Raph Koster on roleplaying consent and emotes in Star Wars Galaxies and WoW

    
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MMORPG designer Raph Koster has a fun piece out today, ostensibly about what he’s dubbing “consent systems” in multiplayer games that include roleplaying — the rules that govern free-form roleplaying, like who gets to do what to other characters and whether consent is necessary. As most roleplayers surely know, it’s generally considered inappropriate to act something out on another character without consent. You can shoot a gun at someone, but it’s up to that someone to decide whether she’s been shot or dodges out of the way. You open your arms to try to hug someone, but you never treat the response to your action as a foregone conclusion — you wait for the recipient to acknowledge and respond. You attempt, but you never assume success.

The part that’s of interest to MMORPG players specifically is where Koster talks about formal emote systems in MMOs and how they can break that roleplayer’s consent code. For example, he criticizes World of Warcraft’s MUD-inspired emote list, which include things like massaging someone’s shoulders and slapping another player — none of which leaves open a response from the recipient.

Why does World of Warcraft go that route, eschewing the lessons learned from MUDs and MUSHes? Part of it’s down to improved graphics, specifically the desire to animate emotes.

“When we moved to graphical worlds, some of this became obligatory if we wanted to display it using character animations. A canned ‘hug’ emote will result in someone just sticking their arms out and waving them about; unless the target is within range and positioned correctly, the animation will be to empty air. And if someone isn’t also reading the chat box, it will be nonsensical. You can either choose to simply not animate all of these powerful social tools… or you can solve the problem.”

Star Wars Galaxies, Koster notes, was a bit of a hybrid: It “still used the MUD-style impositional emotes, but tied as much as graphical support in as [it] could.”

“We detected words embedded in your chat in order to affect body and facial animations,” he explains. “We attempted to set avatar eye line based on who was speaking most recently.”

The whole piece is worth a look for roleplay fans or just anybody who’s frustrated with modern MMOs’ lack of support for roleplay tools.

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Robert Mann

I agree with those noting the 2nd life system as something that could be a reasonable solution.

That said, I believe the best way of doing so would be a notice with the emote, and a hotkey option for yes and no. This would allow things to proceed smoothly, with relative assurance of what is happening, and with quick response time overall, and still let those nifty animations happen.

And here I came into the article thinking about those who are RPing some things that most of the rest of us don’t want to see without taking it somewhere more private… which is also not really very cool. RP, certainly. But if you are going to be overtly crude (sexual, language that is not appropriate for all ages of the game range, etc.) then take it to a spot most likely not to be intruded upon (I don’t care if people have fun, but nobody unwilling needs to be subjected to a male gnome in hot pink nickers dancing for a couple perverted female tall-folk. Just as an example of the things that might be less than appreciated by the general public.)

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Toy Clown

This is one of the reasons that SWG has a place in most older RPer’s hearts, because of the detailed emoting system. No other game since it was shut down has included such a detailed chat and emote system, which makes the old school RPer sad!

Whenever I know a dev has their roots in MuDs and MUSHES, it’s an instant win for me in whatever MMO team they’re part of.

Raph Koster has always been one of my favorite devs. It’s just a shame I have no interest in Crowfall. (Not a fan of forced PvP… which is funny, talking about consent. :3) Ironically, Star Citizen has many of the features, albeit built up heaps better, that SWG employed.

semugh
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semugh

/spit

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Melissa McDonald

/insert plug for Second Life, where animations that involve your avatar show a consent yes/no box that pops up.

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John Kiser

There is that and there is also large amounts of RP communities of all varying sorts in Second Life. From star wars, dystopian future, cyberpunk, steampunk, sci-fi, horror like sci-fi, urban, standard fantasy, medieval and quite a few other things. You can opt to ignore roleplay even and set you own “rules” for it.

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styopa

“/me steals 38 copper from (target)’s money pouch!”

…one of the greatest things to drop in chat when you’re in Org or SW, early in WoW.
The angry replies were always hilarious.

capt_north
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capt_north

I’d love to see more tandem animations in virtual spaces. Sometimes you want to frag, sometimes you want to slow-dance. Usually not at the same time, but hey, if you can pull that off you get style points.

And consent is vitally important. Second Life has the “X wants to animate your avatar, do you accept?” notification, but you have to take a leap of faith that the animation to which you’re agreeing is the animation you thought you were getting. Some “hugs” are more vigorous than others…

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Melissa McDonald

I should have read down ;)

Theryl
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Theryl

Fascinating article. While I’m aware of the general theory of consent in MMO RP, there’s a lot of background and history here I wasn’t aware of.

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Schmidt.Capela

Consent is important not just in MMO RP, but also in other kinds of roleplaying too, including pen and paper RPG games. Going ahead without consent can result in lost friendships, or worse.