Cross Chatter in Games on Google+ Hangouts

Last night I saw a beautiful thing.  We were playing a Reign of Winter game (as I do on some Monday nights) and I realised how well gelled that particular group has become.  It is funny to think that only nineteen sessions ago the only people that knew one another there were +Cam Mcloughlin and myself. But last night felt like sitting around a table with +libby furr+Martin M+Matt Guyder+Dave Morris+Tom Tyson and Cam in an in-person game although it was done by hangout.

It was just like gaming around the table in real life last night!

That is a great testimony to the Google+ team that you can actually make a hangout feel like an in person game.  But this comes with its own issues also.  Last night the group chatted with one another while other people were having their turn, much like what occurs in an around the table game.  Great! Apart from the fact that the audio channel is shared and at times I found that I could not get a word in edgeways!  And at other times I had to ask for people to allow x player to have their go.

People weren’t being rude and this is not a criticism of the players, it is an observation.  When we started playing the game a lot of this cross chatter used to go on in the chat bar to the side of roll20 which was good.  It meant I could see what was going on in the quiet times, answer questions put to me when I needed and it did not disrupt the game.  The players are just now at a point where they are forgetting that we are playing online a little so they chat which is fantastic.  If I were a millionaire (donations anyone?) I would fly them all to Tasmania and have a dinner party where we could chat in person and it would still feel the same!  But this is not working in hangouts as well.

The virtual tabletop software is great but can we improve?

So, what is my solution?  Do I insist on only myself and the person of focus having “the talking stick”? I do not think this is what I want to do.  That will kill the camaraderie that they have built together.  What I would absolutely love for Google+ to do is build in a technological solution.  If I were programming the hangout I would include a second audio channel that allowed for chat to go on whilst other in game stuff was going on.  If you ever used IRC programs the idea could be like a second “private” group or one on one channel that you could set up.  The channel would need to be accessible by the GM, and perhaps even have a channel that the GM could shunt players into so that they could deal with “secret in game stuff” with just those that were involved.

I get that hangouts were not made with just gaming in mind but it does seem to have a strong hold in the communities.  I spent some time randomly listening to Online events about a week ago and quite a few of them were gaming related.  I was completely and utterly wowed by a Vampire the Masquerade chat I happened across where an American teen, a Palestine woman (probably around 30) and a South African woman were fully in character talking about their clan (Toreador) and the artistic pursuits they follow to reduce the blood lust.  Also the artistic pursuits that increase it.  I was amazed and moved by how inclusive and transcendent gaming can be.

I am sure these guys might know some
of the answers!

So if gaming is reasonably common could we petition Google to offer something like this?  Or is it already available to be used in some programming interface for hangouts that no-one has taken advantage of?  Do the people of +Roll20 have a plan to add something similar?  They do have an option that allows them to whisper text at the GM and I am sure they would know if separate audio channels were available in hangouts.  Perhaps they may look at this and go what a great idea!

Do you game online using hangouts?  I do a lot and I try to keep my eye out for ways that we could improve the performance or the experience of it.  For some of the time last night I truly forgot that it was all happening on computer and that is the way it should be all the time.  What things would you like to see in G+ hangouts that could improve the way we game?  I mean make real improvements to our interactions.  I know some toys like skins over faces by creature, voice changers would all be cool but what would improve the player to player, player to GM interfaces?  While you ponder that I will go back to reading some really cool new Third Party material that landed in my computer this morning for review.  More on that soon.  Keep rolling!

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