What's Wrong with Virtual Tabletop Play?

Hussar

Legend
I've seen the following opinion, or something pretty close to it, expressed a number of times:

Mercule said:
*snip*

If the WDI is some sort of virtual tabletop that would replace my looking someone in the eye and speaking the description to them, then I've got no interest in it. PBEM/PBP is nice, and can be fun, but isn't as good as real gaming. I guess I wouldn't sneer at a really shiney tool for that, but it doesn't merit much hype. Play by chat or the like would drive me insane. If I'm going to game real-time, it needs to be face-to-face. I'll burn my books before I play on a chat-like system.

I really don't understand this point of view. I'm not saying it's wrong, because, well, it's not. But, I don't understand. What about playing in a chat based game, like Fantasy grounds or OpenRPG, is so distasteful? Why is there this view that face to face is so superior for playing RPG's?

I've been playing over OpenRPG for almost four years now. I started because there was no other option - no gamers in my area. However, over the years, I've discovered that there are quite a number of advantages playing over a computer than face to face, to the point where, while I wouldn't say no to a F2F game, I honestly think I would see both venues as equal.

Why the distaste for chat based games.

((Note, I'm not talking about PbP. That's a whole 'nother beastie with an entirely different feel from real time gaming. I see PbP as more collaborative fiction writing than RPG gaming.))
 

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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I like to sit in the same room with my buddies and game, drink a few beers, and have fun. Online isn't bad, but I don't find it as fun as sitting at the same table.
 

EricNoah

Adventurer
If I had to choose between "virtual D&D" and "no D&D" I would choose "no D&D." Particularly as DM. I wouldn't want to run such a game -- it just sounds like no fun at all. I don't think I'd want to be a player either. The pace, the interactions, the fluidity of communication all suffer online.
 

Raloc

First Post
Hussar said:
I've seen the following opinion, or something pretty close to it, expressed a number of times:



I really don't understand this point of view. I'm not saying it's wrong, because, well, it's not. But, I don't understand. What about playing in a chat based game, like Fantasy grounds or OpenRPG, is so distasteful? Why is there this view that face to face is so superior for playing RPG's?

I've been playing over OpenRPG for almost four years now. I started because there was no other option - no gamers in my area. However, over the years, I've discovered that there are quite a number of advantages playing over a computer than face to face, to the point where, while I wouldn't say no to a F2F game, I honestly think I would see both venues as equal.

Why the distaste for chat based games.

((Note, I'm not talking about PbP. That's a whole 'nother beastie with an entirely different feel from real time gaming. I see PbP as more collaborative fiction writing than RPG gaming.))
I've been playing with the same group in a custom VTabletop, then WebRPG and then ORPG for a total of about 8 years. The group is spread all over Europe and North America, so it's basically the only way we could play for a long time. We've played face to face before (during two weeks, we met in Geneva for marathon games!) and we find that more people get in character with dialog and decision making, there is less goofing off, and things generally go smoother. Granted, this doesn't happen until you get your groove going, and there can be problems, but it is still quite fun. Nothing to sneer at by any measure.

I've run some games with partially having members also in a Teamspeak, Ventrilo or Skype style VOIP app while playing in ORPG, and it helps combat go a lot faster. As well as getting everyone on the same page as far as actions and the like. All IC stuff goes into ORPG, OOC in Teamspeak or Vent.

All that said, there are some things I really dislike about VT. Not being able to merely print maps is annoying, and fumbles with switching NPC names can be annoying and immersion breaking. All in all though, it works really good.
 

Aaron L

Hero
EricNoah said:
If I had to choose between "virtual D&D" and "no D&D" I would choose "no D&D." Particularly as DM. I wouldn't want to run such a game -- it just sounds like no fun at all. I don't think I'd want to be a player either. The pace, the interactions, the fluidity of communication all suffer online.

No need for me to type it over, he said it.
 

Hussar

Legend
The pace, the interactions, the fluidity of communication all suffer online.

