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Major Communications Overhaul


Kaed

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I've been pondering making this thread for this for a while, but for the most part, I've been holding off because it ultimately feels like it won't go anywhere. But I'm going to try anyway.


This thread is about the common channel. You know, the green-text channel that every headset in the station has access to.


More specifically, this thread is about removing it.


I feel like this is the point where I'm going to lose a lot of people reading this thread. And I understand why. The common channel is probably a mechanic as old as SS13 itself, though I admittedly wasn't around during those early times. It's insanely useful, to the point of being an actual crutch for not having to seek out meaningful communication.


But hear me out, here. The common channel causes a lot of issues as far as the flow of gameplay. For starters, it's relatively unmoderated, and during busy rounds, it's possible for the flood of random chatter to drown each other out. What you basically have is a couple dozen people all talking at once, but they're all holding individual conversations and ignoring everyone else. This is technically possible to do since we as players are all actually just reading and can skim over things that aren't relevant to us. But it's still all there, and when you have three or more channels running at a time, like several heads do, it gets even worse. The majority of what is happening on the common channel isn't actually important. It's just random chatter flowing back and forth, and you can miss important things because of it


But for the stuff that is important, it drowns out a slew of other viable communication mechanics that exist in the game due to it's sheer ease of access. For example:

-The PDA messaging system.

-The intercom system.

-Using the request consoles.

-Using the station AI as an information relay between departments (also getting more extensive use out of the station holopads)

-Using the IRC program that exists but hardly anyone knows about.

-Using the newscaster to broadcast your fucking speeches instead of wall of texting everyone on station.

-Maybe some other stuff I can't think of right now.


The point is, we aren't starved for choices on how to communicate with each other. By removing it, you won't exactly force people to live in an isolation bubble, you'll just cause them to move to methods of communication that don't clutter up everyone else's screen.


And now I suppose I should get to the other side of this coin. The common channel and its issues with antagonists. It's frankly obnoxious how much people will use the common channel to tattle on every little thing that happens, from seeing a weird guy in blue robes to having a literal gun pointed at them with a demand to shut up. It causes security to respond with near instant attentiveness the moment any crisis happens, because a single person can instantly alert the entire station to the location of a threat. It renders several antagonist mechanics that exist in game near to completely useless. Here is a few examples:


-The traitor forgery kit. I don't think I've seen a single person since I started playing that will take a forged paper at face value. They will with near universality just ring up the active head and ask if they actually signed this piece of paper.


-It stifles the ability for people to use voice changing abilities, because the person whose voice they are mimicking will just immediately speak up and claim that isn't them.


It also renders the AI to little more than a door opener, when it could have so many more uses as an interdepartmental information relay and threat tracker. Frankly, people just tend to dismiss existence of the AI when they don't need it, because they don't actually have to rely on it most of the time (do you know how often I see people demand the AI do something, assuming it's just going to be there when they need it? Sometimes, this even happens when there is no actual active AI. That's how little attention people pay to it.) When the AI is an antagonist, it could also lie to people when relaying or giving information, in a fashion that is less likely to be instantaneously debunked because everyone heard the original information on a common channel or can just inquire about it within seconds without putting themselves at risk.


The station would probably be a lot quieter like this, sure. But it would also encourage people to do more than sit in one place the entire round and get by on gabbing with random friends across the station where everyone can hear them.


I feel like maybe, though, a few individuals, such as the captain and AI, should be able to make emergency-related universal broadcasts that span every department channel at once? Though maybe the station announcement mechanic already covers that.


Some methods of communication would need to become more common, like intercomms and holopads. And I'm not sure how assistants would deal with things, because they'd basically be the only ones starting with no channels. Maybe have them start with an empty headset, and give every department a stock of encryption keys for their department channel, so they can give them to assistants? They'll have to manually walk to each department asking if they need help, but hey. Roleplaaaay~


I'm open to suggestions here I might not have thought of, but I'm pretty much just expecting a lot of 'noooooooo D:' because no one likes giving up something so useful. >_>

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it's relatively unmoderated, and during busy rounds, it's possible for the flood of random chatter to drown each other out. What you basically have is a couple dozen people all talking at once, but they're all holding individual conversations

This actually seems like an in character issue as the Station channel isn't supposed to be used for that as it is because of the reasons you mentioned later

The Station Channel should be used for Announcments,requests for help and pretty much nothing else I can think of

At least I treat it that way whenever I play

 

The majority of what is happening on the common channel isn't actually important.

