This is the post I'll be putting up every Wednesday for the foreseeable future about Constantcon--our neverending program of RPGs played via Google +'s free multiperson videochat feature ("hangouts").
The point of this post is:
1) you can sign up to GM a game via Google + video chat in the comments,
2) you can join one of those games in the comments, and...
3) hopefully every question you might have about Constantcon is answered on here somewhere.
The weekly post will also contain all the collected wisdom on running G+ games we have accumulated thus far. New tips/discoveries for any given week will be below in red.
Everything else in this post is old news if you read this blog every day, I just consolidated it into one post.
The current calendar of Google + games is on the right of this blog page just under my bloglist where it says "upcoming games on Google +". If you can't see it, reload the page--if you still can't go here and hit "agenda". Calendar times are in Eastern Standard Time because that's where I am today and I'm the guy who's taking the trouble to keep the calendar up.
You can subscribe to the thread and the comments if you wanna keep up as new games are added.
FORMAT FOR POSTING AN ANNOUNCEMENT OF YOUR GAME BELOW IN THE COMMENTS:
Time describe the time you're available using at least one western hemisphere and one eastern hemisphere time zone so peeps can figure out whether they're around.
Do we need to bring anything? (Like, say, a 3rd level character) and anything else you think might make your pitch intriguing--setting, etc.)(if your ruleset is unusual, it may be best to tell everybody to just show up with stats, a race and a class and smooth out the specifics once the game starts rolling.)
Contact info: Please include a way people can contact you other than Google + so that you can tell who they are when they request you and you can discuss details if they're not already one of your G+ contacts. If your name is like "Jack Wilson" realize there's 200 of you on Google plus and you'll need to supply some alternate information if G+ users are looking for you. (Like: I'm the Zak Smith with the black and white picture and the asymmetrical haircut). _________________
Skooky McDungeonface will be DMing a Red Box game in Greyhawk at 1pm Italian time/4 am Pacific Standard time next Tuesday. Bring a 4th level PC and she can be reached under the name Skooky dawt McDee at yahoo dawt calm.
How it works/getting started:
So step one is get a Google + invite from a friend.
Step Two: Once you get that you show up on the site and go "looks like facebook" then you leave.
Step Three: Forget you have it until you decide it's time to play GURPS Supers at 3 in the morning with someone in Madagascar who must be a good DM because he likes Motorhead as much as you do, at least judging from his comments on your blog...
So once you have Google + you can get to your page by clicking like so...
...which takes you to a very Facebook-looking page.
Here are the important bits about this page:
-there's a green button on the right that says "start a hangout" which you can use to start a video session (only if you're not already in one on Google +)(though you can use Google + and Skype simultaneously--the people will be able to hear each other).
-If one of your friends has started a video session, there will be a green button allowing you to join in under their name, where this Larry Page guy has his message written in the picture. Click it and you're in.
This is what a video session looks like (only perhaps the people in your session may look a little less...festive...than the models in this Google PR photo I found on-line.) Anyway, important bits to remember are in red:
A-Hitting this button will make a little text chat window appear in the margin which allows you to type shit to the other people there. It's good for keeping track of dimensions of rooms, PCs names, etc. Also, if it's hard to hear someone talk you can type something in. Usually the audio's pretty good, though.
B-Hit this to invite new peeps to the session. You can do it by name or by "circle" (Google + name for a ton of people you've put in the same category)
C-This button theoretically lets you all watch the same youtube video but it doesn't seem to work yet.
D-The program senses whoever's talking and makes their head big. (Beardy is talking here, apparently). However, if, for example, the GM is holding up a map to the screen and you want the big camera to stay on one person, just click on their little head. To switch it back, click the little head again.
-Some people get asked to download a plugin when they first start a Google + vid chat and can't join until they've done it. After you download it, you should be cool.
-The thing freezes occasionally. If this happens, just use the text chat thing in the corner for a few seconds while it unfreezes. Sometimes people get kicked out by the machine. Don't worry, they'll rejoin seconds later.
-If Google + keeps kicking you out and there are 5 or fewer windows open, try shutting down your video so that you're audio-only. That might lower your bandwidth enough to keep you on.
