Sunday, April 5, 2020

The "Younger Sibling Effect"



While I'm past middle age, I don't consider myself THAT old. However, once in awhile I find myself wondering about the actions of the younger generations and one of them that perplexes me the most is: why would they rather watch someone play a video game than play it?

Now, I realize more people than ever before are playing video games and there are more video game systems and games "out there" for players to enjoy. I also understand that as everyone gets older and has more responsibilities that they don't have as much time to play all of the games they would like to.

However, as someone who literally grew up with the history of video games (yes, I remember playing Pong at at a gym my parents went to) I would always rather play a game than watch someone else play it. I remember being a kid and being impatient for my turn to get my hands on the controller.

Then I made a realization.

The younger generations are the younger brothers and sisters (and the children) of the generation who grew up playing video games. And what did us older siblings (and parents) make them do? We made them watch us playing games. They got used to making the act of watching others play entertaining for them as well. Maybe it was a survival method. Maybe there was just more opportunities to watch someone play a game (via YouTube and Twitch and spectator modes) Maybe they grew to like watching others playing games. Whatever the case, it is now a "thing". (it has been a thing for quite some time just some of us are slower to embrace it.)

While I would still rather play games that watch them, I feel I understand why the "younger generation" likes to watch games a little more now.

ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE!



If you have been following my blog, you know that I've been researching games to play using the ZOOM video conference platform. While many have been figuring out how to play already published games, others have been creating new games.

I came across an interesting article about students at USC creating games for the platform. You can read it here. Inspired, and already possessing a good deal of knowledge about what ZOOM can and cannot do, I decided to design my own game form ZOOM called ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE.

Feel free to share this free game with your friends, and hopefully, they will enjoy playing it too! If you enjoy playing this game, you can join my Patreon where I create a new Print and Play game each month.

*****


Astronauts in Trouble
A ZOOM role playing party game for 3 to 20 players
by Scott Rogers

OVERVIEW
ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE is a hilarious role playing party game where one player is ASTRONAUT with a problem. The other players are MISSION CONTROL who help them solve it with their household items. But with malfunctioning audio, the astronaut can only guess how it could help. Guess correctly to score points and win!

HOW TO PLAY
Each player takes turns being an ASTRONAUT who is on a space station orbiting Earth. The other players are MISSION CONTROL.

The Astronaut player may set their virtual background to a space station interior

At the start of their turn, the Astronaut describes, in detail, a TROUBLE that has happened to them on the space station to the Mission Control players. The problem can be serious or silly, that is up to the player.

TROUBLE EXAMPLES INCLUDE:

·      A micro-asteroid punctured the hull
·      The retro-rockets mis-fired
·      A dangerous solar-flare is approaching the station
·      The toilet won’t flush
·      The station broke orbit and is hurtling towards Earth
·      The station’s artificial gravity is off
·      Partner’s tether broke during a spacewalk
·      The station has run out of Tang orange drink
·      Solar panel needs to be repaired
·      Helmet is starting to fill up with water
·      The station’s AI has gone rogue
·      An alien has invaded the station

The other players are MISSION CONTROL. HOWEVER, thanks to COSMIC RADIATION, Mission Control is having problems with their communications and they cannot be heard by the astronaut. All Mission Control Players must set their ZOOM AUDIO SETTING to MUTE.


Mission Control has to solve the problem with something around the house

Once the Astronaut has described their problem, the MISSION CONTROL players have 30 SECONDS (One-one-hundred, Two-one-hundred,…) to find an SINGLE OBJECT at their location (home, etc.) that will be used to help the astronaut with their trouble. They then take turns DESCRIBING TO THE ASTRONAUT how they must use the item to help them with their problem.

Will you help the Astronaut solve their problem in time?

THE ASTRONAUT will then PICK ONE of the player’s items and describe back the SOLUTION. If they have closely described the use of the item, then they get 1 POINT. If they accurately described the solution they get 3 POINTS. The MISSION CONTROL player whose solution was picked gets 2 POINTS.

Once everyone has had a chance to be an ASTRONAUT, the player with the most points wins!
 

Friday, April 3, 2020

13 tips for playing WEREWOLF over Zoom


As I continue to explore games that play best via video conferencing, I wanted to experience playing Werewolf -  the social deduction game that is commonly played this way around the world. For those of you who are new to this game, these are the rules of a "basic" game of Werewolf:


Players are given a role at the beginning of the game – either as a Villager person or a Werewolf. A third of the players should be Werewolves. The goal is for one faction to survive the game – which means the complete destruction of the other faction.

