Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Online Gaming

Earlier I wrote about not gaming much. We recently received an invite for a play-over-the-internet game with some of our old college friends. It made me think seriously about pitching in again.

However, the time commitment is tough to make. In order to have a viable game, I think you need to play 3 times per month. Every other week just doesn't cut it; after you miss a session or two it has been a month and then the campaign loses all momentum. The problem is that this wipes out a tremendous amount of time. There's usually 15-30 minutes of virtual "gathering" (ironing out connection problems, chit-chat, dealing with old business, etc). Then you game for 3-6 hours. Then there's some wrapup time. Plus, every week there is usually an hour or three of admin (usually on a bulletin board or forum or via email), which is good because it keeps people engaged throughout the week between sessions but bad because it sucks up more time.

So, basically, you need to BBQ one day almost every week for gaming, usually a weekend (the only way to make it work due to time differences). I am ok with making that sacrifice if I'm traveling on the road because I am kind of lame when I'm away from home and don't like to go out and party and live it up. But when I am home, I want to be home. I want to get out and do stuff with DW. I don't want to sit in the computer room for eight hours every week with a headset on. Now I have blown my weekend and it is going to be hard to do anything the other day as I need to catch up on errands at some point; I certainly can't travel anywhere far away from home.

In a conventional table-top game, there is some socializing that you can do when it isn't your turn. Online, it is much harder. I either find that I end up aimlessly surfing the net in between turns or sitting, slack jawed, starting at the screen. Either way, it is a lot of wasted time. This is kind of paradoxical. The computer is theoretically GREAT for splitting the party; it is easy to isolate players on different skype channels and reveal fog of war to different player, and there is instant entertainment for non-active players. However, in practice it just doesn't seem to work out well. I think playing online I would aim for a small group (3, maybe 4 players) and shorter sessions (2 hours). That would minimize down-time as well as admin/technical difficulties.

The last issue is the system. The offered system was 4E. I'm not a 4E hater. I think they did some things great. But I've played the game enough to know that I think paragon and epic tiers are broken. The "End Game" is non-existent. Skill challenges were poorly implemented. It just doesn't get me super excited. I'm not sure which system does get me super excited these days; I think a White Wolf game with a good storyteller could be interested, and so could an OD&D game, or a 4E game with other systems grafted onto it or fixes for my biggest problems.