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Express Yourself!

We all know that cartoon characters can be very expressive. This is why they make such great avatars! Comic Chat Cartoonist Jim Woodring has done a great job of giving us characters in many poses and emotional states. To make ANNA laugh outrageously or be very annoyed , just click and slide the black dot around the wheel. In the next cartoon panel where ANNA talks, this will be her body language. This feature can be used to great effect, as we shall see later.

Figure 4: Setting stronger emotions with the wheel: get off my case!

You can choose eight different emotions for your character. They are listed in the following table.

Table 2: the range of emotions available on the Emotion Wheel

The closer to the outer edge of the wheel you move the dot, the more extreme the emotion; the closer to the center, the more moderate. Note that not all characters are designed to display the full range of emotions.

When you chat, your character is painted into the next panel in the comic strip. ANNA will be placed into the scene with the other characters who have recently chatted. The following figure shows ANNA in a nonchalant state, which matches her words nicely.

Figure 5: Combining the emotion with the words: outta here!

Your moods match your words

Through another great trick, Comic Chat will automatically match your gestures and mood depending on what you say in your chat. Word choices and some punctuation (!) will trigger a new position on the emotion wheel, unless you have already chosen the next gesture. The following table lists some of the automatic word/gesture matches.
Words or symbolsGestures they generate
Imakes your character gesture to itself
Youpoints your character's arm and hand
:) or :-)makes your character smile
:( or :-(makes your character frown
;-)makes your character appear flirtatious
LOL (Laughing out Loud) or ROTFL (Rolling on the Floor Laughing) make your character laugh
typing in ALL CAPSmakes your character shout
Hello, hi, byemakes your character wave

Table 3: words and symbols and their automatic gestures

Getting a Word in Edgewise

Getting heard is no problem here! You may have noticed the long white strip with four buttons on the right at the bottom of the Comic Chat window. This is the chat entry area. If you type into this area and hit [Enter] your words appear in a bubble over your character's head. The following figure shows some text I entered in response to a remark ANNA did not appreciate too much.

Figure 6: Type into the chat area to put in your two bits!

And the next figure shows how ANNA is seen speaking…

Figure 7: A comic panel shows how what you say gets seen

And so it goes, the strip is cranked out, one panel at a time. The following figure illustrates just how interesting (or inane) the conversation can get.

Figure 8: Catch my drift! A typical Comic Chat Conversation

Confusing threads

All text chat environments have problems when there are many distinct conversations going on at once. These distinct conversations are often called "threads". On top of all this, there can be delays of up to ten seconds before what you type gets to the other people. It is like everyone in mission control trying to talk to a group of astronauts on the moon through one radio link… confusing!

For example, in the preceding figure, there are several conversations going on. I have put the identifiable threads together so you can make sense of it:

Thread One:

Suave dude in beret in the first panel: "Any cute women here now"

Suave dude in the eighth panel asks Nikki playing as an ANNA character: "Nikki you cute"

Nikki as ANNA answers: "Hey you, watch it! We don't like the way this conversation is going!"

Thread Two:

Newbie Alien in the second panel: "I'm new here"

Nice guy in the fourth panel: "Thats nice…" (note that he uses "…" to indicate there is more to come)

Newbie Alien making a joke in the fifth panel: "I saw my self on the Weekly World News the other day"

Thread Three:

Laughing Alien in the third panel: "Did you see Ajax play tonight in Amsterdam"

New woman character in the seventh panel: "No but I used Ajax in my Toilet!!"

With threads, sometimes your conversations can be "out of synch". For example, you can ask a question and be asked a question and answer the other person's question and get the answer to your question all out of order. The first rule of chat netiquette is be patient and if you are uncertain, ask again. I have seen people take great offense when they have misinterpreted something out of order, for example:

Me: "Are you a veteran here"

Other person: "Yes, is the world running slowly today?"

Other person: "Am I boring you?"

Me: "Yes"

Other person: "I am sorry about that.. goodbye!"

If an area is just too full of people to be able to converse, you have several options:

  1. Suggest to your conversation partner that you move to another, less crowded chat room or area
  2. Set up a private chat with a person through the use of the whisper commands (described later in this chapter)
  3. Using the Ignore feature (described later), screening out other people's conversation, leaving only the people you wish to hear. Note that using the Ignore feature can be misinterpreted, as people who may want to talk to you will get no answer and might deduce that you have ignored them!

Conversation in Comic Chat might sometimes seem quite random until you put the threads together. Scrolling back up through the panels of the comic strip (as described in the following section) is very useful way to find these threads.

That's a Take!

One excellent feature about Comic Chat is that you can scroll back up and see what was said earlier in the conversation.. The history of all conversations in the chat room since you arrived is automatically recorded. On top of all that, you can save the chat, in comic strip form! You can create an album of your own personal comic strips (ranking right up there with the home movies), to be reloaded and read or shared with friends any time. I have found myself rolling over jokes I missed in the heat of the drama. When they become part of a living and breathing comic strip, people say the funniest things. You can save and print your own private funny papers on your laser or ink jet printer and rush upstairs and magnet it to the refrigerator. Your friends (your kids, your parents?) won't believe it was you in there!

Bear in mind that people can be people and sometimes say very embarrassing or offensive things so be sure to check over what every character says before you pin it up at the Laundromat!

Words, Words, Words

In Comic Chat, you are not just limited to spoken words and body lingo, you have the other types of communication familiar to us from the funnies: thought clouds, whisperings of sweet nothings and action captions. Pressing the buttons shown in the following figure above will send your next text chat into the scene as a thought, whisper or action caption. You can also press the keystrokes shown in the following table to have the same effect as pushing the buttons.

Figure 9: Use the chat option buttons to say, think, whisper or declare an action

Sending private messages by whispering

If you want to send a message to be heard only by a particular character, select them from the member list, found in the upper right hand corner, and then enter your text and press the whisper button (or press Ctrl+W) to send it to that person only. Note that the other forms of communication, thoughts, action captions, and normal speech can be seen by everyone.
Say Enter or (CTRL+Y)
Action Caption(CTRL+I)

Table 4: communication keystrokes to send your words into the comic ether

As you can see below, I (as the Alien) am trying out the thought clouds ("Where is he?"), whispering ("Whispering?") which confuses the other character. She asks in a normal voice "Yea, why???" and I respond with an action caption which can be seen by everyone "DIGIGRDR, Well, Hello" and then explain to her that I am just testing the different ways to communicate. The action caption would typically be used to make a general statement about a scene, "Dick Tracy calls HQ".

You can use action captions to narrate your own actions. Captions will always begin with the name of the person that wrote the caption. If I wrote a caption, it might come out looking like: "DIGIGRDR seeks someone to share an intelligent conversation." The Action command automatically inserts your character's name, you don't have to type it.

Figure 10: How can I communicate? Trying out all the options

Speaking in Web-ese

Another cool trick in Comic Chat is that if you include a web page URL in your text chat, it is shown as a link that anyone can click on, starting their web browsers and automatically bringing up that web page. So, I could say "Hey, take a look at my cool web page at" and the other Comic Chat players could immediately click on that link in my character's speech bubble and bring up the page. Note that you must include the "http://" for Comic Chat to know it is a web link.

© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1996, All rights reserved.