Silence – is it golden for MMOs?

We close out today’s bumper crop of thinking and writing with a really interesting short piece from Straw Fellow. He’s been thinking about communication in MMOs, and where Bioware is moving toward full voice, full acting, he’s been considering the alternative.

What would an MMO with no verbal communication be like? No text, no party chat, no General Channel, no nothing.

Would it be better ?

“It could be of any style, really: Sandbox or theme park, sci-fi or fantasy. The main point is that it would have no dialogue, no voice acting, no text of any kind. Everything would be communicated through speech bubbles with picture in them, or character gestures such as pointing. Characters would not receive names either.

This hypothetical game is to prove a bit of a theory of mine: Players will become inventive to work around the communication barrier by relying on the in-game gestures, and by that measure become more cooperative.”

This is a short think piece, and the ideas within it are pretty compelling. It’d be very interesting to see how a speechless WoW party organised roles and tactics, for example – we’d see shorthands developing, emotes rapidly aquiring common usages that would make no sense to someone outside the gameworld.

It’d be even more interesting in a more complex, interaction-based game. A Tale In The Desert, for example, would already almost work – you’d have large bazaars at chariot points, where players would stand and wordlessly point at the wares they wished to trade. Interactions like cement making would be done with grunts and pointing – much like it might be amongst a group who were familiar with the task in the real world.

I love the idea – but what do you think? Would it open up new worlds of cooperation, or just new worlds of PITA?

Quote taken directly from Straw Fellow’s post .

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