The Deafening Silence of Today’s MMO Chat

by Wolfshead on May 23, 2009

For the past few months I’ve noticed a marked decrease in people chatting in Blizzard’s WoW.  Of course I haven’t enjoyed general chat in WoW for many years now because of the immaturity of the discussions — the trolling, the outbursts, the idiocy and the incessant begging. In most cases I just leave all chat channels. But occasionally I summon up the courage to have faith in humanity and I turn on general chat.

I have found that rejoining general chat channels is a way to pay it forward by helping other players and occasionally I have met some exceptional people. The problem is that chat is so dead that I mistakenly figure that I’ve turned off the chat channel when in reality I’m still there.

Is chat as a MMO activity on the decline?

Are We Chatting Less Now?

At first I thought it was just my own anecdotal observations then I came upon this interesting thread on the official WoW forums entitled: Less Chatting Now? Here’s what the original poster says:

I was away from wow for the last 5 months of BC and the first 2-3 months of Wrath. Now that I’m back, one thing I’ve noticed is that it seems people are a whole lot less chatty. People seem to log on, do their thing, and are watching TV or surfing, or whatnot while playing for most of it, focusing when they need to. Is this just my own curse, or are people less social now that they are a bit jaded by the game?

(General and Trade tends to be just as chatty – but that’s bad chatty!)

He may be referring to guild chat. But I submit that the same observation applies to general chat from my personal experience on the server where I play. For whatever reason there seem to be significantly less people chatting in public channels.

Here’s a portion of a thoughtful reply to the OP of the thread:

The game, and mainly the community, is so drastically different from the Vanilla WoW days that most of the real hardcores (most…some of you are still playing, and good for you to stick it out) are long gone.

What’s left is a new player base and new behaviors. In TBC, it was a bunch of non-mmo experienced players jumping on board. What did we get? A new game (not more WoW) to appease them. In WotLK, you are now dealing with some very, very new players. I would venture to say that a good 6-7/10 players on every realm currently, never played before TBC.

They’re not chatting because a) they don’t know what they’re talking about and would rather listen and learn (smart) b) they are new to the genre and fail to grasp that community is the most important thing in any mmo c) they’re extremely impatient, low attention span players. They don’t have time to chat with guildies and form relationships that will pay off in raids later, they don’t have time to study websites and learn their class, they don’t have time to research a high level dungeon or raid before running it, etc, etc, etc.

The bottom line is this: Players who have FUN, but also recognize that part of the fun is being the best you can be for yourself and other players, are in the mass minority at this point in WoW’s life. Back in the pre-bc days, I would say that the majority of even casuals were more talkative and attentive than the hardcores today.

People today just want to log on, get into some quick action, and log off. They’re not “living” in the game world the way they used to and as a result, they’re not forming the relationships that they once did.

New MMO Demographics

Much of what the poster is saying is true. To expand on what he is saying, I think much of the problem lies in the quality of the shifting demographics due to “churn” that constitutes the WoW player base. The average WoW subscriber of 2009 is much different then the WoW subscriber of 2004 — younger, immature, short attention spans and weaned on over-stimulation and the current reward reward reward philosophy of game design.


Quite frankly the caliber of new MMO players is much lower despite some rare exceptions. Chances are they probably aren’t as educated and have a lower soci0-economic status than the early adopters of MMOs back in the day. Consequently the quality of conversation that these new players are capable of will also be much lower. One only has to join General and Trade channels for evidence of this. This may be having the effect of driving elder players away from general chat which makes the situation even worse as the chat even further deteriorates.

Lack of Chat Enforcement

This is an issue I’ve dealt with on many occasions. Due to a reactive rather then proactive enforcement on the part of MMO customer service it’s quite possible that players have become more insular and retreated into the solace of  the privacy of themselves, guildmates and friends. It could be that many players have decided to avoid altogether public chat channels. After all, who needs the aggravation?

If Blizzard was truly committed to the notion of community instead of paying it lip service then they’d start aggressively policing general chat channels.

