Video/Audio chat


#1

Continuing the discussion from Online Gameplay:

What are your thoughts on video and/or audio chat? Must-have? Would you pay for reliable service? (There’s a chance I could offload the service to a much more reliable third-party integration)


#2

I think that video chat is a must-have for a VTT. You have to have video, or at least audio, chat in order to play a tabletop RPG over a VTT, so it should be part of the VTT. I would pay for reliable service, but I would expect it to be part of the fee for the VTT, not a separate charge. I really think video chat, and not just audio, is a must in this day & age. Playing tabletop RPGs online will probably never have the level of immediacy and interaction that playing in person does, but video chat makes it a lot closer than audio alone (or god forbid, only text chat).

Let’s be real here, there are already two well-known VTTs out there–Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds–and both have their fans. The niche that has not been filled, though, is a VTT with reliable integrated video chat, which again is required to play. Fantasy Grounds doesn’t include video or audio chat at all, and Roll20’s video chat is extremely buggy. If I were behind the development of PoweredVTT, I would see having an integrated and reliable video chat as the number one way I could compete with these other VTTs and offer my users something they can’t.

People that play over Fantasy Grounds are forced to use some other option for chat, whether that’s Google Hangouts, Skype, Discord, Teamspeak, Mumble, etc., and only some of these (Hangouts & Skype) have video capability. Many people are forced to use one of these options with Roll20 as well (or choose to) because their video chat is so unreliable.

The ideal would be for you to have your own stable, reliable video chat that is part of the VTT, but I understand that might not be possible, as creating and managing a reliable video chat is its own animal. Integration with a 3rd party video chat would be an acceptable alternative if it were better integrated than the other two VTTs I mentioned have done.

Fantasy Grounds doesn’t integrate video chat at all. Roll20 used to integrate Hangouts–you could either launch your Roll20 session in a Hangout through the Roll20 site, or you could access your Roll20 VTT from a Hangout using a Roll20 app for Hangouts. Due to changes with Hangouts, this is no longer possible. However, even when it was, it wasn’t ideal, because Roll20 didn’t truly integrate Hangouts. What would happen is you’d have the Roll20 UI within the Hangouts UI. This resulted in a lot of wasted screen real estate, and made the actual part of your screen showing the VTT much smaller than it should have been. You also had two text chat windows on the screen, Roll20’s and Hangouts’ (although you could close Hangouts’), not only wasting screen real estate, but also causing confusion as some players would post in one chat, and some the other. You also had two sets of player avatars–Hangouts’ and Roll20’s. These are issues I’d like to see this VTT solve if it uses a third party video chat system.

Another issue with a third party solution is it’s yet another window open on your computer. This wasn’t an issue with Roll20 and Hangouts in the past, because Roll20 would be in the Hangouts window (or vice versa). However, then you had the problem of two UIs, as I discussed above. This can be a pain for GMs especially, as we tend to have a lot of windows open already–the VTT, text documents, file folders, images, etc. For a GM that livestreams, it’s even more of an issue because we also have our software that we use to livestream.

If you do use a third party, I would strongly recommend Hangouts as opposed to Skype. Hangouts is much more reliable than Skype and doesn’t require the user to download and install any additional software–it runs inside the web browser. Discord would be the ideal solution if they had video, but they don’t, so I don’t think they should even be considered at this point. They’ve said they’d add video at some point, but no word as to when that will happen.

In summary, in order to really enjoy online play of tabletop RPGs, you’ve got to have video chat, and I think any new VTT on the market will either have to have video chat built in, or have a third party solution like Hangouts fully integrated in a way we haven’t seen before in order to be competitive. Since it looks like you plan to charge for this VTT, this is even more the case (Roll20 can be used for free). I have never even considered using Fantasy Grounds because it’s not free and doesn’t address video chat. I’d never pay for a VTT that didn’t have a video chat solution. In my opinion, video chat is MUCH more necessary for online play than a VTT or dice rollers. I can run a game theater of the mind, and I can trust my players to roll their own physical dice and not cheat. I can NOT (or will not) run the game without video chat.

I have grown very frustrated with Roll20 lately because of continuing problems with their video chat, and statements from their team to the effect that they don’t consider video chat as a “core feature” or a priority, so there seems little hope these issues will be solved anytime soon. I am planning my next campaign to be completely theater of the mind, so I can run it without a VTT on Hangouts. So you see, I’d much rather run a campaign without a VTT and have reliable video chat, than run a campaign with a VTT and have unreliable video chat.


