Having attended two online conventions recently, including GaryCon, I have a few suggestions to help make things go more smoothly:
- Online games need more time. A virtual game takes longer to get set up than a table top event. A D&D session I played in on Roll20 took nearly an hour to get going. Characters had to get rolled, tokens assigned, dynamic lighting configured, etc. Some people needed training on the platform. Another player was having technical issues configuring his microphone for Discord. Due to this lost time, the session ran an hour over the scheduled time and the GM had to storyboard a good part of the ending. I would recommend adding at least 30 minutes to the beginning of each session to account for these things.
- A Looking for Players / Looking for Games mechanism is needed. No-shows are a problem for in-person events, and the weak social contract that comes with the Internet makes matters worse. Have somewhere (e.g. a Discord channel) that can provide a pool of players that GMs can tap into to fill out their games.
- Training sessions would help. Games would go more smoothly if both players and GMs could receive training on the platforms in advance of the games. When one game is held on Zoom and Fantasy Grounds, while the next game is held on Discord with Roll20, there are learning curves that need to be overcome. Having a table full of players battling with the platforms is no fun and detracts from the experience. Consider some early (e.g. Wednesday evening) training sessions for players and GMs to learn the platforms and get their computers set up -- maybe the platform owners would help out as a way to gain exposure.
- Allow players and GMs to communicate before the game. It would be helpful if GMs could confirm the attendance of their players in advance and provide them with any special instructions (e.g. download something, go to this link to see pre-generated characters, etc.). Similarly, if players could ask questions in advance ("do you mind if I bring my level 3 paladin with the holy avenger?") then these things could be cleared up before the game.
- Players: Learn to use push-to-talk! Having an always open mic is a problem, because the rest of the group doesn't want to listen to you chomp on pretzels, your dogs barking, or your kids fighting for four hours. Similarly, when you use push-to-talk, you need to, you know, actually push the button when you are talking.
- Give the platforms a heads-up. GenCon is huge, and platforms need to be prepared for a potentially massive surge in load. Cloud resources can be added, IT staff can be put on call to watch for issues, etc. Outages during the convention would be bad for everyone involved. GMs should think in advance about plan B, in case their preferred platform is offline at game-time.
- Clearly account for time zones in the scheduling. Unlike the in-person convention, people are going to be in different time zones. If everyone shows up "on-time" in their own times zone, that will be a problem. Everyone needs to be in sync.
That's my 2-cents worth. Hopefully it helps. I'm sure others will have more to add.
That is a lot of good advice I plan to use when I try to run games.