Casual Friendly Design Discourages the Value of Chat and Socialization

MMO players have shorter gaming sessions compared to the good old days. Due to the casual friendly design of WoW — where you can log in and feel like you are making progress in a short period of time — it has created players who are more transient in nature. As the poster said, they don’t feel connected to the server community as players did in the golden age of MMO’s like EverQuest.

Even the veteran players have changed. MMO elders that eventually grew up found that they could no longer play the long hours they were accustomed to. As the poster says, they want to log on, have their fun then log off. Given these time restrictions and the fact that MMOs are so achievement focused there seems little room for anything else — especially when you are running around like a madman killing things to complete your 25 daily quests.

It’s much harder to get to know people and develop relationships with them when your play sessions are shorter.

It’s also worth mentioning that the solo friendly nature of WoW where group interdependency is not important also has created an environment where communication with other players is no longer necessary. If you don’t need other players then why would you ever want to chat with them? Fellow players become little more then animated, fancy NPCs.

The Frenzied Pace of Combat

Eager to appeal to a new generation of gamers raised on fast paced FPS games Blizzard sped up combat considerably and reduced all of the “down time”. Mobs die noticeably much faster in WoW then they did in previous MMOs like EverQuest.

Back in the days of EverQuest the designers had the wisdom to pace combat so that players had time to socialize via chat in between battles. Many players objected to the down time and eventually the devs caved in and reduced it. Little did they know that fewer opportunities to socialize would be the unintended consequences.

Players Socializing More Outside then Inside the Game?

Maybe this new breed of MMO gamers likes to socialize about the game outside of the game via forums, blogging, Twitter, texting, etc. It could be that people want to spend their limited time just “playing” and to exclude everything else.

No Public Chat in Free Realms

While I find Free Realms delightful and fascinating it’s a virtual world devoid of public chat channels. The only way you can communicate in chat is if you are in proximity of another player which is very similar to the “/say” chat channel in most MMORPGs. According to a MTV interview with John Smedley a console version of Free Realms will be released in late 2009 which could explain why there is hardly any general chat features in the PC version.

While I can understand the reason that a kid friendly MMO wouldn’t want some idiot spewing hateful speech in a general chat channel it’s troubling nonetheless. When these kids grow up and graduate to a more adult MMO they are more likely to bring with them with a non-chat mindset.

Nostalgia

Chat in MMOs and virtual worlds is vitally important — at least it used to be. When I made the migration from single-player games to massively multi-player online games like EverQuest the fact that I could talk to actual players blew me away. Being able to communicate with fellow players and share experiences, stories and memories was a fundamental underpinning of the magic of virtual worlds. Getting to meet people from all over the world was for me a major selling point of MMOs as it changed the “game” experience and into a “world” experience.

It could be that I’m just being nostalgic for the golden age of MMOs where talking to players actually had a measurable effect on your enjoyment of the game. Back then being a friendly sociable person meant that you could get a group, get a guild, make a name for yourself — a players reputation actually mattered back then. Sadly none of that matters now as today’s MMOs have become orgies of achievement leaving other valid play styles (explorers and socializers) far behind.

Conclusion

The future is not looking bright for player communication as an integral part of mainstream MMOs. Consider that in the next few years both Blizzard and Turbine will be releasing big budget MMOs for the growing console market. Consoles don’t have keyboards so you can expect chat in those MMOs to be minimal.

As this industry becomes more mainstream chat seems to be a feature that is falling by the wayside. MMO designers need to take a step back and stop the “coolness” arms race and focus on the basics again. One of those fundamentals should be to create MMOs and virtual worlds where people value communicating with each other once again. After all wasn’t that the point of being part of a massively multi-player online world in the first place — interacting with other players?

-Wolfshead

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Tesh May 23, 2009 at 7:32 pm

“It’s much harder to get to know people and develop relationships with them when your play sessions are shorter.”

