Hear me, Hear me! WoW Voice Chat

Yes, World of Warcraft has a built-in voice chat feature. Surprised? I was. I’ve been playing for over a year but only found out about it a few weeks ago and only then because someone mentioned it offhandedly on Twitter. Apparently it was introduced in patch 2.2 way back in 2007. Really? How the heck did we miss that one. I had no idea about it and it seemed that I wasn’t the only one, everyone else I asked usually just opting to use Ventrillo or Teamspeak instead.

Save yourself the stress of getting WoW's voice chat to work, make a long distance phone call instead

Save yourself the stress of getting WoW's voice chat to work, make a long distance phone call instead

Being of bold adventurer stock (I once travelled abroad and didn’t pack enough socks), I decided to give it a shot. In case your wondering, which you aren’t, the option to activate said voice chattification ability is under the “Voice” tab in the “Sound & Voice” menu. The theory is that you just click it on, select your mic input device and sound output device along with any custom settings you want and away you go. In practice though, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

Firstly, this feature isn’t available to players on a trial account (as my brother discovered), presumably to stop gold farmers from shouting Chinese obscenities or marketing slogans down your ear. Fair enough. However, after using it for a good couple of weeks now, I can safely say that it’s one buggy piece of work. It took several regroups and relogs to get the initial thing set up and now it consistently doesn’t work for a player if they change character (the remedy being that you have to log out completely and return). It also doesn’t seem to want to work at all in groups formed using the dungeon finder (oddly enough it works fine in battlegrounds).

The voice system isn’t all bad though and does offer some nice features though like the ability to quieten the game’s music or sound effects when someone is talking along with seeing the name of the player in your WoW UI. It also has the obligatory push-to-talk setup and the overall sound quality is pretty decent considering you’re not talking through a dedicated server. Plus it’s very convenient and very free. Which is nice.

I guess I’m a little torn over the whole thing. It works, well, some of the time (unless you want to change character, run a cross-server dungeon or have a conversation with more than 5 people or anyone outside for your group) and it saves me the hassle of installing a 3rd party piece of software or paying for some VoIP server. Still, my biggest gripe is just how shoddy the implementation is and that the whole thing, even after 2+ years of it being around, is still bug ridden. I’m genuinely surprised to see this from Blizzard and I can only assume it’s a low priority to them due to it’s lack of use from the player base.

Convenience is winning out at the moment but I can see that the issues with WoW’s voice chat are going to eventually force me and my buddies to switch to something else. The real killer is how it doesn’t work with groups from the dungeon finder and we’re already discussing switching to Skype as a result.

Anyone able to recommend any other free voice chat systems that are compatible with both PC (Windows 7) and Mac?

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38 Comments

  1. Psynister says:

    I used the in game voice chat a bit when I started playing almost 2 years ago. It was never great, but it did beat having to bother with additional software as I was on a horrible machine at the time that was barely able to run WoW itself let alone anything else.

    The voice chat isn’t too bad when it works, but there’s often sound quality issues and people not being heard for whatever reason. I used it for a couple of months on occasion, but after deciding to just install ventrillo regardless I found out that I much preferred to use it instead. Some people I played with still refused to download vent, so I also used both of them together at the same time, using the same key to access both systems for push to talk.

    All in all the in game voice chat feature sucks, but it is still better than nothing, and if you’re in a PUG and don’t want to give away your guild’s vent info, but you do want to talk to the other people, the option is always there. I still don’t bother using it, but it is there “just in case”.

    • Gordon says:

      I agree that the actual system is ok when it works – in fact, if it wasn’t for the bugs with it, I’d be piling it with praise. The problem is that it just lets you down and it’s very frustrating, for instance, to queue for a dungeon group with a couple of friends and then find the voice chat facility isn’t working any more.

      I really like the idea of an integrated system though and wish Blizzard would put more effort into fixing it.

  2. J.S. Daniels says:

    I remember being excited for this, when it first came out. Unfortunately, as a number of post-WoW new MMOs have found out: you can’t release something low-quality and bug-ridden, and expect it to sail. And WoW’s inherent voice chat was exactly that, in spades, at its launch. I was on cable internet when it launched, and it still sounded as if you were on Vent with 56K and 3 resource hogs running in your background.

    Short story: It was a flop on release, and never recovered. I’m pretty sure they just abandoned the entire idea, since it lost the voice chat battle with Vent and Skype, when it was underwhelming then both widely available programs on its conception.

    • Gordon says:

      We had a few quality issues, mainly due to what I think was lag over the system. The voice quality is also definitely not as good as Vent but it’s not bad. Overall, it just seems like it’s still not complete which is why I was so shocked to discovered it came out in 2007.

  3. Carson63000 says:

    This is the first time I have ever even heard a rumour that someone might have considered using the in-built WoW voice chat. I remember well it being introduced, but the unanimous response was “why?”

  4. Longasc says:

    EVE has or had it, too. Many other games have voice chat, LOTRO for example. And in all those games, you get usually a line with the address of the TeamSpeak server.

    Right now it is funny, as TS3 is not downward compatible to TS2 and many still run TS2 servers.

    But I am playing STO at the moment and quite happy that I don’t have to use voicechat. I don’t like it, especially not for Pugs. I still use it occasionally to talk to buddies for free.

  5. Windsoar says:

    I was actually excited about this feature when it first came out because 1) cost, 2) I had been introduced to DDO sometime during my WoW career and loved being able to chat with party members who were not a part of my guild for “short-term” content without going through all the hassle of sharing vent/teamspeak information.

    However, it’s horrible by itself and especially in comparison.

