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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

MUD Co-Creator Bartle On Voice Chat in MMOGs 154

Fusty writes "In 1979, Richard Bartle co-created a MUD, the first system for players to share adventures online. Aside from veteran game coding skills, Bartle has strong opinions about game design. He recently examined the idea of voice chat in massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). His opinion? Not Yet You Fools! - on Game Girl Advance."
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MUD Co-Creator Bartle On Voice Chat in MMOGs

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  • problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tirel ( 692085 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @06:51AM (#6653710)
    Not only would voice destroy the ROLE PLAYING element (as he nicely puts it: "Hey, this elf babe is from England!". Hello reality."), but they present a number of technical problems. Just how would you log these chats for abuse? What about bandwidth and processing power? Even MUD servers never seem to have enough bandwidth, in graphical MMO's lag is always a huge problem, but instead of fixing those problems they go and intruduce a whole new dimension based on the presumption that it's going to "attract newbies". Well guess what? It's going to turn away long.time players.
  • by Gherald ( 682277 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @06:52AM (#6653715) Journal
    Voice chat is especially useful on consoles, because most do not have a keyboard to type with.

    I don't see anything wrong with it. You can set aside some game servers for voice, and some for non-voice, depending on demand.

    To each his own!
  • role playing... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FryGuy1013 ( 664126 ) * on Saturday August 09, 2003 @06:53AM (#6653716) Homepage
    Perhaps I'm the only one, but when I'm playing a MMORPG, I don't want to role play. Sure, it's in the name, but I'm _playing a game_. Why should I have to pretend to be an stupid ogre? I just want to get my levels/money/items/etc and have fun doing it. Many people already use external programs like Roger Wilco, Battlecom, or Ventrillo to voice chat within guilds, so why shouldn't the newbies be able to also?
  • Re:problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xyvimur ( 268026 ) <{koo3ahzi} {at} {}> on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:03AM (#6653733) Homepage
    I agree that it would destroy the role playing element. However I think the process is inevitable. In the past the graphics was the innovation, now it's quite natural I think. The bandwitdth and processing power - there will be a huge group of people willing to pay for possibility of having voice chat and the business will do the rest... Personally I prefer no graphics and sound. Only monitor and keyboard (and some mp3 in the background...)
  • Re:role playing... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:04AM (#6653736)
    "Why should I have to pretend to be an stupid ogre?" Because it ruins it for everyone else when some dude trots up with his leet speak. Personally, I think people who don't roleplay in roleplay games should be k-lined. "I just want to get my levels/money/items/etc " Translation: I want to be selfish
  • Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gradji ( 188612 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:19AM (#6653761)
    The main problem I have with the article is that it ignores the basic principle of choice . As in some first person shooters, I imagine MMORPGs would come with the option to disable voice ... so you can choose not to broadcast/receive real-time voice communication.

    This option would keep most parties happy: the newbies who are drawn to the promise of trash-talking, the tight-knit group of friends who like to chat while they explore and conquer, and the veterans who would rather not have voice interfere with their virtual world immersion.

    While Marx (maybe Lennin? I get the modern Socialists mixed up) complained about the tyranny of choices, I think most contemporary people find choices to be a good thing.
  • by Tennguin ( 553870 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:23AM (#6653770) Homepage Journal
    I think Richard Bartle has lost touch with what role playing's origins. If we apply his logic to pen and paper games we see how flawed his argument really is. Afterall how many of us sat around the table throwing dice passing written notes back and forth explaining what our chacters were doing/saying? I think "voice communication" was as acceptable then as it remains now. I think people are becomming a little TOO immersed in the digital world and forgeting that there are analog analogies to some of these problems. Think people. I doubt that most people in these games are concernied about character development anyway... its all about the amount of "stuff" you can gather. Those geeks that are into playing out their bvirtual cahracters arent going to be disuaded by the fact that voice has been introduced into the game. I wasn't when I role played my Theif in 1988...
  • Re:problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:23AM (#6653772) Homepage
    Not only would voice destroy the ROLE PLAYING element

    What role playing element? In all successful MMORPGs so far, role playing dies for most players around level 5 or so, except as an occasional thing.

    Take a look at group chat in a game like EQ or DAoC during an idle moment between fights. If the players are chatting about game stuff, they most likely will be chatting as human game players, not as citizens of Norrath or Camelot. If not chatting about game-specific stuff, they'll be talking about movies, TV, sports, politics, and everything else people talk about on, say, AOL or MSN.

  • Re:problems (Score:1, Insightful)

    by grug0 ( 696014 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:29AM (#6653783) Journal
    Not only would voice destroy the ROLE PLAYING element
    Voice chat wouldn't necessarily "destroy the role playing" element, as people could just talk funny or something. What *would* destroy the role playing element, however, would be stuff like hearing Britney Spears being played in the background.
  • Re:role playing... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @07:31AM (#6653785)
    > Perhaps I'm the only one [...]

    No, sadly you aren't. You're in the majority. I say that as a person, who likes role-playing games, and not item gathering/leveling games.

