Okay, so we all know that when you schedule games, especially online, more often than not:
So, in my article, I'm going to hopefully try and give you effective techniques/ideas to solve these problems. Most of these problems can be solved all by one simple resolution, some need changing of the game, some need outright compromise, and some are unsolvable. However, i will try and address as many as i can. Some i will solve by posting good techniques for planning a game, and some i will address the direction directly. So, let's go...
Effective Game-Planning Techniques (Applies to 1-4, 7, 8, and maybe 11.)
Okay, so you plan your new game. Sometime in the future, you set a date to play this game, and you (hopefully) tell your players this. But, (dohohoho!) one of the above problems presents itself. Here are a few tips to prevent that:
Uno - Make play times flexible. When you set your start time for "EXACTLY FOUR O'CLOCK ON SUNDAY" you're just setting yourself up for failure. Similarly, don't make start times too flexible, because then players will walk in anytime they want and expect to play. There are no set rules on how to schedule your planning time so that it all works out, but a general rule is that you should give some time for the players to show up and prepare. This usually means time for you to get ready yourself. It also means you might want to set times like "In the afternoon," or "starting from about 3-5," instead of "EXACTLY X O'CLOCK." You get the idea.
Dos - Make sure your times are good for everyone. If someone has work on Friday, don't expect him to change his IRL schedule for everyone else. Generally this means asking people to make plans and set time aside for the game, but it also means taking EVERYONE's schedule into account.
Tres - Make sure you have a backup meeting place/meeting time. The server doesn't go down THAT often, but when it does, you can expect your game is kablooie unless you have a backup channel planned on Rizon or another IRC server (If you happen to be using IRC.) This also means having another time planned (preferably soon, or some people may get grouchy) during the week if someone can't come due to unexpected circumstances.
Cuatro - Maybe the most important of all, ENFORCE PLAY TIMES. If a player shows up, but whines about not wanting to play, ignores the rest of the players because he doesn't want to deal with them today, or just shows up and does something else, consider suspending them, kicking them out of the game, or punishing them in some other way. Players should not expect to give a half-assed effort into the game and expect everyone else to not do it to them. Enforce when times are scheduled, and maybe if someone just refuses to cooperate, it's just time to give them the boot.
Effective Game-Playing Techniques (Applies to 5, 6, 9, 10.)
Okay, so your first session, or maybe tons of sessions have passed, and yet another problem comes up. Here are a few tips for solving or preventing problems like this:
Uno - If someone doesn't like the game at the moment, or wants to change their character, try to give them a little flexibility. This can even mean letting them change their character if they want to. Of couse, this means them having to compromise as well. Depending on the DM's judgement (Which may be yours) he may have to be introduced to the party again, lose a level, or other things that you may have to negotiate. If he doesnt like the plot, you may want to alter it a bit so he enjoys the game more, provided the other players don't object. The main theme of this point is that OTHER PLAYERS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO GIVE UP THEIR EXPERIENCE FOR ONE PLAYER. If many players want to change character, or don't like the game, then you may have to change the plot or restart. Try not to get mad at the players/player, and make negotiations and compromises that everyone likes before getting mad. Eventually, if a player just won't cooperate, you may have to boot him, or if many players won't, then you may have to stop playing.
Dos - Some of the players don't like each other, or don't enjoy playing the game with the other person, or don't like the other person's character. This is a tough cookie. Often you have to encourage the players to deal with one another, try to roleplay less with one another, or oppose one another during the campaign. Done correctly, this problem might be able to be fixed, but personally, i think more often than not, the game will encounter a roadblock.
Effective Game-Making Techniques (Applies to 1, 2, 4-7, 9-11.)
The root of all these problems may be able to be fixed by the set up of the game. Here i will talk about things that help you improve most of the problems listed up top.
Uno - Run multiple games, or switch sets of player(s) from session to session. Often times, especially if the DM or other players like to run sessions often, some players don't like playing or can't play as often as them. One of the more obvious solutions to this is to run multiple games, maybe with different stories or settings. However, this puts more pressure on the DM. Another way to solve this is for players to take turns playing, having player sets switch, or have permanent players and temporary spots. This requires more coordination from the DM and players, but would lessen game-related work on the DM.
Dos - Run a series of "one-shot" or temporary games instead of a set player list. Aun Shi, for those of you who know, ran a game called "Save the Princess," which was a series of one-shot games. Non-fixed players can make games more interesting and fun, as well as make many of the problems above non-existent. Players can just show up to the game with a finished character and the will to play, and get a spot. However, this may create problems if more people want to play than the number of spots that are open. One of the ways you can solve this is a "first come, first serve" basis. You could also require players to reserve spots before the game begins. There are probably a few other solutions you can come up with.
Anyway, these are a few problems and solutions you may come across or have to implement in your game. But, always remember, the most important thing for you to do in a game is have fun.