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07/28/2003

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BridgetAG

Anyone who has ever had the dubious pleasure of calling a friend who is deeply immersed in an EQ raid will vouch for the inability of most players to speak, read, type and play at the same time.

Even if they put in voice, I bet they will be used pretty much only in a "tavern" setting, where people have the mental nadwidth to form coherent sentences.

Human Interaction

There are some good books out there about Computers and Virtual Reality and some of the implications.

Voice in these games right now seems like it's just going to lead to spending most of your time turning off the channels where people are screaming obscenities at you. This is a "feature" to leave turned off.

Pete

I believe, on the whole, that voice chat in MMORPG should be optional at best. Only the first MMORPG that has this option will be unique, then it will be back to "ho hum, they're all the same...".

For those of you who complain of "|33t" speak, wait til you have to try and figure out what someone from the Bronx, or the southern US, or a Cockney brit, is trying to say. Sounds like english, but you're not too sure... :P

Seriously though, trying to figure out slang when it's typed at me is bad enough. I can't imagine trying to absorb spoken slang from people around the world.

I turn off the voice chat in Counter Strike, and I'll be turning off the voice chat in UltimaQuest of Camelot....

Andrew

Biggest issue with Voice in MPOGS i can see is that most people will end up having to play with chat disables or the sound turned off while playing. Who wants to sit there for an hour or too listening to people shouting "You stole my kill" or "Your gay" while playing.. At least when its text based you can mentally block it out easily by just not reading the line of text. If its coming through your speaker system its not only offending you but also anyone else withen hearing distance. Voice is a neat idea but I agree that its time is not now. The players of games in general need to evolve and learn to respect others a lot more before this technology will actually be worth using.

Inno

The use of Teamspeak, Roger Wilco, etc. is already quite commonplace in mmorpgs. This in my mind makes for three things. First the demand for it as a feature is actually quite low, since those that care about the feature already have it. Thus the number of additional units sold for adding the feature is miniscule to NEGATIVE, because the persons who like the feature already are using a 3rd party program whose familiar interface will most likely be preferablt to what the developers added while those who hate the concept like Mr Bartle (and myself) might reconsider.

The second observation is that once the function of voice chatis added as a game feature it most likely will need to go through the server. While the techniques of having a game world go over a varily narrow data stream the ability to compress an audio stream with acceptable quality is not so great. Thus one of the largest costs of hosting a mmorpg...bandwidth, will jump by at least one order of magnitude. With the prospect of having to charge $20 per month to for a game with server-based voice chat to get the same profit as charging $15 per month for a game without will REALLY cause the marketing people to reconsider. That is definitly the language the marketing people understand.

The third observation is that with text-based communication is is quite straighforward to put various filters for offensive words and to dump the whole thing to an easily referenced log file to handle complaints about abusive bahavior. Once voice chat becomes an official feature of the game the game company becomes somewhat responsible. Imagine the storage space to log all the voice chat, the technical impossibility of a filter, and the huge potential for public outcry, not to mention lawsuits from what is said in your online environment. Try this for a possibility...convicted sex offender gets an account on your virtual world, uses voice chat to convince a minor to meet them somewhere and... Do you want to be anywhere near the negative publicity and liability that might create?

Brad Knowles

I've been role-playing in games like D&D for ~20 years. I can see validity to both sides of the argument for using voice in MMORPGs. You say that it destroys our willing suspension of disbelief, and others claim that they've seen it or otherwise experienced it without these problems.

Frankly, I think you're both right. When the audio provided by the player matches the on-screen representation, it will work fine. This will more likely happen when the person is a more serious role-player and is really into the game. When the audio doesn't match (as I fear will be more common), this will tend to destroy the illusion.


However, with in-person role-playing games, you don't have user-interface issues to deal with. All you have to worry about is rolling dice, reading bits of information from the character sheet, moving your lead figure around on a hex map, etc.... With MMORPGs, you have strong limits placed on your ability to interact with other people. You can either type, or move the character and fight, or anything else.

Moreover, most people tend to think and speak much faster than they can read (much less type), so by the time you've thought to say something, taken your fingers away from the keys you need to use to control the actions of your on-screen persona, typed in the words, and hit the RETURN key, you've been killed and so has all the rest of your party.

We need some way to perform these functions at the same time, and the interface that humans have evolved over the millenia is speech -- when you're in a real combat with real bullets flying around (or real swords being swung), you talk or scream or whatever, but you don't type on a keyboard to instruct the guy one foxhole over to peek out to see if there are any enemy troops visible.


