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[Column] General: The Lasting Impact of Voice Chat

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 17,112MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Voice chat is both bane and boon to players in MMOs these days. It's a great thing for strategy, for getting to know new people, for the fun of talking while playing. It can be a problem, however, as player isolate themselves into small groups. In our latest Social Hub column, we take a look at voice chat from both sides. Read on and then leave your opinions in the comments.

One of these features that could be considered both a positive and a negative when it comes to MMO communities is voice chat. Before voice chat, we were all typing into chat boxes, and probably had several color-coded chat channels,– map chat, global chat, area chat, guild chat—you name it. These options still exist, and chat UI options are even important to modern players (see SWTOR for a recent example). However, when it comes to voice chat, it’s great because you can have instantaneous communication without delay when talking to your group. Modern games just take for granted that you will be using voice chat. Voice chat is both an immeasurable tool that went outside the game initially and created a problem that devs may not have adequately solved just yet. It’s a double-edged sword for its effect on the community, even down in ways we might not always see. 

Read more of Christina Gonzalez's The Social Hub: The Lasting Impact of Voice Chat.


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  • EhliyaEhliya Washington, DCPosts: 199Member Uncommon

    Good points.  I think the Voice Chat versus typing contrast is best shown in the text-based MUDS - games like Gemstone IV where everyone types everything.  Text-based communication means both a slower-pace but also a much broader room for creation and imagination - you can basically do anything in text-based games and /say or /emote anything under the sun.

    Voice chat has flourished at the same time that graphics have improved.  But the virtual worlds - while beautiful - have become increasingly cold and empty-feeling.

    It is one of the paradoxes of technological advancement that we always assume it means unvarnished benefits.  We don't think of what we are losing.

  • taoofjestertaoofjester Boise, IDPosts: 19Member

    Allow guilds and parties to have voice chat, but do not allow any sort of global voice chat. I am perfectly happy chatting to a small group of friends that I know via voice, but I do not want all the crazy kids, and weirdos chatting with me as well. If the game must have that, then please allow me to mute it. Nothing takes away from the fun of the game quite like some arse on voice chat.


  • mistmakermistmaker viennaPosts: 233Member Uncommon

    integrated voice chat belongs to groups only. and for age 18+ lol.

    for vicinty there should be chat bubbles.

    there should be no global channel, only a new player help channel.

    and guild voice channels arent immersing me either. this chit chat might be funny sometimes, but it takes you out of the world.

  • strangiato2112strangiato2112 Richmond, VAPosts: 1,538Member Common

    I think voice chat is one of the worst things for the genre.  Christina is right:  its both positive and negative.  For raids and especially PvP the fast communication is vital.  But its not worth the overall negative community aspect.   

    It also sucks for folks such as myself that love to listen to music while playing.  I have to choose between being social or being fully relaxed, and its an annoying decision.  Tougher to get immersed too.

  • TerranahTerranah Stockton, CAPosts: 3,605Member

    Im not a big fan of voice.  A lot of people use it just to bla bla bla.  Other times, like in a raid, it's more difficult to ignore the irritation other players are feeling when they are cursing or behaving rudely.


    I have also seen it as a tool to 'out' RP players who  are playing another gender.  I often times will play a female character as a guy.  I'm not trying to trick anyone.  I'm trying to stay in character.  And when people know you as a person it's harder to role play your character as they typically will treat you as whatever your actual gender is, thus negating the whole point of role play.


    And I so tire of the, are you gay question, which is stating it in the nicest terms.  I'm been asked if I was a fag or queer or homo.  I just don't have time or energy to dispel the ignorance and enlighten people on what role play is in a role playing game.  The last guy I met in an RP server who asked if I was male or female told me he didn't approve of men playing females.  Like I am looking for his approval, lol. 


    Then there are the really huge immersion breakers.  For example, the small petite female elf who turns out to be some 50+ year old lady with a southern accent and smokers voice, or the big burly hero voiced a mickey mouse sound alike.


    So yeah...not a big fan of voice.  I will concede it's usefulness in raids in emergency situations or to coordinate a complicated encounter, but that's about the extent of it's usefulness.

  • nerovipus32nerovipus32 dublinPosts: 2,735Member
    I don't want to listen to nerds chitter chatter.
  • ArglebargleArglebargle Austin, TXPosts: 1,448Member Uncommon

    Voice chat is verbotten at our house.  All the computers are in public areas;  the second or third time everyone in the house rushed to see what the terrible disaster was, only to find it was pixel predicated,  voice chat got the boot. 


    Since I can type and write pretty fast, old school text is not that problematic, personally. 

