[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: Role playing and Voice Chat

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Oct 27 03:31:07 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Tess Snider writes:
> On 10/26/05, John Buehler <johnbue at msn.com> wrote:

>> Which makes me wonder why voice is going to ruin immersion for
>> roleplayers (which seems to be the consensus among those who
>> care).  If reading text that is interspersed with system
>> messages, prompts and wallpaper graphics can be immersive, why is
>> voice an impediment?  Is it simply that it is different?  Is it
>> that it will be equally immersive, only to a different group of
>> roleplayers than the ones who find text MUDs immersive?

> I should explain a bit about the experience, and it might be a bit
> clearer:

> When a text roleplayer roleplays, first of all, there are very
> clear delineations between what is in-character text, and what is
> out-of-character text.  The player will also often be using a
> client which will color code different types of text, so it's
> extremely easy for players to distinguish between the two.  The
> brain does a VERY GOOD job of filtering the various channels, so
> it's clear what is part of the narrative, and what isn't.  (After
> the fact, when logs are processed for others to read, players
> often run scripts to filter any of the out-of-character text which
> appeared.)

> A player constructs a character's words and actions with a high
> degree of care and craftsmanship, as an author might.  It is
> almost as though the players were creating a collaborative book,
> where every character has a different author.  How you say things
> is every bit as important as what you are saying.  The subtleties
> of a single gesture can mean life or death.

> Logs of in-game play are cherished and swapped by players.  The
> narratives are an important part of the game's history.  Moreover,
> a clever turn of phrase, a brilliant manipulation, a terrifying
> confrontation -- those are all more fun with an audience.

I can see how text has its appeal for you and your fellow
roleplayers, but I was asserting that voice MUDding would be
'different, but still appealing'.  Voice is an impediment to the
roleplaying that text MUDders do today.  I understand that.  Is
voice an impediment to everyone who would like to roleplay?
Including those who tried text MUDs and moved on?

>> I'm speculating that those who play and enjoy roleplaying MUDs
>> today are naturally going to be the ones who find text immersive.
>> If a voice MUD came out, it might be that it would need a
>> slightly different type of player.  One who is more
>> audially-focused.

> You might be surprised, then, to learn that there are blind text
> roleplayers. :)

It's not that surprising, given that a blind roleplayer only has
text MUDs to turn to.  I wouldn't even bother to ask them if they'd
want an audio MUD because they can't imagine what it would be like
any more than you or I could.


> If I am sitting at a bar in the real world, I can listen to the
> person next to me at my table, or I can allow my attention to
> expand, and take in fragments of conversation in other places.  I
> can notice the way a guy in the corner is looking paranoid, or I
> can notice how a fellow up at the bar is silently drinking his
> sorrows away.  I can observe two lovers speaking in conspiratorial
> tones near the door, and while I can't hear them, I can tell from
> their body language that they're gossiping about the unhappy man
> at the bar.

> I can have this *same* level of situational awareness in a text
> MUD, as well.  How do I achieve that in an audio world?  How do I
> know what anyone is doing?  How can I have that many people in a
> room at once without it dissolving into a mad cacophany of largely
> indistinguishable voices?

> Oh, sure, I can think of clever ways to use positional audio to
> try to simulate the aural landscape of an actual public space, but
> it still doesn't solve the *action* problem, and it sounds to me
> like a lot of work for something which will still likely produce
> an unsatisfactory outcome.

Unsatisfactory to those who enjoy the experiences of the textual
MUD, sure.  You've come to appreciate what text MUDding is and it
work for you, as it does for your fellow players.  Take a successful
novelist and and try to get a screenplay.  The author may demur (or
simply fail), because the novelist's skills of storytelling are
geared for print, not the screen.  A screenwriter enjoys telling a
story a different way.

For example, the 'mad cacaphony' may be exactly what some
roleplayers think is missing.  It's not possible to sotto voce a
comment to a friend - that is accidentally overheard.  A comment
cannot be disavowed (it's been logged).  A commanding voice cannot
be used to silence the din and get a point across.  Nor can a
well-reasoned quiet voice silence a room.  Those experiences don't
exist in text.  Having other people stop typing?  Yes.  But the
experience of din versus quiet is not going to be there.  That's an
audial thing that will appeal to a different type of player than
does the visual experience of scrolling text.

Text reparte is slower than verbal reparte (typing speed claims
notwithstanding).  The considered replies that are valued in text
might be an annoyance to the quick-witted who simply want to drop in
a quick grunt or noise to communicate something unique.  Tone of
voice obviously can carry information that text does not.  The list
goes on and on, but all such things are simply differences, not
claims of being better or worse.  You've already presented examples
of problems with voice.  They certainly exist.  Just as problems
exist for text.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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