[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: Role playing

Arnau Josep Rosselló Castelló arossello at atmsa.org
Sat Oct 15 01:33:50 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

12/10/2005 17:53 -0400, Michael Hartman wrote:
> Arnau Josep Rosselló Castelló wrote:

>> Well, voice worked for me when playing pen and paper RPGs, and in
>> general I think that roleplaying benefits from abstracted
>> representations, as it let's you "play out what is happening" in
>> your head, which I think it's the most enjoyable thing on an RPG.

> Pen and Paper (PnP) RP works becuase it has an enormous amount of
> other things in its favor. The fact that the individual people may

I'll clarify my point a bit: I find that a real strength of PnP RP is
the fact that all the physical props and talk you use in a game are
symbolic and not representational. I find this a strength because with a
a bit of imagination you can in your mind build from those props a
stunning and captivating scene.

Following that, a representational prop has to be better than what I can
imagine (which is high quality IMNSHO) to be good. Thus it's better a
coin in a hex board than a painted figure in a hand modelled terrain
with fake miniature scenery, and its better a big foam-and-duct-tape
sword than a steel decorative sword. These props give you ease of
mechanism(distance and los calculations, sword combat,which is very
painful with decorative swords, btw). But don't try to depict the item
in the imagined setting.

Of course figurine wargames have it's own rewards, but all the games I
remember it's because of some interesting tactical reverse, not because
the sight of those three Eldar black unicorns barreling down that hill.

In respect to voice chat, I think it can help a lot in role playing
mechanics, and as such it is a good prop; if you want you can use it as
ooc communication "are you watching my health?" while keeping all
written text IC. That alone can improve a lot of the RP expecience. You
can also use it IC, though I find difficult to identify who is talking
on voicechat, you could conceivably have a game situation where the
characters can't distinguish who is talking. In that case you could turn
a disadvantage into a useful game mechanics help.

>> My point is that for roleplaying i think it's better to have a
>> voice that has nothing to do with the "real" sound of who is
>> saying it, that a canned voice that is sold to you as how that
>> avatar sounds, but can be-- must be, not all WOW dwarves should be
>> thick accented ale-drinkers-- just as much character-breaking.

> You are arguing a straw man now. The question is not the person's
> inappropriate voice vs. a "canned voice." The question is voice chat
> vs. no voice at all and instead communication via text.

What I'm saying is that the mechanisms we have for voice in games are
pitifully static, and should not be used for representation. The sounds
in some games can be good, but only because they come prerecorded from
the studio. All the filters i've heard to alter a human voice are crap,
voice synthesis programs are also pretty crappy when they are
unsupervised(there are pretty vocals made for particular songs, but the
synthesizer's parameters are manually tweaked a lot). You're basically
reduced to some songs and separate sound effects, though there's been
some attempts to generate songs appropiate to what's happening in the
game by stitching song fragments together.

We don't have any of the plasticity there is in 2D or 3D graphics. I
toss canned voices in the same sack as modified-voice chat because the
technical limitations for these are mostly the same. If we could do good
voice alteration, prerecorded voices could also go away.

So while I see non-representational voice chat as a good mechanism, I
also mark all voice systems(the static ones for being static, the
dynamic ones for being crappy), as "not as good as my imagination", so
better keep them out of RP.

Oh and when RP players do voices, I'm OK with it because it's a
mechanism of distingishing between all the characters they play, so
I can remember some guy's background says he's chinese or whatever;
but usually an accent detracts from the game ambience(that's an
euphemism for "everybody is laughing at it and no one pays attention
to the game").
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