-Alternative to G+: Skype offers a free 7-day trial of multiperson video chat--if your group has 4 players and a dm (5 skype accounts), that's over a month you can use multiperson video for free via Skype. (More if you can use a friend's Skype account, too). And of course, you can always pay for Skype.
-Some GMs have begun a practice of overbooking by one player (an alternate) since usually one person usually has to cancel by game time.
-5 people is the current maximum. G+ says it can handle ten but whatever, that's all lies. Any more than 5 and it goes all screwy. Do not book a game with more than 5 total chat windows, it will make your life suck.
-It's possible some GMs may find individual initiative works better than group inititative on G+: With group initiative you have to decide who'll roll, they roll, then tell everyone what they rolled. People tend to talk over each other so it can be a little clumsy. However, with individual initiative, each player and the DM can roll, then immediately type the number they just rolled into the chat window (so it'll say "Zak: 2, Mandy: 6, Skooky: 4") and the DM and everybody can just go in that order and you can all see it right there on your screen. Cuts down on crosstalk and is easy. You might wanna try it.
-Don't point your speakers toward your mike. (You know about feedback, right metalheads?)
-If your audio's screwy, use headphones.
-If there's an audio problem, the person who sounds most normal on the audio is probably the one whose computer's creating the problem.
-Close as many windows as you can.
-Some people's computers or connections just hate G+ right now and their computer will lag or be gimpy and make the whole session screwy. If this is you, you probably won't be able to play today but don't be discouraged--speed of service ebbs and flows. If you're screwed today you might not be tomorrow. Also, G+ itself may figure out how to handle the volume of online heads in the future.
-If your computer is one of the unreliable ones, try switching from a wireless to a wireful (cable, DSL, etc.) internet connection if you've got one.
-PLEASE BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE WHEN ANNOUNCING A GAME: Please don't go: "Hey, if I run Palladium Fantasy, does anybody want in?" Go: "I will be running Palladium Fantasy RPG from 3-6 PM Eastern 8pm London time I can be reached at ConsiderateAndEfficient at yahoo dawt calm and if you want to play but that time is no good, tell me when is good and maybe we can work something out"
-Possible communications protocol: if everybody's talking at once and you need to say something, you can cover your camera with your hand so it goes all black so the GM knows you wanna say something.
-Consider consolidating all your recruiting responses in one place. i.e. you can advertise your game here and on your blog and on G+ and on twitter and whatever else, but it might make your life a little easier if you ask people responding to those advertisements to do it all in one place. It's easier to schedule if you're not talking in nine different places on the internet at once.
Of course, people will ignore you if you ask them to please respond in a certain place, so you might wanna close comments in any venue where you don't want to get responses.
-The video's a little fuzzy, if you want to show players a diagram or something, maybe use sharpie. Mappers may wanna do the same.
-Jeff's good idea: Once you have players for a game all ready to roll, create a new "circle" containing only the players in that game. Start a thread and have them post their character basics in that thread.
-However and ironically: once you have a group ready to roll and you know who is in, if you have something important to say (i.e. "tomorrow's game will be shirts vs. skins, please roll d4 now to see which side you're on" or "Sorry, gotta cancel") you may be better off using email than G+ to say it. This is because on G+, like facebook, important messages you send to people can get buried in their feed underneath dozens of other people posting about their cat.
-Remember: just because you're in a given time zone, not all your players have to be. People keep weird hours.
-Alexander Osias points out you can use this to schedule time zones. You may think "oh, I'll just use a time zone map" because maps are friendly and fun. But beware: daylight savings time makes things all weird. Use something with a brain.
-If you have a blog and are running a game that isn't full yet (or would like to start up a weekly game), I suggest putting a little widget in the corner of your blog (if you have one) describing the game and saying all the details you put in the thread below.
-2 hours seems like a good time. Though allow some lead time for character generation if it's a system with meat on it. If you can get players to make characters before they roll, do that.
-I can't see the calendar that's supposed to be on the right!
If you can't see it, reload the page--if you still can't, go here and hit "agenda".
-Are Google + games fun? Are people liking them?
Yes. People have been playing on G+ for two weeks and the responses have all fit into one of 2 categories:
A) "That was awesome, when can we do it again" and
B) "I had technical problems so I couldn't play."
