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"Automated" Voice acting?

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blacke4dawn
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"Automated" Voice acting?

Came across this article in my news feed. It's about how Amazon has officially released a component for their game engine Lumberyard that utilizes text-to-speech for a kinda automated voice acting. Text-to-speech is hardly new and one can hear it is computer generated (transition between words is still unnatural) and the article itself mentions that there are better systems out there, including Alexa. Though the ability to adjust individual single words lends it in the long run to become better once they get the actual translation to sound fully natural, of course keeping the more machine sounding one as an option should still be there so that we can have "proper sounding" speech for machines.

The bigger question here though, imo, is when Unreal Engine will get and how soon after that MWM will start to incorporate it. I mean, if they only need to set a speech profile per character and then give them a bunch of scripts (potentially being the actual quest/dialog text we read) then I see no real reason to not have voice overs. How long it will take MWM to actually start on this after release will most likely depend on how many voice profiles there is by default and how much they have to do by themselves.

Though in all honesty I think these kinds of systems are a couple of years away still until they become fully capable of replacing voice actors. I biggest hurdle I believe is getting the proper emotional feel in speech and that will be hard for a machine.

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It's probably something worth

It's probably something worth considering at some point. Maybe by the time MWM can seriously devote some attention to something like this (2 or 3 years from now?) the tech will be far enough along to make it relatively simple to use and the quality of the voices be that much more acceptable.

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blacke4dawn
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Well reading the comments for

Well reading the comments for that article showed that the press release (which I didn't read) promotes it right now as placeholder tool, so that you can "save" all the voice over recording until the last minute while getting a correct enough feel for how it will turn out.

But yeah, it's just a matter of time before it becomes good enough to replace most, and with further time all, voice actors.

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blacke4dawn wrote:
blacke4dawn wrote:

But yeah, it's just a matter of time before it becomes good enough to replace most, and with further time all, voice actors.

I'm sure the people who do that kind of thing professionally are looking forward to that. ;)

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Geveo
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Automated voices are a

Automated voices are a loooooonng way from coming anywhere close to human speech. Such things are useful for the blind, and people with dyslexia, or for people who want reports "read" to them while they drive, but in terms of replacing human voice in terms of acting? Not close, and not for a long time.

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Geveo wrote:
Geveo wrote:

Automated voices are a loooooonng way from coming anywhere close to human speech. Such things are useful for the blind, and people with dyslexia, or for people who want reports "read" to them while they drive, but in terms of replacing human voice in terms of acting? Not close, and not for a long time.

At the rate things are going I'd be seriously surprised if it takes more than 5 years at this point. Now sure it might take longer for consumer-level electronic toys (or even applications like mass-media computer games) to get that good. But being able to 100% synthesize good "voice acting" voices on high-end equipment for movies/TV is only a few years away.

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Frankly, I'm with the long

Frankly, I'm with the long-term group. I expect non-human voice-acting to be on par with Robocop, or Terminator... possibly Shatner. He's a robot, right?

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We have the technology.

We have the technology.

We do not have the manpower to explore it.

We might look into it later on.

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Fireheart wrote:
Fireheart wrote:

Frankly, I'm with the long-term group. I expect non-human voice-acting to be on par with Robocop, or Terminator... possibly Shatner. He's a robot, right?

Shanter's problem isn't that he sounds non-human. His... problem is just-that... he has a... strange-pacing... with the way-he-speaks... ;)

I still think you'd be surprised how far along they are with this synthesized voice acting technology. Again I don't expect the toys/gadgets Google and Amazon are selling to be able to use it adequately in the near term. But it's going to be in big budget TV and movies in just a few years and once perfected there it'll move down into more consumer-level applications.

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When you think about markets

When you think about markets for automated voice acting it would have to be markets where: 1) there is no need for a quality and range of emotions required of a voice actor , and 2) the amount of voice acting required would be prohibitively expensive for human voice talent.

I'm not sure MMORPG would be a good market for this. There are two types of dialogue in an MMORPG:
the first type is the standard shopkeeper, non-story related dialogue. And honestly, you could distill this into less than a hundred lines, or no more than a few hundred lines of dialogue. A couple voice actors or even volunteers would be able to knock this requirement out in an afternoon.
the second type of MMORPG dialogue would be the story and quest dialogue. Quest dialogue would almost entirely need talented voice actors to impart the urgency and emotion of the dialogue. It would not be a good candidate for automated voices.