Myself, I would very much like to have a voice interface to EverQuest. I can role-play -- I've been doing it for more than half my life. But as fast and good as a typist as I am, this damn keyboard really gets in my way and really hampers my ability to enjoy playing the game.

I am *NOT* looking forward to a speech-to-text/text-to-speech converter. If I'm playing a Wookie in the original Star Wars RPG, I can use my own voice to make the necessary sounds. And I don't want all Trolls in EQ to sound exactly the same, or similar with very minor variations.

Argent

I have pondered this subject myself for a while and came to somewhat similar conclusions. I don't agree that the voice transformation needs to be *perfect* before it's acceptable though.

So you may be able to figure out their nationality by their accent. That's usually possible from observing what people write anyway. Simple example, british 'armour' or american 'armor'? Anybody that has played a significant amount of time with people and take a moment to think will agree that you can pick out the British, the Aussies, the French (I guess their french kind of gave them away ;) the Koreans etc quite easily. People already willingly modify their writing to fit their character ("me big strong troll"), it isn't obvious that modifying the pronuncation of certain words would be too much. I wouldn't be surprised either if some americans used british accents for certain characters willingly, due to the tendency of british people being the bad guy in hollywood movies. If anything people would normalize their english by themselves if it turned into a disadvantage. By far worse than accents would be if people weren't forced to pick a voice transformation that fit with the character. Or if they were free to change it at will. I have been led to believe this is not possible to restrict with X-Box Live currently, which is a big mistake. As a rule of thumb I don't think anybody should be allowed to use their own voice either.

While a speech->text->speech system does have additional anonymity I think you will run into a host of problems related to the limitations of text compared to speech. Text doesn't allow expressing emotional states very well, that's why we have smileys in the first place. I have pondered this problem for a while and I think it will be very difficult to construct an interpreter that can reliably intone the words correctly based solely on a simple postfix smiley. A symbolic sound based language would alleviate this, but then you probably get most of the accents too.

Besides that, using simple text as pay load instead of live voice definitely has its beauty from a technical perspective. I don't own an X-box so I don't know how many players they currently support, but when you have 100 players interspered in a room rougly twice the size of average player hearing range you will either have to do do a LOT of mixing for every player or clog the bandwidth with multiple streams. Couple that with significant involuntary noise due to 'clever' activation on sound schemes and I'm somewhat dubious myself if voice chat will work well for MMO's for several years anyway.

Geekoid

"Give it a few years, though, and who knows? This could add a whole new dimension to virtual worlds! Not only do you look like a marsh troll, but you sound like one, too. How groovy is that?"

that's great, but you will never get there if you do not start.

Of course voice will change how the game is played, just like graphics changed MUDs.

Dancing Jack

Frankly I think a lot of people are confusing a lot of things. Voice is just evolution and most arguments against it is TMO just classical People And Change behaviour. Blah blah newbies screaming in my ear yada yada. It's not the text, it's not the voice. If one is bad, it's as bad as the other, because they come from the same source: humans. Humans are your problem. To get a perfect virtual experience, you'd have to get rid of them.

illbixby

I understand your point mr. Bartle but I disagree. RPGs and mmorps are an escape but even on the hardcore roleplaying EQ servers, no one fully plays in character and it's still fun. The escape is immersion into the game, not into the world. Mmorps use all kinds of text/slang/sayings that would never be used in a fantasy novel but fit in this "game" world (ie "you got a sow? I'll donate" "He's a good tank, unlike me, a caster"). Knowing those terms and using them ingame add to the immersion.

I've played eq and neverwinter nights with voice chat (roger wilco) and its just as immersive, even more. Is it then less immersive when playing tabletop AD&D in person, where the players are wearing their street clothes instead of armour and drinking a soda vs orc beer, and not talking in character? I think not.

wolf, the laser btoc himself

how about using voice manipulating software, so you can make your voice sound like darth vader if u like.

Gaiomard

I believe that some constraints need to be made about what is a "virtual world". Clearly, the article cannot address all the different forms. Instead, we could try to address the types we have now.

Fast action, few players - Voice communication is necessary, as fast response is of paramount importance. Also, the "noise" can be kept to a reasonable minimum(there are few players, muting them shouldn't be difficult). Example: Counter-Strike

Fast action, many players(though not MMO) - Voice communication is useful, but the noise is increased. Just muting players is not as useful, as there are many. Even normal communication can be an annoyance. There should be some separation(for example, voice messages are only heard inside a team).

MMORPGS - Voice chat is not essencial, as generally the action is not that intense. Pre-built macros are enough for basic needs in the heat of a battle(a system like Neverwinter Nights comes to mind). Also, standing in a busy town square can quickly become unbearable.

