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draqza

Magic Systems (RPG mostly, but other genres perhaps)

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I was digging through my favorites folder and found a post by BobyDimitrov on magic types (http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=50544) and it got me thinking about the actual way magic systems are implemented. So what''s good about the common systems, and what''s not? Here are the systems I can think of (with category names that make sense to me): Menu System: Standard Final Fantasy-esque system for turn-based or semi-turn-based combat. Tried and true, works for the turn-based combat, but in order for it to be do-able with long lists in an active combat system, the game must be paused unless the player sticks with something like 4 spells. Pausing even works fine--until you take it to multiplayer. Hotkey menu: Diablo maybe? Useful with a few spells, but may take too long to dig through spell lists. Modified Hotkey: Nox, with the ability to jump to a certain spell set according to how many times you hit certain keys. Works, until you''re in combat trying to remember "was burn rra or rrra or rwa...or maybe that was a different spell..." Gesture System: Black & White is the only game I know of that uses gestures, and while it''s definitely a creative system, it sometimes requires far too much precision. Yes, I get that typically magic is considered an art which requires precise control to work right, but carrying that over to the player may be taking immersion too far, to where it cancels itself out. At the least, gestures must be different enough that one can''t accidentally activate something else (such as how the squared-spiral and rounded-spiral would often trigger incorrectly). Are there any others I''m missing? I realize that I largely pointed out what was wrong with the systems without offering alternatives--I''ll get to that after these are discussed a little. (Plus, I have to think of a few. ) -- WNDCLASSEX Reality; ... ... Reality.lpfnWndProc=ComputerGames; ... ... RegisterClassEx(&Reality); Unable to register Reality...what''s wrong? --------- Dan Upton Lead Designer WolfHeart Software

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Key-combinations: Simple example, player wants to cast magic missile. The combination for this spell is X-A-D-S. Player has to type X, A, D, S and enter, after which the spell will be launched. Tough (because you have to memorize the combinations) but I think it simulates the process of spellcasting pretty close. You can always grant high level spellcasters the ability to create shortcut keys for their favorite spells (example, a level 21 wizard that''s always used fireball can set that spell to a combination of just two characters)

Might be somewhat similar to Nox''s system, but I haven''t played it so can''t judge. Excellent system to balance spells. High level spells would require long sets of characters, perhaps even with a timing element included.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Key combinations sound like a good concept. Even moreso for non-combat spells. You could create a formula based on the potency of the spell, and have steps in-between for using reagents or whatnot.

Like, ressurect: X - A - use mandrake - D - dance in a circle - S

Hot keying combat spells would be the best way to go for real time combat, or perhaps a fast right-click menu with a limited number of slots.

Depending on the game''s control setup, you could also use the keypad as a decent hotkey as opposed to the traditional functions keys. They''re easier to work with one hand while the other works the mouse.

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We could go even further by having not only keys, but words needed for the casting. Like the player has to type the enchantment and a typo could result in various penalties. I.e. if you try to cast "Fireball" (not fireballs again) and typing ashahrethum instead of ashehradum, you cast "Berserk"... I just love the concept of malfunctioning magic!

And even further: voice recognition. I''ve seen (and even tested) some VR systems at work and can say they''re up to decent level. Why not have the game engine recognize the spell, as the player actually says the words? And it could note the input level too, so the higher the player shouts the spell, the stronger effect will be. I.e. in real time combat you see a huge warrior swinging his doublehander to cut you in half and the first thing that comes to you is shouting the "Magic Shield" spell, hoping that it will save you for just enough time to regain control of yourself and trun that stupid warrior to a frog. *rant, rant, rant*

This technique will allow the player to express their personality in the game, by memorising spells and each player will remember different spells, depending on which ones he uses most. After all, you use only the spells you can remember, the others will take time looking up in a spellbook.

More on it: to learn a spell, you have to learn to pronounce it. I.e. a powerful wizzard teaches you a new spell - he gives you a scroll you put in your spell book and when you read it, it has information how to pronounce the spell (like transcription). Furthermore, the wizzard could demonstrate the magic, so you could hear how does it sounds, so it would be easyer for you to learn it.