I'm curious why you think that. It's pretty much the opposite of my experience. I find that most people are much better at staying in character and are much more focused on the game during online sessions. It's easier to believe that 300 pound fat guy with a beard is really a hot elf when you cannot actually see him. :)

Now, I will agree that combat can be glacially slow. To be fair, it took a bit of time to work with my players in getting that up to speed. However, now, I look at the problems that others have like keeping track of buffs, and it's a complete breeze doing it online. Add a "?" to your die roller and away you go. My 14th level party of six players blasts through rounds in about 5-10 minutes on average.
 


crazy_cat

Adventurer
Flexor the Mighty! said:
I like to sit in the same room with my buddies and game, drink a few beers, and have fun.
Agreed.
Online isn't bad, but I don't find it as fun as sitting at the same table.

Agreed again, although I've never played a virtual tabletop game - I've had no need. I'll add an additional qualifier to the second statement as well, and this may just be personal preference - if I'm going to play an online RP game via my PC I'd like it to take advantage of all the things my PC can do such as sound and graphics (and complex maths :) ) - so I'd play Neverwintwer Nights or a similar game by choice.

Indeed once NWN2 has been patched to the point where I consider it a playable DM'able online RPG I'll start up the regular online games again with the group I used to play with. Until then however I'll make do with just my regular face to face game.

IMNSHO, Online gaming can enevr replace face to face gaming for those who can get it, but it can be a nice extra - and obviously for those who can't find a face to face group it may be the only option.
 


DragonLancer

First Post
It's the time. Playing face to face at a table, you have a game that lasts for say 4 hours. On a virtual environment, it takes twice the time to type it than to say it, so you only get have the gaming in.

That to me is one issue. The other is that theres nothing like sitting at a table with your mates face to face, as oppposed to sitting on your larry typing it into a computer.
 

Gort

Explorer
Yeah, I'm in the tabletop-only camp. I gave online stuff a go, but it always seems to take forever to do anything at all - I don't want to game for my entire saturday and look back and say, "Hey, we only did two things, and it took sixteen hours!" Until the systems are a bit less clunky and a bit more elegant I'll stick with tabletop for the faster pace.

There are some good bits though - like the way the DM can relate information to only one party member without having to make it obvious and take them out of the room, and how dice-rolling is sped up. I've yet to find a good way of depicting the tabletop though.
 


bento

Explorer
I've looked into VTP before and I'd give it a try. Although its becoming apparent that I'm now in the "no D&D at all camp" :(
 

Hussar

Legend
DragonLancer said:
It's the time. Playing face to face at a table, you have a game that lasts for say 4 hours. On a virtual environment, it takes twice the time to type it than to say it, so you only get have the gaming in.

That to me is one issue. The other is that theres nothing like sitting at a table with your mates face to face, as oppposed to sitting on your larry typing it into a computer.

Dude, if you can talk faster than you can type, you should be taking some classes. :)

Most people can type at least as fast as they can talk. Or bloody close anyway. Never mind that you can pre-input an awful lot of stuff. Room descriptions, box text, that sort of thing can all be done beforehand.
 


BlueBlackRed

First Post
EricNoah said:
If I had to choose between "virtual D&D" and "no D&D" I would choose "no D&D." Particularly as DM. I wouldn't want to run such a game -- it just sounds like no fun at all. I don't think I'd want to be a player either. The pace, the interactions, the fluidity of communication all suffer online.
Agreed
 

crazy_cat

Adventurer
Hussar said:
Most people can type at least as fast as they can talk. Or bloody close anyway.
I'd call a bull**** on that - at least when it comes to typing quickly and accurately.

Our NWN sessions were often simply one long chain of typos after another - looking back it was fairly amazing we achieved anything at all, or that the DM had teh slightest idea what we were actually trying to do. :)

I give a totally made up example below, as our intrepid, and mildly dyslexic heroes attempt to lamely gather information in a tavern

Snake: *wgisper* Guys, say we by hm a dirk?
Cat: *whisper* what?
Lance DM: *tell to Snake* wtf?
Snake: *drink
Orb: Good sir, join us - we have coin to spedn and a pworeful thirst to quenhc
Cat: *party ooc* Yahe, oogd idae - we byu him a drnk.
All NPCs: WTF?
 

