Learning To Like Voice Chat

WoW headsets

There is nothing on this Earth more geeky than a World of Warcraft headset. I must have one.

Not long after I first starting playing Everquest 2 I began afresh on the European PvP server Darathar and met a lovely bunch of blood thirsty bastards. We formed a guild together (all of my buddies from Splitpaw and their’s from whatever game they were last banned from) called The Mutineers and embarked on a hand-holding, tune-whistling, flower skipping journey of scandalous PvP havoc and hell raising. It was also the first time I ever used voice chat.

Initially I was incredibly shy and refused to participate over Ventrillo instead listening only and making up feeble excuses like I couldn’t afford a microphone or was unable to speak because I didn’t have a tongue. I’d spent the last six years chatting via the keyboard, conjuring brilliant (if I do say so myself) roleplaying illusions of my characters like the camp and narcissistic Warrior, the repugnant and narcissistic Cleric and the dumb and narcissistic Berserker, and I’d be damned if all of that was going to be taken away from me. Plus, it turns out a lot of guild mates were Cockneys and I honestly couldn’t understand a fucking word they were saying.

Eventually I relented and bought a microphone and I think for the first three months all I said were the words “pardon?, “sorry?” and “excuse me?”. Communicating using our physical voice sure was a drag. Then something changed. The guild disbanded and I moved over to the US PvP server, joining one of the European guilds that existed there, full of members from a variety of different countries such as France, Italy, Latvia, Austria, Scotland and America. Finally, some people who spoke English properly.

I’m not sure why I came out of my shell at this moment but my guess it that it had something to do with not only becoming gradually accustomed to voice chat but also by finally meeting some very likable and easy going gamers. Soon I no longer became aware of the microphone on the side of my head (except when my girlfriend used to point and laugh at me) and learned to enjoy the benefits that voice chat systems can bring to a MMO. Not only does it make PvP a hell of a lot faster (there’s nothing as annoying as getting cut down half way through trying to type “help me!”) but it also makes the bond of friendship between players more real and intimate. I don’t think I would have felt as close to my EQ2 companions as I do now had I not spoken to them over Ventrillo and actually heard their personalities, inflections and humour come through.

I also became more confident in my own voice. Strangely enough, even though I’ve lived in Scotland for over 20 years, I’ve never developed a Scottish accent and instead have what most people tell me is an “American twang”, despite never having even been to the US (some people even think I’m Canadian). Unlike in real life though where I’m forced to constantly explain my peculiar accent, people in virtual worlds take it in their stride and don’t bat an eyelid or ask me anything about where I’m from. In fact, one of my male Austrian friends even complimented me on what a powerful and beautiful voice I have, which, to be fair, did leave me feeling more uncomfortable than flattered but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Although I’m very comfortable with voice chat now I still miss the old days of keyboard only communication. There was something quite dramatic about being able to create a completely fabricated and extreme online roleplaying personality that other games had no choice but to engage with (yes, I did get kicked out a few groups in my day) and that’s just not something we see any more. Sure, I suppose one could still roleplay over voice chat like an actor but, maybe it’s just me, that’s make me very uncomfortable. I think shouting down my mic pretending to be a mad Priest would also scare my neighbours somewhat.

So that’s how I learned to like voice chat. How do you feel about it?

-Gordon

If Gordon ever won the lottery he’d hire Brian Blessed to do all of his voice chatting for him.

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31 Comments

  1. Almagill says:

    I wasn’t a great fan of voice chat when it was introduced in SW:G, associating it with the worst sort of squeakers from XBox live endlessly teabagging my still twitching corpse after they’d TK’d me yet again.

    One guild I ran with in WoW used Ventrillo and, meh, less than stellar. At least it allowed the mini-Napoleon in charge to scream incoherently at us when trying to persuade us carebears to go join him in a raid for uber loot and, just occasionally, one of us would get a word in edge ways. Usually resulting in another torrent of frothy mouthed abuse about ghey crafters never wanting to go fight like real men etc etc.

