Yackety Yak: In Game Chat

Yackety Yak: In Game Chat

Of course, the best way to make friends and form groups and clubs is to be able to talk to each other in the game. Every MMO has an in game chat system and Mystic Riders will be the same.

Chat systems are a more complicated subject due to the United States passing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, commonly known as COPPA. Due to COPPA, there are strict rules about what can and can’t be said in online chats in a game that is marketed towards children. The Act is rather vaguely worded, but the fines are killer.

When developing our ideas for a chat system, we have to keep COPPA and its EU counterpart in mind due to the United States and Europe being our largest game zones.

Becca and I have experienced different chat systems over different games. The game chat we both agreed we liked the best is the game chat in Wizards 101, a card based fantasy MMO by Kingsisle Entertainment.

Chat is a privilege and not a right.

Chat in Mystic Riders is for players over the age of 13 or those whose parents have agreed in the parental controls to turning on Chat. The age of 13 is reasonable because that’s when many social media companies, like Facebook and Twitter, allow children to have their own pages without parental consent.

Yes, we know, players will lie, that isn’t our responsibility, but the parents’!

For those players without chat there can be a system of emotes and a list of commonly asked questions to ask so they can at least communicate and get help.

When typing into the chat system, if a word is unapproved then it will turn red and the player won’t be able to hit enter until they change the word. Words that will most likely be unapproved are things like numbers, sexual words, and curse words. (Nut is not a sexual word unless you’re nine. Get over it.) We understand that players may try to get cheeky and find other ways to use spell or use swear words in the game.

Another type of unapproved word would be any type of spam, such as a singular pound sign(#) or any punctuation symbol. This will hopefully greatly reduce spam.

We believe that public chats should be moderated at all times for the safety of the players and for the safety of the company. If teens are aware that there is an adult monitoring their chat then they are more likely to behave themselves. This will mean a larger customer service team, and at the same time will reduce the usage of bots, and warnings can be given in real time to those swearing, being inappropriate, or being bullies. That way no one can say they weren’t warned if they are suspended or banned from chat.

We hope to have several channels; Say Chat, Global Chat, Group Chat, Friend Chat, Club Chat, and Role/Club Advertising Chat. Hopefully with enough channels, the spam will be kept to a minimum.

Say Chat is for the immediate area. Global is for the entire game. Group is for those you’re in a group with. Friend Chat lets you keep individual chats with people on your friends list. Club Chat is a group chat for your Club. And lastly, Advertising Chat is a place to look for and advertise your role playing games and sessions, and recruit club members.

Chat will be a window that the player can resize and move wherever they want it. It will have tabs on the top for the different chat channels and the ability to close out of it. The player will be able to enter what they want to say in a field under the chat box. There will also be a report function if the player sees someone breaking the rules.

While we want players to be able to talk to each other, we want them to be able to do it in a safe as environment as possible in a game or on the internet.

So Why a Girl Protagonist Again…?

So Why a Girl Protagonist Again…?

Time for some delving into our decision making paradigm here as I address what is sure to be a question we get a lot, and while I’ve touched on it, I really want to talk about it in-depth. Why did we decide that the player character in Mystic Riders had to be female?

I’ll get the mechanical aspect out of the way: yes, it is easier when you are going as highly-customizable as we are to only do one physical sex. Especially because we are doing three different body types, and lots of different hair styles and options for personalization and style choices (even if we are limiting how many are available at release and adding to them as the year goes on). By eliminating having the option to play as a boy, we’ll be able to make the player characters that more variable with the same amount of time and resources that normally go into supporting both physical sexes.

Since you can easily twist the mechanics into an argument for why we should do a male option, let me go into the marketing side of it. Our age demographic is 10+ girls, ideally 12-16. Those girls are going to want to play as themselves, to be as much like they either are or want to be. Our job as game developers is to cater to that market. Particularly because it is wildly under-represented. There are very few, high quality games with a female only protagonist that can be customized beyond using your own name. About the only two games I can think of that fairly let you play as male or female for that age group are Pokémon and Wizards 101, and they have to limit how much customizing you can do because of the engine’s ability to handle it all.

I use the word fairly in two senses: one, there are (roughly) the same number of options for both the male and female players, and both are presented in the same way. Counting the number of hair styles is easy, it’s the second that trips developers up. The female character has to have to have the same variety of options as the men–this means that they can’t be designed to only appeal to the male gaze. (I have heard the arguments that the overly buff men are supposed to be for the female gaze, I am here to tell you it’s garbage. It’s a masculine fantasy all around, folks.)

One common complaint you’ll see, even in female-forward games like Overwatch, is that the faces all look the same for a female character, despite different nationalities and body types, but the men have at least a nod towards diversity. By focusing all of our efforts into female characters, we can avoid those types of slips and actually bring true variety and diversity to the options for characters and for NPCs. We can also feature interesting fashions without presenting teenage characters as a lot older than they are and creating unrealistic expectations.

Which leads to the moral and emotional reasons why we want to focus on a female character. I grew up with Zelda and Mario, both rescuing princesses. Pokémon: Crystal and Final Fantasy X, my first games with female protagonists (or close to it), didn’t come out until I was already ten or eleven, and I’m younger than Ginny! And while games have worked to include female options for characters, there still aren’t very many that focus entirely on a female protagonist, even as other games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption 2 focus on male protagonists entirely. (I’m still annoyed we haven’t had a playable Zelda yet when she is the name of the franchise.)

Girls have just as much right to be the focus of a prophecy or the hero of a story. But they don’t get that opportunity unless it is alongside a male option. We want to create a game where the focus is devoted to showing that a game like this is possible, rather than feeding into the loop that girls won’t play games even if you create a game for them. It’s the same study they tried to feed us about female super heroes, and Wonder Woman blew them out of the water, and Carol Danvers is showing signs that she might do the same if given a fair chance.

That’s all Ginny and I want to do, really. Offer a fair chance for girls to be the heroes of their own stories, offer the type of games that we all enjoy without fighting through pop-up ads and bad graphics. By proving them wrong once, we give a foothold for others to try, and for us to keep trying and pushing for more. Because if all of us succeed, the ones who really benefit are the girls out there who start to believe that they can do what they dream.