Janx

Hero
A few years ago, my DM, another friend and I were using IRC, and mIRC client to do some gaming. Being a programmer, I whipped up some scripts to recognize some basic statements, and track hit points. I then shared the script with my friend. The result was, the DM, being relatively non-technical (and using a web-browser chat client on the server hosting IRC), was able to type fairly simple statements, and our clients would parse his text and perform various responses.

The DM could type:
Janx dam 5

My client would deduct 5 HP, from my HP total, and send a private message to the DM about how much HP I had.

I had some stuff put in for attacking as well, so it would auto-roll for me. We didn't have any cheating issues or concerns.

The result was, we typed what our PCs said or did, and used the macro comands to keep scores and stuff. From the DM's perspective, he had easy access to our stats, and he did his paperwork like normal.


For those who can't type (or hunt and peck well), maybe it's a problem. But the year is 2007. Most of us have broadbad. every PC has a soundcard. Buy a microphone/headset, and use a voice conferencing program like Skype or NetMeeting (soon to be retired by MS).

My big concern about some virtual gaming programs is the system requirements and technical knowledge needed. I can figure out how to setup anything, by virtue of my experience. Setting up some of these programs required knowing more URLs, port numbers and stuff, than most folks understand. Games like NWN had such a high technical requirement that my laptops couldn't run it (not good enough video). My friends with 3+ year old PCs and no budget for hardware couldn't run it. Java based programs require installing Java, something most folks aren't prepared to do, and you're lucky if it has a good installer and launch icon for the user.


If you want a GREAT virtual tabletop software, it should:
use a central server to find players, like most other online games, users should not have to know IP addresses
have a good clean installer
have an obvious icon to run the program, no secondary DOS windows open, because they launched from a command line JVM

have decent graphics. SVGA is fine, it does not need 3d animation, just icons and bitmaps. A tech level that if the art is good, will look good, but doesn't put a strain on older machines

include text AND voice chat conferencing feature built into the interface, no running yet another program that the user has to setup

have charcter sheet management built in. Both character creation, maintenance and In-Game use should be considered. Most SW works as a decent character manager, and a lousy interface for running the PC during the game itself. This is why most people print their sheets out from PCGen, instead of running it on the laptop.

Have mapping built-in. The DM can draw up maps for the entire area, and let the PCs run around in it. The mapping system should also be ignorable. The DM can play mapless, or spawn up an encounter and quickly draw out the map, and place PCs and creatures to start a combat (not all DM's want to do it like NWN).

Have the rules, and combat actions built into the battlemat feature. Basically, once you go into combat mode, everything follows the rules. Have a "Special" action that would allow a player to describe something he wants to do, that isn't obviously covered by the rules, and the DM, can adjudicate the result, by moving characters, inflicting damage. Since the list of combat actions IS more than just move or Attack (go see the combat cards by fiery dragon), players will feel they have lots of options (more options than I get when playing a non-magic user in a RPG on my PS2).
 

Kae'Yoss

First Post
If you take the table out of the equation, you take away RPG. Those chat-games might be interesting, but they could never replace real roleplaying, around the table, with food and drink aplenty and puns and other stuff in between.

For me, the stuff around the game is as important as the game itself. There have to be people sitting around the table and talking to each other. I'm not too fond of chatting via ICQ or in those big chatrooms, I prefer actually talking with people, not typing at them with the keyboard.

I might do it if it was the only way to get any D&D going, but given the choice I'd take pen&paper game 'round the table every time.
 

XO

First Post
Why Type???

I have friends who WoW raid while all their conversations are over VoIP lines.

Since conference calling is fairly cheap... Say 75¢ if your friends live relatively close but you really do not feel like stepping outside in -30 weather, and put the speaker phone on, have happy webfaces lined up (Web cam) or cover the mup with nice images of the characters.

Bottom line: stop being so technologically-challenged...

PS: for foreigners, do keep in mind that the written word (even when hacked up) is likely easier to understand than a mixture of Bronx, Alabamam and Texan :)
 

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