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Jun 20, 2007



Of course it'll break immersion. Obviously Tauren Warriors and Night Elf females shouldn't sound like 13-year-old boys.

But at the same time, text isn't much better. It may be harder to place exactly who you're talking to, but "wtf lol" isn't what I was expecting from great warriors of the Horde, so I'll let it pass.


Considering that the entire premise of role Play is the use of one's imagination .... Voice being used for such applications can either make or break immersion.

Let us remain in the realm of reality here for a moment - just for a moment: Those who can learn a differing accent, change the overall 'tone' (or as I call it mood) of their voice ... They will be the ones most excited about something like this as it allows them to use yet another tool.

I myself have been known to alter my voice (no software) to show the darkness in a character as well as the converse. I've had to use a range of accents and tonal qualities to fit each character as well.

from my stand point, the ones most afraid of Voice are not the oft cited mismatched gender users .... But those incapable or unwilling to take the time to learn to do what those as myself do quite often.


Voice Chat in games is usually used to enhance gameplay, rarely to allow a more immersive experience. I don't think developers add the ability of voice chat on the premise that it will be used by the role players of the game.

I'll agree with you Malky that reading "wtflol" written by a Tauren character makes for poor roleplay, but what I think Clive was trying to convey is that 'hearing' WTF is much more disruptive then reading it. And I agree.

Two things need to happen in order for voice chat to be en enhancement to roleplaying, (1) an agreement amongst players (or groups of) to use language appropriate to the setting, and (2) much better voice filters that will allow a Tauren to sound like one whomever is player the character. Of these 2 conditions, the former seems to be the most difficult to apply.


Bad enough that people playing trolls on a RP server are typing bad ebonics/Jamaican/Scottish(?) accents, but the notion of hearing so many amateur thespians and budding William Shatners on my headphones makes my ears cringe.


I already responded to the article at my blog, but yeah. Short version: I'm not a fan of voice chat in my fantasy games.

Unless, of course, the same limitations that Crazkinux brought up are in place.


Good article. I couple years ago I penned an article for Grimwell Online entitled the "Voice of Technology" which dealt with the impact of voice communication in fantasy MMO's. (I have the original article mirrored on my own site).


As online games become more tailored to a wider demographic, those great unwashed masses are bringing their gaming preferences with them into the world of fantasy MMO's. One of these preferences happens to be voice communication. Many of the squad based first person shooter games like Counterstrike and others have voice com. Voice com works perfectly because those virtual worlds are not fantasy based.

Another problem is that the new breed of gamers have started bringing their AOL and text messaging habits with them which is further weakening the use of actual text chat. For many even having to type and spell is viewed as an inconvenience and a potential hindrance to their gaming enjoyment. All of which contributes to the proliferation of voice communication.

One of the worst problems of voice chat is the problem of non-voice chat users in a guild being alienated by those who use it. Guildchat in a voice comm enabled guild can be a very lonely and isolating "community" if you don't have a mic and headset hooked up. Cliques start to form within the guild with voice com. Important info and the social experience of being in a guild ends up being absent from the text in guildchat.

The bottom line about voicechat is one that has been plauging society recently regarding the issue of technology in general. Just because we *can* do something doesn't necessarily mean we *should* do something. Not all technology is a good thing as evidenced by a world where people have become slaves to their cell phones and Blackberries -- the very devices they purchased to improve their lives.


While I agree with Wolfshead's comment about the alienation of those without voice capabilities in a guild that favors voice chat, this really is not different than the alienation that can occur with any other technological disparities. If someone is in a raiding guild for example and finds there computer unable to handle the dungeons the will also find themselves on the outs in the guild community.

Technology aside, voice communication has another alienating effect in regards to gender. A woman on vent is easily identifiable, and is no longer able to pass as just one of the guys. Of course a woman could claim to not have a mic and just listen in to other's conversations, but then that leaves them out anyway, because no one is likely going to be paying attention to guild chat should the listening party decide to type in a response.

I think voice chat can be a great aid in fast paced encounters such as endgame dungeons or first person shooters, but I certainly wouldn't want to listen to the equivalent of Barren's chat flowing into my living room.


I have not yet hooked up voice chat for WoW, though my guild has a vent server and many of them actually use it in instances. I have, however, noticed that the game is much more fun when I'm able to speak to my party (as in, we're sitting in the same room), so I plan on getting onto voice chat as soon as possible.

I can't really imagine a voice chat where there are hundreds of people participating - e.g. Barrens Chat. It would just be background noise. Personally, I will turn on voice only when it will enhance the gameplay experience, for coordination and the like, or to hang out with my pals (in and out of the guild).