Comments welcome, as always!

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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BOBYDIMITROV:

Voice recognition... Ah, a dream come true.

The technology is there, why not use it?

How expensive is a simple microphone? How expensive would it be to include voice recognition software within a game?

The beauty of voice recognition is that it can be paired with in-game sounds.

Not only will I say ''alakazam'' to cast my magic missile, but if you''re standing close enough, you''ll be able to hear me say it.

Which also brings an element of strategy to the game: If I can hear what you say, and I recognize the spell, I can quickly counter your spell.

Question:

How far has technology developed in the VR realm? How long until we can put a VR glove on that will correspond to my character''s hand? Because then, we can really get spellcasting going. Black And White''s system was innovative (although frustrating again, because a mouse simply didn''t give me enough control I thought), but the ultimate goal would be to have your actual hand perform the necessary motions. After all, the mouse is just a tool controlled by your hand. If you can bypass the tool, you''ll have better control.

Is that thinking too far ahead... or not far enough?

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quote:
Original post by BobyDimitrov
And even further: voice recognition. I've seen (and even tested) some VR systems at work and can say they're up to decent level. Why not have the game engine recognize the spell, as the player actually says the words? And it could note the input level too, so the higher the player shouts the spell, the stronger effect will be.


Whilst voice recognition is a good idea, and some of the effects that you describe (ie. "instantaneous" player reactions: Shield) would be interesting features. There is no way that I (or many people) would shout stupid sounding Fantasy Spells TM (Frobot, Alakazam, Gotochi!) etc. If there was any chance of being heard by friends or relatives.

Edited by - Ketchaval on July 3, 2001 10:16:13 AM

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The Magic system is something I''ve put a lot of thought into, and the Voice recognition coupled with the dataglove would be the best way to go. Difficulty could increase, and the need to memorize things would be required. Of course, along with the possibility of a mistake, goes the added inflection of an incantation. Such as the voice, or the gestures... such small differences should have a direct effect on the spell.



Jace Murray

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I like the idea of combining hotkey combinations, with the concept of runic magic (also mentioned in previous threads)

So, one set of keys could be associated with one rune set, eg

Element runes:

f = fire
w = water
a = air
e = earth

Another set of keys would be associated with another rune set...

Target Runes:

s = self
o = other

etc.

Using a method like this, the player can create his own effects by combining different keypress sequences. For really long sequences, it might be possible to enscribe scrolls using a simple in game editor - these scrolls could be used when needed like any normal item.

As for datagloves/speech recognition, I think it is bad design to rely on the users having specialist (expensive) hardware to play your game. While it may well be more immersive to wave your arms around and shout strange stuff at your computer, it is never going to be popular enough to sell more than a few units, so it is a waste of time developing it. Stick to a keyboard & mouse.




Edited by - Sandman on July 3, 2001 10:42:30 AM

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Ketchaval, I have to disagree.
I don''t consider myself a passionate player, yet I shout full power when the stupid Creature casts a fireball at will, or when my Amazon is slained by a horde of... goblis, or when I get hit in Tyrian, or... well, most of the time. I, and surely most of the players, freely express emotions provoked by the game in a verbal, and often other way and don''t have a problem with that. Also it''s not an easy task making me feel ashamed, yet much easyer to angry me, or at least the AI suceeds in that quite a bit

Silvermyst, yes, one of the best things about that tech is other players being able to hear your actual voice and recognise spells. They could even hear you cast a spell and try to cast it by themselves. It would be interesting, since it''s quite likely for them to make a mistake, yet others will always be tempted to "steal" a powerful spell. Imagine what happens to the caster after missspelled Armagaddon ! Buahaha!

And about the VR (virtual reality, that is, not voice recognition), I''m investigating right now!

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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Sandman, that looks ok, just one thing bothers me.
Most magic systems are based on the opposing elements:
Fire-Water
Land-Air
Life-Death

If a Fire wizzard is specializing in Fire magic, then he cannot cast Water, he can cast the rest four with 50% effect and Fire with 200% effect. Well, if I was a fire wizzard, my spell would look something like that:
ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff
(Fireballs, many of them)

Any workaround?

