Excellent questions/concerns. Buying a $70 webcam is no small investment for most of us. I'll do my best to answer your questions.
But I was wondering if you or someone else could expand on your play experiences so far (what works well, what you wish was better, etc) because your play area pics don't seem to be sharp as I had hoped when I first envisioned doing this (as well as the glare from your lights reflecting off the card protectors).
When you are using Skype and have the video image full screen on you monitor, I'm assuming you can't read any card text (unless you hold it up to the camera), but can you at least see the power/toughness of creature cards? I get the sense that to really play this way, both players need to be knowledgable enough to recognize and know what cards do by their pictures alone.
First of all, if I had the option of playing Magic with Sborders and lwrathi in person versus via webcam, I'd choose to play them in person. In other words, those choosing to play MTG via webcam will most likely do so because of lack of opportunities to play quality games of MTG with others in person.
(I'll talk mostly about playing sborders, because when lwrathi and I played, his setup was not ideal. Although we were still able to play.)
What I can honestly tell you is that once sborders and I started playing, I was not thinking about the fact that we were playing via webcam. What I was
thinking about was game strategy and which moves to make in which order. (And also probably crying about not having enough mana.) To me, that was the most important part of the whole experience. I think the other thing that is telling is that we've played multiple times, and our play sessions have gone for about an average of 2-2.5 hours. The bottom line is that it's fun, just like MTG should be. I guess that is something I'd say works well.
You are correct that you typically cannot read the opponents' cards when they are laying on the table. You cannot see the power and toughness either. However, when I played in high school and college, particularly multiplayer games, you couldn't read the opponents cards when they were lying across the table from you upside down either.
In both cases, communication and patience are very important. The webcam allows for easy communication between players. "What's that guy do again? What's his toughness? Can I see him again?" These are all questions that could happen even in a RL (real life) game or a webcam game, I believe.
The other thing I've noticed is that you become quickly (and painfully in some cases) familiar with each others' decks and cards. Personally, I wouldn't want to play MTG against 5 new people every week. My ideal is to have 3-4 people to play against on a fairly regular basis. So, when sborders begins tapping 7 mana, I know he's getting ready to cast a Platinum Angel.
As I say, patience is key. It quickly becomes habit to hold any new or confusing cards up to the camera so the opponent can read it, and to wait until they say they are done. I can honestly say for me it does not impede the game in any way. I personally have a tremendously bad memory, so I need to be reminded of what a card is/does several times throughout a game. But like I said, I'd be doing the same exact thing if I was playing someone in RL.
The other things that help are card positioning. Keeping mana, artifacts, creatures, etc. positioned and separated around the play area really helps. Another thing is to be slightly more verbal. In stead of just tapping two mountains and a plains, actually say, "I'm tapping two mountains and a plains." Or, "I'm going to attack with me Serra Angel," and slide the card forward slightly.
The other thing to keep in mind is that your
cards are right in front of you and in your hand, and they are crystal
clear. Once you get pulled into a game, it's very easy to "forget" that you're playing via webcam. At least it is for me. I think even in RL game so MTG, the cards most visible to a player are his own.
What I wish was better would be to have a larger, clearer picture. However, I contend that the current size and clearness is enough to allow for games of MTG.
Unfortunately it seems the problem doesn't fully lie with just the quality of the webcam, but rather the programs like Skype whose best streaming resolution is only 640 x 480. I haven't found any other programs yet that can do better than that (although I haven't really looked too hard yet).
I did find some interesting new developments regarding the new USB 3.0 stuff coming out which may finally allow for better resolution webcasting. But untill there are Webcams and Software to support it, it's probably still a ways out before that.
Anyways, if I ever get something set up I'll be sure to jump back on here to see about getting some games going.
I believe you're correct that 640 x 480 is the highest resolution available at the moment. That's all I've found. I'm very, very confident that there are many smart people out there trying to make higher resolutions a reality asap. There's an incredible amount of demand for from multiple industries. When it will arrive, I'm not sure, but we'll certainly be here waiting for it.
If you ever do pick up a webcammmy, definitely stop back on by for a game or two.
Edited by Soupie, 21 October 2009 - 03:03 PM.