So, basically, if you can get your computer to do it right, it's fun and you'll probably like it. Some computers just take to G+ some don't. I don't know much about computers but have had no technical problems so far.
G+ seems to be an especially good place to playtest new game ideas.
-Whatever, buddy, I can't trust you--what does Jeff Rients think?
-Why not use Skype instead?
Multiperson videochat on Skype is not, as of this moment, free. On G+ it is. But hey, you wanna list a Skype game here, no problem. If you want to list an all-voice game on any platform, that's cool, too.
-How many G+ games have you, guy writing this post, played?
Eleven as of this writing. Two were with all real-life friends. The GMs and systems were: Me (3.5/AD&D mashup), Tavis (Adventurer Conqueror King ), DarrenE (AD&D), Welcome To Dungeon (AD&D), Jeff Rients (Labyrinth Lord/Basic/Expert), 2 with Arcadayn (Swords & Wizardry), Il Male (Labyrinth Lord), Empire of the Petal Throne Ckutalik, Ulek Xek (S&W), and Ben A (Gamma World)
-Any noticeable difference between systems?
None at all. Systems all feel extremely similar so far. After playing we go "Wait, was that Labyrinth Lord we were playing?" Who is GMing seems much more relevant.
Played 7th Ed Gamma World which has 4e style tactical movement but GM Bennet Akkerman managed it fairly smoothly.
"How many squares away is the giant eyeball?"
Not that complicated, so long as the DM sets up the game so it can work.
Other than my mash-up and AD&D I'd technically never played any of those games before.
-I see an interesting-looking game on the calendar--how do I join it?
I have tried--when it seemed appropriate and privacy-respectiful--to put the GM's G+ name on there so you can contact the GM on G+. If that doesn't work, check the comments on this thread or the thread for the previous Wednesday for the GMs announcement--it should have his/her contact info.
-Why Google +, why not ______(some other platform besides Google+ or Skype)____?
It just happens to be what I know about and it's free--if you want to run a game on some other platform please go ahead and post it.
-Why should I announce when I'm running a game here? Why not just announce it on G+?
Because, even assuming everyone who might want to play in your game is already in your circles, G+ still isn't perfect: on your feed, if one person in your "Online RPG pals" circle announces "Hey I'm starting a game in 2 hours" and then 12 people announce "Hey, here's something WOTC did today that pissed me off and/or a picture of my cat", then your game will get buried in peoples' feeds.
Even if every gamer in the world eventually gets on G+ and adds you, until G+ finds a way to tag posts (and everyone agrees to use that system) and/or people stop wanting to tell other gamers that they have a cat there will have to be an outside sorting mechanism for games starting up. This is the mechanism.
-Is there some certain game system I should run?
Run whatever you want. Please run whatever you want. Sooner or later someone's gonna try it, you might as well be a pioneer. GURPS, OD&D, FASERIP, FUDGE, Mechanoids, Kill Puppies For Satan--whatever makes you happy.
Tips: 1) Be prepared to explain the mechanics as you go along, many people will be new no matter what system you use--this isn't that hard. 2) If you like to keep your life simple, start with a rules-lite system. 3) The only hard part is character generation--if it's D&D-related you can just tell people to give you race, class and 6 stats before the video session starts and smooth out translation issues then. I do this all the time, it's easy.
-Isn't playing with people you don't know weird?
Yes. That's why it's fun. If the game sucks you can always say you hear your mom calling and have to leave.
-How long is Constantcon going on?
-Can I start a campaign?
Yes. You can do whatever you want. Stop asking.
-I want to do a game where______ is that ok?
Yes. Everything is ok. It's your con, too.
-Would anybody out there maybe possibly be interested if I ran a game of_____?
Yes to whatever you were about to say. Pick a time and post it. If nobody else is interested, I am. I'll play anything once.
-I see all the guidelines here about how to announce that I want to GM a game, is it ok if I just, like, totally ignore some of those guidelines?
Sure, just prepare for the possibility of people not signing up for your game and don't complain that I didn't warn you and that this G+ game thing is totally bogus and nobody loves you.
-Hey, I'm up to GM anything whenever, can I just announce that and wait for the game to assemble around me?