Yes, you could add some "land" here and there to get Meteor Shower, or "life" to get Healing Flame, but it still does not make the spells "real", like with the whole word casting. The spells lose their personality. As I proposed in previous posts, even if we''re not able to implement voice recognition, we still can make the player remember some words and type them when needed.

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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SANDMAN:

How much did you pay for your keyboard and mouse? Do you have a microphone hooked up to your computer? How much did you pay for that?

How much would it cost for a company to include voice recognition software into their product?

I really don''t think cost is the issue here. Is it bandwith? How does that work? I mean, current online games already suffer from lag. Will adding sound for each user add to that? Or not?

Anyway, I agree that the virtual glove thing would be too expensive to design a game around. Then again... If it works, you just might have the ultimate game! How much would you pay for a game you would truly enjoy? Current prices hover around 50-60 bucks. If I had to pay 200 for a game that I KNOW would rock my world for a few years to come, you bet I would pay. Would others?

I think the voice recognition would be my first choice, because it seems easiest to implement and also cheapest.

BOBYDIMITROV:
There are so many elements that could be designed for a game based on voice recognition. I mean, as you said, if I hear a caster utter a spell, I can just utter that same spell myself. But maybe the caster had cast a spell to make his words SOUND different... Maybe he set a trap for me, making his ''fireball on target'' sound like a ''fireball on self'' spell.

Maybe certain spells could function with a mere whisper, making it difficult if not impossible for others to hear it.

The thing I like about this, is that there''s a lot of player skill involved. Current MMORPGs seem to be all about character skill. The numbers pretty much do the job (although good players can of course always tip the scales of balance in their favor) when players are able to just click on preset spells and just follow a strict routine (click spell 1, click spell 2, click spell 3). Of course, just adding voice recognition is not going to change that (shout spell 1, shout spell 2, shout spell 3), but IF you do use voice recognition in your game design, you might be able to completely revamp the whole magic system design.

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quote:
Original post by BobyDimitrov
We could go even further by having not only keys, but words needed for the casting. Like the player has to type the enchantment and a typo could result in various penalties. I.e. if you try to cast "Fireball" (not fireballs again) and typing ashahrethum instead of ashehradum, you cast "Berserk"... I just love the concept of malfunctioning magic!



Mmm...interesting concept, but it would most definitely require a turn-based system to work, and while I''m still a fan of pseudo-linear RPGs (like Final Fantasy) with the turn-based system, the current trend in RPGs is heading towards either isometric or first/third person, real-time combat systems. If a player has to remember 10 character "words" to cast a spell, he won''t be able to get in combat. Sure, it makes sense that a wizard might want to hide out behind cover and pick through his spells, but how many players are really going to want to do that, let alone remember the key triggers.

As for voice recognition, it would have to come off without a hitch the first time it was tried, or else the media would tear your game apart for it, and other companies might not be inclined to attempt it. And it seems, at least at this point in time, that speech recognition technology is not refined enough to tell the difference between the archaic sounds which would be written in for spells. Plus, again, I just don''t see players getting into the whole idea of shouting streams of "gook" (for a lack of a better term) at their computer.

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Sandman: the combined hotkeys concept is something I like. It seems to me that that would be a system which could come relatively close to the idea of wizards combining spell components for various effects, and it also has room for BobyDimitrov''s favorite concept : backfiring. The combined effects would not be hard to create, I believe--the system could quickly calculate components and relative strengths, then use a particle engine to create effects. That same system could calculate distance, damage, and perhaps even if it spread, and mana/magic point/whatever cost could be calculated based on a climibing factor (ie, hitting "f" in a sequence the first time would take 1 mp, then the second would take 2, then 3, etc.). I''d say that implementing a system like this would be cheaper than voice technology because you wouldn''t have to do quite as much research and testing--just play-balancing, which I think would be infinitely more fun anyway.

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DRAQZA:

Why would it have to be turn based?

Why not force players to type fast or die?

And I''m not at all up to date on voice recognition technology, but if we can use it to have our computer type out the letters that we dictate, why can''t we use it for basically simple commands.

