Friday, April 29, 2011

Long Distance Gaming / How to video conference for success and XP

I have two young kids, a house that's too small and I don't drive. Most of my gaming friends are steadily moving away. I am suffering from geek withdrawal, and my video games don't provide the same fix.
Whilst discussing a friends upcoming Hunter: the Vigil game via email, I was reminded that some people have managed to successfully play games using the internet - chat, IM, video conferences, stuff like that. I'd even looked into it myself a couple of years ago.

Could it work? Maybe...

So i've been poking around the internet (with moderate safe search on - i'm not a prude, but i'm not specifically looking for naked lady chat) and have found that the cool looking multi user white board featuring file uploading video conference site i'd used two years ago, Palbee, doesn't seem to exist anymore.
However, a site called Bigmarker does, and seems to do exactly the same thing, but with nicer graphics.

I'm thinking of inviting some friends to a test, but I do have some reservations:

  • Awkwardness - Will the heady thrill of genuine human contact be missed? Will we just look shyly at our hands like teenagers on a first date?
  • Dice rolling - So, how do we monitor this? I'm not explicitly accusing anybody of cheating here, more that I take an interest in my players rolls, which allows me to a) help translate roll results into action, and b) fudge stuff if the roll generally unsatisfactory. So, how do I see the dice? Should we use a dice roller program, or everybody have a second webcam pointed at a designated rolling space, or should I just unclench?
  • Character sheets - similar question to dice. I like to collect them in and keep hold of the character sheets at the end of each session. This prevents players turning up to sessions without their sheets. Players, it must be remembered, are prone to forgetting dice, pencils, books, character sheets, miniatures and their own names, so i feel this is an understandable precaution. 
  • Character creation & book reference - this usually involves sitting down the player(s) and the relevant books. Seeing as most gamers I know don't actually buy the books, it's down to the GM to bring them along. Not really possible over the net. Not unless I get creative with a web cam or scanner.

I'm hoping the benefits will out weigh the costs, though, namely that I can game with my buddies, and not actually leave my living room. Result.