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Subject: VASSALCon? Idea for Recruiting the New Breed rss

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Apex
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Yesterday I floated the concept of an online gaming convention for wargamers in my blog. Take a minute to read the blog entry: [blogpost=23496][/blogpost]

I wanted to post here to get more visibility and solicit your feedback and ideas. I think there's some real potential here, but it'd definitely take a dedicated group of folks to get it off the ground. There's no timeline per se for when I'd want to hold this event. I think selling it and getting the appropriate buy-in from game designers and publishers would be one of the most important gates to pass through before a decision about recruiting volunteers and determining the scope of the project.

Let me know if you'd be interested in this kind of event that'd be aimed and providing a no-cost option for attracting new wargamers to the field.



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David Peacock
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Have you looked at virtuaCon 13? Something similar for live Vassal play could be interesting.
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Apex
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I did! VirtuaCon along with David Dockter's prompting is kind of the catalyst for this thing.
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Lance Runolfsson
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Main problem I see is how do you get the potential recruits to know about it?
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Apex
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The efforts will have to be coupled with a marketing campaign that reaches beyond our walls to areas we think might yield gamers both within existing gaming worlds and outside of them.

One of my ideas would be to put a flier with a QR code in the history book section at local bookstores to see what gets nabbed through some kind of guerrilla marketing. Put up traditional fliers at game stores, coffee shops, and the like.

There's no guarantee it'll pull a lot of new blood in, but I've yet to see anyone try something on this scale. Ask yourself though, would you rather not try and contribute nothing to the hobby? Or would you rather give it your best and see what comes?

One thing that I'd ask is that the conversation here be realistic, but seek solutions rather than poo all over the potential problems! We know the limitations. Restating them isn't insightful any longer.

I'm interested in folks with ideas and suggestions that are centered around making it a success rather than simply stating the challenges and vanishing into the crowd.

This offers some real potential that appeals to a lot of things younger people will enjoy:

1 - It's Free.
2 - It's online.
3 - They aren't immediately confronted with a rulebook - their hands are held through demonstrations.
4 - It has the opportunity to reach more timezones while keeping folks in the comfort of their homes.
5 - There's nearly no commitment - You invest the time to get VASSAL and a few modules that look interesting up and running and if you don't like it...you walk away. You didn't have to drive, fly, or pay anything more than maybe 30 minutes of your time.

Those are some massively positive things that are going on right now. Imagine getting Shenandoah Studios on board to put a banner ad up for it promoting the event within their app? What about getting press releases to traditional video-game forums? I bet the "Total War" videogame series crowd would be a potential target that'd be way into this kind of thing.

There are audiences that haven't been tapped and the convenience offered here has the potential to attract rather than scare off new folks whole providing a great way for people who truly love this hobby to put their money where their mouths are and help recruit the next generation.
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Ros Hermans
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Love it!
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Rick Billings
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did just this for years, but I don't think he's run one recently...might be due for another round of trying it--might want to toss him a GM for ideas/known issues?
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Tom Willcockson
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I think the main issue is how do you make this seem like you are at a convention with lots of people, able to wander around and look at what they are playing, chat with others and pick up games on the fly. Not up on the software so I'm not sure what works best for multiple people, but even then I would assume you would need some sort of ground rules to avoid people breaking in in an irritating way either intentionally or unintentionally. The only one I have ever had experience with is Ventrillo but not sure it is the best.

Wonder though if you could have some kind of graphic interface for the main menu with links in it to take you to the game areas in question. Ok, I know absolutely nothing about the kind of programming this would require, but Say you have the opening menu as a kind of room seen from overhead populated with a bunch of tables. In the background perhaps the quiet hum of five or six randomly selected live game conversations going on at the con to give a sense of a bunch of people. On each table would be the title of the game being played and a postage stamp sized display of the game-board. Hover your pointer around it and you get to hear a randomly selected live game conversation for that game. Click it and you get another display of tables each some showing a game in progress. Others would show games needing players and perhaps one with a live or recorded demo game. Click on a table and it would take you as an observer to the VASSAL game in progress or to a game needing players as a possible participant.

Edit: I think you probably get a sense of how technologically out of it I am from the above.
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David Peacock
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I'm guessing it's a free event, therefore no budget for a fancy website.

I would guess a geeklist with a link to the Google hangout link, to watch a live game and access the game chatroom.