I mean... If a game has 10.000 different spells, that''s still only 10.000 commands the voice recognition software has to recognize. You could make the command words any word you want. If certain words cause a problem, change it.

Alakazam is just as good as boom.

I think the main problem would be that using voice recognition would somewhat limit the game to certain users. I mean, a french person might have a hard time pronouncing the word alakazam in a way that the English voice recognition software would recognize it.

Implementing separate voice recognition software for several languages would seem to costly (is it?).

And I think the voice recognition should be used COMBINED with regular audio software, if we''re talking about MMO. You wouldn''t JUST be shouting BOOM and ALAKAZAM, you''d be talking to other people, haggling over prices, shouting warnings, hushing groupmembers... and yes, when the need arises, you''d be casting spells.

There are numerous problems arising from using player sound as a game device, but I think there just might be enough benefits to make it a good idea.

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quote:
Original post by BobyDimitrov
If a Fire wizzard is specializing in Fire magic, then he cannot cast Water, he can cast the rest four with 50% effect and Fire with 200% effect. Well, if I was a fire wizzard, my spell would look something like that:
ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff
(Fireballs, many of them)

Any workaround?




I''ve had this idea running around my head for some time as well. Let me through this at you.

Ok, lets start at the beginning, the basic fire spell, ''f''. You cast it. Your hand lights on fire. Hrm... Did it hurt? No, probably not, your a fire mage after all. But you really didn''t want your hand to burst into flame did you (well, mabey), you wanted fire to fly across at that other guy over there (he is a water make, they make funny noises when hit with fire), so you add some air. Now your spell is ''fa''. You cast it, it flies over and hits the water mage. He gose ''s''. He starts shouting at you. You deside to hit him harder, so you add some more heat and cast ''ffa''. It hits him and he gose ''sssss''. Now he is scared. *EG* He starts to run. You need your spell to go farther/faster, you add more air. Now you have ''ffaa''. Unfortunatly you miss this time. He is quick.... Ok, lets make it expload by adding earth. Now we have ''ffeeaa'', which is a fire ball that will expload on impact and flies across the screen. Now you have use for other elements!.

Now you could take this and add it to what you were saying about 0% for water, 50% for others, and 200% for fire. A fire mage can''t use water elements in spells, only needs half fire, but twice everying else. Now that spell looks like ''feeeeaaaa''.

You could even take it a step ferther and create an op-code like sceem were the first few elements are the teyp of spell, and the use of the rest are determind by that. Like a teleport could be ''eafw'' then you specify were by having a way to translate elements in x,y,z coordinates.

I have more ideas on this, but I don''t want to take up to much more of your time.

Streich

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You''re forgetting a couple of things... what is your magic system in question, used for? Is it for augmenting statistics and doing (in)direct damage, a la Final Fantasy? Is it to provide the spectacular, a la Black & White? A mix of the two a la Ultima IX? You mention FF and Diablo in the list of RPGs... since these games are more combat- than story-oriented, I don''t think including them in the group of ''magic as an art'' list of RPGs is acceptable. Let''s talk about the ''other'' flavor of RPGs that might also compel with story or interactivity or character personality development first and foremost.

Menu system
Only used (for example, in Final Fantasy) because limitations of hardware could not sport otherwise. I don''t think this should even be an option, because a keyboard can be used so much more efficiently. The game is a glorified pretty strategy game, so let''s move on.

Hotkey menu
Diablo''s magic system sorta seems like an interface modification rather than one that is part of the game world, so again, let''s move on.

Modified hotkey
Not a bad idea, but then you have to fight with a cumbersome keyboard to remember what you want to cast, it gets tedious. Think in terms of being in the actual game world. How would your character cast a spell? He wouldn''t be thinking of hotkeys (mapping a list of keys to an array of spell effects), he would be thinking of gestures, using wands, and magic words.

Gesture system
This is an amazing system, and much more natural, because the game makes you think that you, as the god of the land, are casting spells by twirling your hands in the air. I don''t think this system is appropriate for a god-game, but it certainly should be appropriate for a mage-game.

