Silence – is it golden for MMOs?

by on September 14, 2011


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 .
Find Straw Fellow and his Field at http://strawfellow.blogspot.com/ .

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: General MMO Interest

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Issy September 15, 2011 at 7:58 am

I believe Ultima Online had no chat – unless you were stood right next to the person you were talking to.
My husband played for years, and says that you _needed_ to have ICQ to play with people.
Syl sent hin on a nostalgia train, so he’s playing again – http://ramblingdwarf.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-blame-syl-nostalgia-strikes.html
I might get him to talk about the (lack of) communication next time :D
And I might have my facts wrong – he’s my husband so I ignore what he says unless it’s *would you like a glass of wine?* :P

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Syl September 15, 2011 at 8:10 am

Indeed. and the ICQ folk were actually very new wave – MIRC I believe was hugely popular too!!
mostly because there was the awesum /trout emote ofc! =D

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Koch (Aszune) September 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

*grin* why thank you .. nice to know I’m appreciated :p

The point is, though, that even though UO had very little communication built in, the preferred solution by players was to cheat. It still is, as well. Back in the day (the golden days *nodnod* where magic reagents could be found on the ground and gold was something to admire in the main bank) that meant choosing an external chat client (and I predict that with friends people still would).

The other example of a “communication concept” that was pretty similar was the language barrier between Horde/Alliance in WoW. In-game emotes are understood by both sides, anything used like “/emote waves with a friendly, yet careful smile” results in a “You see (name) doing freaky gestures”. Which obviously resulted in hack programs that can decode the other sides communication.

Star Wars Galaxies originally had about 7 languages. They could only be taught by someone who knew them to another person in need. In theory this was supposed to create an atmosphere like in the films, where only Han could understand Chewie. In reality it meant, of course, that everyone logging in pretty soon shouted “LF4 more languages: Twi’lek, Huttese, Rodian and Shirewook”.

A concept like the original authors would work better in a very very small setting, I’d think. Between pen and paper roleplayers, who accept “not talking” for playing a bunch of mutes. Possibly a small private server. Introducing the random internet gamer (me certainly not excluded) would lead to workarounds.

Maybe I’m bitter

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Klepsacovic September 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Players would develop a greater vocabulary of non-verbal behavior. Running toward someone could be hostile, while running toward, but facing away, would indicate a desire to approach without confrontation. The exact distance at which people stand could indicate a lot, with changes in distance adding another layer. Moving away for disapproval, closer for approval.

It would be interesting to see, but impossible to communicate complex ideas with any precision. Raiding could be a lot of trouble if there were too many dances, unless somehow a player could solo-dance it and others follow after, without the boss deciding to kill all of them right then, interrupting the learning process.

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