I Scream. You Scream. We All Scream for More Chat Functions!

Posted: August 14, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

True interactivity is not about clicking on icons or downloading files, it’s about encouraging communication.  

-Edwin Schlossberg

Back in the “good ole’ days” of classic Everquest, there weren’t any custom chat channels.  If you wanted to run a raid, you either ran it in guildchat, or you took over an open channel like /shout or /ooc.  I remember seeing a Temple of Veeshan heal chain coordinated in /auction once. 

In a game which was essentially taking all its cues from chat heavy MUD’s and Diku’s, Everquest made it hard – harder than it needed to be to communicate with other players in those situations where communications was most needed. 

Even outside of raids, there was no private channels guilds could use to talk with applicants, and friends who left your server effectively left the ability to talk with you…ever.

Then one day, SOE wisened up. 

Starting with the release of the Planes of Power, SOE put an emphasis on communications.  New raid functions opened the door to a specific raid channel.  Players quickly gained the ability to create new chat channels, and eventually, you could even communicate with members not only on other servers – but in other games!  We even had EQ IM to play with.

Yet, here in Everquest II, functions we took for granted in Everquest simply don’t exist. 

I remember seeing a message everytime someone joined or left a chat channel I was in.  It sounds silly, but it really came in handy sometimes.  It wasn’t a very intrusive message, and you could turn it off if you wanted. 

It also let me see if someone had snuck into a chat channel who I didn’t want to be there.  Just like in IRC, if I wanted someone kicked or even blocked from a channel, we had the ability to set up channel owners and administrators.  Passwords for our channels actually worked. 

Where are these functions now?  Why can I even set a password on a channel in Everquest II when the function itself hasn’t worked effectively…well, ever? 

Even moving beyond what we once had, I’d love to be able to go a step further.  I’d like to be able to right click on channel names to receive menus for functionality.  I’d love to be able to set up macros that used a channel’s name and not merely its number for sending messages:  I want to set up “/healerchannel Overheal during this fight” instead of “/1 Overheal during this fight” only to find out that my channels have renumbered since the last time I logged on…again!

Maybe some of the answers I seek are coming with the upcoming Launchpad revamp. 

I sat in on the SOE Launchpad panel during FanFaire.  Looking around the room, it didn’t seem to be a terribly popular discussion – at least not with Everquest II players.  It’s a shame, really, because Nathan “Hammerfel” Pearce and Greg “Baelish” Short put on a great show.  I even caught SOE Chief Operations Officer, Russell Shanks sitting in the back row to see how the panel went. 

The new launchpad has some nice IM style features, such as universal buddy lists and chat clients.  They even mentioned an in-game “overlay” related to the launcher (which they couldn’t demo at the panel).  For what it’s worth, the launchpad seemed to be pretty good at doing what it was supposed to do. 

On top of that, SOE publically revealed they want to host free Teamspeak servers. 

That’s right, SOE wants YOU to use THEIR voice servers and THEIR bandwidth (and potentially view THEIR ads?) to use Teamspeak for in-game communications.  Suprisingly, this didn’t pull in half the excited chatter one might think.  If anything, it seemed to be a relatively muted response to a fairly large announcement. 

It could be because other studios have already beat SOE to the punch on this one.  Log into Lord of the Rings online or even Dungeons and Dragons Online and you’re already logging in to integrated voice chat.  Even Blizzard’s already announced that they’ll be including integrated voicechat within World of Warcraft.  The key word here is “integration”.

In Blizzard’s iteration (which may end up being the yardstick to measure against here), their version of integrated voicechat will mean that the game’s sound effects and music will mute down when someone in the group begins to speak.  You’ll have fully integrated messages in your existing chat windows indicating that someone is speaking.  They’re even talking about voicefonting (sound like a Tauren, etc.) to help out with roleplayers.

SOE’s voicechat solution isn’t integrated to any game.  In fact, it’s being designed to be accessible outside of their games altogether (you could technically use their Teamspeak servers for your CounterStrike game as I understood it).  Apparently, their voicechat will come with it’s own station “overlay” which sits on top of your existing gameplay (read:  another window to track?). 

So, even with SOE’s revamped launcher (which obviously isn’t game specific), the problems which exist in Everquest II’s chat channels aren’t being addressed.

People you don’t like can join your passworded channels and generally muck up the works if they so desire.  Because they can enter the channel, they can typically report you if they don’t like what you’re saying.  They can even take over the channel if they so desired. 

Has any of this happened to me?  Not yet.  However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from design:  if it can be done, it will be done.  I’m sure there’s at least a few players out there who have had to deal with the problems associated with Everquest II chat functions (or lack thereof) who wish there were ways to address the concerns.

Is it a major priority?  No.  Is it an exciting project for developers?  Likely not, it’s not nearly as sexy as guild halls or a new LFG tool.  But it’s still a function used by pretty much every player, several times per play session.  And that makes even minor improvements look much larger than they actually are.

It’s one of those little opportunities I think SOE should jump on.  Add in even a few little chat tidbits, and you could really chalk up a big W for the team.

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Comments
  1. Cordanim says:

    OMG – EQIM – the memories LOL. Did it ever actually make it out of beta? 🙂

    Great post Kendricke!

  2. kendricke says:

    Yeah, it was great. I used to keep it up at work, even.

    To be fair, the EQII team has something similar with EQ2players Guildchat, but it’s only for Guildchat. I can’t use it to send tells or join chat channels.

  3. LevLo says:

    you can actually use Guildchat to send tells, at least you could.. have had people use that function to pull jokes on me before.

  4. kendricke says:

    Well, I’ll be. You’re right. Well, chalk one up for my ever deteriorating mind. Thanks for that tidbit – I CAN send tells from Guildchat. Still can’t join channels, but at least I can send a tell.

  5. I *like* the idea of the voice chat being available external to the game. I cannot tell you how often I’ve wished the *in-game* chat functionality worked across games (including non-SOE), and my own guild’s ventrilo (and many others) host multi-game chat. That said, I definitely agree that an *integration* that muted sound (and otherwise smoothed voice usage) would definitely make my day.

    But I have to say… I hate teamspeak. Much prefer, um, other voice providers.

  6. Ke'la says:

    I think the reason that Teamspeak being given away free from SoE did not get alot of happy people is because its been my experiance (atleast on my sever) that a majorty(or atleast a purality) of the people that use Voicechat currently prefure Vent servers to Teamspeak, plus most guilds already have a Voice Chat server.

  7. kendricke says:

    When the announcement was made, they hadn’t yet mentioned Teamspeak – just free voicechat. Later, during the course of the discussion, Teamspeak was mentioned as the platform du jour.

  8. Kilanna says:

    Personally, I love the idea.

    Voice chat just adds an extra dimension to your in game relationships. I love that our guild has a teampspeak server so I can speak with guildies. You can have a giggle, talk about rubbish game stuff – yesterday I got advice on purchasing some Spell ugrades for my Templar girl.

    Advice on what tactics have worked for your class in raids before is something else that I have been able to discuss over team speak. It was much quicker, detailed, and generally much more pleasant to chat about rather than type lots of questions out – so score one for integrated chat functions.

  9. Akote says:

    If Teamspeak is the choice of SOE it is a bad one. Teamspeak pales in comparisson to Ventrillo. I have gone out the way to rent a Vent server for my own guild rather than use a free Teamspeak server. I didnt just try one Teamspeak server and leave. I tried quite a few of them and none had the quality of Ventrillo.

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