That said, I still tend not to like games that require voice chat. Those 13 year olds really get in my nerves.

Chris

Natural Selection is a first-person shooter played over the Internet on a PC. Players are split up into two teams, one of human marines, and one of strange aliens. Players can choose to communicate with text or voice.

The alien role is rather convincing, with the animal-like "Khaara" having unusual abilities such as climbing walls, changing forms, or creating hives. On the other hand, the team of humans play a very familiar role, that of soldiers in battle. In my experience, voice communication is much more prevalent among the team of humans than in the team of aliens. My theory is that the less similar the player is to his character, the less they will use voice communication.

sillywilly


Couple of comments

My experience is primarily with DAoC and EQ, the two games that constitute the bulk of the the MMORPG market.

Just recently I started using teamspeak. WOW. I've played 10 hours using it and those are some of the best 10 hours I have ever played.

Regarding the article and proposition that voice chat is bad:

1. In MMORPGs non-roleplayers outnumber roleplayers at least 10 to 1. The "destruction of immersion" argument is invalid for modern MMORPGamers.

2. When handling complex situations like fighting multiple monsters or other players, voice chat aids immensly in team coordination.

3. I read this article on /. and was ammused to see a few stories down about how pure electronic communications is creating "lonely, depressed, negative, anti-social, brilliant people". Instead of "not yet" you should be saying "get it now" to voice chat in games. There is something "real" and warm about voice chatting. In comparison these characters I am typing on the screen are dead and cold.

The discussion made me realize that the voice that is seriosly lacking is the voice of the NPCs. Why don't NPCs talk in DAoC and EQ? Should be simple to implement....

If the games would actually use voice a little more, maybe it would be easier to "get into it". Most "questing" in EQ/Daoc style games requires tons of reading and zero atmosphere.

loneblogger

Yep, I think he's missed the mark. I can't emphasise the amount that Teamspeak immersed me in MMORPG's of the likes of Endless Ages and Asheron's Call 2. Being able to chat to someone while playing means that your hands do the walking, and not the talking.

noneya

what a whiney rant (the original article)... this guy is an industry leader? Sounds more like a "has been" to me. Geez, gimme a break... wake up, this isn't your MUD anymore. The nerds who like to role play female characters may not like voice but the mainstream will.

Voltairewannabe

The most common "refutation" of Bartle's ideas here seems to be this:

"Modern MMORPG players don't roleplay."

I'm one of those mythical "mass-market" players that marketing types are still trying to figure out how to get into online gaming. The idea sounded interesting to me at first, but from the first moment I saw somebody playing Everquest, I knew I would never, EVER play this unbelievably juvenile and stupid little game with these unbelievably stupid and juvenile little people.

People don't roleplay on modern MMORPGs because you, the non-roleplayers, have chased them off and made damn sure they'll never come back. This is why , in a world with over a billion computers, no MMORPG will ever have a subscription base larger than a scant few million.

The fact that people don't roleplay in EQ and AC and all the rest is proof of their failure as roleplaying games. All that remains is for manufacturers to cater to the hard-core assholes who have taken over the genre.

As it happens, said assholes will no doubt enjoy the new avenues for griefing that are opened up by voice communication. Bon appetit. Meanwhile, marketers will continue to scratch their heads and wonder why they can't seem to crack the mainstream. Idiots.

Ricardo Dirani

Nonsense. The best fun I ever had in a virtual world was playing Counterstrike daily after hours, months in a row, in a LAN house. All our communication was real voice, screaming one to the other through the room. It was chaos, a dozen guys going HEY, SNAKE IS COMING, HERE IN THE SECOND BASE, HEEEEELP! DAMN, I SHOOT AND I SHOOT AND THIS SPHARION DOESN'T DIE!!! Those were the days...
I don't go to a virtual world to forget about myself. I go to experience an extended reality. To go to places I can't go in the real world. The perfect virtual world for me would be Matrix, apart from the death in the real world concept :).

Trinovanti

Two major reservations about voice chat in games are: 1) It becomes a chatroon and there for 2) It becomes a masturbation aid.

I'm going by my experience of Yahoo! (TM) Voice Chat...

However, *in context* voice chat could work. Imagine a Metal Gear Solid type virtual world where you're playing one of a team of soldiers on a mission.

AFAIK the US Army has developed a wearable computer that allows soldiers to talk and share intel etc. using Voice over IP and wireless Ethernet so this already exists in the real world. Richard may say that this no longer constitutes a virtual world, but being a soldier is way out of most peoples 'real world'.

Another context that leaps to mind is a swords and sorcery type game (or something like Zelda) where casting a spell allows you to talk to another character far away.