Perhaps, but at the same time, the best experiences I’ve had with other people has been with short session gaming. (Notably Puzzle Pirates, though it’s built around short session gaming, with the option for marathon sessions, has excellent community communication tools, and some of the best “MMO players” I’ve seen.) The key is that I build relationships over several short sessions. True, maybe that requires a bit more retention and processing than the typical Bejeweled or Peggle marathon, but I don’t think that short session gaming in itself is really all that bad. It’s a concession to the busier lifestyle of those who have really managed to grow up… who also tend to have memories, courtesy and a will to build a session at a time.

No, I lay the blame more on the Achievement mentality; people pop into WoW more to grind out their latest ‘Ding’ alternate, and can’t be bothered with the *world*. WoW is more of a game than a world, in other words, and this is just one symptom of that underlying structural foundation.

Reply

SsandmanN May 24, 2009 at 1:13 am

“Orgies of achievement”… that’s right
Dont you just hate when you see an upcoming world event? Some festival or something? I just want to puke my guts out when I see it on the callendar, cause I know whats gonna follow.
I would be set for 2-3 days of bearded dwarves in long pink dresses chasing after hordes of pink rabbits sprawling everywhere, raids forming to find the legendary troll female and all that madness. When you try to get a group for somewhere everyone is busy getting their rabbit ears achievement or whatever.
Noone could be bothered to do anything meaningful until the long list of stupid groceries is completed.
“But why arent you doing your achievements?”
“Cause I dont wanna. I dont enjoy it, I dont like it, so I dont do it.”
“But dont you want to get a black proto drake?” or whatever the color is.
“No! If I did want a protodrake, wouldnt it be easier to just get the red one from the heroics? Is it really worthed to participate in a year-wide madness errand fest just to get it in a different shade of purple? Besides I already have a flying mount, what am I gonna use the second one for?”
“You could show it off?!”
“To whom? When I’m flying, there is usually noone around… Or do you mean go /afk in front of the instance with it? Oh yeah! What is that gonna say? I’m the moron who did meaningless shit every single month for about a year, just to go /afk in front of an instance and go get a well deserved snack. Eat yer shorts everybody!”

Reply

Longasc May 24, 2009 at 2:24 am

Excellent article!

You listed numerous reasons for this decline in chat quality and activity. I think I got one more.

I was thinking about this yesterday. It was hard to get even one word, even if it would be just the ubiquitous LOL, out of my party (Guild Wars).

VOICE CHAT might also be a reason. We live in a time of media change, and sending text messages over the mobile phone seems to be the last relic where people use some kind of keyboard to actually communicate.

Some years ago you were only invited to a “TeamSpeak/Ventrilo” session if people were to do a harder dungeon or raid. Nowadays people do not bother with you or sometimes even make it a requirement to join TeamSpeak if you want to play with them.

My headset was some 100 km away from me, so well, I have no clue what they were talking about. And nobody really talked to me either. I was lucky enough that my partner (we did some kind of specialized “farming” run, consisting of 3 teams of 2-3 players) reacted at least to a whisper. I told him he did a good job.

Me and some of my friends do rarely bother with voice chat. Only the (still) WoW playing faction of my friends is basically glued to their headsets.

Voice chat is horrible for strangers. If you are a stranger and team up with a group of friends, you are rarely “welcomed” into the chat. They continue to chat about their insider knowledge and sometimes parts of their life you honestly do not want to know and should not know about…!

Well designed chat systems are EXTREMELY important for the socialization and fun in a MMO. At least to me, but not so much for the new kind of MMO player.

I tell you, I hate this VOIP trend. It breaks immersion, the talk is about as base and shallow as most Twitter feeds, and it totally destroys the game world. Roleplaying was already near extinct and I do not say hardcore roleplaying was enjoyable. But people nowadays see their chars more than some kind of tool. They pick what works best, has the most powerful skills or a broken ability that totally rules. They do not play a Paladin or a Warlock because they like to be a fighter and healer for good, or an evil bastard. They pick what seems to be the most advantageous tool rather than playing a character.

