WoW and MMORPG Question

I was just checking out the nifty character design in screenshots of World of Warcraft, and it made me think how cool it would be if the characters could make facial expressions. I don’t play MMORPGs, so I don’t know if this level of emoting has been implemented yet in any of the games on the market. Has it?

In There!'s screenshot gallery you can kinda see that they have facial expressions. That’s all that I’m really aware of.

Yeah, I don’t think anyone else has even tried to do facial expressions.

What would the point be? I’m sure some people would have their number pad bound to commands like “hardened grimace”, “come fuck me look”, and “Max Payne constipated sneer of resolve”, but why would anyone use them for a subtle effect that would not only be convoluted and unnatural to pull off (people don’t tend to consciously make facial expressions, which is what makes them so interesting) but would most likely be immediately ignored as just another form of LOL g2g :) idiot tomfoolery.

MMOGs are going to need a sophisticated interface to accurately capture a user’s facial expressions as he plays the game and reacts to situations to make this sort of thing even begin to be worthwhile to incorporate. That is going to require some sophisticated sensory hardware that just isn’t there yet. If that could all be accomplished, I think facial expressions could amplify immersion. Until then, though, it would just be an animated version of the emoticon - redundant and expensive for MMOG companies to implement well for so little pay off.

I’d like to see some automatic facial expressions in these games, though. Have characters wince or grimace when they get hit, or crack a smile when they take down an opponent, and whatnot. I agree that emoting in games has a long ways to go before it feels natural, though.

I had an interesting discussion on SWG-RP with a couple roleplayers recently about emotes. One, like me, a veteran of text-based roleplaying where expressiveness is key was denigrating automatic emotes of any kind as artificial and inhibiting. In general, quality MUSHers, IRC and forum RPers prefer the nuance of expression that comes from actually writing a response. The other, a MMORPG vet, was stressing the importance of mastering visual emotes as a means of expression - I suppose as opposed to not expressing much at all.

What SWG seems to offer that’s above and beyond better than most MMORPGs are better articulated expressions and the ability to add ‘mood’ to written text. I found a middle ground between these guys (whom I’ve argued with before about whether roleplaying is closer to writing or acting - for example) by suggesting that perhaps puppeteering is a roleplaying skill for a visual medium - like a MMORPG.

While SWG probably won’t offer a whole lot of nuance I’ll bet down the road we could see games in which complex social expressions may well be coded in and one’s ability with them a source of personal satisfaction and social status. I see something like ‘Die By The Sword’s’ ability to customize combat manevuers turned instead to a player’s ability to create movements, expressions and gestures.

Why would this be a worthwhile investment? Because a good implimentation of it would help break down the biggest communications problem in the online world - being able to ‘see’ what someone means and ‘hear’ the tone with which they’re saying it.

I hope one day we’ll have the ability for visual expressiveness to some extent which we have verbal expressiveness now and the ‘emote’ won’t have be the redheaded stepchild of the hardcore roleplayer.

And the point of MMORPGs is…?

Ignored by whom? Because a huge number of gamers employ LOL g2g :) tomfoolery on a regular basis. I’m not talking about subtlety, either, I’m talking about simple facial expressions. MMORPGs already have physical emotes, like waving and clapping and such, so I don’t see it being such a leap to a few simple facial expresisons. I mean, look at some fo the character screenshots from WoW. Players would love it if those dwarves could crack a smile.

In terms if resources, would it be that big of an investment, considering all of the effort they already put into the thousands and thousands of in-game objects? I guess the problem might be with all of the different available facial types, and creating expressions for each.

(Can someone enlighten me as to what “g2g” represents? Is it two baggy eyes and a nose? “Good to go?” I am ill-educated in this little bit of tomfoolery)

Yeah, this would be an interesting step.

I agree that you’ll never get nuanced expression through automatic emotes, but I think they would be useful for involuntary expressions, and could liven up otherwise static characters. When you stick someone with a sword, they are going to make a face, and even the most skilled roleplayer is probably not fast enough to time that sort of thing in the middle of combat.

Another possibility would be to allow the player to assign facial expressions to a bunch of triggers, so they can decide what their character will do in certain situations.

Lutes, I’ve seen g2g mean “good to go” and “got to go” depending on the game and players.