If technology gets to the point where we will be able to write dialogue with some sort of notation, like writing music, then perhaps an automated system could suffice, but then you'd have to have the services of a maestro dialogue-composer who would probably be more expensive than a voice actor.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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I saw at least one plug-in

I saw at least one plug-in for UE4 that does text-to-speech, but as blacke4dawn added, right now it's best served for being more of a placeholder or test for voice acting. It's definitely just a matter of time before the technology is good enough that it becomes a viable option for games, rather than just customer service hotlines. For my part, I'd be more interested in having NPC speak for background dialogue and general ambiance. Text-to-speech could work fairly well out of the box for any kind of announcements that we're accustomed to sounding rather robotic, like announcements of arrivals and departures (e.g. train or bus station).

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"The white zone is for

"The white zone is for immediate..."

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Maybe I'm feeling protective

Maybe I'm feeling protective of my art form (my background is in theatre), but I'm -very- skeptical that automated voices will be an acceptable substitute for human-voiced content any time soon. Generating even plausibly organic speech patterns is a much more multidimensional problem than generating, for example, believable human-image cgi animations, or speech recognition and so on.

As Huckleberry mentioned, a notation system could improve quality somewhat, but again, the problem is extremely complex, and even a notation system will by necessity be very limiting. Really, a computer can't effectively mimic human speech without understanding what it's saying. Otherwise, it's just a string of words. For very simple things like a list of choices, which can be fairly neutral and robotic, well those things can be done now.

But for an electronic speech generator to just take a chunk of text narrative and convert it to anything resembling how an actual person might say it, that requires understanding. Context, intent, nuance... Even placing the correct emPHAsis on the right syLABle is a daunting problem that can be dependent on context. Until there is AI that can actually understand those aspects of a chunk of text, electronic mimicry will remain severely limited in what it can do. It's a useful tool when all you need it to do is pass along information, but not if you want it to create an immersive atmosphere or a sense of engagement.

And most people can read much faster than they can listen, so it's of limited value as an informational tool as well.

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Geveo wrote:
Geveo wrote:

Maybe I'm feeling protective of my art form (my background is in theatre), but I'm -very- skeptical that automated voices will be an acceptable substitute for human-voiced content any time soon. Generating even plausibly organic speech patterns is a much more multidimensional problem than generating, for example, believable human-image cgi animations, or speech recognition and so on.
As Huckleberry mentioned, a notation system could improve quality somewhat, but again, the problem is extremely complex, and even a notation system will by necessity be very limiting. Really, a computer can't effectively mimic human speech without understanding what it's saying. Otherwise, it's just a string of words. For very simple things like a list of choices, which can be fairly neutral and robotic, well those things can be done now.
But for an electronic speech generator to just take a chunk of text narrative and convert it to anything resembling how an actual person might say it, that requires understanding. Context, intent, nuance... Even placing the correct emPHAsis on the right syLABle is a daunting problem that can be dependent on context. Until there is AI that can actually understand those aspects of a chunk of text, electronic mimicry will remain severely limited in what it can do. It's a useful tool when all you need it to do is pass along information, but not if you want it to create an immersive atmosphere or a sense of engagement.
And most people can read much faster than they can listen, so it's of limited value as an informational tool as well.

Oh I never said any of this will be EASY to accomplish or CHEAP. I only said it's not going to be a LONG, LONG time from now.
The "easy" and "cheap" parts of this may still be even a decade or more away but they'll come soon enough.

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My opinion: auto voices would

My opinion: auto voices would suck.

Of course real person game VO takes a loooong time and a lot of actors. VO also doubles a regular game's sound budget (at least).

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revolution wrote:
revolution wrote:

My opinion: auto voices would suck.
Of course real person game VO takes a loooong time and a lot of actors. VO also doubles a regular game's sound budget (at least).

Yeah I'd agree they probably aren't worth it for a game like CoT in 2017. But it still might worth considering in a few years when A) you'd have more time to deal with it and B) the technology is that much better.

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Geveo wrote:
Geveo wrote:

And most people can read much faster than they can listen, so it's of limited value as an informational tool as well.

I think this is a hugely important point when considering either human or automated voice. Presenting mission information via sound not only takes longer, but that data can't be scanned easily for essential points, e.g. mission goals or whether there will be an AV encounter. I know people who quit playing SWTOR because they didn't want to sit through the acting for every NPC interaction, but didn't want to skip all the information.