    > Why should I have to pretend to be an stupid ogre?

    Because that is the whole idea of a role-playing game? When you want to l/m/i/etc, play Diablo, but not a role-playing game. Because it destroys the fucking athmosphere, wandering through, say Middle-Earth, and see a knight in shiny armor called "+R011Ki114".
    Well, actually that's the part, one could ignore, but going in the city and seeing a group of people showing of their various spells to one another and talking about

    +R011Ki114: "Dude, did you already killed Sauron?"
    ph34rm3: "I've killed him already twice, he dropped some awesome L00t"

    Well, this is of course a little bit extreme and the result of dissapointment of trying some MMORPGs, as you might've already infered from my statements.

    Of course, one should not deny you playing the game of your choice. But it is the task of the game designers to create the games of our choices for both of us.

    He is a game designer and talks about the negative effects voice chat will have on MMORPGs.
    Not about the positive effects it will have on MMO"item-gathering"G. To my regret, they are currently the same.
  • by Eudial ( 590661 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:12AM (#6653854)
    Here are some reasons why:

    1. People will speak all kinds of languages.
    2. People will scream.
    3. There will not be any 1337speak (that way we can't decide who's a newbie or not)
  • Re:role playing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gorelab ( 689501 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:30AM (#6653885)
    Personally, I think the problem goes both ways, the hardcore roleplayers often want too much from the people who are playing and just want to have some fun, and those people often just go too far out in having really idiotic names, and running about with leetspeak and everything. Personally I think it's best when you have a compromise. Make them have decent names, and not blantently go about with OOC stuff in more public places, but don't penatlize them for not having a 6 page essay on their charecters motivations and such and let them have their fun killing the denizens and getting loot. In the end it'd probally make both side much happier.
  • I'm just wondering what brought some women to the point where they felt they needed their own voice in video gaming. Was it because of sexism in ads? (I can remember an ad which had a bikini-clad babe lathered in soap draped over a sports car... to sell a videogame!) Is it the violent nature of some game genres? The lack of strong female representation as a whole? Does addressing sexual content like trance vibrator's fulfill this gaping intellectual chasm?

    Girls, to my limited knowledge gleaned from being the father of three daughters (2 of whom game on the PS2 and PC), enjoy games that test problem solving spatial skills like Tetris, Pac Man and The Sims among many others. These are the same games guys play. Sex has nothing to do with it.
  • by Azghoul ( 25786 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:54AM (#6653926) Homepage
    So let's see, you think it would be a good idea if all those who had packed the bank were screaming at the top of their lungs over their microphones instead of just pumping text on screen?

    That seems like a huge problem to me.

    Many people here are bitching that "RPGs were based on voice, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about!" How wrong can you be? The "MMO" part of "MMORPG" precludes using voice. I don't want to hear hundreds of voices around me all the time. I also don't want people to hear me trying to act out a cheesy voice, unless I'm in a nice tight group of good friends.

    No, the large number of players destroy the voice concept. Not to mention the fact that it's much easier to type something, realize the verbiage is not quite correct, then change it before sending it out to the group.
  • Re:problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @08:54AM (#6653928)
    What about bandwidth and processing power?

    When you use an IM program like MSN messenger, do voice streams run through the server? No, they're client-to-client. There will be other problems, like people behind NAT, people on dialup who won't be able to listen to more than 2 people shouting to each other, but so what? People with the most impressive hardware/pipe will get the best experience. Same as it always was.

    You might also want to note that there already are non-MMORPG games that use voice. They seem to have solved these problems, no?
  • by ktorn ( 586456 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @09:41AM (#6654051) Homepage
    Voice comms in a game like CS is almost an absolute must.
    Team-work is essential, and it's so fast paced that communicating via the keyboard is not an option. The only type of non-voice communication I used was moving the mouse to produce quick visual gestures to tell my team-mate things like "you go first", "duck, so I can climb over there", and stuff like that.
    No way are you going to type those. Getting your hand off the mouse for any length of time is not a good idea (unless you're a camper).
    Counter-Strike is not a role-playing game.

    I see the point of the article when it comes to role-playing games. Even then, when playing EQ I rarely met people actually roleplaying. When camping for long periods, everyone in the parties would chat about real life stuff. People would exchange email addresses and stuff like that.
  • I agree. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2003 @09:43AM (#6654064)
    When I play games like EQ/UO/EaB and run into someone else, I say "hi." If they respond with "Hail", my first reaction is an internal groan "it's one of THEM."
    The hardcore RP aspect is just not for me. I play to either build my chars or interact and make friends with real people. I think the vast majority of people do the same.
  • Re:problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alan Cox ( 27532 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @11:45AM (#6654665) Homepage
    I'd disagree here. Granted all current MMORPGs suck, but then its a fairly new art anyway. Richard doesn't seperate communication and immersion nearly enough in my experiences as a game designer. Lets face it when was the last time your fantasy figures were squggles on a monitor. What heroic character controlled his own movements with a joystick ?