As a woman, I'm not especially concerned with immature guys ruining my game. Lucky for me I had to deal with teenage boys when I was that age, and am sufficiently competitive to be able to put the smack down when necessary.

I think that voice will make it clear that the gamer community is diverse, probably more diverse than we realize now. It's the responsibility of the mature among us to create and foster a culture of inclusion, which does involve teaching good manners and nurturing those who are too shy or afraid to speak up.


Advantages of voice chat:

- For people who can't touch-type, it's faster than typing. The pace at which messages are being exchanged has a big effect on the "feel" of a game, and sometimes typing seems to slow.
- You can convey more nuances of emotion with voice (at least, if you can act...)

Disdvantages of voice:

- New opportunities for griefing
- People talking over each other. It's quite easy to follow one person speaking out of a hundred with text; harder with voice. I've heard that Second Life voice chat will be in stereo, which will help a lot with this problem - but it still won't work as well as text. Some kind of "mute" button will be needed. (I'd like a way to reduce the volume - but not completely silence - everyone except the person I'm trying to listen to).
- Bad acting/silly accents
- Requires more suspension of disbelief when people are playing characters of a different gender/species


Anca says
>> I can't really imagine a voice chat where there are hundreds of people participating - e.g. Barrens Chat

Very true. In the link Nate posted to my site, you can hear both versions at play: first, the teamspeak recording has over a hundred participants, but only the four or five fleet and wing commanders are speaking: great TS discipline, and usable.

Then, after the successful achievement of the goal (BoB titan down!), you hear what happens when over a hundred people use the channel at once: mayhem. If you try very, very hard you can pick out word, but it is far worse than being in a crowd of larger numbers at a sports event: there isn't even anyone "close" to pick out.

The interesting thing is that roleplaying - on a goon teamspeak channel! - is occurring. It is dressed up as functional necessity, but basically, people are playing roles - commander, soldier, scout, sub-Yeager drawling pilot - even sometimes by just being silent.


PS, Nate: with the "kai su, teknon" allusion/in-joke you have surpassed even yourself!


Endie, I think you well emphasize a point that has been raised before but that your material nicely illustrates. Namely, you have a situation where voice during most of the campaign serves as a broadcast only medium for most of the players. The commanders talk among themselves and bark orders and the rest (100's?) listen and follow without being allowed (by comms discipline) to talk. In 'The face of information' some of this was discussed.

In fact it is sort of funny, at least to my xp on some of these sorts of campaigns, the voice channels are very serious (highly regulated, scarce resource) and the text channels become filled with the chit-chat that 100's of players on a multi-hour campaign can't help but indulge.

>PS, Nate: with the "kai su, teknon" allusion/in-joke you have surpassed even yourself!



I find it interesting to think about the relationship between virtual world technology (voice in this case) and the virtual world 'feel' cited in the OP. It is tempting to see this changing feel, the (fear of the) loss of immersion, as a product of the technology of voice communication. But what if it is, to some extent, the other way around? What if voice technology becomes ok/accepted, because the fantasy is already over? Unless you're on a dedicated RP server in WoW (the game the article mentions) is it really possible to exist in that world with our other 'real' world (usually a nasty and crude version of it) being beat over your head immediately and incessantly. I'm hesitant to reduce this to generational issues but it seems that many of the people entering these worlds (especially WoW) are coming from a world where rp is for dorks. I don't say this with any 'conservative' sense of nostalgia - a culture that 'stays' true to the expectations we have of it is no longer a real living culture.

To take it a very speculative step further, if this is somewhat true does this mean that people are not just alienated while in virtual worlds (as the typical nightly news horror story about poor young teens engrossed in fantastic worlds suggests) but also alienated from these worlds. Apologies if this second point seems off-topic, but I'm really just trying to think about the possible feedbacks between the virtual world technology on one hand and its feel and culture on the other.


Nate, generally I love your TN work. But in this post, what is your angle and mission? Are you asking whether voice can be a more communal medium in games?



I think voice poses a complicated trade-space, so to speak. Meaning that IMO it is not all good or bad (to be simplistic about it), it just opens up different sets of challenges and advantages that can be traded-off with respect to activities,goals, and players.. Thus the question, what are the trade-offs and can we push insight beyond the last big discussion we had here on the subject ("The inevitability of voice).

I think a place like Eve-Online may pose the most interesting long-term set of questions (justifying my constant citing it over time) - simply because of scale. From mining to combat - I think the scale of of these activities arguably can be larger, longer, more dreadful etc there than elsewhere (equivalents) and these stress sort of the traditional ways of interacting in these spaces, I think.

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