Voice in MMOGs is not new. There has been TeamSpeak and even "Vent." Yet now with Eve-Online's live testing of integrated voice (fn1), it is perhaps a good time to consider the future. From the perfect hindsight of 2020, what will we have gained and what are we about to lose?
In "<> 30: a new reality?" I was uneasy with the trendline that finds online gamers slipping almost without complaint into extensive use of voice in gaming. I admire kick-a$$ voice-enabled butt kicking in highly tactical environments as much as anyone, yet I do mind the "ebbing away of the distinction between the virtual and the real identity/experience ."
Dan has pointed out that some players are penalized by voice chat because of their RW standing. Anecdotally, for example, women seem to be put out by young-male gamer voice mongering (throw in a touch of adolescence and a bucket of pseudo-anonymity... you can imagine).
David Edery (recently) and game+girl=advance (GGA, a while ago) posted industry thinking about how voice-masking technology might be used to help compensate for some of this. "Sound like a man!" wrote GGA. However, both GGA and David cautions us that masking technologies could be used for evil by online predators.
A while back I was contemplating joining a player organization in a popular MMOG plagued with all sorts of nefarious player actions. They insisted I come online and chat with them by voice: it would help them decide whether I was trustworthy.
Here is a case where voice masking would have been inconvenient.
Perhaps voice in online games into the future is all about convenience ("Ma, no hands!"). But just as likely it is about introducing the real world currency of *you* into virtual domains. It will be done to enhance social bonding (to the exclusion of more) as well help sort out some of the chaos that pseudo-anonymity has wrought (do you sound trustworthy?).
Will you miss the silence of your keyboard?
fn1. From here:
2007.02.28 08:29:55 | NEW
EVE Voice is currently active on Tranquility, but set to 'invite only' access. We would like to invite your corporation and/or alliance to help us with load testing, hardware compatibility and general feedback.