PDA

View Full Version : (About the Survey) building a better in-game chat system



rabid
01-11-2006, 03:14 PM
First of all, thanks so much to everybody who has taken part in the "stickied" survey so far (there may be a couple more of them in the next couple of weeks...).

Now let me attempt to explain what this is about, and see if I can spark some discussion/input from you guys.

Basically, I'm trying to design a prototype of something that would take the place of (or improve upon) the idea of "game threads" and live chat during games.

a couple of seasons ago, after I got my new laptop, I frequently would set up shop in the living room and post to the chats/game threads while watching the games.

It was fun for a while, but after a couple of months the novelty wore off, mainly for two reasons:

1) - I realized that, since I was constantly trying to both watch the TV AND look at a computer screen, that I was missing out on key plays in the game.

2) - The style of communication seemed awkward somehow. Conversation in the message board threads seemed very restricted, and there was a lways a time delay (i.e. someone commenting on a great play wouldn't get their post online until 30 seconds later or so, when the next play was already in full swing). Conversation in the chat room, on the other hand, was chaotic at best, and hard to follow - it was often hard to see who was speaking to whom, and following a full conversation took a lot of concentration and distracted from the game.

--------
So, to make a long story short, I don't post in game threads/chat anymore. However, there definitely is something cool about being able to communicate with other fans remotely while you're watching (or listening to) the game. In a way, it helps replace a little bit of what's lost by not being at the stadium - having spontaneous interaction with other fans. Smack talk, yelling, cheering, "oohs" and "aahs," etc. You just don't get that experience sitting at home (unless you're at a Superbowl party or something).


---------------------------------------------------------------
So our "problem space" is, essentially, that we need a system that:

1) - allows fans to communicate more spontaneously (everybody can "cheer" at once for example, instead of looking at 15 lines of YES! in a chat room)
2) (and this is the tricky part) - doesn't distract from the game (i.e., you don't have to constantly look back and forth between two different screens during a live game in order to talk to people).
----------------------------------------------------------------

I have some pretty solid ideas about how I'm going to go about designing/testing this, and how it might work, but before I get into that, I'd like to know what you guys think.

How would you solve this problem? Is this a problem that needs to be solved at all? Would you use such a thing? And what would it look like/how would it work?

Any and all comments/discussion would be greatly appreciated. Again, thanks for all the help, guys!

Hicks
01-11-2006, 03:23 PM
It'd be a technological nightmare (I think), but if you had one page, where a quarter (or more?) of the screen was a video feed of the game, and the rest was an area to communicate, and another with stats/info about the game, it could be all right if designed very well. Since broadcasting the game like that doesn't seem in the cards (yet, MLB gives me optimism), perhaps people with PC-DVRs could let the feed actually embed itself into the webpage?

If something like that were possible, and there was a way to somehow synchronize it among all visitors, you would have a more harmonic system.

But I think that's pure tech fantasy at this point. Although if you take out the video, and subsitute it with audio of some kind (which I believe we've discussed various possibilities there), you may be on to something.

Of course, that still has the issue of synchronizing everything up.

sweabs
01-11-2006, 03:27 PM
This sounds like an interesting project, and one I can relate to. I've found it difficult to participate in game threads, because I don't enjoy clicking the refresh button constantly while play is taking place. On the other hand, the game chat can seem chaotic at times and difficult to interpret.

My feeling, with this board in particular, is there has to be a way of merging both game chat and game threads together. The game threads are full of play-by-play updates, which however, may make more sense in a real-time setting. There are always people in one or the other, but it would nice to have everyone in the same place.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with, because I would definitely make use of it.

Hicks
01-11-2006, 03:28 PM
I've flirted with adding a chat that would actually be a PART of the forum, to see if it allowed options to make something that would bring the look/features of the game thread to a chat, but so far nothing's impressed me and I haven't looked thoroughly in a while.

able
01-11-2006, 05:23 PM
OK I started this long thing including historic overview but ofcourse, someone interrupted me, phones are your friend, and now I am restarting :D

First a wee bit technical

There are at this moment two main streams in "chat" being "irc" and "html-based"
The latter one uses Java as engine in most cases, wich allows for "nicer" graphics, embedding etc. though some applets are irc based (like the one we use) and some are fully java based.

The "game-thread" is simple html/php, refresh is your "friend" (*not mine, as every refresh is a re-connect to the servers and reloading the page is bandwidth usage) this type of "chat" is very related to the latter days, and is exactly where the broadband comes in and where forums have left the good ol bbs's behind them.

This latest form is only possible on broadband, it is a killer of any dial-up connection, even with all the virtual gadgets off, the size of the pages reloading is simply to much to keep doing on a dial-up.

Video transmission via the internet (even my servers) is very possible, the requirements are relatively "easy" to setup, and depending on the participation it might even be possible to do this sooner or later, technically it is certainly possible, but the bandwidth usage on my side would be growing exponentially with the participants, so certains caveats will have to be made to begin with, even leaving all legal issues aside.

Inserting a chat screen in a display (full page or let's say top 80% of the screen) is relatively easy once again, however our brain and physical motorical incompetency is a large stop sign on that.

