Strange idea to fix RPG gaming online - shit or lit / feedback chat
It's Covid days and I am sure all of us who play Pen and Paper RPG's (watup, nerds) have found the experience incredibly lacking.
The way we communicate via Discord etc, has to be incredibly different from IRL conversations. Its frustrating when the core element of RPG's is the conversations, the chat, the small talk, the adlib and the silly jokes.
The way we talk IRL is so different because we can discern the different sources, we can listen more or less to different people, we can interrupt and add things. Conversations via Discord is more like listening to a speech, and then replying. IRL gaming and the conversations that crop up are more like actual human chatting - taking a joke, building on it, having it taken from you etc etc. (the way me and my friend talk is so natural, we know each other well enough to be able to discern the relevant from the irrelevant - the bits we can tag on to, and the bits we need to leave alone)
What I was thinking was to see HOW we talk in gaming, and how that could be mimicked SOMEWHAT in Discord etc.
My idea was to create a set of icons/low quality videos arranged around a table placement, that you can then focus on. Like a mouse controlled object that indicates what part of the table you focus on and how much. Just like a human would by turning her head this way or that to focus on one person talking in a group, or leaning in towards that source to indicate how much she listens to that unique source. By having a physical placement you can focus on an edge of "the table" and then lean in towards one source - and lean out to listen to all.
All other listeners can see your focus, the way you turn towards a source and be able to change their communication to fit.
So imaging having your "icon"/video at the bottom, the table sorted in a half circle shape above and your "focus" in the middle. If you pull it to its "lagrange point" (a snapping midpoint so its easy to find) you are listening to all. By dragging it towards one end you are focusing more on that person and the people around it, as a circle. You can see others focus, by coloured lines focusing more or less on an end or another.
My idea is to abuse the already available 3D audio effects existing and use that to put your focus towards one end or another, muting and muffling audio as your focus move across the table to be able to somewhat mimic the way we as human listen.
The social order of an RPG session, with the DM being the natural focus at times means that that focus can happen naturally either through focus, or simply silence. With it you can find the focus of others as an indicator of whether you are committing a faux pas or not, just like in real life when people pointedly may look directly towards another source.
Idea is lit but execution is shit.
You're fighting millions of years of biological evolution with a cumbersome interface. Your brain is really, really good at filtering. You might be talking to Steven and using spatial queues your brain can completely discard what Jane and Kevin are talking about until someone mentions something that escapes the filter, like your name for instance.
Without spatial and other contextual queues our brains are really bad at filtering -- they don't know which sounds to reject. It's why you can't have side conversations in a video chat -- it just doesn't work. Trying to rebuild these queues using a slider bar and some audio fading is going to end very poorly I would think.
Now, what might work is some sort of VR to provide visual queues in combination with HRTF to provide spatial audio at table-size distances.
I think this is probably right. Even in a video conference setting it is hard to keep things straight when people are talking over eachother (which isn't as big a problem in the real world).
Thinking a bit about it though it would be fun to try getting a shared game table to work on something as low end as possible in the VR world. Essentially build something that works on Google cardboard. Doing that would make the whole thing accessible to a lot more people! Hmmm... maybe something for me to try to work on for the Timasomo...
Very very good points :D
My hope is that it might still alleviate the issues, not sort them totally I suppose.
See VR for me is a nogo since... well since I can't afford testing it and buying VR sets etc but some other way of intuitive controls? I mean considering we can get our grasp around spatial controls in videogames, perhaps something like that? A 3Dish space controlled with either keyboard or controller or something?
Are there voice chat systems that use static spatial audio? That is, each person appears to be comming from a different direction, you can imagine it as a virtual round table. It wouldn't take a full VR headset to do enough headtracking for dynamic spatial audio, but I don't think even that would be needed due to not much head movement when using a computer.
I know Mumble at least has dynamic positional audio, designed for game integrations, but presumably you could set it up with a plugin that just reports a static position for each voice. (Edit, apparently does already exist)
It seems to be a sadly uncommon feature, at least among the most popular setups.