Quick Chat Done Right and Wrong: Gundam Versus and Final Fantasy Dissidia NT
One of the things I like most in Gundam Versus is the comm feature. In a game designed around team play, communication is of course essential. However, this series was originally developed in arcades, so voice chat in that environment would just give your plans away to your enemy. The game needed a means for teammates to communicate without speaking.
Enter the comm button, just to the right of your action buttons (yellow in this photo). By hitting the comm button along with a direction, you can instantly send out one of several canned messages. These range from pleasantries (greetings as well as post-match signoffs) to quick tactical calls that change by the situation you’re in. Between “I’m going ahead”, “Withdrawing”, and “Roger”, the calls cover most combat situations.
Almost as important as the content of those calls is their clarity and brevity. These calls appear instantly and you can make them no matter what you are doing with a single button press and joystick flick. “I’m going ahead” and “Withdrawing” are even mapped to up and down; it can’t get much clearer. It is so easy to do that it becomes reflexive. The messages themselves are concise. Unless your teammate is simply ignoring them (hi Exia mains! hi Barbatos mains!) they’re impossible to misunderstand.
I want to compare this to the chat lines used in the beta of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, a game heavily based upon Gundam Versus. Rather than using an arcade stick, the controls in Dissidia are designed around a standard PS4 controller. Though the controls are meant to be simplified, they can be quite counter-intuitive. The process of sending a quick chat is no exception.
This game is played with dual analogs, so the D-pad is used for chat, meaning you have to take your finger off the left analog and stop moving to send a message. So you’re effectively under fire for the entire process I’m about to describe.
You press a direction on the D-pad to bring up one of four different unmarked pages of chat lines, and then press a button to send one of the four lines displayed.
If you don’t know what the lines are already, you’ll have to press another direction on the D-pad and search for the thing you want to say.
The system would be fine for an MMORPG, but a fighting game moves too fast and you don’t have this kind of time to leave yourself open. Even once you’ve already memorized the chats, having to completely stop moving to send a chat is a risky proposition.
As for the lines themselves, they are neither clear nor brief. Don’t let any anti-localization crusaders read this, but Square’s localizers tend to add a lot of flavor to FF games that wasn’t necessarily there to start with. This is fine: some of your favorite bits in Japanese RPGs are probably the result of whimsical localization that doesn’t affect the gameplay or the story.
As we’ve discussed about Gundam, chat lines have a gameplay purpose. They need to be short and direct in order to establish exactly what is happening on the field right now.
Dissidia opts for in-character lines. In the Japanese, these lines are usually similar enough. “Nice to meet you!”, “Let’s summon”, or “I’m on my way” are quick and easily understood. But the English localizers, going the Old Timey English route as they usually do, sometimes go a bit far personalizing the voices. This leads to chat lines that can vary wildly from character to character and are frequently so embellished as to be unclear.
Depending on how just how flowery a character’s language is, “Let’s summon!” can become “Let us call upon our chosen thrall!”, or the stupidly vague “Let us call on the strength of another!”. Shantotto is the worst offender in this regard, as her every chat line is a damn rhyming couplet. “I’ve been awfully slashed by some terrible schmuck, use Cura in a flash, or I’m out of luck!” I just made that up now, but you get the idea.
Again, this is something that works in an RPG context but is overdoing it for a fast action game. A chat line needs to express to me exactly what my teammate wants, as fast as possible. It should not take a moment to decode. I need that info ASAP so that I can act accordingly, also ASAP. When a second or two is life or death, I really can’t be bothered to decode Shantotto’s poetry.
It might be too late in the process — the English dub is presumably already done — but I would strongly suggest that Dissidia NT choose more usable chat lines where they are unclear. There are many areas of Dissidia NT where friction needs to be reduced (the dismal camera and targeting in particular), but this particularly caught me as something the localization staff could fix quickly and do a world of good for the players.
I’m actually looking forward to this game, by the way. It’s pretty good, provided you just watch a Japanese tourney video and study how the guy plays because boy, this game doesn’t tell you ANYTHING.
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