  6. Anakh says:

    I use in-game voice chat quite a bit in EQ2 and in general think it works very well. People usually use their own chat for raids but for casual grouping most people use the voice chat system.

  7. Leah says:

    I may be wrong here, but isn’t it possible to use voice chat with Aim or yahoo messenger?

    my biggest gripe about in game chat is that I like to toon hop a lot and at the same time – if I actually do log into ventrillo, its because I want to talks to specific people without having to get stuck in specific group (most of the time all of us are doing our own thing in game, while chatting)

    I tried in game voice chat back when I was a noob (I believe it was when it was just introduced? ) and it was terrible then. Voice quality sucked, half the time you couldn’t even use it, so I haven’t used it since.

  8. Rhii says:

    I tried using the voice chat when playing with a friend who hated pausing to type… (sheesh, keyboard turners) and it was SO bad that we just gave up after a while. Half the time we couldn’t hear each other, and then it would start working sometimes for no discernable reason. We never could figure out the difference between when it worked and when it didn’t.

    Now I use Vent for wow-stuff and Skype for everything else. I LOVE Skype. I’d prefer to use it for raiding even, since Vent has some sound quality issues sometimes, but since Skype doesn’t have ptt (does it?) I don’t want to hear everything my guildies think… so for now, Vent it is.

  9. Tizio says:

    I use voice chat often.

    cons:
    It happens to not work, but isn’t needed a relog. Just deactivate it and reactivate it.

    pros:
    no need to setup programs, give out settings, setup new chat servers with every new pug.
    Also, voice in wow know what is happening in wow. So you can setup a lower music/sound effects while someone is speaking.
    Also you can create a channel (just use /join channelnameofyourinvention) and use voice with that chat channel. For example I could be in a group but I could be voice chatting with some friends of different groups and guilds.

  10. Yetian says:

    I love eq2’s voice system. I know some people have bugs with it but I think the features are great. The best feature is the individual volume control.

  11. Nelson says:

    The first thing I do in any online game is disable voice chat from strangers. Most guilds in WoW or Eve run their own voice servers. Those work better because you’re chatting with a community you have a relationship with, not some random child who is screaming insults and obscenities. (Usually the child is about 25 years old.)

    Ventrilo seems to be the software of choice, but not free. Mumble is looking really good as a new free voice chat system. Teamspeak has fallen out of favour with my friends. If I were setting up something new, I’d try Mumble free. Unfortunately server bandwidth is never free.

    • Gordon says:

      Vent is very good but, as you said, not free which is a shame if you’re not running with a guild big enough to support it. I like the idea that I can chat with people in PUGs actually and it was a pain when using Vent because they’d had to be given the log in information and go hook it up etc.

  12. Anakh says:

    The main problem with ingame voice chat in many games is either technical bugs (as mentioned) or the inability to adequately control who you talk to. I have no interest in a voice chat that is “always on” when you join groups, as I’ve seen in some games. As a few people (including me, briefly) have mentioned – I have not seen a better implementation than EQ2s. Not only is it stable and for the most part, bug free (though certain people have some problems, as with anything in MMOs) but it provides a lot of features, mainly a choice of channels. When you join a group, you can join the group channel if you want, but you don’t have to. There is also a raid channel, and one for your guild. It scales pretty well with large numbers of people. You can individually mute annoying people, adjust their volume, and even do keen things like temporarily invite people from outside your guild into your guild chat, or form your own custom voice channel just consisting of your widely scattered friends. Really it’s a perfect replacement for TS or Ventrilo – though some guilds continue to use out of game chat servers for various reasons.

    • Gordon says:

      I think a voice chat system is a great addition to a MMO and the perfect thing to integrate. I think it’s a lot more useful and valuable than, say, Twitter intergation or something like that. I would be very happy if Blizzard sorted theirs out.

  13. Khoram says:

    Wow, weird. My group uses it all the time and it works fine.

  14. luvy duvy says:

    the voicechat on wow sucks Ventrillo is much better period found out moved on to bigger and better things. by the way 2 nights ago i did the love is in the air undead boss and looted my toxic oozling a better pet for a gnome warlock then a cute murky and when you feed it rats it grows

    lol

  15. Dustin Moore says:

    One word – LOTRO (ok, that’s 5 words if you pronounce the whole acronym). I played LOTRO for a month before I started playing WoW. Great quality, almost everyone uses it, and an awesome feature that all MMO’s should start implementing.

    The first guild I had in LOTRO actually required voice chat to be enabled.

  16. Dustin Moore says:

    P.S. Why don’t more people use xFire for voice chat? Pretty good quality and FREE, it happens to be one of my favorite tools as an avid gamer anyways.

  17. Absolute big thumbs up for EQ2’s voice chat. It was introduced shortly before I left but from what I used of it, it was great.,,

  18. All in all the in game voice chat feature sucks, but it is still better than nothing, and if you’re in a PUG and don’t want to give away your guild’s vent info, but you do want to talk to the other people, the option is always there. I still don’t bother using it, but it is there “just in case”..

  19. بنات says:

    We had a few quality issues, mainly due to what I think was lag over the system. The voice quality is also definitely not as good as Vent but it’s not bad. Overall, it just seems like it’s still not complete which is why I was so shocked to discovered it came out in 2007.ز

  20. One word – LOTRO (ok, that’s 5 words if you pronounce the whole acronym). I played LOTRO for a month before I started playing WoW. Great quality, almost everyone uses it, and an awesome feature that all MMO’s should start implementing.

    The first guild I had in LOTRO actually required voice chat to be enabled.

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