Why do we play MMOs? For a lot of us it’s a game wrapped up with communication. Humans are highly communicative creatures, and our (MMO players, especially ones that read blogs about MMOs) minds usually love games and game mechanics. There are reasons that so many things in the 21st century revolve around communication. In a lot of online games we have or add voice chat. Lord of the Rings Online has built in voice chat for when you need to party. In Warhammer Online my guild used a huge Ventrilo server. X-Box Live uses a lot of voice communication. Team Fortress 2 has it built in. Etc. Etc. Etc. For myself, I am pretty quiet… even when I shouldn’t be. Even though I am alright at leading groups, I hate to describe how we are going to fight Igash, Lord of the Grand Stairs, with this new group makeup. It’s not because I am shy (I assure you, I am not), it’s just I’d prefer to let someone else do it. I just don’t like communicating via voice. I’d rather type the entire strategy out. Enter the Yapper…
If you have ever played any online game for a prolonged period of time where voice chat is involved, you must have come across a Yapper. These people talk in the group like they have not spoken to another human being all day. Some talk about real life happenings, some talk about world news, and some talk about how much the devs suck. The thing they all share, I think, is that a Yapper receives some affirmation of life by allowing very little silence. And, they are crucial to our games.
The other night I was playing Left 4 Dead, a game that requires voice. Ion joined us. Ion is a Yapper. Like I said before, I have some problems with voice communication. If I get roped by a Smoker, I would rather have my character scream out for help than say a word over voice. It’s a flaw I am trying to work on. (Wonder why I haven’t beat Expert yet?) Anyway, Ion was awesome. He was constantly chatting about horde timing, boomer watch zones, ammo usage, jokes, the location of his cats, the food he was eating, other guildies, gossip, and so on. I would guess that if you looked at a transcript of our time in No Mercy, the Yapper’s literal words that were helpful in game terms consisted of less than 25% of his total speech. Yet, during the other 75% of the time we stuck together. We moved like a unit. We somehow kept to our “quadrants.” Then all of the sudden it was silent.
The other players were silent for about 2 minutes before finally asking where Ion went. A bot had taken over Ion’s character. And, the game was completely different for the 5 minutes he was gone. Somehow we were sloppier and slower. It wasn’t that we were lacking information flow, per se; it’s just that the Yapper had been connecting us somehow on a more fundamental level.
I find this occurrence happens all the time with online games.
The boss fight in Lord of the Rings Online’s Fil Gashan dungeon is pretty simple and fun. There’s a boss, General Talug, and two other mobs. One mob is ranged and sets traps. The other mob sets people on fire and explodes in to tar on death. To win players have to wait for a trap to be set by the first mob, then kill the second mob next to General Talug so he gets drenched in goop, and run Talug to the trap where he gets stunned and weakened to damage. It mainly requires three individuals leading around the three different enemies, and communication between all of them. Like I said, it’s not that hard of a fight/puzzle. The communication required is also not that high, but I have consistently found that when a Yapper is present we are always more efficient in the fight. Yappers are like a catalyst.
There are many downsides to Yappers: too much information, annoying chatter, too much cross chatter, and whiny to name a few. Yappers walk a fine line between a communicative holy gel and a self-ostracized unclean one. I think the job of non-Yappers are to fine tune the Yapper. Respond to helpful communication. Ignore information that annoys.
I think it has to do with swarm theory personally.
like a decoy