I think it could work selectively is all I'm saying.

C-snstr-1

Interesting veiws on this topic !

I see see both sides of the coin here for good and bad potentially , but i would like to point out something that i haven't seen anyone mention yet .

If voice were to be added as a game feature to new products would it not allow a much broader use of the keyboard for useful things such as Macros ? , voice has the potential to free up your entire keyboard for one touch commands and those commands could be numerous by default !
As it stands at the moment i find the MMO's i play tend to have anything but intuitive interfaces , Radial Menu's getting in the way of my eye popping graphics , text based commands that you have to type because you used up all your Macro slots , double clicks to open close containers so on and so forth ...

I see more potential for good than anything else when i take note of how much more can be added in the way of using a Keyboard in its entirety for commands , Moods Socials , Perform Animations / tasks all to match what you are saying are just some i can think of ... Yes they are nothing new and can be Macro'd already but imagine how much more could be included when you think of the WHOLE keyboard being used for nothing more than interacting with the Virtual world around you !!!

C-snstr-1

Interesting veiws on this topic !

I see see both sides of the coin here for good and bad potentially , but i would like to point out something that i haven't seen anyone mention yet .

If voice were to be added as a game feature to new products would it not allow a much broader use of the keyboard for useful things such as Macros ? , voice has the potential to free up your entire keyboard for one touch commands and those commands could be numerous by default !
As it stands at the moment i find the MMO's i play tend to have anything but intuitive interfaces , Radial Menu's getting in the way of my eye popping graphics , text based commands that you have to type because you used up all your Macro slots , double clicks to open close containers so on and so forth ...

I see more potential for good than anything else when i take note of how much more can be added in the way of using a Keyboard in its entirety for commands , Moods Socials , Perform Animations / tasks all to match what you are saying are just some i can think of ... Yes they are nothing new and can be Macro'd already but imagine how much more could be included when you think of the WHOLE keyboard being used for nothing more than interacting with the Virtual world around you !!!

Scott

This is a clear "something lost - something gained" situation. I agree with your thoughts, but your ideal scenario will never occur unless voice is out there. People will realize the limitations and demand improvements. That's what drives progress and innovation.

I have to ask: is your wife unable to watch TV in the next room if you're on the phone?

Soukyan

Where's the imagination, Dr. Bartle? For someone who played D&D, you seem to disregard that most useful of instruments in recreating an imagined scene... the voice. Actors have always used their voice as one of their main tools in creating a character. Why would you frown upon it in virtual worlds? I can be far more creative and convey far more emotions with my voice than a keyboard and far quicker, I might add. Your article seems to be catered to protecting those who lack the self-confidence to be comfortable enough to use their own voice with others in an online game. Do we synthesize our voices when we interact with people at a dance club? Then why would we do such a thing in an online game. Both are social environments and it's bad enough that people are losing social graces due to online gaming habits. Whether they choose to use their voice for more immersion or whether they just use their voice naturally, players should look forward to this. I still don't see why you say, "Not yet". Those uncomfortable with it will never become comfortable with it. Most people resist change unless it is something that they absolutely can no longer resist. It sounds to me like you're a victim of Hem and Haw and somebody moved your cheese. ;)

Rodger

LMAO. This guy is ridiculus. He is just whining because he helped create the text MUD, and he is afraid of change.
-Constantly reading and writing text is not immersion. It is just accepted, because it is the way it has always been.
-With an imagination, which is needed for roleplaying anyway, it is easy to ignore accents/impediments.
-When players use voice, it eliminates, repetitive abbreviations like lol, etc. which are not helping with immersion, anyway.
-If multiplayer games started with voice communication, could you really imagine players demanding to go text only?
-Roleplaying started out with voice conversation, and only had to use text due to limitations in technology. DND players dont pass around notes, so they can ignore each others accents.
-If you can run around cussing in voice, you can do it in text. Even when the game attempts to filter it, you Fvcking @$$ holes.

C Lo Canth

I think a bigger problem than immersion is inability to use your voice as effectively.

I think a lot of ppl who spend hours in virtual worlds are shy in real life, and are far better at roleplaying via text than via voice where it is clearly more of a real social setting.

(I'm not saying EVERYONE is shy, so pls don't post to tell us all how much booty you get despite being a gamer)

I like pnp for instance, but feel silly playing live action. no one has fun feeling silly or foolish. I think many ppl would if they had to RP in voice, the equivilant of talking to a bunch of total strangers on the phone.

And to the guy who said "i dont play mario to be a fat plumber" in response to "we play games to be a better us.", I think it was obvious the article was about rpgs, not mario.

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