Posted by: Sean | September 10, 2008

Pet Peeves: Communication Habits

Ordinarily, this is Jess’s column. See, I don’t have many pet peeves that don’t involve thugs beating me up/stealing all my coffee pods. But this time I’m taking over the Pet Peeve column, as this is a pet peeve of mine that Jess actually indulges in. I’ll let her respond in comments, if she cares to defend her heinous practice. Because today, you see, I’m turning my baleful eye on how people communicate. In /say, in /guild, in /w; today, no chat channel is safe.

  • Speaking in /e. This is the one that really gets me, and it’s the one Jess is actually known to do. The idea is that, during a conversation, a player types in something like: /e stamps her foot and seethes “How dare you?”. This, in turn, comes up in the chat window as: Katafray stamps her foot and seethes, “How dare you?” The notion is, I’m certain, to seem more literary in structure and feel. But it doesn’t change the fact that now you’ve completely obliterated a speech bubble!

    How dare you? Don’t you know that speech bubble had feelings, hopes, dreams? Parents! Maybe even children! And now you’ve destroyed it… you monster!

    Alright, alright. So it’s not that bad, perhaps. But it’s damned annoying, and you know what it makes me think, whenever I see it? “Oh, hey, that person used to play in MU*s.” Because in a MU*, where it’s all text based, this kind of writing makes a hell of a lot of sense. The entire medium is text-based, it’s nearly a novel in and of itself, the way you play one. But WoW has visuals. It has animation. It’s more filmic than literary, and needs to be treated that way. Much like a film script separates stage directions from speech, so to does /e and /say separate physical actions from speech. Don’t mix the two! All it can do is confuse and complicate.

  • The dreaded double-parenthesis. I admit to being a bit torn about this one, because I was, and in very limited circumstances still am a supporter of the double-parenthesis. For the uninitiated, the idea behind double-parenthesis is that you can mark a comment as being made out-of-character in an otherwise in-character channel. For example: /say You’re Defias! Don’t lie, I can see the gear tattoo on your palm! ((You do have a gear tattoo there, right?)). Leaving aside that in the above example, Katafray really should have asked about the tattoo first and then had her outburst, I just can’t get behind this practice any more. Much as above, this is a habit that’s carried across from MU*s and, more pertinently, chat-based RPs where there was really only one channel to talk in. There, it was crucial to have some kind of separator that indicated what you were saying and what your character was saying. But, y’know what? WoW has lots of channels. You can easily have /party and /w as out-of-character,/say and /yell as in-character, and do whatever the hell you want to do with guild as an in or out-of-character channel. If you have an in-character guild chat, then I limitedly support the notion of posting up the items you’ve just gotten in guild-chat with double-parenthesis around it, since you can’t post up items in global channels. But that’s it.And nope, I’m also not going to let people off the hook with the, “But what if I need to say something out of character to a group of people who aren’t in my party?” Then either invite them into a party if you can, and if you can’t? Whisper each and every one of them. Inconvenient? Yes. But better than dropping the clanking double-parenthesis of immersion breaking.
  • /w is not IC. It just isn’t. Hearthstone walkie-talkie or not. Just keep it out-of-character for the sake of clarity, ease of role-play, and maintaining some freaking plausibility to communication in the medievalesque Azeroth.
  • /p is not IC. Seriously, why would you even do this? If you’re not in an instance, well, guess what? Sometimes people run out of ear-range. So I’m not accepting the ‘so I hear what my party is saying’ line. Sometimes other people over-hear things. This often makes for good role-play, too.
  • Use your damn emotes. Employ /e purely as a means of last resort. If there’s a set emote for something, then use it. Emote with speech or action is better than emote without.

Sigh. Look, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe more flexibility is good, and most of what I’m suggesting here is restrictive. But y’know, I don’t think it’s wrong to suggest the main goal of role-play is to create immersion. And every one of the pet peeves here is a pet peeve because it helps break it – Speaking in /e destroys the speech bubble that is, for my money, a much more interesting way to follow a conversation in Warcraft than the chat box. Yes, you need to keep an eye on the chat box, I agree, because that’s where /e emotes show up, but you can usually happily role-play in the main window for 90% of the time, where the action is. Dropping those damned double-parenthesis does the same thing. And if you’re going to destroy those options, then clarity is needed to keep things moving; so make it damn well clear what is in-character and out-of-character.

These may seem like little things. And they are. That’s why they’re pet peeves. But they add up, and if you can avoid all of them, role-play is made so much more satisfying.


  1. /w is not IC. It just isn’t. Hearthstone walkie-talkie or not. Just keep it out-of-character for the sake of clarity, ease of role-play, and maintaining some freaking plausibility to communication in the medievalesque Azeroth.

    Oh, OK. Medieval people only had two volumes of speech: speaking and yelling. So noted.

  2. (((who am i?)))

  3. I’m afraid that I’m with Jess on this one. Whispers are valid (as long as it’s within speaking distance, otherwise it’s OOC). Guild chat is pushing it. Party chat could be treated as /say only in an instance; out in the world, it would have to be OOC.

    It’s hard to regulate that sort of thing and not have one group or another get bent out of shape about it. In one of the MUDs I played on, tells were handled by pages and messengers. You would say something to someone else, and if they weren’t in the same room with you, the code would create a messenger who arrived in the space with the character (after a set period of time depending on distance) with a message, hand it to the recipient, and disappear (usually by walking out in an available direction – it was actually just disappearing, but with a movement emote instead of just fading out of existence). It was a great RP mechanic, but it also meant that the person you were talking to might not get your tell for as much as ten minutes.

    It was a pretty handy mechanic, but in WoW, it wouldn’t work as well, unless it were handled by the mail system. Otherwise you’d have major cities and instances being clogged up by random messengers that show up out of nowhere. I’d hate to see what Shattrath would be like, with as many tells as I tend to get when I’m in a home city.

    I know that it’s a question of suspension of disbelief, but at some point, you have to be able to do something that shouldn’t be considered “possible” in the scheme of RP, otherwise you have 50 people within earshot interrupting your conversation with what they’re talking about. I’d rather justify using a channel or two that might not normally be considered IC for the sake of preserving my sanity, and not having to filter out my conversation from someone else’s among a giant block of white text.

  4. Oh, and in response to the /e speeches…

    I turn my speech bubbles off. *shrug* Didn’t like ’em in City of Heroes, and that hasn’t changed. 🙂

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