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CyberCabal - Online RPG tests

So I mentioned I was starting an online RPG group and yesterday was our inaugural event. I'd like to say it was our first game but unfortunately not.

We planned for Fiasco, pretty much got it

We had one player drop out of the group due to competing personal issues. So down to five from now on. Then another member couldn't make the session due to needing to appear on the radio. Like you do. So down to four for our test game.

The goal was to log in to Appear.in and play a game of Fiasco but being an IT professional and developer for over a decade I doubted it would happen that way. I set expectations and boy was that a good idea.


Appear.in uses WebRTC to perform video conferencing from a browser. With modern browsers supporting it, you can easily follow a link, approve use of your webcam and microphone and join a conference.

For one or two people this has worked well enough but it doesn't appear to scale very well.

Appear.in does peer-to-peer connections so each browser starts a session with every other participant's browsers. So for a five person chat, each browser is trying to upload and download from four others.

I had two connections, one from my main webcam and one from our patented (not patented) DiceCam.

DiceCam showing dice

As soon as we hit five connections; three players, DiceCam and myself the quality of both the video and the audio plummeted. Within about a minute of seeing the quality, we ended up having to use the chat window to agree to abandon and try Roll20.net instead.

Critically at this time however, everything was working but was not fast enough to play.

I even dropped out DiceCam (which was also intended for screen sharing rules and play aids) just to see if it could help. It didn't. Four connections and with an assortment of broadband speeds it just didn't work.

To make matters worse, one member didn't have a webcam so he was only using audio and it was slow anyway.


So onto Roll20 then. Now this is a virtual tabletop so there were immediately benefits before the technical issues hit.

Everyone piled into the room and started typing the chat command to roll dice. It even had the 1000d100 roll I had done a few days earlier still in the history.

So for a one shot game, it's not too critical but for a long campaign, picking up where you left off it is a very attractive feature.

However we noticed a problem fairly quickly. The guy with just a microphone was silent. Once the dice rolling cooled down, we had to use the chat to try and talk him through browser issues.

Some sort of browser/plugin or permission setting basically had select not his microphone and Roll20 does not have the options to change it. So it will use your default microphone and camera.

Not only was his microphone not selected, I was DiceCam. My linux box tends to grab that USB webcam first before the main one built into my monitor. So I adjusted my defaults and restarted to the correct camera.

We did have a very quick play around with playing tokens, cards and background music. Not things really relevant for Fiasco but useful if we had time to prepare the game. This prep work was one of the reasons I preferred to be using Appear.in as I can see it becoming a time sink before hand or worse, in a game.

After far longer than we wanted, we decided to try something else, which was Google Hangouts which can also host a Roll20 session.

Google Hangouts With Roll20

So you can start a Google Hangout and use the Roll20 app, although apps are limited to the "classic" interface rather than the newer, default one.

Another member and myself were running different Linux distributions and had no problems with Hangouts.

Somewhere along the line, our microphone only guy ended up (after Firefox, then Chrome) with installing Opera. He was finally with us and we could hear him.

Then the lady of the group was wondering why she couldn't see the Roll20 app we were talking about. She's hit a Hangout issue where add ons were missing. So whilst the rest of use could see each other and the Roll20 table top, she was just stuck looking at our frowning faces.

So the rest of the session was attempting to remotely debug the issue and suggest fixes. When the session was due to end, we said goodbye to the others and tried to figure it out.

The pinnace was she was connected in hangouts whilst logged directly into Roll20. So by changing tabs she could see one or the other.


We've got our missing member to try and connect before the next session. We also have to see if we can iron out the remaining issues with our lady's browser.

Now to look at things positively, the people whose computers were working were connected for 2 hours and we had very little problems with sound.

Every problem was browser based and inevitable fell upon the less technical savvy members of the group.

Now whilst disappointing, I've had gaming sessions that have played out similar ways for other reasons. Cars have broken, people have been ill. People have turned up then realised they are feeling ill and gone home. We had a series of games where 30 minutes were wasted getting drinks, fruit cocktails, tea etc.

So the problems were different but not any greater. However it's not quite there yet. We'll see how things go over the next few weeks.

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