[MUD-Dev] Is difficult communication the barrier to community in MMORPGs? (fwd)

Damion Schubert damion at ninjaneering.com
Tue Jun 18 15:25:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: John Buehler

> So what I see is a great opportunity for everyone to both overcome
> their shyness and to be able to practice their english.

I once had a lead designer of an MMP tell me "The problem with MMPs
is that the users all want stats and stuff!  If we change that, then
we'll finally fix the genre!"  What he ignored was that the _reason_
that many people play online games is because they like stats and
stuff. =)

Similarly, many people play online games because they have a hard
time socializing in real life (i.e. in chat).  Voice chat, oddly, is
harder when there is no body language to go along with it.  When I
was in yahoo chat, I found that the nature of bodyless chat was
very, very intimidating, and 2-3 people monopolized all of the
discussion in a room of 20-30 people.

> Criminy people.  If I can't type quickly, I can't communicate in
> these games.  If I can't spell, I'm toast.  If I can't come up
> with clear ways of writing what's on my mind, I never get a full
> statement out.

I was a pretty hardcore Quake Capture the Flag player for a while.
We actually experimented with voice technology, and my brother and I
would try to play with headsets over the real-life telephone.
Fascinatingly enough, we abandoned these in favor of the built-in
'comms' (press a button in order to say a canned catchphrase like
"Defend the flag!").  The primary reason?  It was easier to press a
button than to get a word in edgewise.  The button could spit out
text AS WELL AS an audial message, so if people missed my comm, they
could still retrieve the message.  No thinking of the right thing to
say while under fire.  Audio messages could be queued, ensuring all
are hearable.  And perhaps most notably, audio in Quake is a big
deal.  You use audio to hear enemies around corners.  We found that
turning down our audio enough so that we could hear each other over
the headset was dramatically reducing our in-game ability.

Comms, on the other hand, can be mixed at the right level.  They
also can be programmed to not interfere with crucial noises.  Since
they always come with text messages, you can tell who said what
easier.  The text messages that accompany comms can be programmed
(The voice says "I have the flag.  Protect me".  The text says,
"Joe: I have the flag, and I'm at the red lava.  Protect me.")

The downsides of comms are numerous.  Most everyone shares the same
sound files (usually broken into men and women). Depending on the
number of messages you need to memorize, there can be more than can
easily be memorized.  It's potency is drastically reduced without
accompanying text.  But overall, if the reason that you want
improved communications is better tactical combat in heavy fire
situations, I would give a hearty recommendation to checking out how
comms work in nearly all FPSes on the market nowadays.

--d

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