Consider reading subtitles, this is for those who are trained in it, i.e. grew up with it easy and in most cases subconscious, but, for those not trained in it the subtitles are very distracting, so much that in countries like the UK, France, Germany and the USA the use of subtitles immediately leads to lower viewer numbers and lower appreciation. In all reality the numbers are far lower then the actual numbers reflected in viewing, because those numbers do not account for the numbers of native speakers of the language that is subtitled.

Now add to that the fact one has to answer at times to get interaction, debate or whatever you want to call it, and base that on the fact that most of the internet users are not trained "typist" who can type blindly, add to that the fact that even IF you can do that, you still need to read back what you are typing in order to prevent total nonsense or gibberish to appear on the screen (and we all know it still appears despite all those precautions)

This all takes away from our ability to do both things at the same time, mainly because our eye/brain coordination is not trained to do both at the same time with equal results as to when we would do each seperately.

That leaves only "sound" interaction, it is easy to talk while watching, this improves with the equaly downgrading of the quality of the commentating or the pure lack of it.

That leaves in my unstudied opinion two options:

1. video with open "conferencing" channels (sound)

2. sound with open "chat" channels.

the latter equals the first with the exception of the experience.

Both are technically possible with our current setup, whether they are viable legally and financially are different questions. Both of which I am willing to participate in or investigate and instignate.

It does leave open however the fact that other solutions outside of my frame of thinking are possible.

rabid
01-11-2006, 06:13 PM
Interesting that you guys came to pretty much the same conclusions I did...

Hicks, it actually is very do-able (not especially easy, but do-able) to create the type of application you're talking about. Essentially you would write a DVR software package, embed a video stream, and then have avatars or whatever doing stuff off-screen.

I see two problems with this approach, however. The first is cost. You'd really need a fast computer with a nice TV card to pull that off, which most people still either can't afford or set up (of course, you could build a dedicated box like a tiVo, but that's beyond the scope of my project). Te second problem is that the more information you put on the screen, the harder it will be to pay attention to the game itself.

So at this point I'm definitely leaning towards what able is talking about, which is an audio-based solution.

In fact, I'm thinking that we should try to do a quick-and dirty test sometime soon. Get ten volunteers or so to buy some PC headsets (anywhere from 15 bucks for wired to 30+ for wireless), then register everybody on an online service such as yahoo messenger with voice, and let the mayhem begin!

sweabs
01-11-2006, 06:17 PM
Ah - brings me back to the Skype stuff. Which still is, in my opinion, one of the best programs out there for conference stuff.

I'd be willing to help out in any way possible.

Moses
01-11-2006, 06:18 PM
Interesting idea.

I would love it.

able
01-11-2006, 06:40 PM
Rabid, in short: the video solution with a "sound" solution can be done short term (i.e. within a few weeks, perhaps even less) in actual facts the same server that hosts this site, as well as another server in my rack both have full setups to broadcast video with a single input stream over adsl.

Combine that with a high speed "talking" solution, (forget skype, it is now a pay solution) and you have the "ultimate" for this moment in time.

There are several open source conference call options, I will read some up and post a list later this week, once I can find some time.

Please email me rabid, if interested, so we can discuss details if you are so inclined

(abel@able-towers.com)

Hicks
01-11-2006, 08:25 PM
Skype is still free for me... ?

sweabs
01-12-2006, 12:07 AM
Skype is still free for me... ?

Same here.

(Side note: I had to reinstall everything and lost your username - want to hook me up with that again?)

able
01-12-2006, 05:01 AM
new accounts do not seem to be free anymore, and they have clear plans to charge for the usage, the newsoftware can only be gotten after paying
Which leaves the still valid point that a maximum of 4 ppl can be plugged in for conferencing, which limits participation somewhat :)

naptownmenace
01-12-2006, 01:18 PM
It'd be a technological nightmare (I think), but if you had one page, where a quarter (or more?) of the screen was a video feed of the game, and the rest was an area to communicate, and another with stats/info about the game, it could be all right if designed very well. Since broadcasting the game like that doesn't seem in the cards (yet, MLB gives me optimism), perhaps people with PC-DVRs could let the feed actually embed itself into the webpage?

If something like that were possible, and there was a way to somehow synchronize it among all visitors, you would have a more harmonic system.

But I think that's pure tech fantasy at this point. Although if you take out the video, and subsitute it with audio of some kind (which I believe we've discussed various possibilities there), you may be on to something.

Of course, that still has the issue of synchronizing everything up.

That is exactly what I thought of, Hicks. It would take a lot of trial and error to get it to work but if it did the dividends would be exponential! :smart:

The downside is that the NBA would no doubt shut it down if they found out about it. However, if someone was able to create such a system they could litterally make millions with it. The key would be to patent it before putting it to live use. That way when the NBA comes a calling you can offer to sell the technology to them.

If they NBA isn't game to pony up the cash, go to the press with the product. I'm sure some forward thinking exec at one of the major television studios or another professional sports organization will be interested.




BTW, if this plan works, I'll expect a mere 5% idea fee to be sent my way. :eyebrow:

rabid
01-12-2006, 04:24 PM
I'm going to go the audio route. In fact, I think I've got the perfect solution...

gonna set up a TeamSpeak server.

http://www.goteamspeak.com/