#013 – Radio Chat

So this is an idea I’ve had for quite a while. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it in post #001. It’s a cool way that radio chat could work in multiplayer games.

So picture this. A scifi, or even WWII themed game. There are multiple armies/teams/sides, and some are even split up into their own subgroups. Most games would represent this with some sort of channel-based chat system, where you could all talk with members of your own team. It’s either that, or a server-wide chatroom where all the teams are talking over each other, and it’s a mess of enemies reading your tactics, and you listening to a bunch of Germans who are talking in their mothertongue so you have no idea what they’re saying.

Long story short, it’s a pain in the ass. There is no enjoyment in chat. But my question is, why not?

The base of this idea is that players chat using radios. But they’re all on different frequencies. So one team might use a frequency of 100, the next might be 110, or whatever. (FYI: I have no idea how radios work, but I notice that ~100FM is fairly standard. I don’t know if military radios are even LM/FM…)
But here’s the thing. You can tune into a different frequency on your radio. So if you can find out what frequency your enemies are talking on, by interrogation, espionage, or just a brute-force search, then you can listen in on their tactics.

“But Noah!” You exclaim. “That makes it all too easy!”. Good point my young moose. But it’s more complicated than that. You can also change the encoding on your radio. Another FYI: I have no idea how encoding is officially measured, but in this case, I’m using a Caeser’s Cipher, with the offset as a numberical interpretation of your encoding level. A little info on Caeser’s Cipher. It moves all the characters over by a certain number. So if that number is 2, and you type an A, then it will become a C. If you type a G, and that number is -1, then it becomes an F. It’s very simple, both to understand and to code, but very effective at obfuscating the text if you don’t know the number the characters are being shifted by. That number in this case is your encoding level. So to effectively understand what’s being spoken about on the channel, and to speak comprehensively on it yourself, you not only need to know the frequency, but also the encoding. You might think that makes channels pointlessly complex, and nobody would use them.

But just think of this. It’s an trench-warfare WWI FPS-alike, where there are two sides facing off against each other. One side just uses a static frequency of 101 with an encoding of 7. The other side periodically changes their frequency and encoding, but they also have a communications squad along with their standard soldiers. This squad spends the first quarter of the session searching for their opponent’s frequency, by calmly going through each number from 1-255 until they come across it. They then start changing their encoding until the opponents make sense. They have it. They are tapped into all of their opponents’ tactics, banter and plans. The match is theirs.

So while they had a smaller fighting force, they won the game because of their cleverness. As part of a complex game, this could be really, really cool.

You could also incorporate some sort of radio-tower mechanic. The signal only travels a certain distance, so you need to build towers and telegraph lines to talk to troops far away. But maybe somewhere on the other side of the map, your frequency clashes with someone else’s?

I have more on this, but I’ll round it up here. Any questions or suggestions, you can now fire at me on our brand spanking new subreddit, r/ideasquish! Woop! You can also post your own ideas there, or request certain themes, organise jams, anything! Or, as always, I’m @ideasquish on Twitter if you want to talk. Happy squishing!

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