and I'm no exception. Illness, dependent dependents, work... they have all infringed upon our gaming time. Part of the problem is that we are scattered across half the country with members travelling from as far afield as Lincon and Ipswich. We rarely get the whole group together but so long as more than half of us can make it we press on with the game.

But the last few months have seen more and more cancelled games as 'real life' squeezes our spare time. I should add that this is no reflection on the current campaign, which is highly original, very engaging and seems to be enjoyed by everyone involved. It's not even a reflection of our mixed feelings towards 4E (it'd take more than a game system to stop us playing). But the fact remains we have had more cancelled games than played games so far this year. In fact its been a growing problem for many years and has spawned a number of conversations about how to tackle the problem... now a new suggestion has reared its head and I'm not sure we know how to approach it. Web Cams could, in theory, enable players to participate even if they cannot physically make the game. Aside from the technical issues involved - complex but not insurmountable with some planning & forethought - my main concern is that this would undermine the very reason we gather together in the first place. For each others company. Half the group consist of 'new' members that have joined the original core of players from my school years. But it's not just the game that holds the group together its the fact that we like each others company and we're good friends. Using web cam technology may help us continue the game but it might forever break the atmosphere of our game sessions which often involve lots of laughter and a beer or three.
Of course there are other 'meta game' issues that would need to be resolved before we went down this route, but nothing I don't think we could sort out in time.
There are various threads on forums such as ENWorld and UKRoleplayers that discuss this issue but I don't feel any of them addresses my main concerns. Technically its possible, but just because we can do something doesn't mean its a good idea.

5 comments:

  1. A webcam used with a Skype account is a workable solution, as it would also be free (Skype to Skype). There is also software dedicated to this sort of thing as well, which I believe deals with dice rolls, etc, though I can't remember the names off the top of my head (so not very helpful!).

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  2. Hmm...

    My wife suggested a skype-to-skype webcam when I left Norwich and my lovely ol' gaming group there, but for the reasons you listed it really wouldn't have been the same.

    Mind you, I've a feeling we wouldn't have touched 4th Edition...!

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  3. My main priority right now is keeping the group together - by whatever means - even if we cannot physically get together. I'm not therefore completely throwing out the idea of using webcams. I just think we need to work out how to use it and sort out the technical issues before we try it during a game.

    I've suggested to the group that we could have an evening where we experiment with our webcams and connections. This would give us a chance to get familiar with the technology without the pressure or time constraints imposed on a game night.

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  4. MapTool. Please consider it. It will revolutionize your game.

    MapTool saved our game from oblivion. We had the same thing happen - a great gaming group that scattered to the four winds.

    But then we discovered MapTool, and not only do we play every week without fail, but it's made our gaming experience exponentially BETTER.

    The five of us are now in three time zones in the US, but with MapTool providing the gameboard and Skype making it sound like we're in the same room, we're blazing through adventures like never before.

    Yes, as someone who painted his own figs, I do miss moving metal on a mat. But MapTool makes things so ridiculously easy, the next time we're actually all in the same room, we'll STILL run the game on our laptops.

    Why? Well, MapTool can actually do things you really can't accomplish with minis. Like lighting effects, for example.

    I love making maps for our adventures, but what's even better is watching the players open doors and get their first look at rooms, see them take risks in order to illuminate areas with their torches, etc. It's unbelievably real.

    Dice-rolling is trivial. But MapTool doesn't do everything. I still keep a spreadsheet of my own design for combat tracking, for example. But as for presenting visual backgrounds to play on, MapTool is amazing. And easy.

    I know it sounds like I work for RPTools.net, but I really don't. I'm just amazed at how much fun I'm having with a group of players spread across 3,000 miles. There's absolutely no excuse now for not keeping together a great group of players.

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  5. Hi Lee, I had a smilar though a while ago about how I could make maximum use of a games room. Once I have it up and running in about seven years' time, of course. One was to be able to set up a large-ish game, say Corps-level or higher Napoleonics, and then specify the army commander, subordinates and so on for both sides. Then run the game as Play by Email with digital camera shots for all players from their figure's position, apart maybe from one per side to move the figures (I could even do that as umpire). Just to see what happens. It's not simultaneous in the ways described by other posters, but it might be interesting to write up sometime as an experiment in distance playing and fog of war.

    Paul

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