Before this edition of The Tattered Notebook turns into an impromptu film review (or an ode to four-letter words), allow me to segue as smoothly as possible into my point, which is that language can also have a profoundly nifty effect on MMORPGs if properly utilized. EverQuest II provides a few examples of what I'm talking about, so turn the page for a bit of an explanation.
Studying the language
First off, I know what many of you are probably thinking. The only time "language" really rears its head with regard to your MMO playing is when your raid leader lets fly with a string of Ventrilo-amplified f-bombs after yet another wipe. Or perchance you've pondered the unsavory ways language affects your online gaming when toggling the profanity filter in the chat options of your favorite MMO. Possibly, if you're a Blizzard or NCsoft customer, you've gotten a chortle out of the various account-phishing scams that seem to show up in your mailbox on an hourly basis, all of them amusing monuments to the very best of the Engrish language.
When I say language though, at least in the context of today's column, I'm talking more about the various flavors of digital ethnicity on display in the MMO space. Some games make cursory attempts at transposing letters, adding vowels, and tossing a few Tolkien-esque NPC names into their world databases and name generators. Other titles -- such as EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies -- go all out and create full-blown fictional languages for their various character races. While I miss my SWG smuggler and his innate ability to understand the lekku language of his twi'lek girlfriend, I have to say that no MMO I've played thus far has done quite as well as EQII when it comes to creating a world that feels authentic and deep in regard to its languages.
SOE doesn't stray too far outside the themepark box to do it, as the tongues in EQII are obtained either by buying skill primers from NPCs or by embarking on quests that grant proficiency in the desired dialect as a reward. There's not a lot of complexity or innovative gameplay here, but it's one of those small touches that really makes the world of Norrath come alive, in addition to giving it an edge over similar fantasy titles in terms of fluff.
As far as EQII's language quests go, there are plenty of them to choose from, and rather than simply filling up column space, I'll direct you once again to the invaluable EQ2Wiki for the full list. Thus far, I've only undertaken one of these quests, Language of the Dust, which grants the ability to speak and read the Serilian language of Norrath's kobolds and bugbears. Obtaining the quest was as easy as traveling to Gnomeland Security (argh, I know, sometimes EQII is too cute for its own good) in the Steamfont Mountains. Once there, speak to Lingualogian (argh, again) Roosey to pick up the quest. You're now free to start collecting and examining deepearth runes that drop off the bugbears and kobolds found across the Butcherblock and Steamfont Mountains (as well as inside the Kaladim dungeon).
After turning in the quest, you'll be rewarded with the Serilian language ability (or if you're a ratonga, you can skip the whole grinding part and proceed directly to collecting your reward, as noted on the EQ2Wiki and verified by your humble author and his one-eyed ratonga this very afternoon).
Speaking the language
So how do you check which languages you've learned, and better yet, how do you start showing off your talented tongue? Well, if you're Gene Simmons, that last bit comes (un)naturally, but for everyone else, a journey to your character sheet is in order. Bring up your persona window (the c-key by default), then click on the skills tab just to the right of the default character tab along the top row. Then click on the general tab at the bottom and scroll to the end for a listing of your known languages. Common is exactly what the name implies -- the Norrathian universal tongue -- and additionally you may have your native language listed here if you're a ratonga, troll, or various and sundry other races.
You can switch active languages in two ways. If you're a fan of text commands, simply type /set_language [Serilian] (without the brackets) to broadcast your local/say chat in the Serilian language. Alternatively, you can right-click on your chat box, choose "select language" from the drop-down menu, and choose your preferred language from the new window that becomes available. In both cases, you'll receive confirmation of the switch in your chat box via a line that says "you are now speaking [language]."
Why bother with all of this? Well it's fun, and as I said before it adds a dimension to the game world that many MMORPGs lack. For the give-me-progression-or-give-me-death crowd, there are also language prerequisites for many of the higher-level quests in EQII (you don't really expect the mighty dragon-lord Nagafen to stoop so low as to speak to you in the common tongue now, do you?).
That about wraps up this week's look at language in the world of EverQuest II. If you're into roleplaying, the benefits of the language mechanic are obvious, but it's also a lot of fun for just goofing about with friends or serving as the cornerstone for another in-game collection of abilities for your character. Until next week, I bid you goodbye, sayonara, auf wiedersehen, adios, arrivederci, and buenos nachos.
Jef Reahard may be an eternal EverQuest II newb, but he writes a weekly column about the game anyway, through the eyes of a Ratonga Wizard (or any one of 3,720 other alts). If it has to do with the huge and ever-expanding world of EQII, it's been jotted down in The Tattered Notebook. Send Ratonga fan mail to email@example.com.