 
The game happens over a series of “days” in which there is a distinct day and a night phase. Play is moderated by an impartial narrator who guides the players through the phases. During the night phase, all players close their eyes. The Werewolf members open their eyes to acknowledge each other and then indicate which of the Villages they will kill – either on paper or by pointing at the chosen victim. The Werewolves need to come to a consensus on a victim.


The day phase starts as all players open their eyes to find the victim dead. The players must then choose to execute a player – with the goal of uncovering a Werewolf. The players all have a few minutes to discuss and debate which player should be chosen. Accusations are made and innocence is defended. Evidence against other players are often shaky at best. If the group reaches a consensus, that chosen player is “executed” and reveals if they are honest or a Werewolf. However, it is possible to execute an honest player instead, reducing their numbers. If the group cannot come to a consensus or after a player has been executed, the night phase begins again, with the remaining Werewolves choosing another victim. 

 
Play continues in this way until either all Werewolves are executed or there is no way for the Villagers to win. A victory is shared, if either Werewolves or Villagers win, everyone on that team wins.

 In the advanced game, "special characters are added: Cupid who makes two characters fall in love and if one dies, the other "kills themselves" out of grief, a Hunter who when killed, can shoot and kill one other player, A Fortune Teller who may secretly ask the moderator if a player is a werewolf, the Little Girl who may peek during the night phase but if caught is killed and the Witch who has two potions, one that saves and one that kills and may use them once during the game.


 If you want to learn more about the history of Werewolf (and Mafia, the game that it is based on) I suggest listening to my Biography of a Boardgame podcast: http://ludology.libsyn.com/biography-of-a-board-game-2145-mafiawerewolf


 There are many versions of Werewolf available for purchase and there are literally hundreds of special roles that can be added to the game. If you are new to the game, I suggest only using the roles  mentioned above.


For this experiment, I played two sessions with 11 players (and myself as the moderator). The first game, we played "basic" Werewolf - with three werewolves and the rest of the players as villagers. The second game we added in the "special" characters - Cupid, The Hunter, Fortune Teller, Little Girl and the Witch. Both games played well, but we found some things to consider when player via Zoom or any other video conferencing system.


 13 tips playing Werewolf over video conferencing systems:

  1.  If you are the Moderator, use chat to distribute roles – make sure you select "private" before sending!
  2. It's easy to accidentally send a message to the wrong user - take your time when sending a message!
  3. Let all players talk as non-verbal communication is limited - it might be hard to hear, but the chaos is part of the fun!
  4. "Dead" players should mute their audio line (click on the microphone icon).
  5.   Werewolves only get one vote at night – if there is no consensus, there no death occurs! (and then watch the player's confused faces!)
  6. Use private chat for Werewolves. Even better, have them communicate via Discord or Messenger - separately from Zoom. 
  7. It’s hard to read lips over video conferencing. Werewolves should write down name on paper – but use a sharpie as a regular pen is hard to read via the camera.
  8. Witch and Fortune Teller should use private chat as well to indicate who they are asking about/healing or killing.
  9. The Little Girl character is a very powerful one online... maybe too powerful. It was hard to tell when she was peeking. Some of my students recommended giving the Werewolves a chance to guess who the Little Girl is – much like a Fortune Teller - but I'm not sure if that is the best solution.
  10. Not having a player seen on-screen makes a big difference to the game and gives too many advantages to non-screen players. All players should show their faces.
  11.  It's easy for the moderator to miss a step or sending info to a player. Take your time so you don't make a mistake (but they will happen!)
  12. Unfortunately, Zoom does not support “grouped” chat. Breakout rooms won't work either as they show who "isn't" in the group and therefore give away who is and isn't a Werewolf.
  13. Make player vote simultaneously during the Day Phase to prevent too many "foot dragger" voting.
Regardless of these limitations, we still had fun playing and many of my students said it was the best game we've played yet over Zoom. I hope you get a chance to play Werewolf with some of your friends! Happy gaming! and remember, I am NOT the Werewolf!






Tuesday, March 31, 2020

MORE great games to play using video conferencing



I've been continuing my investigating into which games work best for Zoom and other video conferencing systems. My friend Fletcher, who has been experimenting with OBS (Open Broadcasting Software*) came up with a set of guidelines for types of games that would work:

- have small footprints
- limited to no hidden information between players (unless players a
re willing to play with open hands)
- aren't super fiddly
- don't require players to pay a large amount of attention to other players personal spaces or tableaus.


Good advice, Fletcher! So taking this into account, I've expanded my list to several more games that could work well, depending on your set-up. Games that require a moderator to run the game and manipulate the components are marked with an *. Games that are best played with 2 more or copies of the game (with each player possessing a game at their location) are marked with an #.