This seems like a massive issue

if people are chattering about their days when there is also someone screaming about beeing sucked out into space

like,IC I would make an incident report :'D

 

-The PDA messaging system.

I use the PDA extensively for requests that do not need immediate help so do many of my colleagues

-The intercom system.

I admit to never having used the intercom

-Using the request consoles.

I agree no one reads the request consoles and it is kinda annoying when you walk into cargo and you see a red exclamation point violently flashing at the back of the wall while the QM sits in his chair spinning around yelling over the common channel that no one is ordering anything and he doesn't want to call the shuttle for just 4 orders

-Using the station AI as an information relay between departments (also getting more extensive use out of the station holopads)

I think AI already has their hands full,but I do use them with the departmental channels to ask for information about the station,I don't however agree with the use of Holopads,I think Holopads should only be used in emergencies as requesting the AIs presence rips them away from observing the station using cameras and is thereby actively reducing the productivity of the station

-Using the IRC program that exists but hardly anyone knows about.

What is the IRC program? Jokes aside yeah but not everyone can afford a personal laptop

-Using the newscaster to broadcast your fucking speeches instead of wall of texting everyone on station.

Agree

 

The point is, we aren't starved for choices on how to communicate with each other. By removing it, you won't exactly force people to live in an isolation bubble, you'll just cause them to move to methods of communication that don't clutter up everyone else's screen.

 

I think the means to achieve the use of other venues should not be achieved mechanically by removing a venue,it should simply be advocated to use other venues by threat of security action

if you are talking about your flower collection and your time in the war on the common channel a Head of Staff should send you a PDA message to keep things you tell everyone on the station relevant

-The traitor forgery kit. I don't think I've seen a single person since I started playing that will take a forged paper at face value. They will with near universality just ring up the active head and ask if they actually signed this piece of paper.

They could do that on literally any venue of communication what is your point?

-It stifles the ability for people to use voice changing abilities, because the person whose voice they are mimicking will just immediately speak up and claim that isn't them.

Well if you are stupid enough to use the fucking common channel where everyone can hear you to emulate a voice especially WHILE THE PERSON YOU ARE MIMICKING IS STILL ALIVE You use the voice changer after you killed the captain and are wearing his big boy pants to fake beeing him,not to make funny jokes at the expense of the chemist's credibility

 

I feel like maybe, though, a few individuals, such as the captain and AI, should be able to make emergency-related universal broadcasts that span every department channel at once? Though maybe the station announcement mechanic already covers that.

You seem to be utterly oblivious to the fact that you can set the frequency of your headset manually

like 300% oblivious

removing the common channel would leave this funcionality and allow for the making of a private or common channel if announced,up to this point I thought you were aware of this but now I am worried your entire rationale is built upon lack of knowledge about game mechanics

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I've actually been very interested in a system like this for a while. I feel like things would be a lot more interesting by removing the common channel from most crew headsets. Intercomms as of right now have basically zero purpose outside of tcomm failures and something like this would allow them to actually serve enough of a purpose to be littered around the station. I don't believe the current ease of transmitting information to the whole station is necessarily a good thing, and requiring some greater coordination would at the very least make the rounds much more interesting. Less "help maint getting succ", more effort and coordination between people to get assistance, something I think could help develop a bond between crew.


I honestly like the idea that the dynamic for interdepartmental communication could be changed from "; engineering to medical" to actually needing to go contact them in person or, if required, send the request through command or the AI.


At the very least I'd love to see this trialed. If it doesn't work, then revert.

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I've actually been very interested in a system like this for a while. I feel like things would be a lot more interesting by removing the common channel from most crew headsets. Intercomms as of right now have basically zero purpose outside of tcomm failures and something like this would allow them to actually serve enough of a purpose to be littered around the station. I don't believe the current ease of transmitting information to the whole station is necessarily a good thing, and requiring some greater coordination would at the very least make the rounds much more interesting. Less "help maint getting succ", more effort and coordination between people to get assistance, something I think could help develop a bond between crew.


I honestly like the idea that the dynamic for interdepartmental communication could be changed from "; engineering to medical" to actually needing to go contact them in person or, if required, send the request through command or the AI.


At the very least I'd love to see this trialed. If it doesn't work, then revert.

 

More or less in agreement here.

