Massively Overthinking: The value of MMO voice chat

    
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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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SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

I usually don’t communicate with people, but when I do it is over Mumble. I rarely use text chat. I am in things like LFR where we are ships passing or it is people I know somewhat. My guilds all have mumble. I have a personal small mumble of my own.  I have noticed it is increasing rare that I want to communicate with someone a bit but not enough to talk to them.

Shazanti
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Shazanti

I am not a fan of voice chat, in general. Talking with one person, yeah, that’s just fine. But my avoidance of voice chat grows exponentially past the second person added to the chat. 
I’ll join for important things/things that require voice chat, but I won’t just dive into any old group chat situation. People talking over each other? People who use voice activation and have no consideration for others? People talking REALLY LOUDLY and/or are prone to screaming/yelling? Too many people talking at once? I am troubled by people in real life doing that in my actual presence, it’s a headache trigger. I don’t enjoy wearing headphones (another likely headache trigger) but I have to for voicechats, which feeds all the above headache triggers right into my ears. So when that happens? Yeah I’m done. I’m gone. 
Besides, I like to experience & focus on the game I’m playing… let myself get lost in the game and its native sounds, and not someone(s) gossiping/bragging/comparing gear.

Xvim
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Xvim

I don’t mind using vent for guild stuff, but I also don’t speak much in larger groups. If there are too many people, I tend to be talked over (as I am a fairly quiet speaker) and I am not keen on repeating mysel, so I just stop talking when that happens (both in person and in games). That said, in WAR, I’d always jump in vent to listen during warbands and ended up typing what the leader said for those who refused to join.

Robert80
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Robert80

Akaname Peregrine_Falcon  It may have something to do with being primarily focused on body language (so, yes, lack of physical interaction.)  There have been studies that people who do better at body language recognition (and use it more in conversation) find non-personal conversation harder due to the lack of that body language.
Either way, the overall should be that using it for those who like it is fine, and for those who do not that too is fine.
On the fear end of things:  people fear things whether it makes sense or not.  For instance, I know a person who pulls over if they see a cop.  Regardless of lights, sirens, or the fact that they were doing nothing wrong.  They are just so scared they can’t function, so they pull over for a minute.  They have, before, pulled over because of a cop on the side of the road using a radar gun, and had to explain the situation and wait for the cop to move before they could drive on.  It seems utterly ridiculous and a complete bit of nonsense to me… but it is as it is.  The same holds true with many other fears, and ultimately having a fear that seems unreasonable does not prevent a person from living a mostly *normal* life.  *Note, normal is highly relative/subjective, and merely means it does not massively disable a person in most cases here.*

Tandor Shadewalker
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Tandor Shadewalker

I’ve never had any interest in using voice chat. As an older player who role-plays a bit and likes to get immersed in the atmosphere of a game it just seems contrary to everything I like in gaming, and the inevitability of its growing adoption was a part of my switching to non-guilded solo play where before I had always been in a guild and often grouped. I know these days there are guilds that don’t require it, but that particular horse has bolted so far as I am concerned.

It’s great that voice chat offers another dimension to the gaming of those who want it, and all modern MMOs should actively support (but not require) it. However, it isn’t for me.

Neo_Wolf
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Neo_Wolf

I have used voice chat before both in game or via vent etc..  but
generally I prefer to type to speak as its less distracting and
immersion breaking for me personally.

Akaname
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Akaname

Peregrine_Falcon Apples and oranges. I can only speak for myself, but I have no trouble at all interacting with people who I meet physically. On the phone however, I have issues and voip is an absolutely no go. I guess it comes down to the lack of physical interaction?
Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossophobia

Telos_
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Telos_

If you care about immersion, then voice chat immediately kills it.  Nothing more annoying like hearing someone’s dog bark in the background, or someone eating chips and gulping down a drink.  Not to mention the rudeness and racists.

Sutter Cane
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Sutter Cane

karmamule Sutter Cane I also wear this bath robe, like my former username.  lol

Sutter Cane
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Sutter Cane

karmamule Sutter Cane This is possible.  Yes.