Best practices for dealing with map transfers

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heruca
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Best practices for dealing with map transfers

Post by heruca » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:12 pm

There are 4 principle ways to get maps to your players. I will list the methods in order from best to worst.

1. Distribute the map in a Media Asset Bundle prior to the game session
The best way to ensure that map transfers don't bog down your game session is to send your players media asset bundles containing all the assets present in your Encounter (this includes the map, figures, objects, and even attached audio clips). The media bundles should be sent to the players prior to game session's start time, and the optional password protection on these bundles ensures that your players can't peek at the content ahead of time. This bundle method, however, is only useful for planned Encounters that you've prepared well ahead of your game session, and is not suitable for improvised Encounters that you create on the spur of the moment during a game session.

2. Use server-based maps
The best way to ensure fast map transfers during a game session is to load the map from a URL. This method forces the player clients to download the map from the server where it is being hosted, rather than from the GM's computer, and it has the benefit of retaining any image compression (e.g., JPG). The result is that such map transfers take just a fraction of the time to complete that a peer-to-peer map transfer would take. Typical load times are between 30 seconds and a couple of minutes, depending on the size and complexity of each particular map. Server-based maps transfer at least 10 times faster to players, and I recommend using them whenever possible. If your map is available online, or if you have some server space where you can upload the map to, use the server-based map loading feature, which is not only more reliable than p2p transfers, but much faster. See this thread for instructions on how to load a map from a URL. This method is obviously not suitable for face-to-face game sessions where there is no internet access available (e.g., in a basement).

3. Peer-to-peer (aka p2p) map transfers
Maps tend to be very large graphics. Peer-to-peer map transfers are therefore sent out to the connected players in small chunks, about one map row at a time. Those map chunks are re-assembled into a full map on each player client as soon as they are received. Typical p2p map transfer times range between 3 and 10 minutes (if it is taking longer and you are on broadband, something is seriously wrong). Unfortunately, p2p map transfers are not foolproof. Sometimes, some of the map chunks aren't received by one or more of the players. They get lost in transit for some reason (e.g., a poor internet connection), resulting in empty/black map rows on that client/s. To address this possibility, there is a "row receipt system" in place that is supposed to automatically re-transmit any map rows that were not received by one or more clients. There is also a "Send Missing Map Pieces" command available to the GM should he/she wish to manually re-transmit missing map rows. This method of transferring maps should be reserved for use during improvised Encounters (those which could not be anticipated and prepared for).

4. Email the map to each player prior to the game session
If it doesn't matter to the GM if the players see the map ahead of time (e.g., if the Fog of War feature will not be utilized, or if the map depicts a location which the players are already supposed to be familiar with), he could also just email the map graphic itself to the players and tell them to load it up in BRPG (with the [M] hotkey) prior to connecting to the GM's game. This will import the graphic, so that it will be available when called for during the game session.


Some things to keep in mind about how BRPG handles maps:
¢ When a map (or any other graphic) is imported into BRPG, it loses any compression (e.g., JPG) that it may have had. It is not uncommon for a map that is 200kb on your hard drive to bloat to 3 or 4 MBs once imported into BRPG.

¢ If you want to reduce the size of your media asset bundles, you should consider using server-based maps, which are not included in a media bundle.

¢ You cannot just send a player a graphic/asset and expect it to show up in BRPG automatically. If the player didn't actually import said media into BRPG (e.g., load a given map), simply placing the assets in the same relative folder locations isn't going to achieve anything.

¢ In the event of a failed peer-to-peer map transfer, have your players purge the "corrupted" map, using the Purge Media panel (which is only available to them offline, so they'll need to log off momentarily). This purging is necessary to ensure that future attempts to send the map can work (because if a client already has a map graphic with the same name, it will not request that map from the GM/host again).

¢ Dropbox is a great (and free) tool for distributing media asset bundles to your players. Just make sure that the players copy the bundle to their BRPG installation rather than move the file (which would delete it from Dropbox, therefore making it unavailable for the other players).

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Omnidon
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Re: Best practices for dealing with map transfers

Post by Omnidon » Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:43 am

heruca wrote:This method is obviously not suitable for face-to-face game sessions where there is no internet access available (e.g., in a basement).
Pfft, where's this caveman with no internet in his basement? ;-)
heruca wrote:If your map is available online, or if you have some server space where you can upload the map to, use the server-based map loading feature, which is not only more reliable than p2p transfers, but much faster.
If anyone needs help obtaining or utilizing server space for map hosting, feel free to message me.

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