Moo Tang Clan: social is desired, don't give it away

Thursday, May 22, 2008

social is desired, don't give it away

In most MMORPGs there are plenty of chat options available but I wonder if that isn't such a good idea.

Sure, people want the social, and adding chat channels makes that easier, but I'm haunted by the memory of PUGs where one or two members weren't quite "there" .. turns out they spent half the instance on auto-pilot while their attention was on guild chat or whispers. Additionally, I've forgotten the number of times a fellow guildie turns down an offer of help while they solo some area, yet they continue socialising in guild chat.

Whenever I visit an old-world city I see small crowds hanging about outside the bank/mailbox/AH, but they are usually silent. In truth, they may be deep in conversation in guild chat, party chat, trade, city, or general. Sometimes a couple are engaged in a conversation in the /say channel, and that's pretty cool as it makes the place come alive. That said, it's all the more incongruent when one talks in /say, and the other is in /p or /g and only one side of the conversation can be heard. It's borderline irritating, in the same way overhearing only one side of a phone conversation is irritating.

Naturally, if all those gathered around the mail box were chatting in /say instead then things would get very noisy. I wouldn't see that as a problem though, more of an opportunity for increasing immersion in the game: either hang out at the mailbox, suffering the din of the maddening crowd, or sneak off to some private hut for a quiet chat.

I'm also wondering if there are other opportunities possible if the game took away ubiquitous chat channels: they could be put back in via special abilities, spells, and items. Spirit messengers, Guild Commune, Trinkets of Telepathy. Characters don't have ubiquitous “teleport anywhere” capabilities, but some classes can learn limited versions of that: mages can make portals to enable travel to various destinations, while warlocks can open a portal to summon comrades in the opposite direction.

Would you embark on a long quest with your guild mates to secure an Orb of CzNN, a critical piece of gear which when equipped into your guild hall would enable whoever is in your guild hall to broadcast a message to all guild members? Would you gather the mats and commission an engineer to craft a Catwwezl Talking Bone, a marvelous device that enables one to one communication over long distances?

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