Emote Friends: Interacting with Emoticons

The new THM boss

The newest chibi in the family: my friend uses emotes to brighten up Thaumaturgist’s guild.

A few nights ago I was playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, better known as ARR, with my best friend. And one way or another, I accidentally made a few emote friends.

So, what is “emote friends”? Simple. Emote friends = friends made through random uses of emoticons. My friend and I were bursting out laughing (emote “/laugh”) after completing a certain quest and suddenly the guy next to us joined in, “/laugh”-ing at us very loudly. Not wanting to lose, I gave him another dose of my own “/laugh”-ing. My friend joined in, then two more players joined in. One of us tried emote “/dance” and I also did the same. I used emote “/clap” and someone else used yet another emote. And another, and another.

After a while I said, “Okay, okay. Let’s all be friends,” and added them to my Friend List.

Nowadays emotes are an essential tool of social interaction in the Internet, and even more so in MMO games. In forums, we depend on the various keys in the keyboard to express our thoughts, starting from the basic smiley-face “:-)” to the more advanced glaring-face “>>:-(”. In social networking sites, we can also enjoy the visual renders of the most basic emotes — type “:D” in Facebook, for example, and the site will automatically change it into the Big Grin icon.

But in MMOs — at least in the more graphically advanced ones — we also have animations. Type “/grin” and zoom in to your character’s face, and you’ll find his smile widens confidently. Type “/wave” and he will wave his hand at whoever you happen to select. And — my favourite — type “/dance” and your character will do a little jig to the unheard music, while other players would glare at him as if he’s crazy.

These examples only apply in ARR, because each game has their own sets of emotes. Dragon Nest, for example, has two emotes for “/dance”, each of which differs depending on what character you are playing. Dance with a Kali character, and if you’re male and perverts (these two words are synonymous) make sure to prepare some tissue and close the curtains first. (emote “/wink”)

But the use of emotes in any MMOs is still limited. In ARR, for example, you need to stand still to use most of the emotes. You can’t run a dungeon and “/laugh”-ed when your friend is cracking a joke. You can try of course, and the dialogue box will say you’ve already used that emote. But there’ll be no animation, no change on the facial expression, no laughing-out-loud voice from your character. That’s a big turn off.

Doubting Lalafell

This little Lala wants to use emotes more freely.

And there’s a problem with the length of writing needed to use an emote. It’s much faster, not to mention easier, if we just type “LOL” instead of “/laugh”. When you run a dungeon, you don’t want to waste time typing “/laugh” when you can use the three letters “LOL”. Even “/LOL” is longer than “LOL” by one letter, and when you’re battling a big bad boss, you don’t always want to waste time writing that extra letter. “LOL” might not have any animation, but it’s much more convenient. I really think other game developers will benefit from imitating Dragon Nest’s auto-render, so that when you type “LOL” in the dialogue box, the system will automatically change it into its animated counterpart — your character will laugh, in a clear voice and with a change in the facial expression. This way, the game will be more interesting and, more importantly, more realistic.

On the side note, maybe it’s also a good idea to set up a system that can detect the dialogue box for any basic emote. If for example you type, “That is so true LOL”, the dialogue box will just say, “Character 1: That is so true” and your character will be laughing at the same time. Of course, there has to be some restrictions to this, otherwise we won’t be able to type “lollipop” and “Lolita” ever again.

The one thing I like about ARR — in terms of emotes, anyway — is that you can combine emote “/sit” with a few other emotes. So, if you type “/sit” and then “/wave”, your character will wave his hand while remain seated. The same goes with “/sit” plus “/laugh”, and “/sit” plus “/thumbsup”, although in the last one your character will nod instead of giving a thumb’s up. I wish there will be more emotes available to combine with emote “/sit”, but ARR developers have got the right idea — they make emote-ing more interesting.

Someone once told me, “Everyone smiles in the same language”. The same thing applies for emotes. Wherever you are, whatever your culture is like, “:D” always means a big smile and “:|” always means a whatever-face. The emote friends I mentioned above, for example, are all speaking Japanese and I can’t speak the language except for “Konichiwa” and “Aishiteru”. But we can still interact through emotes and that makes us emote friends.

I imagine someday all messaging apps like WhatsApp will have a 3D avatar who does our emotes for us. You type “LOL” and he’ll laugh, you type “:P” and he’ll make a silly face. It’ll make chatting much more expressive. Seeing the current pace of technological innovations, I say this won’t happen very far in the future — the only question is which tech developers will get this idea first and be able to utilise it efficiently. As for me, I’ll go back to ARR and do another round of “/laugh”. Who knows? Maybe some other strangers would join in and end up in my Friend List. (emote “/wink”)

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Playing: Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn

Eorzea during sunset

This is what I’m currently playing: Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, or also known as “ARR”. And this picture above is Oxel Petrichor, the character I’m playing. He’s a Miqo’te: a race of playable characters presumably created for someone with fetish for cat ears and cat tail. Do I have such fetish? I dunno; I never check.

The remake of the second MMO in Final Fantasy (FF) franchise, ARR is something I’ve been wanting to play since its relaunch in August this year. But what with the server problem following it, I’ve just started playing it quite recently. And so far I’m enjoying every moment of it.

Playing ARR is like reminisce of all games in the franchise. Here and there I’m seeing references to the previous FFs, like the Helm of Light (FF I), Magiteks (FF VI) and even Materias (FF VII). The last time I heard, you can even dress up your character in Lightning’s costume (FF XIII) although I don’t know where you can get it. Then again, my character Oxel is male, so perhaps it’s not a good idea to give him a new hobby.

Being an explorer-gamer, I see world/setting creation as something really important — second only to the plot— so thankfully Eorzea, the world of ARR, is really well-design. Each map point has its own backstory and each field is big enough that I haven’t been bored exploring every nook and cranny. And although you can’t talk to all NPCs, you can still see what they were saying through the text bubble above their heads. Too bad players don’t have the same text bubbles — it would make communication between players easier when we were facing strong enemies.

So far I’ve died twice and one of them is suicide — caused by me jumping down to the bottom of the valley because I couldn’t see the way down. I do that quite often — jumping down from somewhere really high — because I like to see how high I can take and still survive. It’s part of exploration — finding out what you can and cannot do. But if I did this in real life, I’d have to live in a loonyhouse for my own safety, so I might as well do it in games. It’s something to do, suicide — as long as not in real life, of course.

The battle system is not exactly the best. It’s not very player-responsive — you just click on a monster and then use the hotbars to perform various skills. You can’t roll on the ground to evade attacks; you don’t have to jump when fighting flying monsters (because the monsters are understanding enough not fly too high). You can walk around to avoid AoE attacks (those red marks on the ground), but I don’t know if this helps or not — sometimes I still take damage even after I’ve walked out of the red marks. And you can’t parry or dodge an attack unless your character has decided to do it.

Strangely enough, this battle system is still fun. Maybe I’m just bored of extremely player-responsive battle systems in Dragon Nest and Guild Wars 2, where I have to keep moving if I don’t want to take damage. I’m actually enjoying the simplicity of ARR, where I don’t have to keep dodging for the futility of it. It’s almost pleasant — I can just relax, attack with combos, heal when necessary, and run away crying when desperate. The lack of battle complication actually means I can just enjoy the story and the world of Eorzea.

I’m playing in Lamia server. Don’t forget to “/wave” at me if you happen to pass by!