Communication Breakdown

A recent Podcast by those exquisite purveyors of fine words KIASA,  there was a little banter that mentioned the lack of in-game typing and the need for an external audio solution is be coming more common place now.

I completely agree, but what can we do to help combat this?  What’s needed are methods that would enhance interactions and communications within the gaming group, what’s more that group could be best friends or just a random PUG.

With every new game we see “recycling” of features that have been tried and tested in other games. No matter the origins, beneficial functions in one game, will generally benefit players in another, so they get included.
Players also come to expect similar feature to be included otherwise they feel that a game isn’t catering for their needs.

Many games have systems for easier levels, or group questing, tournaments, yet there is a lack of systems that aid games with their interaction with other players. There is one such feature in Planetside that for me is one of the games crowning glories, yet it remains the most underutilised across the multi-player gaming scene.

Voice Macro System

Now on the face of things, you may think that a system such as this isn’t suited to more RPG style games, but when you boil down the needs of the players the truth is very plain to see. Players want an easy method by which to communicate, interact but one that doesn’t mean having to stop everything to type into the chat window.

The basis behind the voice macro is that by using a number of keystrokes (between 3 and 4) you can quickly inform those in your group (and maybe other players nearby) of various information.

Despite not having played Planetside for some time, the keystrokes needed to convey meaning, are still easily remembers.
  • V-V-T = Thanks
  • V-D-C = defend our Control console!
  • V-N-R = We need Repairs!
  • V-W-C = Cloaked Enemy detected!
  • V-S-R-G = I will repair our Generator!

Initiating the voice macros menu by pressing V you then choose the topic for the message

  • A = Attack
  • D = Defend
  • N= Need
  • R= Repair
  • S= Self
  • T= Tactical
  • V= Quick (Commonly used)
  • W= Warnings

Nearly all of these keys are located near the WASD keys cutting down on the amount of movement needed from the player and when you’re in a PVP game where the action is pretty continual, those few seconds matter.

Real benefits

As you can see the Planetside system uses a simple tree structure that allows a number of benefits to be realised:

  1. Quick process that is easily learnt & ultimately becomes muscle memory driven
  2. As well as display text allows for a macro to play sound files, good for those that struggle to read in game text
  3. Easily configurable for different languages, allowing more cross language interaction

Even if you can get all of your team into a TeamSpeak server, there is no guarantee  that everyone has a microphone, or that they are able to talk due to other circumstances. This instantly puts certain people at a disadvantage which could be avoided or reduced at least by a Voice macro system.

What use

I see many games that could benefit from using a system such as this, Any games with large public raids/fights such as Warhammer or Rift.
I would have enjoyed being able to have been able to communicate with other raid members in Rift but not having to type everything to them.

I’ve played World of Tanks recently which has a basic alerting system in place but could use something to that’s more detailed and allows other players to co-ordinate easier and more fluidly, of course this removes any barriers that exists due to language and ultimately gives the players a more enjoyable experience.

The final use would see players in PUGs being able to interact in an easier manner,

I don’t think that every game needs a massive list of commands and some games would just be unsuitable for this type of system, But I’d like to see this creeping into more games in the Future.

Original Planetside Manual entry

4 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown”

  1. A two or three tier menu system sounds like a fine idea; as you say World of Tanks has some shortcuts, but there’s a limited amount of strategic planning you can do with “Attack!”, “Back to base!” and “Help!”

    The clickable mini-map in World of Tanks allows for some slight amplification (general indication of areas, when pilchards aren’t using it to try and denote a complex multi-phase attack entirely through the medium of flashing map squares); was it Guild Wars that let you draw on the mini-map with the results relayed to your team? That was quite nifty.

    1. Yes abuse of ingame systems is rather annoying, think Planetside only allowed 3 in a set amount of time, if you hit that limit, you had a 15 second cool down.
      Guild wars had a draw on minimap but it faded after a few seconds.

      Once you had command rank 3 in Planetside you could draw order for the platoon. This was very useful if you were planning stealth operations.
      I’ve like WoT to have the ability for players to get a general idea of which direction other people are going.

  2. V-V-W. Ah PlanetSide voice macros. Their comedy potential probably got an additional years worth of subs out of me alone. You are right though, such a simple, intuitive system, and it brought so much to the game. The ability to mock your defeated opponent was an inspired move too! Huh, best you can do? You’ll get better in time. BACK TO BASIC TRAINING!

    (also magenta cdc’s drawn on the map never got old)

    1. I would like to see some simple alerts in games like Battlefield, or more recently Space Marine. Alerting friendly to incoming forces at a capture point rather that just reacting once it’s captured.

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