This text was probably already too long. I should have offered 5 heroic badges or an achievement for reading it. :(

Reply

Nugget May 31, 2009 at 8:04 pm

@Longasc

Couple of things from the viewpoint of the battery golden one! I’m quoting out of order, but hopefully not out of context.

“VOICE CHAT might also be a reason. We live in a time of media change, and sending text messages over the mobile phone seems to be the last relic where people use some kind of keyboard to actually communicate.”

To be honest… I HATE voicechat in a PUG. When I was playing WoW, if I was PUGging a non-raid, I would go so far as to lie and say I didn’t have it. This was after some bad experiences back in vanilla WoW where I had to listen to a group of very, very silly people telling me to mind-control dorfs off the bridge inside the BlackRock Depths instance… If idiocy is bad in text, it’s even worse in stereo sound where you can’t ignore it. XD

Voicechat is nice with friends but… as an oldskool MUDder and stuff, I actually personally feel a lot more comfortable with text in an online setting – even when voicechat has people I’ve known for close to a decade. Of course I wouldn’t rather text my friend sitting right next to me at the dinner table… but voicechat on the Internet still feels weird to me. I’m probably just showing my age. :(

“I was thinking about this yesterday. It was hard to get even one word, even if it would be just the ubiquitous LOL, out of my party (Guild Wars).”

Not specific to GW – if the other party members aren’t using voicechat with you excluded, then I find it’s a bit more complex than ‘people just hate talking now’. (Not that that’s what you’re saying … that’s my tangent lol.)

I think it’s more of… in a random group, you have to given them more of a reason to WANT to talk to you and interact with you above the level of ‘don’t overextend’ ‘follow the arrow’. I agree that it’s really hard to get even a few words out of some ?many? people, but once you do, sometimes you find they’re really chatty and funny. It’s just that, like you, they’ve burned out on idiots and can’t be bothered anymore.

Two examples, one from WoW, one from GW.

WoW:
When I was playing my pally tank just before I stopped, I picked up this pretty good hunter in a PUG. He was VERY quiet, never made trouble, and was very good dps, so of course I put him on friends to be able to look him up again.

I think in the 3 months we ran together, he never said more than 30 words to me total. And the things he did say were extremely abbreviated, such as ‘Tks.’ ‘Instance?’ … Man of few words, that guy! But somehow, he was nice… or he felt nice. I don’t actually know why… but he *felt* nice. I actually started teasing him about how little he said, ‘Ooh he said 6 words!’ Hunter: ‘lol’

So maybe some people are just naturally… taciturn, even online! XD You can still have fun and rapport. Or I was just deluding myself – I leave it up to you to decide!

GW:
I can be extremely spammily chatty, or pretty much totally silent, depending on my mood. Usually I’m quite social in a group (even PUGs) as long as they aren’t stressing me too much, especially in a healing role. However, sometimes I am very quiet because I just want to get things done.

I was running a mission (Vizunah Square, from local quarter), and had failed 6 times in a row already due to bad pair-ups from the foreign quarter. (Apologies to those who don’t play GW and don’t understand what the pairing means.) So by the time I got to my 7th try I was really quiet and just praying for a decent pairup. Monosyllabic nugget!

On my 7th try I got lucky though. =) It started with a simple chat from the other guy, ‘I’ll take left side.’ … which *blush* I didn’t respond to immediately because I was so busy killing my side. And only eventually responded to (when most of the things were dead) with a very eloquent *preen*, ‘kk’.

But since the guy could play decently and actually SAID something zomg – I’m used to being the first one to talk in a mission… I commented (in a good way) on one of the skills his AI was using, and somehow we starting having CHAT fun from there on.

…I now run regularly with this guy, he introduced me to more of his friends, all flavoured in various kinds of nuttiness that I like, and chat in _those_ groups is generally lively and great.

So maybe it’s not as simple as ‘people just don’t talk anymore’ but more of … of the social folk who do like to chat, many are just tired, and aren’t willing to make the effort it takes to make the first move socially anymore. If you do though, people seem in general quite happy to chat back… At least that I’ve found. =)

(Yay another spamalicious nugget post!)

