Lessons Learned from Virtual Gaming

I wasn't completely new to online gaming before Covid-19, but recent events have given me a crash course, as it has for most of us. It's made me change my gaming habits, but also taught me a few lessons. So it seemed worthwhile to offer are few rules I've learned, in the hopes I'm not the only one who's still adjusting.
dragon-slayer-145565_1280.png

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

1 - Set Times

It's important to set both a start and an end time with online gaming. A start time is a no-brainer, you need to know when you are meeting up. But it's easy to forget about an end time. In a face to face session you may already have general time you tend to end things, or someone needs to set off to get home through traffic. But with everyone at home, and some not having work in the morning it is easy to game all night. Now, that's fine if you all want to. But it can be stressful to stare at a screen this long and quite hard to be the one to say 'let's stop gaming' if you're tired. If you reach the end time and everyone wants to keep going, set a new time. Game as long as you all want. But setting the times lets everyone know what you are aiming for and when you can or should start anything too involved.

2 - Choose the right platform for your game, and group

There are a lot of options out there for gaming online, and many people will swear by some of them. But the truth is that not every platform will suit your game. Different platforms offer different options and you need one that suits your play style. Some behave differently on a laptop or a tablet so you need to know what all your players are using.

Roll 20 is great if you want to use tactical combat and figures. It's pretty much the only one that does. But it's not so good for video chat and it doesn't 'share screen' to allow the GM to show handouts and pictures (as far as I know). [EDITOR'S NOTE: There's definitely other options, which we covered here] Discord has a lot of great features, but that might be too much for a newbie, and logging in (and out) can be a little odd. Zoom and google meet are great if you just want to see everyone and chat, but aren't designed for gaming as much as conferences. We'll have to see how Role does when that appears.

So the best thing to do is try a few. You don't need to stick to just one unless it does everything you want already. Pretty much all of them are free for the most part, so give them all a run and see which works best on the systems you are using. Use whichever is the most comfortable for your group and has the fewest tech problems.

3 - Expect things to take time

Gaming over the net is not as immediate as it is in real life. People might not be as responsive, and the tech may work against you. So you need to be prepared for things to take longer, and for tech to get in the way. Some people might lose a connection, get muted by accident, or drop their iPad. So the group as a whole needs to try to remain focused and give each other time to resolve tech issues when they occur.

4 - You may not be alone

It is very easy to believe that once you are gaming in a virtual world you aren't in this one. But your spouse or flatmate might not appreciate the shouts of 'kill them all now!' in the living room. In better days they had the place to themselves on your gaming night, or went out. These are options they might not have anymore. But if you are doing more gaming online, you need to remember those you are sharing your space with and how they are doing. If you're on your own, you also need to cut those who aren't some slack when they can't game every night.

Having said that, many people are very bored at home by now, and might just be desperate enough to finally give this gaming thing a go...

5 - Not everyone likes to be on camera

Gaming on a computer is very different to gaming at home, and for some people it is much harder than most. Those who are not tech savvy, or hate the telephone, will find the experience very stressful. Plenty of people are also very uncomfortable with the usual set up, such as being on camera all the time. It's not the same as just being looked at by the rest of the group. So remember that even if you aren't finding it much of a gear change, some members of the group may be having problems and try to accommodate them.

6 - Everyone need to give each other time to speak

Finally, the big one, give everyone time to speak. Its rude to cut each other off and talk over each other at the best of times, but it's a lot worse online. Many systems will only transmit the loudest sound, and quite often not transmit more than growls and stuttering when two people are talking anyway. So, let each other finish, and don't talk over the GM. Also, be aware how much you have been talking and step back to let the quieter players have a chance. It's a good habit to keep once we all get back to seeing each other in person again.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

log in or register to remove this ad

Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
1 - Set Times

For me this was no different than my in-person games. I have a monthly 8-hour Saturday session. The only difference is that I had to put the Google Meet and VTT links into my Google Calendar invite.

2 - Choose the right platform for your game, and group

Yes. This can be one of the bigger challenges. If you change the platform too often, you risk confusing and turning off your players, unless they are technically inclined and enjoy testing new tools.

This is one reason I prefer platforms that do not require players downloading and installing software. It is bad enough if players have to adjust to a new interface, but if they have to download and install new software as well, that compounds the inconvenience and increases the likelihood of tech issues and the need to help troubleshoot them. As a DM I don't want "IT tech support" to be one of my roles.

With Roll20, Astral, or Foundry, for three examples, the DM generally just has to give out a URL. As long as the players are comfortable with their PCs and navigating Web sites, then the DM only needs to tell them where to click and a few hot keys or mouse controls and they'll be up and running quickly.

