Friday, 30 December 2011

VTES Online — Lackey CCG vs JOL + ARDB

How many acronyms can you fit in a title? Over the last few days I've been trying out the various forms of VTES online and thought I'd report back on the results...

I started with JOL (Jyhad Online) and liked the text interface of the games (clear and easy to read) — I wasn't concerned by the text command interface as it's quite clear and the commands were simple enough. However it took 3 - 4 nights to try and organise a RT (real time) or WT (work time) game as admin users are required to start the games and all players + admin must be active at the same time (also new users aren't inherently trusted - more on that later). There are various time slots allocated to timezones and respected admins in terms of starting RT games and they're are listed here.

On the same evening I managed to join two WT games, one of which didn't start until the next day as a QK game, the other proceeded at WT for about an hour before changing into a QK game. Whilst the game was WT it flowed fairly well and proceeded at a decent pace — however now that both games have become QK games the pace has slowed dramatically (on average, a round or two per day). This doesn't suit my lifestyle or what I wanted to get out of online play: Deck testing and some quick VTES action. This is no fault of JOL, as it is what it's meant to be and I can see the appeal to those at work or people who have transitioned from the email form of the game — but it's not for me.

Distrust of new players.
The players on JOL are very friendly and helpful. It took a few nights before I could even join a game, this was partly down to timing and I think partly down to me being a new player. Games can last for months, that's a lot of time invested and new players often abandon games — so it seems to take some time before they're given a opportunity to play. I can understand why people abandon games. They move at a slow pace and if you don't know what you're getting into it's a long commitment. As it stands, I joined two WT games which have now become QK games that must be checked at least twice a day — this is not what I signed up for, although I'll finish them all the same.

To summarise, I'd recommended JOL if you'd like to play a game over a month or two with a small amount of commitment a few times per day. Based on my experience (what else!) I wouldn't recommended it for real / work time games as it's difficult to get a game happening and all players online at once.

Lackey CCG with VTES plug in
I'd downloaded and played around with Lackey before, however at the time I wasn't playing a lot of VTES and didn't give it much of a go. Initially I was put of by the JAVA'esk interface and clunky feel, but this time round I stuck to it. Perhaps it's a Mac issue but the interface is quite laggy and at times it can be difficult to simply select or drag the correct card/s — after a while you adjust to this. At first I had connection issues and was constantly being dropped by the server (on a 50MB line!). After some head scratching and no results on Google I decided to try upgrading the router's firmware to DD-WRT which did the trick — no more dropped connections!

Once I'd sorted out the dropped connections I logged in and was able to join a game pretty much straight away. The players we're welcoming and offered plenty of help in terms of the odder actions and quirks of Lackey (ie. shuffling each others decks etc) and I really appreciated the visual aspect of the game. The new version of Lackey also has a text to speech functionality which allows you to keep track of things without keeping transfixed to the screen.

Over the last few nights there's been roughly a dozen or so players online (7PM - 1AM GMT) so typically enough people for two tables. In that time I've played & revised a deck numerous times (to the point where it's dramatically different from the now obsolete deck I'm still playing in JOL). So for me Lackey ticks all the boxes. Real time games, evening play and great for play testing (near instant feedback). Yes, the GUI could do with some work — but it more than does the job and you soon get use to the quirks.

For fun realistic real time play and play testing I'd recommend Lackey, it's far from suitable for the work place (you should be working any way!) and requires the 2 hour VTES time commitment — but IMO that's a strength as everyone knows what the deal is from the off set. Tonight I'm going to try and incorporate voice chat into the game which should improve the experience further — will I see you online?

ARDB and Lackey
I had a few issue with ARDB and Lackey CCG — ARDB wasn't able to export to the Lackey format. It appears that this may be a Mac issue only with Windows users reporting that they could export to Lackey fine. My solution was to replace a file within ARDB that changed the funcationality of the "Export deck to text" command — the end result became a file readable by Lackey CCG. If you're on OSX you can download the file here — simply replace the deck2text.xsl file with the Application's xsl folder...

Apples and Oranges
On further reflection the title of this post is misleading. There is no direct comparison or competition between JOL and Lackey as they are too completely different beasts — only you can determine which best suits your needs...

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