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07/28/2003

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Maclyn

Being an EQ bard, I would love to have voice chat. Then I wouldnt have to type in 3-second snippets hehe.

Also, I don't really get all the talk about immersion. I just want to play a game, I don't want to escape reality. If I really want to escape, I will grab a book off the shelf. When you play the game, you are interacting with real people who have real thoughts, feelings and opinions. Maybe it's just me, but I know that the Ogre with the Blade of Carnage isn't really an Ogre and that isn't really a sword. Its just a binary stream represented by pixels on my computer monitor. The point of a game is to have fun, and if voice chatting adds to the fun, what harm is there? In addition there is always the OFF button.

Ian

How is that one would want to escape from the world, when it's filled with tons of people who want to escape as well?

As for voice masking in general, couldn't you just fake an accent and had a voice mask on to that to throw off people? For the most part, I wouldn't care about the nitpicking of people, specially when it's my own character.

Ian

To add on to this, it's a bit disturbing how some of these posters remind me of Tsukasa from .Hack//SIGN series.

"I think I'll like it here... Yeah..."

It's just one more step closer to blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, only then would you have to be worried about crazy stalkers.

VGR

What I am really worried about is the fact that people who spam with text, MAY get the bright idea to spam their voice.
Ever play half-life and there is some jackass who only communicates with crackling midi music or profanities?
Imagine trying to role-play in your favorite online RPG and your speakers are filled with 1000 voices screaming at once.
That, my friends, is the power of X-box.

Foooo

I'm a 3 year vet of EverQuest (now retired) and I played a good year or so with GameVoice available. We didn't use it all the time, and when we did it was only a few people. Namely the guild leadership. We didn't use it as an in game role playing opportunity. As a matter of fact our organizational needs were so great we turned to voice as a more efficient method of having logistical discussions with 3-8 people. Rather than detracting from game play it gave our tired hands a break, so that we could focus our typing efforts on role playing/in game activities and save the sensitive and guild organizational conversations for voice. That way GuildMember_01's indescretions with GuildMember_02 were dealt with in the "real world" as well as the delicate handling of loot distribution, complex intra-guild relations and some general "relax and chat like we're normal human beings" type chat.. so that we could unwind from the stress of making gameplay fun for our members (often at our own expense) and enjoy other members of the leadership as real friends and not just pixels.

To sum up, voice let us do more efficiently the things that were already outside of the scope of the fantasy world.

~foooo

olo

and to the guy who said

i didn t play the chick in pso to become a hot babe, and cerainly not to become a better person.

olo

sorry went wrong,

again, to the guy who said "it was obvious the article was about rpgs, not mario"

I still didn t plat the chick in pso to become a hot babe, and certainly not to become a better person.

sorry for the second post,blabla

hoju

But since MMORPG'ers who aren't newbies will see the fallacy of adding voice chat wouldn't they be drawn to the games that do not include it? This could be a good thing, weeding the serious players from the newbies.

Razumen

I agree that voice communication will enhance the immersion factor of any game instead of detracting from it. Saying that people will spam and abuse it is a moot point because people do that already with text and they will continue to do it until doomsday.

Besides there are ways you can counter such people: Muting is one obvious solution. Also if you have voice chat in a MMORPG it would be wise to have a radius based voice system, which means you can only hear the voices of characters immediately around you. To talk to someone else far away you'd have to use text, or (like previously stated) cast a spell to voice chat with him/her. Another interesting idea is some kind of mute spell you could cast on other players, preventing them from talking with text or voice for a short period of time. Thus if there's some jerkhead pestering you with annoying request for something or other you can either A: Kill Him, B: Go somewhere else or C: Cast a Mute spell or D: Mute him permanently by a buitin command.

Also stated already is that the human voice conveys far more emotion than text ever will, and is essential to any game, especially RPG's. Having to read text in a RPG dispels any suspension of disbelief the game may have and you are constantly reminded that you're playing a game-NOT in another reality. Indeed using your voice is a far more social activity than typing as well, when using text all you are doing is reading characters of a screen, but you are actually conversing with them using your voice it is a totally different thing-it is almost as social as talking to them face to face.