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You're kind of missing the forest for the trees here, buddy. This thread isn't a list of complaints about people doing annoying things over common. It is about doing something that significantly alters the difficulty of the game.


The ease of public communication here is the main focus of this thread. This proposes to make things just generally require more effort than it currently does, and opens venues that are not workable while it's there.


Certainly, you could list off ways to get around the issues I give until your hands fall off, and yes, you could technically have the whole station tune into a specific frequency, creating a faux common.


But just because it's mechanically possible doesn't mean it would be feasible. That would require the distressingly difficult task of getting every crew member to cooperate with you in matching the same channel. Maybe they have their own private friendo channel. Maybe they don't know how to change headset channels. Maybe they just don't super care. Do you know how difficult it is for medical to get non-antagonist characters to turn on their suit sensors? The effort to do so is absolutely negligible to them, and it offers them almost entirely benefits and security, but they still don't do it most of the time.


As for the AI having their hands full... when was the last time you played AI on this map? This map is so mind-numbingly big that you'd really just filling your time by trying to view it constantly. A lot of the time, trying to jump between levels causes BYOND to crash. Being an AI is a whole lot of doing lots of nothing useful with occasional requests for some kind of service, like opening a door. Most of the times as an AI I am just talking at people for the sake of having something to do.


Going back to the bits about the forgery kit, let me posit a couple things about that you may have overlooked.


Yes, they could just PDA your head immediately, but when they do that, they are directly messaging a SINGLE person. That person might, at the time they are PDAd, be busy, or afk, or some other potential issue could be in place such as the messaging server being down, or someone having stolen the head's PDA, or them currently being captive of a different antagonist. But even if they do answer, you're still only getting that one person by asking them. If you go to cargo, asking to order something potentially suspicious, and they inquire over common, they're not just asking the head in question, they're telling EVERYONE that this situation is happening in cargo. Security will immediately know that, for instance, the assistant Urist McTator is trying to order a box of insulated gloves, and may decide to have him searched for 'suspicious conduct', even though no one specifically informed them of this. Other heads may also chime in, shutting down the request because they don't like the idea. Maybe he lied about engineering being out of them to get the box, and any member of engineering could also say "no we're not.". There is a world of difference between there being ways to directly ask a person for clarification and there being a public channel where anyone can hear and respond.


This carries over to the voice changer concept too. The person you are impersonating might not be next to an intercomm when you talk into it in their voice, unlike when you broadcast in common channel.

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As for the AI having their hands full... when was the last time you played AI on this map? This map is so mind-numbingly big that you'd really just filling your time by trying to view it constantly. A lot of the time, trying to jump between levels causes BYOND to crash. Being an AI is a whole lot of doing lots of nothing useful with occasional requests for some kind of service, like opening a door. Most of the times as an AI I am just talking at people for the sake of having something to do.

 

Your arguement is that it is already too difficult to AI properly so why not as well give up on beeing an AI and abuse current AI players?

That makes no sense

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As for the AI having their hands full... when was the last time you played AI on this map? This map is so mind-numbingly big that you'd really just filling your time by trying to view it constantly. A lot of the time, trying to jump between levels causes BYOND to crash. Being an AI is a whole lot of doing lots of nothing useful with occasional requests for some kind of service, like opening a door. Most of the times as an AI I am just talking at people for the sake of having something to do.

 

Your arguement is that it is already too difficult to AI properly so why not as well give up on beeing an AI and abuse current AI players?

That makes no sense

 

No.


My argument is that playing AI in the 'traditional sense', i.e. constantly scoping out the whole station and flicking between people via the tracker, is not super feasible anymore on this map, and we should give the AI a different activity to do that can occupy their time while at the same time facilitating communication between the rest of the crew. Frankly, I think we should be shifting their focus away from being the eyes of the security department anyway, and into something that helps everyone else too.

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I think we need NTSL and signal technicians, they could make and would be responsible for chat filters. Great for antags and there's a lot of good they can do, GaryOS from Yogstation is an example of a great sigtech and there are working systems that could be ported with plenty of wiki guides.


If they could make new channels and radio stations then that could replace common with something folks can tune in on; there could be forms or permits to occupy frequencies or pirate channels, the bar could have it's own common channel for folks just talking about random shite and memes. All that noise and chatter can be good for non-command staff with nae much else to do at the time but laugh at the carrying on of others or meet and get to know staff across the station.