    None of course, but the player doesn't care. No more than the player will care about voice commands to the game or beeps notifying them of events. If you look at a lot of these games players can also do a lot of "impossible" things like talk to one another wherever they are in the game, if you remove that you'll annoy the players just like any paper RPG game master will annoy players who can't chit-chat out of character just because their character is currently next door.

    Tolkien summed up the key to believable fantasy long before MMORPG - it is consistency rather than simulation. The online world has no value to the people who crave the physical experience - thats what the SCA is for. Instead its about story telling - which means that evil guys behave in a believable fashion, swords work the same way all the time, books can all be read and so on.

    Another great example is distance. It takes eight hours to make some journey, now try inflicting that on players with live reality simulated eight hour horse rides.

    As to "I can tell Foo the Elf is English", I already can - Foo the Elf can spell colour 8),

    Abuse btw isnt a problem - the technology for scanning voice data is well understood for things like voice mailboxes, "chat line" services and of course on a large scale by the security services 8).

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Saturday August 09, 2003 @11:51AM (#6654716) Homepage Journal
    Aberistwyth came up with a graphical MUD - I believe it was the second MUD engine to come out, after Essex MUD. Have you seen any MUDs using this engine, lately? Have you seen any graphical MUDs at all? No? Oh, what a surprise.

    Bottom line is that some ideas sound great, but just don't work in practice. The technological constraints are such that you end up with something worse than not using that idea at all.

    Richard Bartle is an expert on these issues, by the sheer amount of time and effort he has spent on developing MUD. I'd be very cautious about simply dismissing the guy's thoughts. Sure, his idea of commercializing the MUD engine didn't work out. IMHO, though, that gives him more practical experience in what works and what doesn't. He's been on both sides.

    Voices in MUDs are bandwidth-intensive and OOC (Out Of Character) unless you've speech synthesis. And, while Festival is a decent system, I don't think it's quite at the point where it can support the quality you'd want.

    Speech synthesis requires only that the text be transmitted. Transmitting voice-over-IP, at any kind of quality, requires digitizing the speech and transmitting the result. Even if you assume 10K/sec/voice, I've seen MUSHes with 40-50 people in the same room RPing. That's 500K/second, just for the sound, with one hell of a mixing desk on the other end to merge those streams.

    I don't know about you, but I'm not sure there are enough MUDders out there with that kind of bandwidth. Not many home owners have their own T1 line, and DSL at that kind of bandwidth is often sold to businesses only.

    So you drop some of the voices, perhaps. And then what's the point of having the VoIP link? If what you get is inferior to plain text (which loses nothing), then who is going to use VoIP for anything other than a novelty?

    The final problem is the lack of multicasting. If you've 50 people in a room, the server is going to have to multicast to transmit the volume of data to each user. However, "Internet Providers" don't generally offer multicasting. Unless you're rich. Not for technical reasons, but because they don't know how to bill it, so opt for only providing it for really expensive lines.

    Why do you need multicast? Let's look at the numbers. 50 users x 500K/sec/user = 25 M/sec of data, if you unicast it. If you look at the times that there have been unicast transmissions - say of the Leonid meteors - the server rapidly collapses from the load. If multicast were deployed, you could have as many recipients as you liked, and there wouldn't be an issue. But because ISPs are cheapskates and the admins offering public services often aren't as clueful as they could be, the system fails very rapidly, offering nobody anything.

    REAL broadband (ie: gigabit to the home) plus multicasting plus good speech synthesis would make audio MUDding a real, practical, possibility. As things stand, the idea is going to be tried (as with Abermud), it will fail, and when the technology does emerge people will remember only the prior failure, not the future possibility.

    Some things you just have to wait for. If you want to cut the waiting time, then pressure your ISP to enable multicasting. If you're using DSL, then pressure your ISP to make SDSL available to home users for a reasonable price. But if you do nothing, expect nothing. ISPs are happy to provide you with the smallest scraps of service that you'll tolerate, and that'll never be enough to do quality VoIP MUDding.

  • Re:I agree. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @01:00PM (#6655144) Homepage
    I prefer the semi-neutral "greetings". I could just be polite, or an RPGer. I think the best is a compromise - be polite. Personally, I think people who use abnormal (old or l33t) english in games are like americans who try and speak mock-british accents when performing shakespeare or reciting Monty Python - it just sounds stupid.
  • by tommertron ( 640180 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @01:45PM (#6655373) Homepage Journal
    Not only would voice destroy the ROLE PLAYING...

    Um, the last time I remember, online RPGs are simply an extension of "offline" RPGs like D&D. And as I recall, people playing D&D don't write down what they want to say on little pieces of paper and show them to everybody. They talk to each other.

    In my experience of playing D&D, people are way more into the roleplaying element when they're talking out-loud. My (brief) experience of MMORPGs is that people break character all the time.

    Sure, not every case is the same, and everyone breaks character eventually all the time, but seriously, how will voice destroy the role playing element when voice comes from roleplaying's very foundation?


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