Spurn all ye kindle.

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Cinnder wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

I think this is a hugely important point when considering either human or automated voice. Presenting mission information via sound not only takes longer, but that data can't be scanned easily for essential points, e.g. mission goals or whether there will be an AV encounter. I know people who quit playing SWTOR because they didn't want to sit through the acting for every NPC interaction, but didn't want to skip all the information.

Even if MWM was able to put perfect VOs in the game (regardless if they were human generated or automated) I still wouldn't want them everywhere in every mission. I'd be fine if they reserved it only for big trials/missions/NPCs and even then make it so that you could opt out if you wanted. It all might be cool the first few (dozen?) times you hear it but -eventually- you're going to get tired of it no matter how well done it is.

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Yeah voice acting of any kind

Yeah voice acting of any kind isn't all that important to me. Some unique characters and situations, sure. But I've always been in the boat where I'd rather imagine how character sounds in my head (Or use an actor/singer as a reference) than have the game tell me how they sound.

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Cinnder wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

Geveo wrote:
And most people can read much faster than they can listen, so it's of limited value as an informational tool as well.
I think this is a hugely important point when considering either human or automated voice. Presenting mission information via sound not only takes longer, but that data can't be scanned easily for essential points, e.g. mission goals or whether there will be an AV encounter. I know people who quit playing SWTOR because they didn't want to sit through the acting for every NPC interaction, but didn't want to skip all the information.

Completely agree, to me VO is not about primarily giving information but rather one of giving ambiance.

There should always be a text version, and VO should be an alternative to text not the other way around.

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RandomZombie wrote:
RandomZombie wrote:

Yeah voice acting of any kind isn't all that important to me. Some unique characters and situations, sure. But I've always been in the boat where I'd rather imagine how character sounds in my head (Or use an actor/singer as a reference) than have the game tell me how they sound.

Its funny you should mention that, because I was thinking the same thing. It applies to voice chat applications as well.

One of the downsides to having a voice chat set up (like Ventrilo, Discord or Raidcall) is that there is no way a player's voice would ever match the character's voice the player had in mind. This is especially noticeable when the player plays different alts and they all have the same player's voice.

On the other hand, it does help with the bonding between the players themselves, and it also helps with urgent communications and so you don't need to keep one eye on the chat window. I usually like to have the voice chat running once I am established in a guild, because I do like the player bonding aspect of it, even though it takes me away from the immersion.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Now if only we could get a

Now if only we could get a voice chat that changes your voice into one that the player made to match their character...

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Project_Hero wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

Now if only we could get a voice chat that changes your voice into one that the player made to match their character...

Well there are plenty of options for a person to change their own voice on a voice chat. But do you mean instead of the "talker" using some kind of software to change their own voice you'd want the "listener" to be able to change the incoming voice to sound however they'd want it to sound? I'm sure that would be possible as well. ;)

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Either or.

Either or.

I'm just not on the up and up when it comes to audio software. Last time I messed with something like that there were filters and such to playback your voice differently but it wasn't that great and you could tell it was being changed.

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Project_Hero wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

Either or.
I'm just not on the up and up when it comes to audio software. Last time I messed with something like that there were filters and such to playback your voice differently but it wasn't that great and you could tell it was being changed.

Well like everything else there are options that work better than others. Some of the "freebie" voice changers are pretty good now but obviously if you want better quality/reliability you'd probably want to pay for some of the more professional applications that are out there. Also the more "top end" solutions would likely have more options (like being able to change an incoming voice to anything you'd want it to sound like).

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I think we should just stick

I think we should just stick to text bubbles, maybe use voice acting for cutscenes like they do in WoW but for everything else, we should be using text bubbles. Weird sounding line reads can really break a moment unless that moment is designed to be fun and cheesy.

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notears wrote:
notears wrote:

I think we should just stick to text bubbles, maybe use voice acting for cutscenes like they do in WoW but for everything else, we should be using text bubbles. Weird sounding line reads can really break a moment unless that moment is designed to be fun and cheesy.

I agree, if we will even have cutscenes. There is a rumor Doctor Tyche or Charles Logan started of a cinematic trailer being developed for the game, but I wouldn't expect to see that in the game itself.