Another channel could be [emergency] which medical, security and engineering could also tune into to hear folks scream for their lives because it can be lost amidst the chaos of common which could then be switched off by those that are too busy dealing with situations than hearing folks trying to be an meme.

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The problem with this is that right now, radios must have a frequency assigned to their 'general' mic. Right now all radios just default to this. As far as I know, it is not possible to remove the general mic from radios without changing radio code at a deeper level. The alternative that immediately comes to mind would be to randomize each headset's frequency, but I don't see why they would be randomized, ICly. I suppose the mic could just ship off, but it would be trivial for people to just turn it back on every shift and resume using common as normal.

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The problem with this is that right now, radios must have a frequency assigned to their 'general' mic. Right now all radios just default to this. As far as I know, it is not possible to remove the general mic from radios without changing radio code at a deeper level. The alternative that immediately comes to mind would be to randomize each headset's frequency, but I don't see why they would be randomized, ICly. I suppose the mic could just ship off, but it would be trivial for people to just turn it back on every shift and resume using common as normal.

 

Thinking about it now, there's no easy solution to this since keeping the ability to change radio channels period trivializes this. Then that ruins gimmicks like station radio shows on a certain frequency, et cetera.


Gonna have to -1, though a nice alternative would be to have a signal tech or IT whenever it comes out need to set up the radio channels (Or maybe just the common one or each frequency) so that it can be taken less for granted. Maybe have to do some fancy wiring business to hook up each frequency from lowest to highest INCLUDING 145.9.

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The problem with this is that right now, radios must have a frequency assigned to their 'general' mic. Right now all radios just default to this. As far as I know, it is not possible to remove the general mic from radios without changing radio code at a deeper level. The alternative that immediately comes to mind would be to randomize each headset's frequency, but I don't see why they would be randomized, ICly. I suppose the mic could just ship off, but it would be trivial for people to just turn it back on every shift and resume using common as normal.

 

Maybe if someone can split the frequency ranges in half, 145.9 (common) and lower is for SBR and intercomms, 146.1 and higher is for headsets. You can't hear the ranges of the intercomms/SBR on headsets and vice versa. Have some of the misc channels at 146.1 and higher (randomly?) nonfunctional at round start, so people can fish around for an alternate frequency to give to friends if they really want, but it's not just /there/.


~edit~


Alternatively, after talking with lohikar, we could mess with how encryption keys work. Remove standard encryption keys from the game, leaving an empty slot on every radio (did you know they are a fundamentally pointless item? They literally do nothing, taking them out does not change anything), that you can put an encryption key on (have a native supply of them available in-game), that lets you listen into a specific channel(s for a command keys).


Also, nothing says every headset has to share the same generic frequency range. You could lock the frequency of a specific headset model to default to that department's frequency and only a small range outside of it (without having an encryption key), preventing them from toggling to common but still giving them room to have 'private' channels. The assistant headsets would just have like, 146.1-147.1 or something. A small range of channels that they could use to talk to other assistants if they wanted to play around (this would also create a special scenario where assistants themselves, strategically placed, could form another channel of interdepartmental communication)


This would also possibly let you replace the two hackey keys (traitor and binary) with 'suspicious' (black and red) and 'mysterious' (green and gold, like a circuit board) encryption keys rather than just false 'standard encryption key' which we wouldn't have anymore.


See, you don't have to remove the common channel, just people's ability to access it outside of intercoms. You can always stand next to an intercomm if you want to listen into a radio show on the entertainment channel.

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All I can say is id probably be very uncomfortable with a quiet station, when things are slow in my department just reading through what's going on on the common channel is what keeps me attentive to the game from an OOC perspective, honestly without it I'd probably end up tabbed out most of the time unless actions happening.

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You know, I was actually thinking about this, almost exactly the same idea. but there are major issues with it.



Firstly, this will OOCly bore a lot of the casual players, who will leave before figuring out any alternatives, pop is ganna take a hit and while it doesn't matter during summertime, it will hurt in the winter. (some would consider this a positive)



dead hour rounds will be severely penalized with this, it already feels like a graveyard, a lack of common would just give more to the feeling and personally I would probably completely stop playing dead hour rounds if this goes through.


/tg/ has a system where you get extra access if the round start count is low, we could possibly port that but for common.



I'm in support of trialing this but i would like to see it switched out every two rounds or every day, it's a pretty major change and it would scare people completely off before they had a say in it.

