That New MMO Smell

Hello, gamers, listen to your MMO, now back to Guild Wars 2, now back to your MMO, now back to Guild Wars 2.  Sadly, your MMO isn’t Guild Wars 2, but if it stopped using stock Pokemon sounds and switched to something that would blow Hollywood away, it could sound like Guild Wars 2.

Listen around, back here, where are you? You’re in the marketplace with the MMO your MMO could sound like.  What’s in your ear, back at me.  They have it, it’s a farmer with a fresh harvest of that thing you love.  Listen again, the produce is now a crazy fisherman.  Anything sounds possible when your MMO sounds like Guild Wars 2 and not 8-bit audio.

Do you want an MMO that can sound like an actual living city with drunk patrons at the Busted Flagon talking about the illegal deal that went down in the alley by the bar while crickets chirped?  Of course you do!  Swan Dive – into the best aural experience of your life.  So gamers should your MMO sound like Guild Wars 2?  You tell me!

on a pale horse

17 thoughts on “That New MMO Smell”

  1. Guild Wars 2 really sounds like it could be good.

    But then I heard that one before.

    But this will be different you say?

    Yeah, I have heard that one also.

  2. Complete waste of the Old Spice genius. Great sound makes a great game better (LotRO- my current MMO- taught me that, akshully). It is not remotely a selling point, however.

    Granted, hyping the ambient soundtrack of a game is still better than hyping it being fully-voiced, since a good ambient soundtrack is a desirable feature. oooooooo see I just can’t stay snarky at you. ;-} (can’t stop being snarky tho)

  3. I rather follow some NPCs and listen to what they talk about then read a long text :)

  4. When they name dropped GTA as something they looked at for sound design inspiration, my confidence went up a few notches.

    Spoken dialog I’m actually pretty ambivalent about – I prefer reading dialog much of the time, but I can deal with it being voiced if the acting is good.

    But the idea of hearing the sort of contextually generated vocal quips flying around that one hears in GTA, while just tooling through the world – that’s exciting, and bodes well for creating a vibrant, lively world.

  5. I concurr with the three posts above. Full voice acting I can really do without. Reading text is faster and the voice acting is my head is better. Cast your mind back six years and recall that full voice acting was one of the most heavily-promoted parts of EQ2. They learned their lesson.

    Ambient sound, however, when done well is wonderful. Baldur’s Gate did it superbly and from the GW2 promo it sounds like they are aiming for something similar, which would be great.

  6. @Bhagpuss

    I sometimes feel that MMO gamers are actually detached from gaming. As if they’re in some time vortex from the early 90’s, when it was common for games to come on limited-space media.

    Do you ever feel that MMOs are stuck in the distant past? I do.

    Ultima VII had a verdant and dynamic world. This was a nice bit of progression, and yet the vast majority of MMOs ignored this. And all later examples. Opting for an earlier approach, an easier approach: The static, dead world.

    As time went on gaming continued to pick up new tricks, and most gamers realised that full voice isn’t a bad thing. I’ll give a bit of a history lesson here, I think…

    It really all started with adventure games. They had what was known as Talkie versions, which came on newfangled CD-ROMs. The original games still came on disks, too.

    Ask most gamers and they will tell you that the Talkie versions were by far superior because of the professional voice-acting, which really added to the experience. Giving the game a stronger sense of atmosphere and character.

    Try comparing the text version of Sam & Max with the Talkie version. The Talkie version is eminently better because of the voices provided for the cast, which were perfectly suited.

    To say that a full voice game is bad is both outdated and a bit silly. There are plenty of examples which prove that this isn’t true at all. Of course, you may make the argument that there aren’t any examples with MMOs… I’m getting to that.

    As gaming continued to evolve, we had more Talkie approaches. Would Dragon Age have been a better RPG if all the characters were silent? Can you honestly answer yes to this?

    And similarly, would Planescape: Torment have been any worse if its stable of characters had had voices supplied by professional voice actors? Of course not!

    I’m still hoping to see a HD version of Planescape: Torment one of these days, where just that is an inclusion.

    A lack of voices was only present in any game because of technological limitations, there never were any other reasons. And the only problem with voice acting is that sometimes you just have to deal with horrible voice actors.

    So what about Everquest II?

    That was a noble effort. But there were factors standing in the way of the effort and I shall detail these.

    1. The technology.

    Digital distribution was in its infancy when Everquest II was released. So having high quality voice samples as part of a download was insane. This is why most gamers opted not to get the voice packs for Everquest II.

    2. The backwater MMO community.

    MMO gamers are known for this. Old computers that play games which are designed for old computers, filled with outdated ideas which would be laughed out of a single-player game.

    Can that be denied? I’d honestly like to see anyone try.

    It’s rare that an MMO doesn’t fall into this trap. This is why so many MMOs are considered to be “traditional” games, static, unchanging, never evolving… a frozen moment in time.

    The MMO community wasn’t ready for it, and Everquest II was still generally too nerdy and ridden with grind and hamster-wheel progression to appeal to any other demographic.

    3. It was crap.

    Really, the voice-acting was utterly crap. It was horrible. They clearly couldn’t afford decent voice actors at the time. Either that or they just wanted to save money.

    Either way, the voice acting was atrocious. Abominable even.

    This is something that SOE actually admitted as later on in the game’s life they started replacing a number of the samples with ones by more professional voice actors. A good choice.

    Sometimes voice acting fails because the voice acting is a failure. However, it’s short-sighted to believe that voice acting as a whole is a failure because it failed in one game.

    The “Sirrah” voice clip showed acting of a much higher quality.

    Anyone who’s played Guild Wars is well aware that ArenaNet are entirely capable of providing lots of quality voice acting. And they have some great names working for them.

    Steve Blum is a really great one, for one!

    There are plenty of AAA games and RPGs these days which are fully voice acted by professionals and they sound great. It’s usually so much better than reading. And this is what ArenaNet is doing with their game, going in that direction.

    And Guild Wars 2 is moving far enough away from MMOs to appeal to other demographics. This is progress.

    You can fight progress if you want, but things like fully voice acted MMOs are the future. Just like they’re the present of single-player RPGs. I am sure that Guild Wars 2 will just be the first of many, and that others will follow that example.

    I stand with those who like voice acting. It made for better single-player games from the humble adventure game onwards and it will doubtlessly make for better MMOs, too.

    It is a far more immersive and enjoyable experience to trail along behind NPCs and listen in on their conversation than it is to click a bloke with a ! above his head and read his blathersome, unimaginative text.

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