Jonzun

Voice chat is ideal for team-based PvP games. Was involved with a PA in Shadowbane that used TeamSpeak and it was a great tool for coordinating large groups of people. However, players of team-based PvP games also play these games the way many people would go to their bowling or softball league... a team sport more than a romp through a Tolkein or Asimov novel. Richard is right on with regards to his predictions of the impact of voice chat in mmoRPg's.

Imagine going to see the LoTR and instead of the current cast they had put Chris Rock in the role of Gandalf, Brittney Spears in the role of Legolas, and Louis Anderson (may he RIP) in the role of Boromir. It would be mildly amusing for a while as a farce. However, the novelty of a ghetto version of Gandalf and whiney-voiced Boromir wears off pretty quickly and cognitive dissonance sets in. (it's worth looking up) This causes a decrease in immersion as what we expect an aged wizard or stout warrior to sound like is not what we're receiving.

The nice thing about MMO's is that everybody comes to the game minus the "real world" stereotypes and is judged based on their in-game activities. Thus, the 16 year-old living with their parents has the same opportunity to earn peer respect as the 27 y.o. playing after coming home from their job at IBM. The ruralite with a H.S. diploma living in the hills of West Virginia is perceived the same as the PhD living in the suburbs of Chicago. You bring voice into MMOGs and you bring all the baggage of real world stereotypes in with it.

Molokan

The thing is we are all pioneering virtual world technology that may lead to who knows what one day, the hollowdeck?

Were going to try and evolve many things and just see where the chips fall. This just may be a natural evolution.

evolume

Hard core RP'ers always annoyed me when i used to play EQ. They are always crying about how then want their own servers, a safe haven for fellow RP'ers to talk 'in character.' It is so silly to think that just because thou doth not speaketh like Monty Python's Holly Graile, that you are not roll playing. The bottom line is, in these worlds, you ARE annonymous. Everyone knows that they are annonymous and therefore, nobody acts as they would in real life.
Adding voice chat will be very similar to typed chat that is 'out of character.' Gamers will continue to play because their real lives will still be less satisfying than their virtual ones and the same whining RP'ers will continue whine.

quen

I read the article and most of the comments. To be honest, this whole issue - broadly, the fact that there *is* no way to make people stay in character (most of the time) in an online fantasy world - is the precise reason why I don't play massively multiplayer online games. That's with typing. And yes, it would be ten times worse spoken.

I used to play pen and paper D&D in groups of real people speaking. That's different for two reasons: first, as the author said because the game world is imagined and not 'shown'; but second and perhaps more importantly, because the people you're playing with are guys you know and they will be making at least some vague effort to keep in character. That's something you just can't rely on or even realistically hope for in an MMORPG.

I now play D&D online using IRC, so we type. Same deal: we try to keep in character. (Sure, there is sometimes out-of-character backchat... and text is great for backchat, since it's easier to skip or compartmentalise.)

As for the speech conversion, I happen to have a master's degree in related topics. I also work on a voice conferencing system. So I know something about that kind of deal.

In all likelihood, the process of converting your voice to a different voice and accent would not be done via plain text.

Fundamentally, as noted you'd lose most personality and expression. Text to speech systems *are* good nowadays but they can't, and never will, work magic. It needs a good writer to write sentences that contain the personality or emotion you want to express in the first place. You can't do that in a hurry, and it won't happen from text that was obtained initially from your speech.

On a technical level, accurate voice recognition is a really, REALLY difficult problem if you are going to speak in different tones (e.g. screaming at the microphone), with background noise (e.g. game soundtrack, somebody else comes into the room and asks whether you want dinner), using different accents (e.g. you are French), with a huge vocabulary (e.g. a fantasy world with lots of strange placenames, and character names people are free to create as they see fit), and possibly with poor or abbreviated grammar (because you're in a hurry, or again you are not native English speaker). Even a human given this task will not achieve near 100% accuracy. Computer speech recognition is very far from that.

More likely would be an attempt at phoneme recognition. Phonemes are the basic speech sounds - for example the 'b-' sound at the start of 'book'. Recognising these comes with a high degree of error but, if you are only transmitting speech, it doesn't cause too much of a problem if the phoneme was slightly wrong, as the resulting output is likely still understandable. Transmitting phonemes, with timing and some other information, could provide sufficient data to reconstruct voice using different sounds; you could even have it transform vowels to shift your accent, or adjust timings if trolls speak more slowly. This is also a rather effective data compression scheme... I'm not sure how well it would really work or whether this is already used, but it's the kind of area to look at IMO.