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You know, I was actually thinking about this, almost exactly the same idea. but there are major issues with it.



Firstly, this will OOCly bore a lot of the casual players, who will leave before figuring out any alternatives, pop is ganna take a hit and while it doesn't matter during summertime, it will hurt in the winter. (some would consider this a positive)



dead hour rounds will be severely penalized with this, it already feels like a graveyard, a lack of common would just give more to the feeling and personally I would probably completely stop playing dead hour rounds if this goes through.


/tg/ has a system where you get extra access if the round start count is low, we could possibly port that but for common.



I'm in support of trialing this but i would like to see it switched out every two rounds or every day, it's a pretty major change and it would scare people completely off before they had a say in it.

 

I don't see any particular reason why it has to be something that is always on all the time even if people like it enough to keep it past a trial stage. I'd love it on during rounds I'm playing in, because to me, the common channel is an irritating appendage, and I rarely if ever use it. But I understand that a lot of more filthy casual players might want to treat the game like a chatroom with some game aspects thrown in. You could call the restricted communication rounds Hardcomm rounds or something along those lines, and make sure that everyone joining in pre-round is aware that the next round is going to be Hardcomm or Softcomm (and what that entails) so they are not caught off guard. (Maybe that could even be a second vote after the round type? idk)

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dead hour rounds will be severely penalized with this, it already feels like a graveyard, a lack of common would just give more to the feeling and personally I would probably completely stop playing dead hour rounds if this goes through.

 


I don't know, maybe I'm expecting too much but I would think that this would encourage people to seek out other characters and interact in person or setup events and activities to keep themselves interested. As they wouldn't be able to just sit around and talk shit over the general freq, interaction would need to be a bit more proactive. Even still, if the common channel was kept for intercoms, it would be possible to have a conversation through them but it would just limit your ability to move around. Once again, incentivizing a face to face conversation instead.

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It's getting late so I'm not exactly at a position to discuss this in-depth, but...


I definitely want to see comms restricted to departmental only for multiple reasons - not least of which, with crazy stuff happening on the station so frequently, it is impossible to roleplay normally when people shout about murder, relay terrorist threats, and other such violence every couple minutes.

That, and I agree that the whole asking over the radio "Why r u asking for insulated gloves????" when they're trying to talk to you face-to-face, or asking over the radio whether someone actually signed for something, despite holding the signed and stamped document in their hands, is literally just valid-hunting by proxy. It's using tools to tell everyone OOCly "ANTAG HERE", in the same vain as pAIs that instantly start screeching bloody murder whenever anything bad happens - "Why is Joe Bloggs walking around holding a strange book?".


TL;DR: Enforce stronger radio chatter regulations + have some kind of punishment, be it IC or OOC for trying to use the radio to catch The Antags™, or remove the common radio. Please <3

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I still think removing common would just prompt command staff to establish an emergency channel manually which would be mandatory to tune into and boom we have a common channel again where now we also have the added layer of people beeing penalised for...


you know what

I just dislike this whole idea

just make IC enforcement of proper common channel use a thing

if not,sure whatever

I use the PDAs mostly anyways,force me to make announcments through the AI or something fahk

*flips table*

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If command want to establish an emergency channel for the easier distribution of critical information then great. But it's something that takes some effort and coordination to pull off which will limit its implimentation enough to make this system still feel like a major change.


Enforcing rules against the overuse of an emergency channel is something that actually makes sense for security to do and will most likely gather more support from the crew.


Arbitrarily telling the crew to stop using our current iteration of the common channel for non-critical information is idiotic and won't ever be enforced simply because no one would want to. We have regs which apply to the general frequency already but it's mainly for people spamming or providing misinformation.

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[mention]Diggey[/mention] I don't think you're fully understanding the concept of the changes I proposed. You can't create a new common channel if no one's headset can reach the range of other departments. There wouldn't BE an emergency/new common channel.


And frankly I feel like just because something has always been there doesn't mean it should stay there. It is incredibly hard to enforce the common channel when it exists. People bitch and whine and become surly and rebellious if you tell them to stop abusing it. Sometimes they flat out ignore orders to stop. Having to spend all round tediously arresting screaming crewmembers (because they will scream about being oppressed or whatever) who won't shut up on common is not a good use of security's time.


And you can't just keep them in prison forever. You can take away their headset, but getting a new one is incredibly trivial. They also might need to communicate with their department, and NEED a headset for work.

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