Reply

Brian 'Psychochild' Green May 24, 2009 at 4:08 am

Part of this might also be the sheer size of the servers in current MMOs. As I remember it, WoW servers have about twice the population of EQ severs; that cool person you ran into the other day may not bump into you much later. By that time, they might have forgotten your name. Since there’s no reason to keep track of competent group members, there’s no reason to remember who you are. The short time I spent playing EQ I got remembered by someone since we grouped a few times and worked well together. I didn’t have many such experiences in WoW despite playing it a much longer time.

My thoughts,

Reply

Spinks May 24, 2009 at 5:07 am

I think you’re right. Casual friendly design discourages socialising — the casual players they attract don’t want to spend hours hanging out and chatting, they want to go kill stuff.

We used to comment a lot that Warhammer Online felt so quiet. Everyone was so busy with the scenarios, public quests, et al that … people didn’t chatter on the world channels.

I wonder if being sociable is a form of hardcore, because you do need to sink some time into building rapport with fellow players. If time is limited, people may not bother.

Reply

Spinks May 24, 2009 at 5:08 am

Tesh: building relationships over short session gaming only works if your short sessions overlap with other people’s short sessions. The longer you are online, the greater the chance that you’ll overlap online time with someone you know /unless/ the game actually works in predefined sessions (ie. everyone logs in to do dailies at a set time of day).

Reply

Tesh May 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Oh, sure, but in my experience, finding like-minded people with similar schedules (useful for guild membership) tends to be self-reinforcing. If someone is always playing at the same time every day because of their schedule, which also predicates short session gaming, it’s likely that they will be online the same time I am because of how my schedule dictates my play time.

A Puzzle Pirates example: Skellie hunting. The Skellies used to come out at the same time every day, and I’d try to be there every day to fight them. There were a bunch of other souls who did the same thing, and I struck up friendships with more than a few of those players, even though it’s almost all that some of them did in the game.

Socializing isn’t always about random chat. It can just as often be about finding those with similar interests and schedules, and short session gaming isn’t much of an impediment to that.

Reply

Tesh May 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Oh, and when Three Rings changed the schedule so that Skellies were more randomly scheduled, *that* was more of an impediment to socializing than the fact that Skellies themselves only took at most half an hour to properly hunt. I know a few players who quit playing the game because of that; the randomization blew their schedule out of whack, and they couldn’t do what they wanted to do in the game without being forced into long session gaming. It was a design decision that opened Skellies up to more people (since it was more random, rather than the Skellie Hunters getting all the fun), but it all but destroyed an interesting little subculture in the game. Skellie hunters were almost a “superguild” of players that knew each others as friends with shared interests and schedules, but who weren’t in the same guild (crew). Busting that schedule opened Skellie Hunting to the masses, but it all but wrecked the sociality of the existing Skellie Hunters. (There are still dedicated hunters who have a sort of “forum guild” that spreads the word of located Skellies through a grassroots grapevine, but it’s definitely a more fractured social construct these days.)

Reply

Spinks May 24, 2009 at 11:06 pm

It makes sense that having regular scheduled events would help socialising. Quite interesting to see the effect it had in puzzle pirates!

Reply

Tesh May 25, 2009 at 8:20 am

Indeed. The schedule was key there. I completely agree with you that random short session gaming doesn’t work all that well. ;)

Ramon May 25, 2009 at 12:23 am

Also, watch kids’ typing speeds. Text chat simply isn’t convenient if even typing a simple LOL takes 4 seconds, or more while pecking at skill hotkeys and changing targets.

I remember the EverQuest times and now Shards of Dalaya where people touch-type strategy changes while fighting a mob :)

Is touch-typing even required learning today?

Excuse the brevity, I’m posting from a phone :(

Reply

Tesh May 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

Good point.

I do think that kids in general are more tech savvy than were those of yonder bygone years, but decaying literacy more than makes up for that familiarity. I’m still amazed by how many people make extraordinarily simple mistakes and show no interest in learning proper English.