I think changing your voice (female-male, human-troll, young-old, even changing some regional accents) is probably a more realistic task than speech-to-text in an MMORPG situation. Neither solution would solve the problem that many people aren't interested in roleplaying on those systems, which is the fundamental reason for difficulty in creating an immersive fantasy world.

--quen

SpunikSweetheart

I do not believe in artificial restrictions on any sort of development, unless it's a matter of ethics. Sure, voice chat will change the design of virtual worlds dramatically, but designers will adapt, as they always have. It's ridiculous to outright dictate how a game should or should now be without even exploring the possibilities the option opens up.

There's no doubt that voice is a better form of communication than text. It communicates mood and expression; how many times have we tried to make sarcastic comments or jokes online, only to have it completely misunderstood?

For sure more of your off-line self will be communicated to others with voice chat. But wouldn't that add complexity and dimension to your otherwise bits-n-bytes character, especially with voice alteration in place to simulate your character's voice register?

Besides, better communication will mean more people will feel responsible for what they say online. This, I feel, is a good thing. Countless times I've seen racist and sexist comments being made while gaming online. Maybe there will be less of that if people actually had to say the words they type.

Arafelis

Well, let's put it like this. Let's say you have a voice-recognition program that takes what you say and interprets it as text. It's output as text to everyone else; what is the difference?

Or, let's take the opposite side and say the game takes everyone's text and outputs it in a pre-approved voice scheme for that archetype (say, model).

Combining these with the linguistic structures that have been discussed above and the *inevitability* that voice will be brought into MMOs, I believe an acceptable situation can be resolved.

Kalidor

Hmmm,personally can't see what the problem is. I think voice chat is ok but on a smaller scale. My guild in star wars galaxies(some of it ne ways) uses voice chat to communicate and i think its brilliant. When ur a crafter as well and ur sat there going through the tedious task of grinding it becomes very boring very quickly. But being able to talk to ur fellow guildies about quests in game etc made it more interesting. But everyone using voice would become a headache, the voice channel just wouldn't be able to handle all the traffic, i think things would become confusing especially with several conversations happening at once. But on a smaller scale with a guild its an interesting and powerful tool imagine the possibilities when pvping on a big scale and instead of having to waste valuable time typing 'heal me' you could just say it! Ive been playing mmogs for a few years now, so in the words of me mate valor:'Voice chat is the future, embrace it'

illovich

While I see your point about hearing the "elf babe's" english accent (or more likely her unmistakably masculine voice) ruining immersion, I will jump on my soapbox to again curse what to me kills an EQ conversation faster than anything: BAD MIDDLE ENGLISH.

Seriously, if you don't understand that thy is the possessive form of thou or that thou is the familiar form of the more formal you, then please stop role playing with an English accent. Right now.

Please.

Talk like a pirate, or like a hollywood arab or anything, please just stop saying "I willst go withe thou" to me.

Unfortunately, I've heard no plans for anyone to write realtime Middle English conjugation checking into their MOG. Believe me, it would be a better feature than voice-chat.

matt (uk)

Theres no way on earth my wife is going to watch me talking to a monitor :) She'll get me sectioned :P

Loads of pros and cons to this argument, personal choice will win out. I can see the FPS games using this more than MMRPGS simply because of the fact that I wouldn't want a troll talking to me in a US accent. That would kill the whole experience for me.

Vertigo

If you don't start something, you'll never be able to perfect it.

Bob

Piled up to the neck in ____.

Tim

It seems to me as though the argument is irrelevant. Companies are interested in voice chat are going to employ it. And the majority or gamers support it. Changing your voice to a new pattern that cannot be decoded is actually very simple, as I am an audio engineer I know of what I speak. As the virtual world marches forward towards replacing the mundane social interaction at a more personal level will be sought by the players. The next generation of gamers is for this and corporations see it. It may all be irrelevant in twenty years as the technology is increased to a level that is full immersion. A group of companies that I will leave unnamed at this time is working hard to create machines and software that will react to thought, ergo you think what you want to say to someone and the machine says it for you. It's not as far off as you would think. But I digress.
My position is that Im for it. In the VR world it is part of the next level of experience enhancement.