Well you can, but it will make scheduling really hard and take forever and require a million emails back and forth and re-announcements once you have a time and de-announcements to say you are no longer available "whenever" because you have games scheduled now and...
So if you actually want to roll you may be better off actually saying a day and a time if nothing else.
Remember: The more specific you are about when you are running your game, the faster shit will get itself organized. If you're worried people won't be able to make that specific time, just say like "3-5pm(flexible)"and if anybody wants to change it they'll hit you up.
-Can I just say I'm available to GM any time?
No, because you're lying, because you sleep, and maybe work or go to school. If your free spirit just cannot be contained to one hour, at least put a range of hours you are available (in two different time zones, as usual). If you say "I am available whenever" then you are begging several questions--do the community a favor and answer them up front so as not to generate more noise (as opposed to signal) than you need to. Anyone answering your thread is immediately going to ask what hours you're awake--please realize that ahead of time and deal with it.
-Help, I'm having technical issues with G+!
Post here. Or, if you can, on G+. People will probably help you out. If I don't comment it's 'cause I don't know.
-How's the video quality?
It ain't Stanley Kubrick--but do you need Stanley Kubrick? It'll freeze for a second here and there, but relax, you'll live. Audio's pretty good unless there's an actual connection problem. I can go in the kitchen and make pasta and still hear what's going on in the game.
-Why do I have to send you an email saying who I am on G+, why not just add you?
"I always thought it must be quite handy being called John."
"You can tell when you're going nuts."
"Sorry? I don't follow.”
"I mean, a real sign of megalomania, when a John starts thinking that 'John' will do. 'Hi. It's John.' Or: 'Yours ever, John.' So what? Everybody's called John."
-Martin Amis "The Information"
Plus if your screen name is DisplacerBeast28 and your G+ name is Fred Walsh I am not going to make the connection. And if I don't then I won't know who you are or why you started following me (art fan? porn fan? somebody's ex-boyfriend? Spambot?) and I will not add you to my "Online RPG People" circle.
A lot of people who follow me on social media are anonymous citizens who don't want to be followed back or play RPGs. So if you want in, please send an e-mail to zakzsmith at hawt mayle dawt calm and type your actual Google + name into the text of the email using the letters of the alphabet if you want to be added. "Hi, RPG, Fred Walsh I am holding a sprite in my picture G+" is enough. "Hi, add me on G+" isn't.
Wear a mexican wrestler mask.
-Won't this Constantcon thread get hopelessly long and confusing eventually?
Nope. Once a week I am going to close comments on these Wednesday threads and post new ones where people can post games they're running that week.
-Wouldn't it be cool if James Raggi, James Smith, and James Maliszewski all agreed to GM games in one week and called it JamesCon?
-Do I need a webcam?
No, you could just use a mike and go audio-only. Do be aware that webcams are like 10 bucks though.
-The hangout window keeps shuffling from head to head and it's annoying.
G+ senses who is talking loudest and makes their head big. To tell it to chill just click on one person's little head below and their head will stay big.
-I need a G+ invite!
Complain here. Motherfuckers will hook you up.
-Who rolls the dice in a videoconference game?
It's up to the GM. The GM can roll all dice, you can use the dice robot app on the Dragonsfoot forums (you have to register) (I'm sure someone who isn't me can explain it), or you can just all roll your own dice and trust each other because we're grown-ups here.
-Is there some ap that allows me to do (some crazy thing I want to do on G+ chat)?
I have no idea. Maybe ask people on G+.
-I like you, Zak, but I don't want all your weird readers hitting me up for my game. What do I do?
Then post your GM schedule game on your blog. And tell me you did so I can decide if I want in.
-I am grumpy/antisocial/a luddite/just really busy. Will you ever shut up about G+ games?
I am going to try to only talk about them once a week.
-When are you playing, Zak?
I get up whenever and am generally awake until 4am pacific time/noon London time. My schedule is totally unpredictable, especially on the weekends, but since I paint and play simultaneously I might roll whenever.
-Are the girls playing?
Yeah. Though their schedules are even weirder than mine. But, like, Connie, Mandy and Caroline Pierce have all played G+ games.