Reply

Chris F May 25, 2009 at 7:28 am

There is no break in gameplay anymore.

WoW/War is terrible for it. WAR especially, I noticed, if you are typing in chat you are losing PVP. The pace is so fast with buttonmashing, if you aren’t on VOIP you aren’t communicating.

EQ, on the other hand, had “forced” downtime – slowed down your progression but all you had was people to talk to at that time. Heck, you had to stare IN your spellbook to get mana back.

Reply

SsandmanN May 25, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Well, I dont think that shifting chat from text channel to VoIP channel is a bad thing at all. It just requires a new mindset for developers, so they provide the VoIP infrastructure in their game. WoW voice chat is rather bad at the moment.
And of course people can’t all talk at the same time, so a global text channel will not be extinct.
I see it more like newspapers becoming less popular with the introduction of radio, radio less popular with introduction of TV, TV with the introduction of www etc.
As to people being less mature in chat channels… well, they are :)
The game is 12+ and the demographic is leaning toward the lower boundary so you tend to bump into teenagers more often than not.
The majority of the gaming comunity is comprised of teenage males, if you don’t enjoy talking to them you either need to build up your own little mature guild, or you need to find a game with a more mature demographic.
The second thing is much harder :)

Reply

Longasc May 25, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Ramon, this is an interesting observation. I have no clue how fast some kids can type.

But they can type text messages on their mobile phone VERY fast. I wonder if this does not translate in some kind of faster keyboard typing speed, or if computers have all become pure windows style point and click. Younger players also have several times more “actions per seconds” with the UI in games like Warcraft III than me. I am not sure how much of it is just hyperfast key and mouse button mashing.

Reply

Ramon May 26, 2009 at 2:15 am

Longasc, I think it doesn’t translate too well, unfortunately. In the end, a phone keypad is just a keypad with 9 keys, those 9 keys translate to 26+ characters either via T9 autocomplete or with multiple keypresses.

So what teenagers are actually good at is entering series of digits very quickly with their thumbs. I don’t think it “scales” to a full keyboard :)

On the other hand, I’m very sure that kids would be quick at learning touch-typing. I was about 14 when I learned it, it took perhaps four weeks with just a few hours a week of practice. A few years later came EverQuest, and I’d be willing to bet that having to be quick with my typing in EQ has improved my typing speed a lot.

I was a UNIX admin for a while, so those skills translated directly to my job :)

I’m not saying typing is more valuable than voice chat, but at least EQ taught me *some* real-life skills ;)

Reply

Rebecca Martin May 26, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I’m torn, while I believe that chat is a fundamental part of the MMO experience; my new love and obsession FreeRealms is showing me that Speed Chat and limited range open Chat has greatly improved the quality of my Chat experience and has made the open Chat sessions I have more meaningful because I can’t just type /1 and have the ear of the entire server, I also don’t have to deal with some jackass Teenager who thinks it’s amusing to pretend he’s a pedophile, nor do I have to endure xXDidurmomhardXx or his moronic Friend MadeLindseymoan and I love it.

Rumor has it that SOE is feverishly working on an more adult Fantasy MMO that incorporates the FreeRealms Model (Everquest 3?? ) that will incorporate both the chat system as well as the mandatory Name generator…..and I strongly believe this is what Blizzard is working to compete against behind closed doors.

Yes the landscape is changing the wild west is pretty much over, but that need not be a bad thing, the friends (who are older players with Chat enabled) I have made are more tight knit, and are not about the shock factor that joe B.net Kiddie is.

Reply

Capn John May 28, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I’m 40 years old (almost) and never learned to formally touch-type using the Home Keys, but I did type this entire comment using my own version of touch typing (mostly 6-fingered with the occasional peek at the keyboard) and I made just a couple of mistakes. Meanwhile my typing speed has been clocked at approx. 80wpm.

Where did I learn to type that fast? (I know it’s not blistering fast, but it’s still fast enough.)