    In Warhammer my guild eventualy got a vent server sorted out and wonder of wonders, it worked. OK, slightly weird to hear a gruff male voice coming back at you when you were chatting up a female elf while waiting on the keep timer to go off but hey. I also found that my (Glaswegian) Scots accent was perfect for RPing a grumpy dwarf engineer. Not only did I have a machine gun turret and landmines to take people down but a quick burst of gutteral profanity could also make my own team stop dead in their tracks to go “Do I really want to know what you just said??”

    Hmm, think I might plug my mic in tonight if I head into EQII for a bit of levelling…. Halasian barbarians are bound to sound a bit ‘weegie :)

  2. Stargrace says:

    I like voice chat – with the right people. If they’re guild mates I’ve known for for a while then yes by all means I want to talk to them. However, if they’re strangers I’m a lot more reluctant. Maybe it’s just because I’m afraid they’ll make fun of my accent (Canadian eh) or because I’m naturally shy, but for some reason it’s just not something I’m comfortable with.

  3. Rog says:

    I too was slow to get onto voice chat, after using voice in other games (ugh, particularly bad experiences with Halo),

    I came to the conclusion that voice in an RPG was a bad idea. I’m not a deep roleplayer, but I like immersion in an RPG. Plus, there’s hardly anything that I’d call tactical in WoW.

    Where my big turn off with voice has been random strangers, yuck. PUGs especially.

    However, I’ve found my happy medium using our guild’s Mumble server. The clarity is greater than most and since it’s not as ubiquitous as Ventrilo, people have to actively want to talk to each other to get to installing it. Mostly I end up talking with close friends.

  4. Rhii says:

    Where did you live before your 20 years of Scotland? I feel like I should know the answer to this question, but I don’t.

    I love my guild’s Mumble server as well Rog, the sound quality is so much better than Ventrilo, and it isn’t as expensive.

  5. Klepsacovic says:

    I was never eager to get a mic because I’m very insecure about my voice. Now I use voice and at times use it eagerly, but I still feel a bit of worry every time I hit my push to talk button.

    I hate vent with strangers though, especially when they start talking about personal stuff. It’s much easier to ignore if they do it in text chat.

    • Gordon says:

      Yep. Personal talk on voice chat is weird. Although I had a guildie in EQ2 who used to play while he worked and sometimes he would forget to turn off his mic when chatting with this staff (he ran the factory). Fun times ;)

  6. Zahraah says:

    I play mmo’s to play with people, and voice makes it more real – I’ve never been shy on vent – it is quicker to communicate, and if people weren’t silly people, I would love to do BG’s on vent, because just from my bg premade experience with vent, we work so much better together when we can communicate affectively.

  7. I was so nervous the first time I spoke on vent. Didn’t help that right after I did, some random person in the group started whispering me and hitting on me because they found out I was a female :P

  8. Yetian says:

    I was just going to post about the same topic. ;)

    I use voice chat a lot in my guild and in any raids I join with the alliance we raid with, even sometimes in pickup groups.

    I had the weird feeling to start with and the girlfriend laughing at me, but I have just about got over that. In my guild though it’s helped when we have the RL meet ups as I feel I know people a bit more having spoken to them rather than just text chat.

    We still use text chat as not everyone uses voice and sometimes I’ll be on and not use voice at all.

    EQ2’s voice setup is the best I’ve used where as lord of the rings is one of the worst, you can only chat in groups. :(

  9. amcl says:

    i always forget to turn the mic to mute when I’m munching twiglets, apples, choc, mints, and slurp my tea…. Sorry folks :P

  10. Syl says:

    mmmm I love my headset to be honest, I couldn’t miss it anymore. I agree that you lose some of the ‘virtual mistery’ that way, but while raidleading and healing I wouldn’t want to also have to write block of texts in between spellcasting on the keyboard. it’s made a lot of things easier and it somehow also brings you together as a community because its so much easier to share a laugh in a round. :)

  11. Rog says:

    Oh and Canadian accents make sense, we tend to have a Scottish influence in our accents.

    Brian Blessed is the “powerful and beautiful” voice I’d have a preference towards. Especially circa 80’s Flash Gordon Brian Blessed.

