Nintendo caused quite a bit of heated discussion when it confirmed that online shooter Splatoon would lack voice chat. The ability to communicate with fellow players is a staple of other online shooters, but Nintendo decided against including it in this ink-covered offering. Critics immediately started sharpening their knives, accusing the Japanese company of being over-cautious on the matter.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Nintendo Life that goes live later today, Splatoon producer Hisashi Nogami spoke a little about the reasons for leaving voice chat out of the game. His comments tally up with Nintendo's previous stance, but he does at least admit that the company is aware of how important voice communication is in online gaming - it's just that the risk meant it wasn't worth factoring it in:
We want everyone to play this game from the same point, so that all players – those who haven't played shooters before, as well as those who have – can enjoy the game. Getting to this though meant going through a selection process for all features that should appear in the game, and as part of this process we decided to leave out voice chat.
We think there are two reasons for wanting to use it: to play strategically, and to know what you opponent is feeling. We designed the game so that it's still possible to play strategically, while also giving due consideration so that there is no extreme advantage one way or the other. In terms of knowing what your opponent is feeling, we really do understand the fun that can be had with this, but we hope that you will also understand that it can also have a negative effect too.
Irrespective of your own personal opinion, it's easy to see Nogami's point. Anyone who has played a game of Call of Duty with voice chat will be well aware that there are a lot of potty-mouthed players out there, and having a complete stranger hurl expletives at some of Nintendo's younger players would almost certainly result in parents confiscating Wii U consoles all over the globe. And we don't know about you, but Splatoon is perfectly playable without voice comms; with small teams of four and compact maps, it's not hard to work out strategies and support one another.
Nogami-san also touched upon another sticking point in the interview - the staggered content roll-out for the game. At launch, some grumbled about the lack of maps and modes. Nintendo has already taken steps to remedy that by unlocking the Ranked Battle mode and introducing a new weapon and map, and more content is on the way.
When quizzed about this aspect of the game, Nogami stated that there were two main reasons for holding things back:
First, we put a lot of effort into every inch of the online stages, so by playing them over and over again users can get a better feel for the terrain, giving the gameplay more breadth and depth. The characteristics of the weapons and the strategies for using them vary with each weapon, and of course these will vary depending on the stage you use them in and even what combination of equipment your teammates and opponents are using. We want users to enjoy each and every single piece of content we've prepared, so rather than provide a lot at once, we're going to be adding them a little at a time.
Second, is that while we've paid a lot of attention to the balancing the game, the flip-side of this is that we feel the game needs weapons with a lot of variety as well as stages with complex layouts to really expand the gameplay.
The problem there is that these can sometimes disrupt the overall balance of the game.
The real fun of Splatoon comes when players are comfortable with the game, and are able to play to their full potential with other players they meet in the online matches.
We'll be adding more stages and weapons as we see how the community matures. We'll also do something similar with further game modes too.
What's your take on these points? Post a comment below to share it, and don't forget to check back later today for the full interview with Nogami-san.