Look at how virtuaCon is being organized, a lot of it could be adapted to a VassalCon.
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Joe
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I'd be down. I need to get in on this Vasal thingy but have yet to actually play an opposed game on it.
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Apex
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dyvdav wrote:
I'm guessing it's a free event, therefore no budget for a fancy website.

I would guess a geeklist with a link to the Google hangout link, to watch a live game and access the game chatroom.

Look at how virtuaCon is being organized, a lot of it could be adapted to a VassalCon.


The website's not the issue so much. I have a good solution already for sign-ups and event registration.

VASSAL is as easy as creating the game-centric rooms. There is, I believe, a "chat" module for VASSAL so it might just be a bit of rebranding it to repurpose it as a Convention "tech help" chat module.

Google Hangouts are a great tool. Ventrillo or TeamSpeak do a nice job of audio only servers that divide into rooms and provide a host with the ability to mute out annoying individuals if necessary.

There's plenty of screen recording software out there to record the audio off the soundcard + the screen to get nice demos for distribution on YouTube to create the library of demonstrations.

Logistically, my sense is that the problem isn't the technology so much as it's coordinating the people in such a way that they know where to go and how to get there. My thought is a centralized website that has all the event organization and schedules with links into the appropriate tools being used.

There'd probably be a "pre-con" that'd be a tune up for event hosts and participants to work out any bugs in their setup. I've coordinated the roll-out of a web-based conferencing system for 20,000 people and 162,000 participants across 164 remote sites so I feel like I've learned some good tips of the trade so to speak about how the components would come together. The worldwide aspirational goal of this is far more complex than I can wrap my head around right now ... but at least for a domestic single timezone event I feel relatively comfortable.

This isn't a project that'll be put together and launched in a few months. It's something that we'd likely be looking at sometime next year around this time with perhaps some mini-events to test out some of our theories prior to the main VASSALCon.
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David Millette
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TomW731 wrote:
I think the main issue is how do you make this seem like you are at a convention with lots of people, able to wander around and look at what they are playing, chat with others and pick up games on the fly. Not up on the software so I'm not sure what works best for multiple people, but even then I would assume you would need some sort of ground rules to avoid people breaking in in an irritating way either intentionally or unintentionally. The only one I have ever had experience with is Ventrillo but not sure it is the best.

Wonder though if you could have some kind of graphic interface for the main menu with links in it to take you to the game areas in question. Ok, I know absolutely nothing about the kind of programming this would require, but Say you have the opening menu as a kind of room seen from overhead populated with a bunch of tables. In the background perhaps the quiet hum of five or six randomly selected live game conversations going on at the con to give a sense of a bunch of people. On each table would be the title of the game being played and a postage stamp sized display of the game-board. Hover your pointer around it and you get to hear a randomly selected live game conversation for that game. Click it and you get another display of tables each some showing a game in progress. Others would show games needing players and perhaps one with a live or recorded demo game. Click on a table and it would take you as an observer to the VASSAL game in progress or to a game needing players as a possible participant.

Edit: I think you probably get a sense of how technologically out of it I am from the above.


I always thought Vassal could use some sort of general hangout room to chat with others, discuss signing up for games, etc. I'm not sure the individual game rooms chat within Vassal would be enough to give it that convention feel...

The interface would be the key in my opinion. A place that shows a schedule of game demos, a place to sign up for tournaments (preferably after the demos), a place to sign up for pick-up games (then meet on Vassal), a place to hang out and chat while waiting for games, etc. All VassalCon game titles could simply say VassalCon-Pickup Game, VassalCon Demo, VassalCon Tournament Game#, etc. , so people would know what they were when looking for opponents. These are the things that would make it feel like an online convention in my opinion.

I love Vassal and I would be willing to play or teach some games that I know. I currently run a Battlelore Vassal Tournament. See the guild I created for that. You could simply create a VassalCon Guild with threads for each demo, tournament, pickup game, etc. The calendar feature within the guild could be used as your overall general schedule of events. It could be done and I think it would be fun.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/guild/1523

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Mark Humphries
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Excellent initiative, kudos cool

If the goal is to attract total newbies it would be good to have a series of youtube videos far in advance of the event giving step by step instructions for all the prerequisites to 'attending' the con, including all SW installs on both Windows and Mac, and the logistics of sign up and participating.
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Apex
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Mark_WH wrote:
Excellent initiative, kudos cool

If the goal is to attract total newbies it would be good to have a series of youtube videos far in advance of the event giving step by step instructions for all the prerequisites to 'attending' the con, including all SW installs on both Windows and Mac, and the logistics of sign up and participating.