As for forgotten magic systems... you need to do some historic research! I''ll explain the (to me) most intuitive magic system available in games:

Object system
The point of this system is to immerse you, the player, in the game world such that it feels like you are interacting with the world, rather than the game interface. This can be found in Ultima VIII - Pagan. The short version of the system is that you use magical foci, material components, and different mixtures of ingredients, to complete your magic spells. You might place candles on a pentagram, or mix reagents in a bag, or make talismans that you later use for casting spells. Your character says the magic words, and gestures appropriately, when you cast a spell. Sounds very simplistic, but the system works!



MatrixCubed
http://MatrixCubed.org






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BobyDimitrov:

Your ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff spell would only work if you had very craply designed rune system. The idea is that even for a basic fireball spell you would need a combination of runes to take effect. Using the very simple 2 runeset system I mentioned in my post (only intended as examples btw) a basic fireball might be fo. ffo might get you a bigger fireball, fofo might get you 2. Perhaps the fireball needs a bit of mass for maximum damage however, so you add some earth - ffeo - maybe adding air gives you extra range, but at the cost of reducing the fire effect, so you need fffeao etc. Perhaps if you do it in a different order you get a different effect. It depends how complex you want to make the magic system. I think it would be more fun for players to experiment with combinatorial effects of runes - invent their own spells - than learn a few weird words. It may not even require that much work - a few simple but carefully chosen combination rules could give rise to a huge number of spell effects with minimal development effort.

SilverMyst:

The cost would be to the developer - either they have to develop the software themselves (time + money) or they license the software from elsewhere (money) in either case, it would cut into the budget and cost them time and money that might be better spent on features that dont require specialist hardware/software to run. If you really must have fancy tech, go for the gesture system a la black & white. This has all the advantages of the voice system, but with out the need for the player to make a complete prat of himself in front of his PC. Can you imagine watching a load of people at LAN party playing a game with voice recognition? Imagine the racket people would make, particularly if volume made the spell more powerful.

Edited by - Sandman on July 3, 2001 12:38:16 PM

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Hm, some general remarks...

Gesture system: it is not amazing, just the B&W implementation looked nice in 3d. We currently don''t have a proper device for such system! Drawing circles and spirals on the screen is more of a photoshop lesson than a magic gesture! Until the VR gloves are wide spread, I won''t be looking into such system.

The elements key letter: Seems like everybody on the thread liked my ffffffffffffffffffireball, and even some improvisations can be seen. But IMO, this is not an systems that''s fun! It''s like genetics - type the DNA bases and there you have it: ATCGGTTACAACACGGATACAGTCAGTGTCA... Yes, there are zillions of variations, but who''s gonna use them anyway?

The Voice Cast again: Why I like that system so much? Because it''s truly intuitive. It''s not up to typing coded spells or selecting menus or trying to draw the "pink rhino, riding a bycicle" gesture. It''s up to talking. How often (and how much) do you talk to other people, compared to typing on the pc?

I don''t consider prononciation of different people around the world a problem. I have tried a dictation software several months ago, and can asure you that even with my horrible english talk there were very few mistakes in the text. Also, the system could be designed in such way, that allows the player to record his own way of saying the words, say in the process of learning the spell, so that eliminates the problem.

And about the costs of such technology. First of all, which one of you, who speak against it consider developing a game in the next months? So you don''t have to worry! When someone, anyone reaches the point of implementing the voice recognition it''ll be even better, faster and cheaper to do it, mark my words.

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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SANDMAN:

It might cost... but it also takes away from having to design your own magic casting interface.

I just think the voice recognition system is such an optimal choice for spellcasting (since the general idea of magic usually involves verbal components) that it should be looked at more carefully.