    If you are holding out for the perfect game, the only game you play will be the waiting one.

  • XAPKenXAPKen Northwest, INPosts: 5,020Member Uncommon

    RPGs allow me to play a character in game space.  The gaming experience is not about me, but about that character.


    Voice chat breaks that for me.  While it has a place in large groups for coordination, beyond that it's a big negative for me.


    Ken Fisher - Semi retired old fart Network Administrator, now working in Network Security.  I don't Forum PVP.  If you feel I've attacked you, it was probably by accident.  When I don't understand, I ask.  Such is not intended as criticism.
  • FZR600RFZR600R EmberlenePosts: 35Member

    I feel stressed by it. It feels a lot more relaxed just doing your thing, keeping an eye on the chat window and type when you feel for it.


    You don't actually need it. I have done dungeons where nobody used voice chat and it went perfectly fine because people knew what they were doing and the new ones in the group were willing to pay attention to the briefing that the vets held.

  • ShakyMoShakyMo BradfordPosts: 7,207Member
    Depends on game

    The integrated voice in ps2 for instance is essential imo. If your going to let random people into your platoon, you need to coordinate somehow, and tying wouldn't work well in a fps.
  • Beatnik59Beatnik59 Chicago, ILPosts: 2,256Member Uncommon

    This is a very thorny topic that is not going to go away easily.  The metrics are rather stable in this regard: roughly one third of players won't play without voice chat, one third won't play with voice chat, and one third don't care either way.  And the problem comes in when those who prefer not to use voice conflict with those who won't game with you unless you get on voice.  It's hard, if not impossible, for you to be in a community with someone if you refuse to communicate with someone.

    And so, we segregate ourselves, and for good reasons.  Nobody should be forced to compromise their game to accommodate someone's preference.  People who use voice shouldn't have to type, simply because someone won't get on voice.  Likewise, people who don't want voice shouldn't have to use voice, simply because others demand it.

    That's why I think the integrated voice chat thing is a good and bad thing.  On the one hand, it gives everybody who likes to use voice the opportunity to game with everyone else who uses voice.  On the other hand, it's a clear signal to those who dislike voice that they might want to choose a different game.  The feature cannot help but create an expectation, and those who are uncomfortable with the expectation might want to choose something where there is no integrated voice feature.

    Now I can only speak for myself, but integrated voice chat is a dealbreaker for me when choosing a game.  I don't use it, and I don't want to have to explain to others why I'm not using it.  Unfortunately, you can't avoid having to explain to someone why you don't want to listen or speak to them, when everyone--by virtue of the integrated voice chat--has the capability.

    But I have reasons; reasons that make sense to me, but might not make sense to someone who sees no problem with voice chat.

    The few times I logged on to a voice program, I lost all interest in playing a character.  Instead of being the character I was playing, I felt as if I was part of a bunch of people looking at the game from the outside.  It's the difference between being the fish, and looking at the fish through a fishbowl.

    Perhaps that's why there are so few roleplaying opportunities and so few roleplayers.  It's hard to live as your character, and live with other characters, when you are constantly aware that there's a greater reality you are privy to that has nothing to do with your character.

    Part of the reason is that I "play characters" instead of "push a toon."  But when I hear and experience people--myself included--talk about the game in the third person, it takes away the suspension of disbelief...similar to seeing a play from the sound booth or backstage.

    Now the solution to the problem voice presents is actually so simple, I'm surprised nobody has ever thought of it.  Set aside some servers as voice servers and some as non-voice or chat only servers.  That way, players can choose game environments where everyone communicates the same way.

    "Its sad when people use religion to feel superior, its even worse to see people using a video game to do it."

    "...when it comes to pimping EVE I have little restraints."
    --Hellmar, CEO of CCP.

    "It's like they took a gun, put it to their nugget sack and pulled the trigger over and over again, each time telling us how great it was that they were shooting themselves in the balls."
    --Exar_Kun on SWG's NGE

  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,019Member Uncommon

    I hate using voice chat for a good number of reasons.

    (1) the child in guild chat, who just sits there and cusses all day long

    (2) the guild mate who cant speak English and when they talk leaves you wondering what they meant.

    (3) The guild mate who has a microphone that sounds like its a jet airplane. 

    (4) The guild mate who leaves their microphone on, and you hear everything from them eating to bodily functions. Yes I even knew one guy who's pc was next to his bathroom, and yes it was gross. 

    (5) lastly the person on the other end of the microphone sounds like a complete idiot, who's voice sounds like nails on the blackboard. 

    I use voice chat when in raids, but in pickup groups no, nor do I sit in guild chat all day. I am sick of hearing the guild leaders son say the same cuss word 5 times a minute because he thinks its coot to shock us all. 