MUDs & MOOs :)

To keep up with the conversation in MOOs you not only need to be able to read and process very quickly, but type quickly, too. Mudders rarely used leet-speak (other than the standard LOL, etc), so you couldn’t get away with many of today’s abbreviations. You had to be able to type properly, quickly, and with few mistakes if you wanted to participate. Slow typists learned to type fast, or they got left behind.

I’ve tried to learn to touch type correctly, using the home keys, but I’ve found it nigh on impossible. I just can’t keep at it long enough to change my style. Anyway, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and 80wpm is fast enough by today’s standards for all but the most demanding keyboarding jobs.

Reply

Wolfshead June 5, 2009 at 12:42 am

Thanks everyone for the insightful comments. I’ve been in the process of moving for the past 2 weeks and finally have some time to savor them now :)

@Tesh: I agree that the achievement based content is a big part of the reason people don’t have the time to chat any more. Chat doesn’t help the players achivement based “bottom line”.

Chat = unproductive
Killing Mobs = productive

@SsandmanN: I completely concur with you regarding your sentiments on achievements. I almost loathe seeing new festivals now despite the fact that as a game designer I feel compelled to check them out :)

@Longasc: Good point about voice chat. As I finished the article I thought about mentioning it but wondered how common it is currently. I suspect it’s only used for raiding right now.

I am very concerned about its potential to erode immersion. One of my first articles back in 2005 dealt with this topic.

http://www.wolfsheadonline.com/?p=12

@Brian

Since there’s no reason to keep track of competent group members, there’s no reason to remember who you are. The short time I spent playing EQ I got remembered by someone since we grouped a few times and worked well together. I didn’t have many such experiences in WoW despite playing it a much longer time.

I completely agree. There’s no real value for remember good players in WoW.

Another thing is that since leveling is so easy chances are someone you met while you were both level 30 may be level 60 next week while you are level 35. With longer leveling times there is less of a chance of a level gap between players you have grouped with previously.

One more reason is that leveling locations are plentiful in MMOs like WoW. So the player population is scattered versus the good old days of EverQuest where players had to go to specific areas to level.

@Spinks:

I wonder if being sociable is a form of hardcore, because you do need to sink some time into building rapport with fellow players. If time is limited, people may not bother.

This is very good point. Being social really only matters when it can help you advance your character i.e. joining a group or guild. Only someone who is hardcore would care about developing social skills and relationships. Again this ties into the achievement mentality that is so prevalent in MMOs like WoW.

@Ramon:

Also, watch kids’ typing speeds. Text chat simply isn’t convenient if even typing a simple LOL takes 4 seconds, or more while pecking at skill hotkeys and changing targets.

Very true. It’s sad when you consider how easy WoW is to play and the fact that there are all kinds of mods and addons which make it even easier.

Just one glance at the illiteracy on display at the official WoW forums shows you how bad the situation is with our new “texting” generation.

Like you I wistfully recall the olden days of EQ where we’d type out complete raid strats in a text channel — no videos to learn the encounters back then and no voice com either.

@Rebecca: I’m torn about this as well. I can see the benefits of not having open chat in a MMO like Free Realms. I am just concerned that we are all becoming too insular.

Many of the folks here have commented on how they immediately turn off general chat and enjoy the sanctuary of guildchat or even no chat.

I think that MMO companies need to find more creative ways to ensure that general chat channels don’t descend into chaos and madness that will drive away new subscribers much like I was driven away by EQ2 last year.

People who use chat have a great power to influence the gameplay experience of other players. I recall a famous quote: with great power comes great responsibility. Yet in most MMOs every person has all of this power but no responsibility to be accountable for their words.

If MMO companies are going to allow players to have access to general chat then they need a strict system to enforce it with serious consequences. If not then forget general chat altogether as it can be a huge negative to the play experience of both new and existing players.

@Capn John:

I think it takes just as much time to use “leetspeak” as it does normal English. Economy was always used as an excuse for it but then how do you explain “hawt” which has one more letter then “hot”?

Back when I was a GM in WoW I reckoned that if a player was too lazy to type properly then they were probably too lazy to follow the instruction of the raid leader. It was a good way to weed out bad players.