I've divided the list into three categories depending on your camera set-up.
  1. Games that work well with just out-of-the box Zoom and a single computer (built-in) camera. Keep in mind that while Zoom can support many viewers, (up to around 300 or so) but you cannot see more than 42 of them on screen at one time. I would avoid playing with groups larger than that.
  2. Games that work well with a "duel camera" or a "roving camera" set-up (Personally, I use my computer's camera as well as a Sony Eye-Toy from my PS3 in the USB port - you can find an inexpensive driver here: https://codelaboratories.com/products/eye/driver/). With this set-up, you can switch between the computer and the more portable Eye-Toy. 
  3. A dedicated multi-came a set-up. This requires more than one computer to run a dedicated system and camera. IMHO, this is the best way to go as you can look at the board, different components and cards and even the face of the player... As Ferris Bueller says, "if you have the means, I highly recommend it."
Click on the game's name for it's BoardGameGeek.com link

SINGLE CAMERA
Battleship #
Bingo*
Charades
Celebrities
Dungeons and Dragons* (and pretty much almost any other RPG) (players will need dice and a character sheet)
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space#
Game of Phones*
Hangman*
Mafia*
Pictionary (requires use Zoom's whiteboard function)
Reverse Charades (requires use of private chat function)
Say What (requires use of private chat function)
Taboo (requires use of private chat function)
The Game of Things*
Think 'N Sync*
Trivial Pursuit*
Werewolf* (requires use of private chat function)

DUEL-CAMERA
Chess #
Diplomacy #
Dixit*
Fearsome Floors*
Karuba*#
Mysterium*
Nuclear Destruction#
Railway Rivals*#
Red Dragon Inn
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective*
Survive: Escape from Atlantis*
Tak*#
Villainous
Wits and Wagers*

MULTI-CAMERA
Dead of Winter*
Kingdom Death: Monster*
Rise of Tribes*
Wallenstein*#

More games will be added to this list as I go. Stay tuned!


Friday, March 27, 2020

10 More revelations about gaming and video conferencing...




My friends and I recently tried played a board game via Zoom. This time it was Rise of Tribes, an excellent worker-placement game by my friend Brad Brooks and published by my friends at Breaking Games.

Breaking Games had a unique set-up: three computers running three camera simultaneously - one showed the game board, the second showed the player's ability cards, resources and tribal affiliation. The third showed the host's face during the game.


The game is pretty simple. Players roll two dice and "plug" one of them into one of four actions. Actions allow players to move or gain more meeples, resources, or cards. Cards provide abilities once their cost has been met. You may also build villages that provide points. The first player to reach 15 points first, wins.


Here's what we learned from the session:

  1. In Zoom, the moderator may change the name of an attendee. We changed the name of our players to the color they were playing. You could also rename the player to the character they are playing, if you were playing that kind of game.
  2. Zoom supports multiple cameras, which comes in very helpful. I think to effectively run a game, you need at least two camera. I have a PlayStation EyeToy hooked up to my own computer but I can only switch between the two cameras rather than have them run simultaneously. In order to have multiple cameras displayed at once but you need multiple computers to run them. If anyone knows differently, please post your knowledge in the comments!
  3.  You can also run Zoom from an Iphone or Ipad, but the image will only appear on main screen – it cannot be run as smaller side screen.
  4.  We found it very helpful to mark the board, grid style – A1, B4, C2 - Battleship style.
  5.   Despite everyone being orderly, it was hard to hear several people at once – try not to have music in the background. Instead, I suggest using a sound board operated by the moderator to punctuate events infrequently.
  6.  Having a moderator leading the gameplay was a huge help - especially one who knew the game ahead of time.
  7.  Players should be well-versed in the game ahead of time (watch a “watch it played” or read the rule book although playing the game is best.)
  8. Keeping track of your own resources and information helped greatly. We also had it being tracked by the moderator, which was pretty helpful but slowed things down as players checked in to make sure their own stat tracking was correct.
  9. Is there a way to bring player boards or tableau into view? We discussed using a Lazy Susan or Foamcore tray that the moderator could bring in and out of camera view.
  10. Seeing the player's faces was much more appealing than seeing their tableau or a board. Gamers are social people and it was a nice change of pace seeing all of my friends who I hadn't seen in awhile.

Many of the finding from this session weren't extremely revolutionary, but as I close in on what Zoom can and can't do, I find every bit of information helps. I hope you found this helpful too. The exploration continues!!



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