    So yes to me there are a lot of down sides to voice chat. 


  • TamanousTamanous Edmonton, ABPosts: 2,140Member Uncommon

    Voice chat has only offered limitations over benefits from my experience.


    Voice chat only helps during challenging moments in the game. This is typically only about 5-25% of actual play time during a session. Outside of that time chat is nothing more than usually a very few vocal people yammering on about everything not game related or not game session related. If 15 players are in a chat room you will likely only hear 2-3 players talking the majority of time. Guild chat in game becomes dead. People in voice chat ignore guild chat as they are simply busy chatting away or throwing links into the chat program of youtube shit I'd pay not to see if given the chance.


    The biggest failure of voice chat though is the complete and total destruction of any sense of game immersion. People completely ignore their character and it's place in the game world and simply talk to each other as if sitting around coffee table talking about every subject under the sun that interests them. I am sure there are several guild mates worth getting to know but I am also logged into a MMO to actually PLAY the f$cking game sometimes and this includes measures of immersion.


    Where voice chat needs to go is exactly the opposite of what it offers from 3rd party programs. They have zero interaction with the game itself. You can't use voice to interact with your character or offer any sort of RPG immersion at all and limited in group function because of the inherent limitation of voice communication. The only way I can see voice having any real constructive impact on an MMO is to have it used as an interactive tool within the game and not an external one distracting from the game.


    Voice chat has to evolve or it will only ever be a tool for raiding/pvp and a distraction from everything else in game while excluding those not wanting to use it.

    You stay sassy!

  • vtravivtravi Brimfield, MAPosts: 254Member Uncommon

    In Game Voice chat is the single biggest reason I keep going back to Lotro (god knows the game has gone to shit in recent years). I love jumping in a pug and being able to talk is so helpful. I can explain strategies so much easier it creates a much better community because people know that they are playing with people not just NPC's.



    I played Lotro as my first and only MMO for 4 years, then went to wow for a bit. I could not believe the difference in the way people treated each other. I was a real culture shock. To me that is because people in wow don't use voice chat so they don't treat the other players as if they are real people.

    In the old days of Lotro, when there was actual group quests. The game was very social you would get a group to do quests and be chatting with the people in group and when we finished the quests often we would stay in group just to continue our conversation.


    I know full well those days are over. MMO players have changed drasticly in the last 5 years. Now people play MMO's to play by themselves. People want the least amount of contact with other players. So now all games are fully soloable except for dungeons. So it is no surprise that most people that have responded are against voice chat.


    It is not so much that MMO's aren't as good as they used to be, its the players that aren't as good imo.

  • centkincentkin Asbury, NJPosts: 947Member Uncommon

    Raids were handled in the old days without voice chat.  Yes I will say that it makes it EASIER to have it but it doesn't make it BETTER.  However the fact that it provides an advantage means any guild serious in PVE or PVP ends up forcing people to use voice whether they want to or not.

    What they really NEED to do is to have servers that are flagged no-voice (where voice is against the rules of the server.  Yes you can't really do much about it but just having a server flagged like that (like having a server flagged Roleplay summons the roleplayers) will coalesce the non-voice people into a single place where you can have guilds that work together without voice.


    Without server rules like that the non-voice people get scattered over the servers and are rendered harmless. 

  • Squeak69Squeak69 Colorado Springs, COPosts: 956Member

    i think voice is nice for rnning with friend sand groups tha tlike to use a free form sttradgey on the fly.

    but i kinda hate built in voice in games cause any decent group will use vent mumble or one of several other systems that tend to work better then any built in chat will.


    F2P may be the way of the future, but ya know they dont make them like they used toimage
    Proper Grammer & spelling are extra, corrections will be LOL at.

  • AdalwulffAdalwulff Sacramento, CAPosts: 1,152Member

    I don't see how it isolates players any more than typing

    Besides, the fear of voice chat is going away, we have more and more games doing it, and there hasn't been any major problems.

    I play a lot of Planetside 2, and there was a lot of fear that players would be abusing it, mainly because of the type of game it is, an FPS, and the kind of players it attracts, griefers.

    But there is very little of it, I think the fear is overblown and articles like this don't help!



    EDIT: Besides, there are always options to mute anybody who is causing trouble. So there is NO risk and lots to gain.

  • strangiato2112strangiato2112 Richmond, VAPosts: 1,538Member Common
    Originally posted by Adalwulff

    I don't see how it isolates players any more than typing

    Besides, the fear of voice chat is going away, we have more and more games doing it, and there hasn't been any major problems.