Reply

Kraft June 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Hi! Long time reader, first time writer, but I just felt compelled to join in.

I don’t think that the lack of chat can be blamed on any one factor, but rather a collective of reasons why. MMOGs today seem to be more and more like the fast-food of the MMORPG market (and considerably seem to be missing the RP element – hence why I missed it out ^_~). What we’re seeing is a rash of hip, young kids who don’t want to come into the restaurant, decide on a nice 8oz. steak, order it to their liking, wait 30-60 minutes for the chef to cook it to perfection and enjoy their food as ordered – they want food, they want it now! The satisfaction and enjoyment of having a decent meal is overshadowed by the fast, convenient fat and calories that keep them clamouring back for more, all the while you, me and a handfull of our peers are sat in the Al Fresco dining area, muttering to ourselves about the sorry state of the youth of today and what they’re missing out on.

Unfortunately in this rapid, “Always Connected” consumer society, people don’t feel that they can take their time and enjoy things as they always have to be on the go, and when they do get IRL down-time the last thing they want to do is to work at something – they want results and they want them now. Chat, like RP, planning, strategy, playing your class well and being a nice person seem to have gone the way of the 5-star restaurant, the ability to make wooden toy trains like my granddad made for me, weaving, knitting, hula-hooping and everything else that wasn’t instant gratification.

Like everything in humanity though, there will be a revival. In 20 years, those of us young enough to remember the good old days will get a new wave of kids into chatting again – and whilst that hope remains I shall keep logging on, and enjoy being a part of the world – my world – the one where I choose to live.

Reply

Max June 15, 2009 at 9:41 am

I blame it on whiny carebears like you :). I never ever had any issues with public channels. I never understood the snobby attitude to general channels -yes you sometimes see stuff you don’t like there .So what? -DEAL WITH IT. If it offends you you need grow thicker skin

But you reap what you saw – majority of players like you never really defended any features which make player interaction richer, you always wanted to be shielded/guarded from everything. And you have it now – WoTLK, your perfect little game , where you are shielded from any “unnecessary” and annoying playing interaction .

And now you QQ. Lol.

Reply

Wolfshead June 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I blame it on whiny carebears like you :) .

Why am I a carebear? Is it because I adhere to the official WoW Terms of Use provisions that ensure that there is no hateful, racist or derogatory language on public chat channels?

Would it be because when I see violations of the Terms of Use I report them to Blizzard?

If following the rules that ensure that public chat channels don’t descend into a cesspool controlled by a few immature bullies makes me a “carebear” then I wear that badge with pride :)

I never ever had any issues with public channels.

Just because you have no problem with people who destroy the gaming experience because of what they say on chat doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to tolerate it.

So what? -DEAL WITH IT. If it offends you you need grow thicker skin

No. People who violate the rules need to start following the rules. Stop blaming the victims instead of blaming the offenders.

But you reap what you saw – majority of players like you never really defended any features which make player interaction richer, you always wanted to be shielded/guarded from everything.

If you’ve read my blog for any period of time I’m all for rich player interaction and more player freedom and emergent gameplay. But player freedom does not imply license to say whatever one feels like on a public chat channel.

And you have it now – WoTLK, your perfect little game , where you are shielded from any “unnecessary” and annoying playing interaction .

WotLK is not my perfect little game. If you bothered to read the articles on my I’m probably the biggest Blizzard/WoW critic on the Internet and much of it has been directed at WotLK. In fact I loathe the safe MMO that Blizzard has created where players are controlled at almost every step.

What I’m concerned about has nothing to do with freedom of speech on chat — no commercial MMO will ever allow that so you’re wasting your breath– it’s a deeper concern with how we as players can express ourselves within the context of the virtual world.

You seem to be implying that chat in MMO’s is dying because people can no longer swear, violate the rules and that people are actually reporting them. That is hardly the case as Blizzard is lax in enforcment but if that is the chat that is dying then good riddance.

Reply



Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }