Massively Overthinking: The value of MMO voice chat


This week’s Massively Overthinking question was shot over to us from Kickstarter donor Celestial, and it’s all about voice chat in MMOs.

Do you use a voice chat program while gaming, and if so, which one do you primarily use? Mumble, TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, RaidCall, Razer Comms, Skype, or some game-integrated solution (WoW, DCUO, LotRO, etc.)?”

And furthermore, do you actually like voice chatting, or is it just something you do because you have to for certain gameplay situations? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of voice chat vs. other types of chat in general!

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): I prefer to use text chat rather than voice in the vast majority of games, not because I don’t like to talk but because I tend to play casually, and public or guild voice chat servers are often just unpleasant to listen to. I play games to relax, and it really doesn’t help to have a dozen strangers talking in my ears, not to mention people breathing, drinking, and making other dodgy sounds. As far as I’m concerned, voice chat should be reserved for organised groups that require quick co-ordination, such as PvP fleets in EVE Online or raid groups in a raid-based MMO.

EVE actually has a voice chat system build straight into the fleet mechanics, and it used to be used extensively in the random pick-up groups in the faction warfare militias. Nowadays everyone uses Mumble, Teamspeak or Ventrilo, though, because it stays online if your game crashes and people can tune in while out of game to see if something big is going down that they might be needed for. The next step EVE should take on that front is an out-of-game app that lets you join in-game chat and voice channels and receive notifications from the game. I guarantee you that if CCP released something like that, pretty much everyone would use it and player activity would be up across the board.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): The first VOIP software I ever used was Roger Wilco, way back in the early EverQuest days, no kidding. It was sort of awful! My guild progressed through TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, and now Mumble, though we generally use it only when we’ve got a big group doing a dungeon, which isn’t as often in our games nowadays as it once was. I usually prefer to do without unless the task really requires voice coordination. I love chatting with my friends live because unlike a lot of people’s guilds, mine has been doing this long enough that voice etiquette is deeply ingrained, but it gets to be chaotic when I’m also trying to talk to my husband next to me or the kids are hollering or I need to tab out to work for a few minutes. I’m also not a huge fan of having giant headphones on my head constantly — gives me headaches. Generally, I just prefer text chat (and above all else, the ability to scroll back to see what I missed!).

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): If I can avoid it at all, I don’t use voice chat. When I can’t avoid it, I usually wind up using TeamSpeak, but that doesn’t speak to any particular affection; on the whole, the times that I have needed to use something have just lined up with people using TeamSpeak.

I’ve never been fond of using voice chat for a few reasons, but I can’t say that it comes down to some sort of ethical directive one way or the other; I type about as fast as I speak, but I’m aware that there are people for whom the opposite is the case. Mostly, I just find it takes me out of the game and forces me into a conversation that feels like trying to talk over a crowded room, which seems like it creates more communication hurdles than typing quickly during content.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Generally, I don’t like voice chat, mostly because it’s a bit of a hassle to set up my headset, but also because wearing one makes me feel claustrophobic. I’d rather be listening to music and talking with people in chat windows. Plus, there’s always the danger of having some blowhard fill up my ears with nonstop chatter.

However, once in a while I will jump on to Vent, Mumble, or TeamSpeak, depending on my guild’s preference, particularly if I’m feeling social or we’re running something together.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I use a voice chat program all the time. Currently, I use Mumble, but that’s because it’s the default program that came with my guild’s website. There really isn’t any other reason. However, voice chat, in general, is essential for raids. If you’re doing anything even close to progression raiding, you’re going to need some sort of voice chat. But the biggest surprise to me was how voice chat actually helps roleplay. I’m not saying that its for everyone because it could break immersion, but many times voice chat allows you to quickly communicate some of the details that might be missing from the scene or make an action more clear. Voice chat also helps GMs conduct a large-group scene easier by placing all narrative action in voice.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Yes! I definitely use voice programs while gaming. I have used most of them over the years, though initially it was just a way to talk to a couple of really close friends made in the game. Then, especially when I was playing more themepark or PvP games, I expanded to using it for groups and guilds. Voice programs really help stave off the boredom and of grinding in those games as well as make coordination much easier!

For personal communication with my old gaming partner, I used TeamSpeak at first, but then we moved to Skype for our communication so we could also be in other programs with groups if necessary. Over the years my groups/guilds have moved from TS to Ventrilo, and now I use Mumble for gaming with the minions. At times I have used in-game voice as well, especially when grouping with new people.

When roleplaying, I find voice chat distracting, but being such a social person I really enjoy it otherwise. It also really helps when many friends are playing different games so in-game communication is impossible. We still chat, catch up, pass the time, and even coordinate when to move into any specific game together through voice. Basically, voice has allowed me to grow closer to friends as people outside of games, and friends are something I truly cherish!

Patreon donor Roger: Normally, no. I feel far more comfortable talking in text form. There’s something more enjoyable about it, and I feel more open in it. I reserve the use of voice chatting with my brother only because it’s more efficient and I know him. Well, I hope I know him; he could be an alien in his skin. He did greet me with flip-florp one morning…

Back to the subject. My voip program of preference is usually Hangouts or Steam. They are very convenient for me, but I don’t like voice chatting. Why? Because I’m socially awkward and don’t feel comfortable talking with people in voice. It’s exhausting and I never know what to say except “Add” or “Incoming.” Besides, text chat gives me time to think of a response, and I get to imagine what the character sounds like too.

Your turn!

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