“Buck Bang” or “Immersed in Walls of Text”
One of the coolest things about Star Wars: The Old Republic is that every in-game individual, be it a playing character or an NPC, will be fully voiced. Apparently that is too much work for Cryptic Studios, who’s first MMO, Champions Online, has recently come under some criticism from the blogger community.
I couldn’t disagree more. As a gamer, immersion is one of the core elements that attracts me to any game. Syp over at Biobreak has already commented on how NPCs in MMOs seem to always have their feet glued to the ground. This in effect works against the immersion factor tremendously and causes the player to be subliminally aware of the static and stagnant nature of the individuals he or she is interacting with.
I believe the same logic applies to in-game voice overs. Not to belabor the obvious, but you will never walk up to your friend who needs your help moving, only for him to hold up a placard with a wall of text explaining why he needs your help and the logistics involved therein. Voice overs create a unique and stylized sense of immersion. The NPC you are interacting is no longer a cluster of 3D pixels and animation with no personality and no depth. That NPC now has a voice, an agenda and is now a vibrant part of the game world.
What’s more troubling is the rest of Mr. Zinkievich’s statement:
The statement above effectively tells me that the Star Trek Online team is more worried about adhering to strict deadlines than being focused on providing players with a feature-rich immersive world. The pipeline and associated deadlines exist for a reason, yes, but if that reason violates the sense of association with the player or shatters the illusion of it being a ‘living world’, then that pipeline needs to be revamped.