Friday, June 22, 2007

Voice Chat in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Clive Thompson, in an essay on Wired Online, presents a very interesting counterpoint to the idea that voice chat is always a good thing in MMORPGs.

If the way you think about MMORPGs is primarily in terms of "beating the game," and competitive gameplay is fast-paced, then having a way to communicate in real time is an obvious win. For these gamers, the avatar is just a shell that's required for gameplay -- the character is just a tool to be used in-game, like a sword or a mount. All the actual personality comes from the player, so they're fine with sounding in voice chat like the people they actually are.

But there are other gamers who think differently, whose primary approach to MMORPGs is in terms of "immersiveness." The worldy-ness of the game matters to them; they want the characters to seem appropriate for the game world. So for these gamers, hearing the expletive-spewing voice of an 11-year-old coming out of a cultured Dark Elf prince, or realizing that the swooning damsel they just rescued has the gravel voice of a rotund, 40-year-old chain smoker -- this stuff just absolutely kills all hope of immersion in the game world.

So which of these philosophies of MMORPG gameplay should win when it comes to how a Star Trek MMORPG is designed? The MMO part? Or the RPG part?

Can the game be designed with distinct features that will fully satisfy both these kinds of players?

Or is there some kind of compromise both kinds of gamer could accept, even if it's not 100% what they really want?