About Playtesting, and Skype.

by Pikkdogs ~ January 6th, 2011.

Hello all members of Omar-Nation, this is Pikkdogs here with an article about a different way to play test.

“Practice?  We talking about Practice? …… Not a game, not a game, we talking about Practice. …… Not the game I go out there and die for, we talking bout Practice”

Yes Allen Iverson, today’s article is about practicing the Pokemon TCG.           Allen Iverson

As any good player will tell you, the only way to get better is to play-test a lot.  It lets you know a lot more about the decks your are playing and lets you work out the tightest list for your deck.  It also lets you know what other players are thinking, and how other decks operate.  So if you face them in a tournament, you will have a better chance of beating that deck.  But how can you get your play-testing done?  I know of four major ways to play-test; at a league, by yourself, with your friends, or online.

Play Pokemon would rather you handle your play-testing at official leagues.  Leagues are a great way to meet new people and learn about the game.  You can even earn cool promo cards and other stuff like that.  But, if you already are a veteran at the game, and can’t find competitive players at your league; going to a league probably won’t help you a lot.  A lot of players can’t make it to leagues because they don’t live in the area, so they will need to find other ways to test.

You could also play test by yourself.  This strategy is mostly done if you live in an isolated area without many competitive players around you.  You can easily play two decks against each other and practice that way.  The problems with this way of testing is that it takes longer, it requires a lot of cards or proxies, and can be hard to play when you know what is in the hand of the other “player.”  Self testing is sometimes a very valuable way of testing, usually right before tournaments, but is not the best way to play-test.                                                              

If you can’t make it to a league then you could make your own informal league by inviting your friends over to your house to play-test.  This strategy is good because it allows you to practice against several other people that have similar skill levels.  You can also spend this time bouncing deck ideas off of each other.  This strategy will also leave you with a lot of friends that you can rely on for Pokemon help, you can even start a team with these fellows.  The main problem with starting your own informal league is that not everyone has a lot of friends who play the game, that can easily meet every week.  If you can’t try any of these strategies, playing online might be better.

The main way to play-test online in the past several years has been to use software like Redshark and Apprentice.  These programs allow you to create virtual decks and play test them against people all over the world.  One good thing about these programs is you don’t have to buy cards to test with them.  The main drawback of using Redshark and Apprentice is that it just doesn’t feel like Pokemon.  Since you aren’t playing with real cards, it doesn’t really feel like you are playing the game and can feel pretty tedious.

In the last couple months I have found a solution to the problems with Redshark and Apprentice.  I have been play-testing using a program called Skype.  If you don’t know, Skype is a free software program that allows you to text, voice, or video chat with people online.  You can easily play Pokemon with the person you are calling by pointing your webcam towards a playing surface, have your opponent do the same, and watch his/her playing surface on your screen.       

Skype is really easy to setup.  To get the program, all you need to do is download it online.  To run the program to its fullest you will need a couple things.  First you need a computer with a high speed internet connection.  I’m not sure how fast your connection needs to be, but I know that a dialup connection won’t work for video chat.  Second you need a microphone and a webcam.  Both of these are available at most stores like Kmart, Target, and Walmart; for about 20 bucks each.  Microphones and webcams also come standard with most laptops and desktops now a days.  You will also need a set of speakers or a pair of headphones, but this kind of equipment is pretty much standard on all computers anyway.

Skype is nice because it allows you to play using real cards against a lot of people online.  It allows you to play-test a lot of decks without ever leaving your computer station.  You can even play-test against some of the better players in the country, if you have their Skype user name.  If you play several times a week, it will make you a much better player, and allow you to know what kinds of decks other people are playing.

There are a few drawbacks of using Skype.  Like with any software programs, technical problems are bound to occur with Skype.  For example, whenever I play Ed online I hear a loud static sound and his camera always freezes up.  But, this doesn’t happen with most people.  The biggest disadvantage is that it can sometimes be hard to find people on Skype who want to play when you do.

To combat this problem I thought that maybe teamomar.com can start  a registry with people who would like to test on Skype.  People would send in their Skype Id’s and other people would be able to contact them to play games.  If this is something you guys are interested in, please let us know by writing it in the comments box.

Well that was just some of my thoughts about how to perform play-testing and how to test with Skype.  Skype is a fun way to play-test and it can make you a better player, I think it is definitely something to try out.  If you have any thoughts about play-testing or Skype, please leave them in the comment box.

So Long and thanks for all the Fish.

Category: Practice | Tags: , , ,
  • Anonymous

    Keep it up!

  • Ed

    I like the idea. If people are interested, I’m sure I can come up with a good way to keep track of players’ Skype accounts. For now, I suppose you could just leave a comment with your Skype info and the days/times you’re usually looking to play.

  • I know of an online league that uses webcams through Tinychat to play, it has schedules and everything! http://pokegym.net/forums/showthread.php?p=1879027#post1879027

    • Ed

      Nice! Thanks for the info, John!

  • Anonymous

    I have played with Pikkdogs and a few others this way and I have to say that I really like playing via Skype. It is especially great for me when I am unable to physically go anywhere during the workday evenings but after 9 PM or so I am free to do what I want. I found it to be especially good for testing deck tweaks leading into a tournament because often league wont meet again until after the tournament happens. I would recommend this after an option to anyone who is serious about competing or to anyone who loves the game but can’t make it to leagues on a regular basis.