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I didn''t read quite all of the talk as I was in a hurry so maybe someone made this point already, but in my opion using voice recognition is hard. I once wrote a ActiveX control using the Microsoft comand and control thingy, and then made it call up apps and stuff. Worked great untill my sisters, walked in turned on a video and started talking. My computer went bezerek. Granted I wasn''t using a headphone, but I hate headphones . I think it''s a good idea if the background noise can be screened out(maybe the newer version of thier tech does this, I''m not sure), or if you turn the mic down(in which case you have to shout louder :-(). I just think it''s more trouble then it''s worth, but I''d like to be proved wrong, as I think it''s a great idea if it can be done.
www.laeuchli.com/jesse/

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I disagree completely that voice recognition is the optimal form of interface. Voice recognition software is error prone and slow in my experience. My cousin spent days training his to recognise his voice properly, even then it still fucked up every other word and it took him twice as long to write a doc as it would have done if he has typed it with his toes. Sure it may a lot better these days, but then what about LAN parties? Two people playing the game in the same room? What if you are playing late at night and you dont want complaints from the neighbours?

quote:

And about the costs of such technology. First of all, which one of you, who speak against it consider developing a game in the next months? So you don't have to worry! When someone, anyone reaches the point of implementing the voice recognition it'll be even better, faster and cheaper to do it, mark my words.



By that logic we may as well design our games to use mind control devices.

Edited by - Sandman on July 3, 2001 1:09:14 PM

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You could always combine a few of the ideas. For instance, instead of having a mage cast a spell out of mind, make mages have to scribe the spell onto a scroll before casting. And, you can then combine the runic magic stuff, except the player has to choose which runes from an onscreen box, or whatever. So, now you have a whole bunch of runes that the player can choose from to compose his spell. He has to remember what rune does what, so he can say, click and drag the correct rune to the correct spot. Then, you can hide certain runes in books, tomes, scrolls, etc in the game, and make the player find them. Let them start with a generic "Magic" rune, and a rune that allows targeting of "Self" and "Other". This allows a starting mage to have the Spells "Magic Missile" and "Magic Shield". They can go find other runes, AOE runes, fire runes, etc. Perhaps there is a rune in this book, but it is written in some odd language, so you have to find someone who can speak that language to tell you what it does. Maybe that person tells you the wrong thing... You could base entire storylines off of it =).

Z.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
There are good points and bad points to all system, and ways to work around the bad points.

Gesture system: It removes a level between you and the game, adding to suppension of belife. However, it dose need to be acurate, and if you want easy to draw, unique gestures, you will be limiting yourself. A RV Glove would be a great benifit here.

elemnts/runs: You could have a possible infinate amount of spells, and can also allow ''casting on the fly'' However, no one wants to memorize the human genome. One possible way around this is to impliment alias system were you could type /fireball instead of /fffffffffffffffffffffffffffireball. Think MUD.

Voice Cast: This one also adds to suppension of belife. Problems with this is the actual recognition (which is getting better all the time) and bandwidth. This is very much a problem if you want to send the voices of the sourounding 20-25 people to a 56k dial up. A possible sollution is to do the recognition on the client then send the command to the server. You would have to come up with some other way to warn people they are going to get hit with a fireball.

It would be interesting to see if there is a way to combine all of these systems into one.... That would take a bit of work though....

Streich

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LAEUCHLI:

That IS a good point. The input device for the sound better be perfect, or background noise might just cause that virtual spellcaster to incinerate himself.

SANDMAN:

Problems with voice recognition software doesn''t mean it wouldn''t be the perfect tool for spellcasting. It just means that we''re not ready yet. The voice recognition would have to be able to distinguish between actual player command and any other noise. Like you mentioned, it would have to be able to distinguish between two players sitting right next to eachother.
Maybe it''s too early to implement it now, but I think that maybe in the next 10 years...

And by the way... one day we WILL have mind devices. I already saw a piece where scientists inserted sensors into a part of the mind where information is stored a split second before a person actually acts upon that information (just before you move your arm up, the info required to do that will pass through that part of the mind). Scientists are already discovering patterns within this part of the mind. The reason for this research is to give completely paralyzed people a tool to communicate with. Basically, it would be like a remote control directly implanted into your mind.

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Well, maybe in 10 years time voice recognition software would be great, but it is pointless to try and design games for 10 years into the future. And if you want to find the "ultimate" interface, then its going to be the mind reading device. As game designers though, we should be a bit more realistic. Submitting a design doc to a publisher for a game based around mind reading devices is going to get you laughed out of the building even quicker than usual.

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