  12. Epiny says:

    When EverQuest first came out I would actually call another officer on our… OMG! house phone to discuss raid groups. I was 17 and he was 30 something. The first time was awkward… like talking to a girl you like… you get it. After a couple years of that one officer set up Roger Wilco on a 2nd PC and we started using that, max was like 8 people though.

    Once you get over the wierdness of the first time it isn’t a big deal at all. It’s funny though I went from 8 person channels to 40+ in Vent for raids and now I’m back to a small group conversatation of about 6 people a night on Skype.

    Skype’s free and has amazing quality. You just have to conference everyone in and it works out great.

    As for ettiquet no one cares anymore. Everyone’s significant other knows what we are doing and who we are talking to. If you run speakers we often talk to each others gf’s/wives when we hear them come in the room. If you belch, we say excuse me and move on. The only time we complain about someone muting their mic is from strange feedback or if they are eating something loud.

  13. Dril says:

    I used to never use voice chat at all (when your in a new guild it’s particularly awful, since no one knows you but you’re expected to make friends with people.) Then I got really into it, got Skype etc, did that for about a year, and haven’t really spoken to anyone in about 3 months now. Last time I went on Vent it was on a new server after my guild died, with a new guild, who were basically the worst stereotype imaginable for South African white people (yeah, that) and they were in Vent before a raid discussing the finer points of their day (mostly it was one of them and a 14-year old Norwegian kid talking about how ethnic minorities ruin everything; being born in Hackney I was loling and shaking my head at the same time.) I thought “hey, whatever, perhaps it’s just some bad apples.” Then when we get in there the raid leader (who was also 14 and either Scandinavian or South African), who already had an ilvl 251 weapon, rolled on Lockjaw and won, compared to me with my Seethe (and I was a Holy Pally.) Once the raid was over I left that guild, and then a week later left WoW.

    Sad thing is, I’m not that much older than the two shining examples of youth (but still older nonetheless,) and I couldn’t help but /facepalm. Oh well, fingers crossed for a nice guild in Cata/TOR/GW2.

  14. Gazruney says:

    Voice comms is awesome!
    Not just for tight.quick gameplay communication but for those long dungeon crawls or epic pvp sessions when you can just chat and banter with eachother and generaly have a great old laugh together.

  15. Tesh says:

    I detest hearing my own voice, why would I wish it on supposed allies?

    I’ve used voice chat at work when testing games, but that’s about all I’ve found it good for. When I’m gaming “for real”, I don’t care for voice chat at all.

  16. Bhagpuss says:

    Not used any voice chat yet system yet and probably not going to. When we’re gaming Mrs Bhagpuss and I generally talk to each other in type, even though we’re sitting about six feet away from each other. It’s a lot easier to stay in character that way.

    I log in to be someone other than myself in a world that’s nothing like the one I actually live in. That’s a very big part of the whole thing. I don’t much like to chat about out-of-game stuff because it breaks character. Consequently, I can’t see me using voice chat.

    Although, whatever happened to the “voice masks” that were promised back when EQ2 introduced voice? As I remember, we were suposed to get all kinds of fantasy race stereotype filters to make us sound like our characters. If they ever add those, then I might use it – although it would need to be set on my client, so that I could adjust all the voices I heard to match the races I was seeing.

  17. Adrakar says:

    I tend to be a rather quiet guy. Especially with individuals I’m not familiar with, unless there just happens to be that natural chemistry that sometimes forms with complete strangers. I’m perhaps a minority here but I dislike the majority of voice communication that isn’t directly with the person (face to face). I have a hard time understanding people on a phone and voice chat services like vent. I also find that it’s a lot harder for your personality to come across right as well. Things like jokes that would be laughed at if they could see your expression, things like that. I have used voice chat several times, mostly with raids in WoW or dungeons in DDO.

    I think it’s a great idea really. It’s just not for me. When I first started playing MMORPGs I wasn’t even aware of things like TeamSpeak, Vent, etc. I did quite a bit of roleplaying back then and I find that easier to pull off and much more entertaining when in text. I do like to be immersed in these mmorpgs and I definitely see how services like Vent could detract from that immersion, and even ruin it completely. Personally, I enjoy the escapist element of mmorpgs, and I find that, like a few others have noted, using voice chat brings it a little too far out of that realm for me.

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