Elder Scrolls Online and the turbulent topic of text chat on console

Zenimax tells us it's looking into a "quick chat" system.  

What there wasn't, in the recent Elder Scrolls Online console closed beta, was the option to chat via text. That's unusual for a massively-multiplayer online game but not for a console game.

Instead, there's proximity-based voice chat - that is, when you're in talking distance of someone, you can talk to them via a microphone.

Problem is, there's an expectation in MMOs - because of their history - of being able to text chat. This is further complicated by being able to do exactly that in The Elder Scrolls Online on PC and Mac.

Discussions on Reddit and The Elder Scrolls Online console beta forum stretch for pages about the pros and cons of text chat. Some people are happy with proximity-based voice chat only, while others fear lack of text chat will hinder trading and grouping - among other things - and will make busy city hubs unbearable because of all the voice chatter.

But what really tied people in a knot was game developer Zenimax Online Media saying there would be support for text chat via USB keyboards and then changing its mind.

Case in point, community coordinator Jason Leavy first saying this on 16th April:

"To clarify, you will have the option of using a keyboard for chatting on the console version of the game, if you prefer the QWERTY life over voice chat."

Then, a day later, saying this:

"We wanted to provide an update on keyboard support for the console version of ESOTU. Unfortunately, the message I posted in this thread yesterday was based on our development plans from earlier in the year, which included keyboard support for chat. However, keyboard support for chat is not something that will be available for the console version of the game. You will be able to use a keyboard for text entry in areas such as guild naming, etc., but not for chatting. Mouse support is not planned for the console version of ESOTU."

He apologised for any misinformation and confusion.

But he wasn't the only one building people's hopes up. In January, lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle said this:

"Yes, you have the option of using the text chat box on console as well. Furthermore, you can plug in a standard USB keyboard into your PS4 and use it to type, if you want. The chat window collapses by default, but can be pinned to the HUD if you want."

More recently, on 17th April, the game's support page was updated to say this:

"Console versions of the game will also provide limited input by USB-connected keyboards for features not already supported by voice chat or controller input."

I took this to Zenimax Online Studios to see if I could get both clarification and an explanation. Elder Scrolls Online game director Matt Firor replied and said this:

"As with a lot of console multi-player games, player-to-player communication in ESOTU is based around voice chat. That being said, we are looking into implementing a 'quick chat' system, and when we have more news to share, we'll let you know."

Could he be talking about a quick menu with pre-written, common phrases? Remember, there's still more than a month to go until The Elder Scrolls Online comes out on PS4 and Xbox One (9th June), and online games are frequently altered. Such a feature could make it in time for launch.

Nevertheless, this does pose a problematic question for people who are hard of hearing or deaf.

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About the author

Robert Purchese

Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer  |  Clert

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.


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