#3

I sincerely want to thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts. Your suggestions are both evidently passionate and constructive and I will try to answer them the best I can. Please feel free to circle back if I’m leaving anything out.

Back in January, we originally proposed including video/audio chat. Over the months I developed the original alpha of the platform, it was eventually decided that video/audio wasn’t critical as most people felt comfortable using what they wanted for now (this was based on hundreds and hundreds of conversations I held with users.)

There are a lot of third-party programs that handle this, Skype, Hangouts, Discord (most popular) to name a few. They all have HUGE teams dedicated to solving this problem and if their software is still buggy … well … I don’t have much hope for me and only me at the moment. Everything Power VTT has been only me and while I know the technologies that exist and how to connect them, it’s a huge feature that will take time to build.

This is absolutely not to say any of this won’t happen! I simply want to be transparent about the reality of what I am able to deliver as a single developer and when you might expect this to be prioritized.

An integrations with Hangouts is not possible, Google pulled the API. An integration with Discord might be possible but I haven’t looked into the possibility of this yet, they also are audio only. I might consider Skype if there is enough interest, no one has actually pitched that before!

All-in-all I think this is going to fall into the hands of the community. If enough support rallies up behind this I will absolutely get something together and start working on a reliable way to video/audio chat within the platform.

Of course I am always open to new thoughts on this. I absolutely understand your need and frustrations with existing platforms and am keeping the thought open for the community to voice. I can’t promise it will come soon but I can promise it will be considered and it’s open for discussion.

I hope my response doesn’t sound dismissive in any way, if anything I wish for it to be constructive and transparent. I sincerely appreciate the feedback and will keep an open ear and mind.


#4

Thanks for your response. I understand the challenges this presents. To be clear, I don’t think there are many issues with Hangouts or Discord. Skype has issues with call quality and call dropping, but not as bad as Roll20 chat.

If you are going to pursue a third party solution, I’d suggest possibly Discord, since Hangouts isn’t a possibility. It’s true, they only have voice, no video, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Discord from people who’ve used it. Also, they did say on their Twitter account in 2016 that they planned to add video capability in 2017. I haven’t since seen any statements about it, so I’m suspecting it won’t happen in 2017, but hopefully it will still happen and will happen “soon”. If so, hopefully you’d be able to take advantage of that if you’re already integrating Discord.

One really nice feature of Discord for tabletop RPGs is that you can have different “rooms” like you can with Mumble or Teamspeak. This allows the GM to take one or more players aside in another room to have a private conversation or run a scene that the other players won’t be privy to. This just simply can’t be done with something like Hangouts or Skype; you’d have to make a separate call.


#5

I’d personally be fine with using Skype or Discord with a VTT. What would be really nice, though, if they could be in the same window, so I can see the video feeds in the same window as the VTT. I don’t know if that’s possible, though, with a third party app.


#6

Agreed! I really favor Discord if an API integration is possible, again I’m sorry I haven’t put in the proper research yet.

Another big challenge (which you sort of touched on before) is that the existing integrations are frustrating, not just in call quality but how they are arranged. Another big challenge for Power VTT is keeping things simple so that will need to be considered too.

Really, this is all awesome! I will invest a little time next week to see what might be possible about “grouping” windows or integrating video/audio with Discord/Skype/custom. If there’s a plugin, I might have time to throw it in and see what happens. I’d depend on your feedback!

I will let you know before end of the month what I think is possible and when I think it can happen. In the meantime if you have friends or others you think would support this, tell them to voice their opinions!


#7

Thanks for your consideration, and best of luck in finding something that works! :slight_smile:


#8

Honestly I think the Video/Audio chat shouyld not make to the developed features.

You seem to be an awesome developer, but developing a decent Video/Audio application is a different beast, whole teams spend lots of time working on those products and they are still buggy (looking at you skype!).

I would feel sad for the product if you would spend your time trying to make a Video/Audio chat work decently. Most non Pen-and-Paper gamers use Discord, and a lot of those are becoming interested in old school RPG, what could provide a large target audience for you.

Some 3rd party programs work great, ad some don’t. Would be nice to have an integration with one of them like Discord. It works well, is an established product, and would save your precious time


#9

@eklam I have the same thoughts on, “if other big companies can’t do it, what hope do I have?” I have been heavily considering a Discord integration soon. I’m currently planning a Kickstarter to fulfill many of these larger requests.