I believe WoW will do some automatic emotes, which might be interesting. If you shout something, your character will make shouting body language. Ask a questing and he’ll maybe shrug his shoulders and move his hands in front of him like he’s asking a question. Something to that affect.

There is some sort of happy middle-ground, but I certainly think we need to move away from this old-skool hardcore gamer notion of explicitly stating everything we do in our games. It’s one thing to have characters express some visual emotion, and another to be a master of slash commands to do it.

If you leave it up to the text of the players, then your game really breaks all immersion in a bad way, as the chat window becomes the star and your avatars are basically icons, standing awkwardly still while your sob your eyes out or burn with rage. If we put all the visual emote tools in the hands of the players, then we have the min/maxers and ignorant noobs standing around like signposts while they cry their eyes out or burn with rage, while the dedicated role-players dutifully use their emotion functions to “puppeteer” (good analogy, by the way).

Why consider an emotional animation less important than the basic running/fighting ones? Those are automated because the gameworld would look completely rediculous if people had to type “/runs” and “/swipe” when running or swinging their sword. Why not tag on a whole bunch of other emotes to the list of things the game handles?

In order to make the world seem alive with “characters” and not “markers for where our collections of stats are standing” we need to have everyone display varied animations when they talk - and more (bending over and huffing when tired, limping and holding their arms when hurt, etc.). And with all due respect to old-skool MUD/MUSH folks, that’s just not going to happen in a group of a couple hundred thousand if it’s not mostly automatic.

I just plan on shouting all the time “ZERGLING BUMRUSH LOLOLOLOLOL” and then getting kicked in the dong.

Both There and SWG have facial animation. In both cases it can be triggered via commands. In both cases, it can be triggered automatically by embedding smileys in your text. In both cases, it can be triggered automatically when certain words are seen in your text. (Actually, full body anims might also be triggered. “Oh no” might result in your head shaking or your whole body slumping).

SWG also has a moods system which lets you set one of 150 or so different moods for your speech, which are reflected in the chat text (“says sadly”); and around 40-50 “say alternates” which are reflected in the chat text and in the bubbles–moan, whisper, exclaim, sing, recite, etc.

IMHO, this sort of thing is going to become mandatory for all forms of online virtual spaces. It’s just an obvious evolution, and once you see it, you can’t imagine not doing it.

-Raph

One of the best things about Wind Waker, for me at least, is watching Link’s expressions as he’s motoring around. I’d love to see that sort of depth in a MMORPG. as long as the gameplay’s there to match.

Holy crap. That sounds neat.

I just hope SWG’s chat doesn’t rely too heavily on manual triggering. That is, I hope the automatic stuff is robust enough that 75% of everything everyone says is accompanied by some body language of some kind. Even if it’s “unemotional” (just hand gestures ala talking with someone in The Sims).

Because once the game comes out and people are mostly concerned with the quest before them, or how to min/max their skills, or whatever, making extra effort to emote goes out the window.

Hell, making the effort to type “you” and “are” has gone out the freakin’ window! The damn kids type “what r u doing here? ur a fag!!!” and such.

I would LOVE it if an MMO could do an animation that makes your character look like he’s mentally retarded when you type like that. yeah!

It’s stuff like this that has me on board with SWG despite my past experiences with MMORPGs. And it’s my past experiences with MMORPGs that has me reaching out to find other roleplayers to create a community with before I log on. Sure, most people will find creative ways to misuse or simply ignore anything. I really can’t do anything about that but what I can do is make the most of what I’m given to work with other roleplayers to create a good environment for what we like. SWG isn’t primarily for the min-max haxors it’s for folks looking for a good place to be over an extended duration. And while you can’t count on players to entertain themselves ultimately players themselves are the best content around if you give them the right tools. You can’t max out on good company, IMHO.

One question for Raph - will players be able to disable or enable particular ‘embedded’ emotes in dialogue?

The one thing that iD won’t tell you is that they’re taking a huge jump into the landscape of massively multiplayer online gaming right after Doom 3 comes out: They’re introducing Doom Online!

Taking back, rightfully, their throne of constipated sneer of resolve, cramped grunt of indignation, and post-orgasmic sigh of relief (med-kit, you fools!), Doom Online will beat the competition in the world of facial expressions ten times over. From the masters who started it all, they deliver again, and again. This time, though, you’re not the only one who can see the pain on your face!

With this release, iD really are looking to put some pain… in 3drealms (oh! get it! get it!).