    I play a lot of Planetside 2, and there was a lot of fear that players would be abusing it, mainly because of the type of game it is, an FPS, and the kind of players it attracts, griefers.

    But there is very little of it, I think the fear is overblown and articles like this don't help!



    EDIT: Besides, there are always options to mute anybody who is causing trouble. So there is NO risk and lots to gain.

    There isnt a fear of it, and the negative effect on the overall community is very real.   

  • RhimeRhime Kelowna, BCPosts: 168Member Uncommon

    My solution would be to develop ingame voice chat to work along side your toon where a "voice to text" program would be very functional. Speak into the mic and your voice wouldn't be heard, but your toon would repeat it in a chat bubble or possibly in the group channel(or both).

    This would allow a slight form of privacy for players plus if you could toggle it on or off as an option you would then have a choice.

  • toxicmangotoxicmango San Francisco, CAPosts: 92Member Uncommon

    The effect of instantaneous communication (both voice and even a global chat window) has an effect on the game world/mechanics as well.  For example, it greatly inhibits or destroys the possibility of regional markets and price differences that could be used by traders, since one can ask for the price of an item across the server at any particular time.

    It also reduces communication lag time as a factor, and this historically was a factor in running empires.  It shrinks the sense of vastness if one can freely chat with someone at the other end of the world.  

  • redcappredcapp brook, NYPosts: 722Member

    Voice chat with people I know is excellent.


    I have absolutely zero desire to talk to random people, kids, trolls, etc., over voice chat, and never will.

  • DawnDarkDawnDark AmsterdamPosts: 21Member

    There is a step between voice and chat, but I haven't seen many games implement it, well I only know of one game that implemented it, eve's broadcast window.

    The broadcast window shows tactical messages from your team. These messages are for example: I need shield repair, I need more power, go to this position, I see the enemy, attack this target.

    Sending a message is done by a single click. The messages themselves have links so you can target the sender or target the object.

    This system is completely separate from the chat channel, so these messages don't get lost in chat.

    In eve both voice and the broadcast window is integrated with the group management system, where you can assign people to different sub groups in a hierarchy: fleet command, wing command, squad command, squad member. You can listen to different levels of hierarchy and you can talk to different levels of hierarchy.

  • ScotScot UKPosts: 5,816Member Uncommon

    “While we can still use the chat window to communicate with those not yet invited into our voice server, the net effect is that we’re isolating ourselves in small groups, and because of that, we’re insulated from a lot of new contact.”

    This effect is undeniable. You even have guilds where players are playing different games all on the same voice chat. As a social interation device for the guild it is great, but it inhibits players from meeting to and talking to players in game.

    I think intergrated voice chat is the way forward. It does have issues but then chat boxes have issues. Local area chat could really cut the ice in a MMO. As to asshats, well that’s down to F2P and age group, not voice chat.

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  • DamonVileDamonVile Vancouver, BCPosts: 4,818Member
    There are two kinds of people in games with me. People on my guilds voice chat ( aka friends ) and everyone else.
  • JorendoJorendo EdePosts: 263Member

    We had a great guild in SWToR until one genius decided that we really needed a voice chat. It was handy for the coordination during PvP and Hardcore Operations. However not everyone is a fan of using such software cause they don't like their own voice, or don't want to hear the other people's voices as we played on a RP server and we have certain voices in our mind about how the characters sound and it could really break ones immersion to hear a real voice, and last but not least, I'm from Europe and many people can speak english, but speak it with such a heavy accent from their country that its often very hard to hear what they are saying where in the chat you just see what they write.


    We ended up with two groups in the guild. Those who where on the voice chat, and those who where not. Normally this shouldn't be a problem, you don't like voice chat? Stay away. You want to use it for certain things in the game? Go ahead. Sadly the people who used the voice chat began to drop the guild chat for OOC chats. They began to form their own group within the guild. And as always, cause that's apparently also another very typical trait for a MMOer they started to gossip about people on the voice chat about people who where online in the guild at the same time but where not using the voice chat so didn't hear. Eventually they where such a tight group that they turned people against the none voice chat users. As in every guild sometimes people have a disagreement, not even a fight, just another opinion on how things should go. One of the voice chat people was involved and one of the none voice chat people was involved. Result, the voice chat people began a anti campaign and did so against everyone who did not see it their way. All thanks to group forming within a guild cause not everyone is a fan of the voice chat. Now our guild is as good as dead as the people who used the voice chat have left the guild after a fight among each other even.


    I dislike voice chats, i don't like my own voice and it breaks my immersion. But worst of all, as was mentioned, it makes people less social. Especially when people are divided.

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