Sunday, February 17, 2008

World of Warcraft: The Next Step

In World of Warcraft, most communication between players is text, typed on a keyboard and read off a screen. But it is also possible for players in a group to speak to each other, using either third party software or a voice option provided by Blizzard. Doing this has at least two obvious advantages: Most people can speak much faster than they can type, and speaking leaves your fingers free to control your character.

From the standpoint of role players, however, it has a serious disadvantage. It's hard to believe that the person you are talking with is a female elf when "her" voice is that of a young man. It's hard to believe in the elderly dwarf when the voice is that of a sixteen year old girl. And it's hard to hear the frivolous and irresponsible gnome in the voice of a sixty-some professor.

This problem is soluble. There exist ways of modifying the sound of a voice--shifting the frequency up or down, changing it in subtler ways. Blizzard should make them available as an option on its in-game speech. Players who want to sound like themselves can, but so can players who want so sound like their character—deeper voices for males, still deeper for dwarves, and whatever tones feel right for other races. With a little practice, it ought to be possible for the speaker to learn to control the modified voice well enough to express emotions in a believable fashion, and so to carry in-game role playing to a new level.

10 Comments:

At 8:27 AM, February 17, 2008, Blogger Kevin Heckman said...

I'm not so sure. The exact same "problems" have existed in tabletop RPGs for the last 35 years, but people still play D&D. Over the course of four hours, the DM might play 30-40 different characters, none of which are supposed to sound like him (yet more or less do).

I think it has much more to do with the willingness of the group to suspend disbelief, rather than to pursue the chimera of "realism" or "accuracy" or whatever.

A more interesting topic to explore would be how much the presence of various artifacts (e.g. pictures on a screen) interfere with imagination and suspending disbelief in the first place.

 
At 10:19 AM, February 18, 2008, Blogger Joe Bingham said...

Hm... some of us are a little creeped out by people who get too involved the in role-playing part and stay too much in character. For us, hearing peoples' normal voices on vent--implicitly recognizing together that we're on a team in a game--is a little reassuring. :)

 
At 12:14 PM, February 18, 2008, Anonymous William H. Stoddard said...

I don't especially get why this is a problem. I play face-to-face RPGs as my principal hobby—I'm currently running three and playing in one, each meeting once a month. In my circle, cross-gender play, for example, is commonplace. But it seems quite rare that anyone hangs up on it. I've seen, for example, a seduction scene between two male characters both played by women. I pretty much consider it a nonissue, personally.

 
At 11:29 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger J.C. Vander Zanden said...

I believe voice modification technology would allow users to enhance the role-playing experience. I have been playing mmorpg since EQ in 98', and I have noticed that there are fewer players who play "RP" in WoW. I attribute this to the change in demographics which has occurred with the rising popularity of the genre. Essentially, MMORPG are much more mainstream today than they were eight years ago.

 
At 1:36 AM, February 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, didn't you already have a post on this issue?

 
At 1:25 AM, February 21, 2008, Blogger 'YED' Club said...

Hello, Im really really... glad that I have seen u. I'm a Mongolian.
yOUR FATHER'S great creation "Free to choose" is being read a lot by Mongolian people. It has been republished 2 or 3 times and is very very famous in my country. I already read this book and put review on our blog.
Oh, I know your "The Machinery of Freedom". I heard about this book many times. But haven't read, willing to find it... I want to write many things, but now stopping for bothering you.
From Mongolia

 
At 1:25 AM, February 21, 2008, Blogger 'YED' Club said...

Hello, Im really really... glad that I have seen u. I'm a Mongolian.
yOUR FATHER'S great creation "Free to choose" is being read a lot by Mongolian people. It has been republished 2 or 3 times and is very very famous in my country. I already read this book and put review on our blog.
Oh, I know your "The Machinery of Freedom". I heard about this book many times. But haven't read, willing to find it... I want to write many things, but now stopping for bothering you.
From Mongolia

 
At 12:00 AM, February 24, 2008, Blogger emamid said...

There's already at least one piece of software (Morphvox) to do this, that specifically integrates with World of Warcraft. I ran into it after getting the idea that it would be great to be able to sing in-character in Lord of the Rings Online, to compliment that game's ability to play various musical instruments.

 
At 6:54 PM, February 29, 2008, Blogger Amit said...

Role playing isn't the only problem though. You also have overlapping speakers, and no way to back up and find out what you missed (for example, if you went to the restroom). Text also allows for “emotes”; you can't express those nicely over voice chat.

 
At 11:05 AM, March 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Text also allows for “emotes”; you can't express those nicely over voice chat.
LOL

 

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