Brad Hackinen

My freind and I had a rather intresting solution after reading this article and it goes as follows:
Start including voice recognition software in games with lots of chatting. The messages would still be sent and recieved as text, but the player could input their messages vocally if they chose. It would be much, much faster than typing, and because no one is actually hearing your voice, it doesn't break the immersion or character.
It's not perfect, as I understand it voice recognition technology still has a long way to go before it works really well, but people make many typos when they're trying to type at game speed anyways.
Then, in the future, when computer vocalized text doesn't suck so much, you could pick a voice for your character and have the message read aloud by the computer at the other end in that voice!
And it's also Lo-Bandwidth, because all you're actually sending is text.
Again, I'm sure there are a meriad of possible problems with the system, but I rather like the idea at first glance.

Jedi Ninja

It does depend on how fast you can type. I can type almost as fast as I can talk, so the only time voice chat matters to me is in games like Counter-Strike, where you can have real tactics, but things happen so fast that if I stop to say "He's hiding behind that crate!" then the man (or, excuse me, person) behind that crate will kill me.

I can certainly understand how this _could_ kill immersion. I think the best way to explain this is to refer to cosplay, as done at Otakon 2003.

Roughly half the population at any Otakon is dressed up as anime characters. Those that are stay in character roughly half the time. And yet, rather than destroy the metaphor, it enhances it. I may have been able to press X twice and get Squall to attack in Final Fantasy 8, but dressed as Squall, I can have an actual, honest-to-God swordfight.

It's true that this doesn't make it nearly as easy for me to, say, pretend I'm a girl, or a mountain troll, but I usually am myself anyway. If a 16-year-old slightly overweight white boy with an afro can slice you in half in two seconds flat in-game, it doesn't matter if everyone knows he's not a ninja with a lightsaber.

In fact, what I always go looking for in games is not a way to be someone that I'm not, but a way to be in another world, and do things I would never be able to do in reality. In reality, you don't simply respawn and go get your revenge every time you die.

It may be true that voice would destroy certain games. I'd be curious to see that. For the most part, though, I think that even with no modulation at all, people can still roleplay well enough.

And if you discover that this elf is from England, so what? It's an elf from England. Everything else about it is still the same -- it still has wicked weapons, fast reflexes, and pointy ears.

One more thing: I refuse to address technology issues. 56k still works for some games, but barely. At DSL speeds, voice chat can be very minimal compared to overal bandwidth usage.

James

I think Mr Bartle has the perfect solution with the Speech -> Text then Text -> Speech conversion, though I have different reasons.

First, some person mentioned use of third party programs such as teamspeak. My Dark Age of Camelot guild uses teamspeak and it's an awesome tool. There are problems with it however.

1. Many people who live geographically close sound similar, it can be hard to tell who is speaking.
2. Bandwidth. Those on dialup are usually not able to use it.

Now, why do I differ on the reasons for Mr Bartle's proposed system? The hearing impaired. I havn't seen any mention of that aspect, yet there are many people playing these games who have partial or full hearing loss. If voice-only communications was introduced, all of these players would be excluded.

The speech->text then text->speech solves that problem as the text version can be displayed, or both the text and the sound can be played.

The other point I differ with Mr Bartle is that the technology is not there so we shouldn't try it. The technology is there, it's basic and doesn't work great, but it could be done.

When you were developing a MUD did you say "Well, in 10 or 15 years we'll be able to put some great graphics in, let's wait until then."? No. We can do speech->text now, and we can do text->speech now ... it won't sound realistic, but so what? Neither did graphics until recently and nobody cared about that at the time.

Some of this could even be done third party. For example in DAoC to chat I hit Enter and type. A third party program could be listening to my mic with a keyboard hook ... when I say something it converts it into text, hits enter and sends it.

tai

Voice should not be in mmog, mmorpg, etc. There are a VERY few select exceptions to this, such as Planetside. It's difficult to recieve and give orders, while playing a complex military tactical 1st person shooter at the same time. Other games, like Diablo for instance, would just be bad for voice. Or everquest, another very famous name. Programs like TS2 make the voice/keyboard issue a problem, and in some cases such as Planetside, solve a problem. I still agree with you though, and this has been a useful article. :)

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