Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Look Ma! No Hands!

Every time a new MMO trundles into view one of the very first things that gets torn to shreds is the UI. Oh, it looks just like WoW's, how unoriginal. Oh, it isn't as easy to use as WoW's, how annoying. Why can't I move this bit over there like I do in my other game? Where's that mod I always use? How do they expect me to play without it?

Blah blah blah.

Fighting with no UI - like you can tell!
Recently I've started to wonder why we have UIs at all. I've begun experimenting to see how much I can do with the UI switched off. I already turn it off a lot for screenshots and for years I've dropped the UI when I'm riding an on-rails mount. I managed a complete UI-less fight with an spider in Guild Wars 2 last beta and I've killed a few zombies that way in The Secret World. When you have a very small number of abilities to cast, it becomes quite feasible.

I'm a mouse-and-hotkey kind of player, though. I don't use the keyboard all that much. I'd guess that for keyboard jockeys playing UI-free wouldn't be that great a stretch. Can't see myself developing that degree of manual dexterity, sadly. Not with my knobbly old fingers. There's a limit to what I can do without my mouse-pointer clicking away.

What if it wasn't the hands and eyes doing all the work, though? Aren't there other ways to tell someone to do something or find out what someone's doing to you? I seem to remember a few other attachments on my head that work along those lines. Ah yes, my mouth and my ears!

Could have sworn I heard someone...
One of the many good things about The Secret World is the way you can tell what's happening just by listening. I was poking around an underground Illuminati library this morning, shooting the odd caretaker while musing over what Beaumont might be up to when I heard something that sounded approximately the size of an elephant coming up the stairs. Made me start, I can  tell you. I won't say what it was - spoilers and all that - but it wasn't an elephant. Nothing so jolly. The point is, I knew it was coming before I saw it.

A lot more could be done with sound beyond the ambient, too. And guess what? It has been. I used to use an add-on for EQ, the name of which escapes me, which sounded an alarm when invisibility began to wear off, something that happens about every fifteen seconds in Norrath, or whenever you're next to something that wants to eat you, whichever comes first.

In Everquest, as in most MMOs, almost every event is sent to the chat client as a line of text and this device would read all those messages in real time and allow you to assign each an audio-file of your choice. If you wanted you could hear Mrs Doyle say "Ah go on, go on" every time the game informed your character he was out of drink. (I didn't do that, by the way, in case you're wondering. I just thought of it this minute. Really.).

And what about voice command? Why has that never really happened? I remember all that Japanese 5th Generation stuff from the 1980s. I was expecting talking computers along with my jet-pack long before the Millennium.  Never happened, did it? Oh, wait...what's this?

August 30, 2000  8:00 am

*Today's Patch*

*Note on Voice Recognition*

Last week we implemented voice recognition technology in
EverQuest. To use this new feature, please refer to the
EQROKManualSupplement.doc file in your EverQuest directory.
Please note that you must already have a voice recognition
engine that is compliant with the Microsoft Speech API (SAPI),
version 4.0. The voice recognition technology was
tested with Dragon NaturallySpeaking(r) v4.0. Check with the
developer of your software to find out if it is SAPI 4.0

- The EverQuest Team

I thought I remembered that and thanks to Allakhazam I can prove it. Everquest had voice command built in as far back as the Ruins of Kunark expansion. I recall thinking about trying it and looking at the Dragon software before deciding against it. Does it still work? Did it ever?

I'm not saying we should give up the old point&click completely. God knows I don't want to cast spells by waving my arms around or hold agro by yelling "Yer mother wears army boots" over and over again, but a little variety would be nice. "Open bank vault" is easier to say than Ctrl-Shift-B is to press, for example. And wouldn't it be fun to say "Sic 'im boy!" instead of pressing the Pet Attack button?


  1. As long as its optional. I usually have a 2yr old near/on me when I game. I can just imagine the havoc that would insure when she was repeating what I say, but during bad times.

    "hey Thrall, I was wondering if you"
    (little voice)"Sic em boy!"
    " Uum, never mind"

  2. EQ flashback!

    "Um, where's your pet?"

    "He's right next to me"

    "Well I don't see him"



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