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PC and Consoles, part 2

Over at JoyStiq, Conrad Quilty-Harper has some interesting comments about my earlier post on the reason why console gaming won’t win over PCs for MMORPGs until consoles have keyboards (at which point, of course, for all intents and purposes they’ll be PCs).

The key part of Conrad’s comment is this:

Ian cites the lack of non-intrusive text input devices as a sign that MMOs on consoles will never reach the popularity of games like WoW on the PC. We disagree. Voice, no matter how intrusive, is much more efficient than keyboard based communication.

Voice is, indeed, a more efficient method of communications for certain circumstances. If you’re in a group and want to maximise the speed that you can react to situations, voice is infinitely preferable to keyboard. I play a priest in WoW – so I know how much quicker it is to shout “aggro!” than type it.

However, this misses the point about the popularity of MMORPGs, and particularly why the age range that play games like WoW is so wide (my own guild has a spread of ages from 16 to over 40, with the majority clustering in the mid– to late 20’s). While voice works well for the goal-directed parts of MMORPGs (raids, dungeons, etc) it doesn’t really work for the more casual, conversational aspects – the background level of chit-chat that characterises the average guild channel.

Voice also tends to split up guilds into smaller groups, which lessens the social aspects of the game. If you’re not using voice, when you’re grouped you tend to have both guild channel and your party channel on screen, and participate to a certain extent in both at the same time. That’s less efficient than voice, where you’re only in your group – but it’s also much more of a social experience.

Perhaps that’s one of the things that characterises the PC MMORPG gamer as different to the console gamer: PC gamers, especially older ones, enjoy the social aspects of MMORPGs as much as the goal-directed play. It’s not all about killing the level ?? elite mob: it’s about making friends and aimless chat, and for that, keyboard is a better form of communication.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.jonathanbaldwin.co.uk JB

    Don’t forget also that WoW pretty much requires a keyboard for control. For example, my attack routine consists of ‘T’, ‘6’, first strike, ‘3’ to release holy judgement, ‘2’ to add judgment to attacks, alt-9 when low on health, 4 to stun, alt-0 when very low and creature is stunned, alt-‘=’ when about to die and I need all my health back.

    Looking at people’s screenshots it’s clear serious players have different set-ups for different situations (when playing undead I have my excorcism spells at ‘7’ and ‘8’ for example) and I can’t see the control pads that consoles have making up for it. If you’ve tried to play Knights of the Old Republic on X Box or whatever, it’s not easy to play different styles and I personally just end up attacking everything the same way.

    So I’d agree, games like WoW need a keyboard, and voice would be too much for most situations.

    Hanover, lvl 30 Paladin, Terenas Realm

  • http://joystiq.com Conrad Quilty-Harper

    Ian, I agree with you regarding the superiority of text over voice for social means. It’s much more comfortable to talk to people in MMOs via a keyboard than it is to use VOIP. At least in “non urgent” situations!

    I was just saying that the lack of text based communication on consoles isn’t the main reason the platform is unpopular for MMO games. Until recently there’s been an insufficient number of “connected” online consoles to support a popular subscription based MMO. Once there’s a sufficient number of online consoles, I think that the lack of text based communication won’t substantially affect their popularity.

    Then again, Microsoft could quite easily bundle a keyboard accessory and make console-based MMOs even more desirable.

    http://www.joystiq.com/2005/07/29/xbox-360-gonna-have-a-qwerty-controller/

  • Siobhan Curran

    And apart from anything else, voice destroys the delicate balance between what we’re seeing and what we know to be true.

  • IanM

    While its all well and good to say “voice is better” there is no one in the world that is going to convince my housemates that me yelling “run” into a microphone at 2am is a good idea. I felt bad enough having voice conversations in games!

    And even if it was, it still wouldn’t be possible to fly a chopper in Battlefield 2 with anything other than a keyboard and mouse.

    And all that aside, my PC is far more than “just” a games machine. If all I did was play games, I probably would do it on a console. But I don’t!

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