5 Essential Features for In-Game Chat Players Will Love

5 min read Oliver Carson on Oct 26, 2022

In-game chat is a powerful tool to drive player engagement. But, when actually using in-game chat in your game, players will bring expectations based on their everyday experiences with apps like Discord, WhatsApp, WeChat, Slack, and Messenger.

This is where PubNub, a developer API platform that enables applications to receive real-time updates at a massive, global scale, can be used to implement an in-game chat infrastructure. PubNub serves as the foundation for over 2000 customers in diverse industries, including gaming. Game developers can depend on PubNub’s scalability and reliability to power their online features for games and tools for in-game chat, live leaderboard updates, and alerts and notifications to bring players back to the game.

Players expect features that live comfortably in your UI, bring their conversations to life, and accommodate the personal relationships they’ve formed by playing your game. If you’re serious about implementing in-game chat your players will want to use, learn more about the features you can’t overlook and how PubNub provides solutions for these features.

1. Friends

If you want your chat to be the star of a truly social experience, you need to facilitate personal connections between players. This is doubly true if you expect players to meet up with real-life friends in-game. Whether you want to facilitate game nights between friends, or let friendships flourish online, friends functionality allows players to connect, chat, and play together with ease.

Presence monitors the subscribers (players) of channels, which are used to transmit data from one device to another. This means that you can look up who’s currently online, when a player has joined/left a channel, or which channels a player is subscribed.

2. Chat Rooms / Group Chat

This may seem obvious, but consider how few games actually provide clear, intuitive ways to speak to a specific group of fellow players. For example, most MMOs offer broad communication options, like channels for local, party, or guild chat. Broad channels like this worked back in 2010, but now players are used to being able to choose who they communicate with, hop between specifically composed channels, and do so intuitively.

PubNub's Real-time Data API contains a Publish-Subscribe API that describes the flow of messages between applications and devices. A publisher (i.e. any source of data) sends messages out to interested subscribers (i.e. receivers of data) via live-feed data streams known as channels (or topics). All subscribers to a specific publisher channel are immediately notified when there are new messages received on that channel, and the message data (or payload) is received together with the notification.

Messages can be stored and retrieved as they get sent over the network using the Message Persistence feature, where each message is stored on the channel it was published, timestamped to the nearest 10 nanoseconds. In case players are offline during conversations, messages can be stored and retrieved using Message Persistence. Offline players can also be alerted to these missed messages using mobile push notifications via PubNub's Mobile Push Gateway, so players never miss out.

You can control access and moderation using the Moderation Dashboard, which allows you to implement profanity filters, flag inappropriate messages, ban players for misconduct, and control the chat rooms players are allowed access.

3. Reactions

Conversations are where players will express their frustrations and elations. Of course, an emoji on its own says a lot. But, reactions let players put their emotions in context. They’re a lightweight but potent way for players to comment on one another’s messages, and for others in a channel to easily grasp the general flow and feel of the conversation. More than anything, they give players an expansive range of expression to discuss, meme, and react to moments in your game.

PubNub's message reactions allow players to send back an emoji or custom reaction to a message they received. These reactions are typically visible to all players in the chat room and are displayed with the original message. PubNub also offers built-in Android and iOS Message reactions (emojis) components in PubNub's Chat Components, which are ready-to-use UI building blocks. Learn more in our how-to about PubNub Chat Components vs SDKs.

4. Typing Indicators

Your game will probably have a lot going on. So, don’t make players wait around looking at silent threads. Typing indicators help bring immediacy to text-based interactions, letting players know at a glance that others are active in the conversation. They are little pieces of visual feedback, and they go a long way towards making chat feel like an organic, life-like interaction. Typing indicators help prevent cross talk, or might just make it clear when somebody isn’t interested in waiting their turn. 

PubNub supports typing indicators that enable players to know if other players are typing messages in a channel. Once a player begins to type, other players can see the typing indicator appear on the screen in real time.

5. Read Receipts

Do your players want to invite friends to a game night? Maybe they’re asking for help with a puzzle, or are sending an SOS from deep in a dungeon. As in real life, your players will want to know that their messages were received. Like with any game mechanic, feedback in chat is crucial to maintain awareness and satisfaction. Plus, seeing that they’ve been heard might stop players from spamming your main channel. These pair perfectly with Typing Indicators to make a truly organic in-game chat experience. 

PubNub's message receipts enable players to track delivery of messages in a channel. Message receipts include both delivered receipts, an indication that messages have been delivered to a user, and read receipts, an indication that a player has read the message.

PubNub Offers the Features You Need

No matter who your players are, they have likely built up habits and expectations around their day-to-day chat experiences. And, for good reason: features like typing indicators, reactions, and read receipts lend feedback and a sense of immediacy to chat. In turn, players experience smooth, natural communication.

When thinking about in-game chat, this level of interaction is the basis of any good player community. You’ll want to give players feedback, expressive freedom, and the ability to fine-tune their own social experience.  

Implementing features like this can be challenging, adding what feels like more development time just to get your game out the door. Compared to the core needs of your game, they can seem like luxuries. But, if your game relies on community, you need to give players chat they’ll want to use. 

Luckily, when it comes to building full-featured in-game chat, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. PubNub’s Chat Components and SDKs make it easy to get in-game chat up and running with all these features and more. Whether you’re using Unity to build your game, or you’re working directly in Swift or Android, we’ve got you covered. 

Beyond providing the core, real-time infrastructure to send and receive messages, our SDKs offer easy-to-use endpoints to quickly implement essential chat features like:

Our real-time data API is flexible, so you can roll out these features quickly. Our globally available messaging infrastructure then lets you expand as your game, and needs, evolve. Getting started is easy. And, if you have any questions, we offer support 24/7 worldwide. With PubNub, you can start building world-class, in-game chat today.