When I was using MapTool and when I was testing Fantasy Ground Unity, I didn't bother using them as try collaborative VTTs, I just ran two instances (a DMs view and a players view) and shared the players view via Google Meet. Yes, it meant that I had to move all the tokens, including the player tokens, but it allowed me to test various VTTs without the players having to install multiple programs and I didn't have to deal with port forwarding and other network-setup hassles that come with installed (vs Web native) programs.

3 - Expect things to take time

My experiences are the opposite of yours on this point. First, we have fewer conversation tangents (which is NOT a benefit in my opinion, but does keep the game moving). Second, there are tools like initiative trackers and automations that keep players on track and speed up the resolution of some game mechanics. Also, if players are moving their own tokens, there is less need to take time to describe positioning.

4 - You may not be alone

One of the benefits of having a dedicated gaming area for in-person gaming, that is on a separate level with a door and good sound proofing, is that it works quite well for on-line gaming. Also, one benefit of online gaming regarding this point, it you can put on a headset and your gaming need be no more noisy than a telephone call.

Might be a good idea to invest in a good microphone/headset. Also be advised that some are very sensitive, and will pick up even small sounds like your breathing if the microphone is too close to your mouth. That or the sounds when you eat chips/crisps can be annoying for the others, as that sound will be MUCH louder than irl. Mute is you friend if you are doing something else.

Note that this is especially a problem for the DM. I find it much more difficult to eat while running online games than in person. Especially since I DM with a wireless headset.

If you are a GM, be ware that you will have to spend a lot more on prepping things online than IRL. Especially if it is for sharing maps etc.

Depends. I always recommend starting with just basic map sharing. No need to use every bell and whistle.

I can trow up a map with fog of war in Foundry or MapTool and put tokens on it far more quickly than I could draw something out on a Chessex mat and I used to spend a lot of time sorting a prepping miniatures and dungeon dressing for in-person play than I do prepping VTT maps.

Prepping maps for vision and line of sight can take more time, but with foundry, I can prep even a complex entire dungeon level in under an hour. When I don't have time for that or when the party goes to an unprepped area, I just throw up the map with fog of war and manually reveal areas as they explore.


Add a fee hours of extra prep a week juat to prepare maps. In person you can sketch somerhung on vinyle mat in 3 mintutes that would take an hour on VT.

Well at least roll 20. Mapping on thier sucks i have to map on a seperate program then inport them.

Well, if you are building the maps from scratch, maybe. But there are so many battlemaps available that I rarely create one from scratch any more. If I need to do something on the fly, throwing up a grid and drawing on it is no more time consuming than using wet-erase markers on a Chessex, and I don't have to move dice and snacks out of the way to do it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Zander

Explorer
Hello, Andy P., Nice to see you here at EN World. Hope you‘ve been keeping well.

Cross-talk is something you really have to watch out for. I've had to tell people "one-at-a-time" so many times. In person, I can at least get something, but online, if more than one person talks, I catch absolutely none of it.
Completely agree. I’m in an Avernus campaign of one DM and seven players. We’ve been using Roll20 for graphics and Discord for audio (and sometimes images). During the first few sessions, we had problems with Roll20 crashing for one or more players. Those have mostly cleared up. We sometimes have a problem of people inadvertently speaking over each other. Without visual cues, it’s tricky to indicate that you want to interject and, conversely, not as easy to signal when you’re being deliberately silent vs having audio problems.
 

dbm

Savage!
The 'talking in turn' is what I think would kill the game for my guys.
This is less necessary when everyone is using a headset, but essential when people are using ‘speakerphone’ setup.

The real ‘loss‘ is table chat since you can’t have two separate conversations going at the same time unless someone moves to a different (virtual) channel.
I didn't have to deal with port forwarding and other network-setup hassles that come with installed (vs Web native) programs.
For info, I was concerned about this with FGU but it hasn’t been required by anyone in our group of seven (two of whom GM).
 
Last edited:


theworstdm

Explorer
Biggest hurtle has been player retention. People are more likely to flake. The other big thing is audio quality, get a better headset, mute yourself when not talking, don't have the tv on or other background noise. For some people this is not possible but I think every attempt should be made.

Muting yourself when you’re not talking is a big thing for me when I run games online. Especially if you have a lot of background noise. It’s just good etiquette
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Muting yourself when you’re not talking is a big thing for me when I run games online. Especially if you have a lot of background noise. It’s just good etiquette

I haven't had a lot of issues with this. I wonder if it is because most of my players work in jobs where they've been participating in on-line meetings for years before COVID-19. So we've lived through all the common issues for years. E.g.,
 

theworstdm

Explorer
I haven't had a lot of issues with this. I wonder if it is because most of my players work in jobs where they've been participating in on-line meetings for years before COVID-19. So we've lived through all the common issues for years. E.g.,
That's funny. Some of the worst examples of people not muting have been when I used to participate in conference calls.
 

Related Articles

Remove ads

Latest threads

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top