First F2F Gaming Session With BRPG

Non-bug comments, suggestions, and feature requests for BRPG and/or BGE
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Skeeve
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First F2F Gaming Session With BRPG

Post by Skeeve » Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:19 am

Greetings,

Well we had our first D&D 4e gaming session on a new campaign (H1: Keep on the Shadowfell) over the weekend. We decided to give BRPG (1.2G) at chance at supplying the virutal table top and eliminating our real world miniatures. This turned out to be a blessing because just before the event one of our players had their baby sitter cancel. He was stuck home so we decided to try having him play remotely.

The next few paragraphs will give you our usability impressions, feel free to skip down to Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down for a recap. Please keep in mind that we are mostly a Face to Face (F2F) group. We only decided to try remote gaming because one member couldn't make it. Also, please see a support post for bug issues we ran in to.

Our first initial impressions were extremely good. I demoed a sample map populated with players and monsters moving around and everyone was ooh-ing and ahhh-ing. Unfortunately, that may have been the high point of the night.

After the demo, did some housekeeping on the characters, then role played everyone in to position for a while before our first combat. The first combat consisted of an outdoor traveler's ambush (players being the travelers). I decided to make it dark just to see some of the Fog of War (FoW) aspects of BRPG. The players were all looking at two local laptops and the remote player was watching his desktop as the virtual miniatures were moved and suddenly some monsters were spotted. As I unhid a few monsters we rolled initative.

It was a very close combat and the players really enjoyed the fight. It was was also very enjoyable being able to see each minature's exactly location, its current estimated health (halo - updated by DM), its given name (to distguish it from other similar ones), and its current effects (such as Marked, Poisoned, Asleep, etc.).

Thumbs Up:
Virtual Table Top - BRPG did a great job communicating the game board above and beyond physical miniatures. With physical miniatures you are normally describing, color coding, or in some way trying to distinguish similar miniatures. Also, we don't always have the "right" miniature for the job and with BRPG the miniature name is more important than the graphic.
Fog of War - The FoW feature was superb. If anyone was going to use any virtual table top program we would say FoW feature would be a requirement. Although there are some lighting issues it was very usable and enjoyable.

Thumbs Down:
Interface - Although the interface if very clean it has some issues that impact game play. Because it is assumed that most users will be remote the chat window is typically shown on top of all others (even when you show the desktop, minimize BRPG, or even over other BRPG windows/prompts). This causes a problem when you only have one screen and are trying to run multiple apps for playing/GMing. The chat window can be hidden for F2F games by pressing the TAB key but then you would miss all incoming messages. A nice feature would be to flash the Chat Window (TAB) button while there are any unread messages. Another example of interface issues would be dice rolling. BRPG has a nice dice roller but whenever anyone rolls a die or dice the interface instant popups up over the entire map (it is a very big dice window). There is a toggle to turn it off in More Preferences but we could not get it to work Even if it did that means we might miss a roll. Flashing the Dice Roll History button would be a nice improvement.
Our last big interface issue is Labels. They are a double edged sword, great feature but they can cause issues. In D&D 4e there are a lot more effects that apply from round to round then in previous games we have played. Things like the monster is stunned until your next turn or you Mark the monster until your next turn. We made labels for these (very nice feature) but ran in to a problem when we had 3 labels on a monster and could no longer select that monster to move it. We did manage to work around the problem by using the Unit Manager to do the selection but Labels should not interfer with the selection of a unit. Also, the selection of a unit in general is very picky. We found we would have to sometimes move the mouse just slightly over the unit (it was already over it) and try clicking again to get that square/unit selected.
Bugs - What can we say, every program contains bugs or if they didn't there would never be anything more than version x.0. BRPG is no different and actually the bugs will determine when we keep using for our campaigin. To quote a player, "This program has great potential but it is covered in warts at the moment." Please see my post in the Support section for a detailed list but in summary: Players maps missing data (black bars across screen), constant Index out of range script errors, the dice rolling window as mentioned above, and initial constant disconnections.

Overall BRPG is a great concept and Battlegrounds Games has done a good job in selecting the important features for a virtual table top program. Unfortunately, for our F2F game the implementing is causing us severe playablility issues. Our group is going to meet to discuss it further but right now we are torn between metal and bits.

Skeeve

D&D 4e Specific Notes:
BRPG is generic in nature and not built for any specific games. Unfortunately, its include Area of Effect choices do not cover D&D 4e powers. BRPG will have to be updated to support 4e.
Hosting a F2F (face to face) D&D 4e game using BRPG 1.3c on Vista.

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heruca
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Post by heruca » Sun Jul 27, 2008 2:31 pm

Thanks for the detailed write-up, Skeeve.

As a general rule, for a group that is brand new to BRPG, I would probably advise starting off with simple Encounters and then gradually building up to using the more "complex" features, like Fog of War. What lighting-related issues did you have?

AFAIK, the Chat window isn't necessarily always above other windows. Meaning that if you click on another window to give it focus, it should redraw that window or panel above the Chat window. Is that not happening for you? And is the Chat window not auto-hiding when BRPG is not the foreground application?

I was not aware that the preference of not auto-opening the Dice Results window wasn't working. I'll have a look. Regarding missing die rolls even if that pref was working, are you aware that incoming die rolls are also being announced in the Chat window? Not full die roll reports (that's coming soon), but it at least lets you know that a roll was made, and by whom.

I had not realized that using three or more labels was causing problems selecting nearby units. In a future update, I'll see if I can make the click detection "pass through" the sprite that shows the text labels. In the meantime, I believe another work-around is to select the obstructed unit using the Turn Sequencer. That might be more useful, since players don't have access to the Unit Manager.

Let me know if you need specific minis for your game. There are quite a lot of them available, if you know where to look.

As for AoEs that are specific to D&D 4E, I plan on adding those in the not-too-distant future. Supporting 4E properly is very important to me, so I have that on the short list. If someone could send me diagrams of the proper AoE shapes, I'd appreciate it, because I don't have access to the 4E rulebooks.

PS: You might want to update your sig to reflect that you're now using v1.2g. :wink:
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Skeeve
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Post by Skeeve » Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:58 pm

Thanks, will do!

I can assist with the AoE cetails - I will break out the book and send you what you need.

Overall, we were very please with the concept and ideas - now it is getting over some minor "warts" to make it really smooth.

Skeeve.
Hosting a F2F (face to face) D&D 4e game using BRPG 1.3c on Vista.

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heruca
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Post by heruca » Sun Jul 27, 2008 10:19 pm

Skeeve wrote:I can assist with the AoE cetails - I will break out the book and send you what you need.
Much appreciated!
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

Balesir
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Post by Balesir » Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:18 am

Hi, Skeeve!

Just a note on minimising the Chat window; if you keep the sound turned up there is an audible signal when a new chat line comes in. That's what I rely on when I minimise the Chat to fix something up on screen.
Balesir

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Skeeve
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Post by Skeeve » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:26 pm

Balesir,

Nice - thanks that will do for now.

Skeeve
Hosting a F2F (face to face) D&D 4e game using BRPG 1.3c on Vista.

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heruca
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Post by heruca » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:40 pm

FYI, my "to do" list for after v1.3 includes adding a visual indicator for incoming die rolls that haven't been viewed, and another visual indicator to let you now if there is incoming chat text that has not been viewed.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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