But I would like to see some stock lines that kind of lay down the character and feel of the various groups and factions. It would just be too hard with simple dialogue bubbles to really convey the feel of particular groups.

Do the NPCs of a particular faction speak with a snooty accent? Get four volunteers to be the snooty men and women who say things like "Pleasure doing business with you" or "Good day, is there anything I could do for you?"

Maybe a faction is full of deranged psychopaths walking the fine line between stable and unstable. A couple voices that can fill in for the various "Oh.. hee hee, you come to me for the bits, do you?", or "go away now, you smell like a melon!"

Actually the character of that last faction would be pretty easy to know by the word choice alone, so it wasn't the best example I could have used to make my point. But What about the Five Dragons and Scorpion? Would the Five Dragons speak with Asian accents? would Scorpion with Egyptian? and would the Vril speak with German accents? Maybe part of the exposition of these groups is that the low level recruits speak with the same Massachusetts accent as everyone else in the game, but the higher level guys do speak with ethnic accents. That kind of detail would really add so much more. Is there a faction that should sound like stiff professionally disciplined soldiers? Is there a faction that has its own tempo to its speech, with maybe some of its own street lingo? (Rooks, perhaps?)

I think in all these cases, it would be too difficult to determine from the words in the dialogue boxes alone if there was a vocal facet to the characters in a faction. A few choice stock phrases recorded in the voices of the faction members could go a long way towards making them really come to life and take on their own memorable identities.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

notears wrote:
I think we should just stick to text bubbles, maybe use voice acting for cutscenes like they do in WoW but for everything else, we should be using text bubbles. Weird sounding line reads can really break a moment unless that moment is designed to be fun and cheesy.
I agree, if we will even have cutscenes. There is a rumor Doctor Tyche or Charles Logan started of a cinematic trailer being developed for the game, but I wouldn't expect to see that in the game itself.
But I would like to see some stock lines that kind of lay down the character and feel of the various groups and factions. It would just be too hard with simple dialogue bubbles to really convey the feel of particular groups.
Do the NPCs of a particular faction speak with a snooty accent? Get four volunteers to be the snooty men and women who say things like "Pleasure doing business with you" or "Good day, is there anything I could do for you?"
Maybe a faction is full of deranged psychopaths walking the fine line between stable and unstable. A couple voices that can fill in for the various "Oh.. hee hee, you come to me for the bits, do you?", or "go away now, you smell like a melon!"
Actually the character of that last faction would be pretty easy to know by the word choice alone, so it wasn't the best example I could have used to make my point. But What about the Five Dragons and Scorpion? Would the Five Dragons speak with Asian accents? would Scorpion with Egyptian? and would the Vril speak with German accents? Maybe part of the exposition of these groups is that the low level recruits speak with the same Massachusetts accent as everyone else in the game, but the higher level guys do speak with ethnic accents. That kind of detail would really add so much more. Is there a faction that should sound like stiff professionally disciplined soldiers? Is there a faction that has its own tempo to its speech, with maybe some of its own street lingo? (Rooks, perhaps?)
I think in all these cases, it would be too difficult to determine from the words in the dialogue boxes alone if there was a vocal facet to the characters in a faction. A few choice stock phrases recorded in the voices of the faction members could go a long way towards making them really come to life and take on their own memorable identities.

Well my main concern is what happened with DCUO. They got really great voice actors to voice the mentors but, for everybody else? They got really crappy ones, who gave weirdly flat line reads for everything. It felt weird and odd and 90% of the game felt out of place.

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Noting that everyone is

Noting that everyone is missing the primary use, which is generating audio for written lines while you're still rewriting the lines. This isn't for production, customer-facing stuff. It's so you don't have to keep calling the VAs back at great expense to re-record lines because the old lines just weren't syncing with the animation in the scene or whatever.

So long as it gets things said in the right amount of time, it's good enough to keep development on track, and then before you ship you replace all the autogen stuff with real voices.

Nobody wants their product up there with automated answering systems.

Has anyone seen my mind? It was right here...

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Lin Chiao Feng wrote:
Lin Chiao Feng wrote:

Noting that everyone is missing the primary use, which is generating audio for written lines while you're still rewriting the lines. This isn't for production, customer-facing stuff.

Perhaps yet at any rate.

Lin Chiao Feng wrote:

Nobody wants their product up there with automated answering systems.