Exactly. I have a lot of experience making such videos in my day job. That's why this is such a long term project because "getting it right" is really tricky.

Face to Face conventions have easy barriers to overcome - Travel, Lodging, etc. They may not be convenient or cheap, but throwing money and time at them fixes those barriers. When you're talking about doing something online you're asking people to overcome technical hurdles and their own preconceptions about what a "virtual" convention might be. So there's a tall task to sell the technology and demonstrate that it can be a transparent way to experience some positive gaming experiences.
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Tom Stearns
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Facebook has several vassal communities/groups. Suggest utilizing FB for advertising as well as recruiting help. A lot of the guys there do instruction videos for vassal. The programmer/developer for Vassal hangs out there. They also schedule demo's and learning sessions. It is quite active.Vassal Wargamers and Vassal Strategy Gamers groups.
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Apex
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I think that's a great idea! I don't Facebook though because I don't find any redeeming value in it. I've actually never had an account and haven't ever felt left out, but I remain willfully opposed so it'd have to be someone else's area of responsibility.
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sean johnson
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I think one of the things that is going to have to be required for this is walking people through how to use VASSAL. Not a , "here watch 10 minute tutorial video", but a session in Google Hangout or where ever that walks step by step how to download, install, use the program, and answer all of my silly questions.

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Gary Tanner
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I think I'd be up for it. VASSAL's something I want to learn, but have so far been stumped by. Would be nice to be able to play more games.
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Apex
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SeanXor wrote:
I think one of the things that is going to have to be required for this is walking people through how to use VASSAL. Not a , "here watch 10 minute tutorial video", but a session in Google Hangout or where ever that walks step by step how to download, install, use the program, and answer all of my silly questions.



Absolutely!!! That's what the tune-up sessions would be about over the course of the next year.
 
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Michael Dorosh
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Quote:
Quote:

Wonder though if you could have some kind of graphic interface for the main menu with links in it to take you to the game areas in question. Ok, I know absolutely nothing about the kind of programming this would require, but Say you have the opening menu as a kind of room seen from overhead populated with a bunch of tables.


The interface would be the key in my opinion. A place that shows a schedule of game demos, a place to sign up for tournaments (preferably after the demos), a place to sign up for pick-up games (then meet on Vassal), a place to hang out and chat while waiting for games, etc. All VassalCon game titles could simply say VassalCon-Pickup Game, VassalCon Demo, VassalCon Tournament Game#, etc. , so people would know what they were when looking for opponents. These are the things that would make it feel like an online convention in my opinion.


Yes, an interface with, say, a whole "bank" of thumbnails, showing every active board currently in play would be ideal. Then prospective "recruits" for lack of a better word could click on a game session in progress, zoom in, and see what the game was all about. If not to their immediate liking, zoom out and pick something else.

In other words, make it as much like going to an actual convention as possible, and walking around browsing the tables.
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I'd love to see something like that as well, but I see a few ways that'd work and they'd be well outside my skillset unless we could get enough folks to say do some live streams through something like Twitch.tv and set up a convention channel.
 
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Brian Frahm
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As someone who is interested in VASSAL but has not overcome the initial fear of it, I'd definitely be interested. I KNOW that it would open up additional gaming opportunities for me!
 
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medlinke wrote:
I think that's a great idea! I don't Facebook though because I don't find any redeeming value in it. I've actually never had an account and haven't ever felt left out, but I remain willfully opposed so it'd have to be someone else's area of responsibility.


Hey! Let's try to tap potential markets of people and set up some awesome online social networking event!!

Oh yeah, I heard of this website called faceboo-

NO!!

O.o
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I'm opposed to Facebook, but if someone else wanted to take on that responsibility I'd definitely support their efforts! It's not that I would rule out facebook as an option of course.
 
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Sam H
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I think it's a pretty cool idea. It would also be a nice way to get a lot of the BGG veteran wargamers online at the same time to play games.

The difference with VirtuaCon, is that the RPG virtual tables are for an average of 4-8 players. That means that a GM can have a mix of newbies and veterans. With 2-player wargames, you basically need one "GM" for every newbie player. A lot more work. It would be doable, but the scheduling would be different.

Maybe one way to work around that is a slot where someone teaches the game, then a series of simultaneous online games where the moderator switches from one game to another to answer rules questions.

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