MMO communication tools

Game Career Guide reports on Nick Andrew Quagliara's masters thesis about communication in MMOs. The research conducted here basically addressed the following issues: "Do these chat communication interfaces support the types of interactions that users desire?" and "do the current interfaces, which rely on prior experience with MMOs, inadvertently frustrate new players to the point that they stop playing?" The author addresses them through 3 steps: content analysis of chat communication, expert evaluation of 10 MMOs and a focus group of users (to gauge their impressions of chat communication interfaces in MMOs). Results indicate "that there needs to be a reexamination of the designs of the chat communication interfaces in MMOs". Some of the problem mentioned:

"chat communication interfaces within these MMOs were alike. Tasks were typically carried out in a similar fashion from one MMO to the next. The most significant difference noted was with the handling of windows (...) Users felt that the interfaces were at times overwhelming as there were situations of information overload. Participants provided anecdotal evidence that they were often missing messages in the chat communication window while they were occupied with other tasks in the MMOs. It was also noted that the interfaces did not seem to be learnable or conducive to play."

Some heuristics to go beyond these problems are then proposed:

"Automate when possible / Make information meaningful / Don't assume prior knowledge / Look to the mod community / Simplify when possible / Alert the user to messages / Gradually present some functionality / Give users access to information relevant to their play / Keep consistency with interactions / Provide different functionality for different users / Consider icons in place of text commands / Give the user the chance to opt out."

Why do I blog this? although the research is maybe briefly described on the Game Career Guide website (mabye more here), there are interesting elements here about the connection between game interface and computer-mediated communication.