I doubt "people" are going to have a choice eventually...

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Lin Chiao Feng wrote:
Lin Chiao Feng wrote:

Noting that everyone is missing the primary use, which is generating audio for written lines while you're still rewriting the lines. This isn't for production, customer-facing stuff. It's so you don't have to keep calling the VAs back at great expense to re-record lines because the old lines just weren't syncing with the animation in the scene or whatever.
So long as it gets things said in the right amount of time, it's good enough to keep development on track, and then before you ship you replace all the autogen stuff with real voices.
Nobody wants their product up there with automated answering systems.

Well everything has a downside. We just have to decide if the downside is worth it... it might for example be robotic, or it might be the vocal equivalent of the uncanny valley where it may sound like a human but, there's also something there that makes it not sound human, and that's hat people concentrate on...

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And if we combine the

And if we combine the automated voice acting with complex conversation bots we could get npcs having unscripted conversations, like the following, except with real sounding voices:

...on second thought, maybe stick with scripted conversations...

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BiotopeZ wrote:
BiotopeZ wrote:

And if we combine the automated voice acting with complex conversation bots we could get npcs having unscripted conversations, like the following, except with real sounding voices:

...on second thought, maybe stick with scripted conversations...

Well it kind of proves my point.... both those voices? Don't sound natural and if every voiceline or most of them are voiced like that, that's still going to drag me out of the experience. I'd rather have speech bubbles like CoX did over something like that it just feels so unnatural... and speech bubbles fit the theme of the game...

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I miss the thought bubbles

I miss the thought bubbles CoX had in the early days. I think they came up when you emoted something but I really liked them. I'd love to have a chat channel that comes up in thought balloons mostly so I can have my characters think things like "what a weirdo" or "That was so cool!" And such.

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Project_Hero wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

I miss the thought bubbles CoX had in the early days. I think they came up when you emoted something but I really liked them. I'd love to have a chat channel that comes up in thought balloons mostly so I can have my characters think things like "what a weirdo" or "That was so cool!" And such.

Speech bubbles have been confirmed. But the idea of contextual emotes was raised some time ago, and I had an idea of customizing our speech bubbles to give off a "voice" that otherwise wouldn't be apparent through text alone. Here's the link, which also includes a link to the contextual emotes thread, which is actually germane to the emote thread which is currently active.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Speech bubbles sure, but I

Speech bubbles sure, but I want thought balloons!

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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

Project_Hero wrote:
I miss the thought bubbles CoX had in the early days. I think they came up when you emoted something but I really liked them. I'd love to have a chat channel that comes up in thought balloons mostly so I can have my characters think things like "what a weirdo" or "That was so cool!" And such.
Speech bubbles have been confirmed. But the idea of contextual emotes was raised some time ago, and I had an idea of customizing our speech bubbles to give off a "voice" that otherwise wouldn't be apparent through text alone. Here's the link, which also includes a link to the contextual emotes thread, which is actually germane to the emote thread which is currently active.

That's a oretty good idea actually, heck maybe we could even have different fonts and speech bubble shapes, Like maybe you want to play a robot, and your speech font is square and techy, with the speech bubble itself square and the tail zig zaggy like a lightning bolt, or you want your character to be all ghosty so it looks like the speech bubble is dripping or cloudy.

BiotopeZ
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I would actually suggest they

I would actually suggest they put that in the cash market. The market's going to need some filler items that are quick/cheap to make. Speech bubble skins qualify. Also, they don't help you in combat, and they aren't necessary to play the game, so they fit the rules for the market (for making sure it's not p2w).

notears
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BiotopeZ wrote:
BiotopeZ wrote:

I would actually suggest they put that in the cash market. The market's going to need some filler items that are quick/cheap to make. Speech bubble skins qualify. Also, they don't help you in combat, and they aren't necessary to play the game, so they fit the rules for the market (for making sure it's not p2w).

I like it

Huckleberry
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notears wrote:
notears wrote:
BiotopeZ wrote:

I would actually suggest they put that in the cash market. The market's going to need some filler items that are quick/cheap to make. Speech bubble skins qualify. Also, they don't help you in combat, and they aren't necessary to play the game, so they fit the rules for the market (for making sure it's not p2w).

I like it

Me too.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
Hero_Zero
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Agreed.

Agreed.

"THE TITANS ARE COMING! THE TITANS ARE COMING!"