Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wouldn't it be Cool if...? Speechless

Everyone is interested in Bioware's fully voiced MMO, SWTOR. Despite not being the first to have quality voice acting, they certainly will come in cheaper than hiring Mark Hamill and half the cast of Firefly like DCUO did. Still, I have been thinking lately...

How about an MMO with zero text or voice?

It could be of any style, really: Sandbox or theme park, sci-fi or fantasy. The main point is that it would have no dialogue, no voice acting, no text of any kind. Everything would be communicated through speech bubbles with picture in them, or character gestures such as pointing. Characters would not receive names either.

This hypothetical game is to prove a bit of a theory of mine: Players will become inventive to work around the communication barrier by relying on the in-game gestures, and by that measure become more cooperative. Of course, some will cheat and use ventrillo or third party chat programs, but you can't win them all.

The style would extend to the entire interface as well. The only thing with text would be the launcher program, with news, and the options screen. Otherwise, you have the minimap, your inventory, and health/energy bars. To make it work, things would have to be presented in a clear, possibly a bit cartoony, fashion so that wood in your inventory is never mistaken for something that you made out of wood.

I think this could present interesting challenges to the players. Say you have a sandbox style game, and you are attempting to build a house. Trading for materials is its own challenge, as well as just building the thing. Though, now that I think about it, cooperative sandbox would work best for this model. If there would be combat, abilities would not be able to be used as text is disallowed. Or, at least many abilities.

Music and sounds would play important roles as well. Setting the mood, of course, but also knowing when danger is nearby. I would expect players could choose from a number of noises to make that could mean a variety of things, such as enemies incoming, help needed, or just being obnoxious.

I will admit, I haven't got the idea entirely fleshed out yet, but I find the concept very interesting. What do you think?


  1. Didn't they try to make a Myst MMO at one point?

  2. I should do just a tiny bit of research before mentioning this because at the moment its merely something I vaguely remember being told by someone else at some point in the past.

    But, with that caveat, I believe that mmos for the very young limit player-player communication to a fixed set of emotes to prevent predators from having inappropriate access to minors. I'm wondering if that's the sort of thing you're talking about and if such players end up developing complicated mechanisms to get around the restrictions.

  3. "But, with that caveat, I believe that mmos for the very young limit player-player communication to a fixed set of emotes to prevent predators from having inappropriate access to minors."

    ToonTown and things of that nature have that. It's very useful, and friends can trade codes in real life so they unlock chat between two people.

    Similar, yes, but I'm talking about making lack of text/speech a design choice rather than a security feature.

    And Wilhelm, I believe they might have. I'm not terribly sure on that one.

  4. REALLY interesting idea - thanks. I think the Sims Online did something like this, or am I mistaken?

    Regardless, I love it. I've featured the idea, and also taken and run with it a bit, over at the Melting Pot today.

  5. I'm quite honored! I read the Melting Pot all the time, and I definitely appreciate the link.

  6. .<.?(


    Figure that out and you may get to go on your first quest.

  7. Given that, as I mentioned in the second single sentence paragraph, there would be no text at all, your situation wouldn't apply.

    But thanks for playing!


    Go down to Communication System: "Communication between players is achieved via a combination of direct 2-line text entry, Symbol Chat, Word Select, and/or by keyboard (optional.)"

    Part of the draw of PSO was that you could play Japanese and English players and still communicate enough to play together. The biggest challenge was getting symbols that both cultures understood.

  9. Thanks for the link! I wasn't aware something like this was already implemented, in a way.

    And I can understand the cross-cultural problem there. Didn't think of it as a method for bridging that gap, but I suppose with enough thought put into the system it would work very well.