Tag Archives: Voice Chat

The State of Voice in 2020 with a Poll

Every once in a while the topic of voice chat with games comes up.  This time Skronk mentioned it.  And with that I wondered if it was time for another post about.  It was time in 2007 and again in 2012 and I think it is time again now.

I am always interested in voice, first because I work in a related industry and there is overlap in tech and people and second because my online gaming history extends back to a point where voice was not an option.  When I was playing Stellar Emperor back in 1986, I could be on the one phone line logged in or talking to somebody, but not both at once.  So I have seen things evolve from there to using the phone system at the office for comms (back when IT would allow such things on the corporate network) to early voice software like Roger Wilco, to the hosted comms era when any decent guild or clan rented a TeamSpeak or Ventrilo server, to the time of Skype and game integrated voice, through to today.

Back in 2007 I put up a poll that had the following results:

A simple poll from a simpler time

Ventrilo (which I typo’d on in the poll, which is totally on brand for me) was the top dog back in 2007, though it was early in the history of the blog so the pool of results wasn’t very big.  It was also the dawn of the game integrated voice using Vivox, so game integration was not that widely available (EVE Online, LOTRO, and DDO had it by then, but SOE games and WoW were a ways off still) which probably hurt its responses.

Skype was already four years old by then, but had added 5 person conferencing with the need of a server, so it was the voice platform of choice for the instance group back in the day.

There was also a mention in the comments of voice quality comparisons between Ventrilo and Team Speak, the two big dogs at the time.  I am not sure if that is even a concern in 2020, but it was one back in the day.

I came back five years later with a double poll post, the first asking what was the PRIMARY voice application people used.  That got the following results (tally/percent):

  1. Ventrilo – 73 / 25%
  2. TeamSpeak – 70 / 24%
  3. Mumble – 57 / 19%
  4. Skype – 35 / 12%
  5. I never use voice – 29 / 10%
  6. Game Integrated – 23 / 8%
  7. Console Voice System (Xbox 360/PS3) – 4 / 1%
  8. Other – 3 / 1%
    • I don’t regularly use voice at this time – 1
    • raidcall – 1
    • Steam – 1

This being the peak era of the blog, the poll got 294 responses.  In 2012 readership was still using Ventrilo and TeamSpeak, with Mumble not far behind, all server based voice platform solutions.  Skype also had some users, while game integrated seemed to have come along.  I think by this point it was part of WoW and fairly easy to use.

The second poll asked which voice applications people ever used.  It allowed multiple selections and gave the following results:

  1. Ventrilo – 207 / 27%
  2. TeamSpeak – 177 / 23%
  3. Game Integrated – 115 / 15%
  4. Mumble – 108 / 14%
  5. Skype – 87 / 12%
  6. Console Voice System (Xbox 360/PS3) – 40 / 5%
  7. I still never use voice – 14 / 2%
  8. Other – 8 / 1%
    • roger wilco 2
    • Google+ 1
    • ooVoo 1
    • Tin cans and string 1
    • Roger Wilco 1
    • Steam Integrated, Cellphone, Smoke signals 1
    • But I will start to use voice for the first time when SOEmote starts. 1

A lot more people used game integrated voice at least as a secondary options it seemed.  I was using Mumble for EVE Online, it being the Goonswarm platform.  Skype was still the choice of the instance group.  Google hangouts were a thing, and we even used that for our epic Civilization V game.

Also, I love the comment about SOEmote.  I am sure that must have been Bhagpuss.

Which brings us to today, about seven years further down the road.  Things have changed some.  Microsoft bought Skype and made it progressively worse.

Some games dropped integrated voice options.  EVE Online dropped the option as part of their March update two years back as part of their clearing of decks for the 64-bit conversion.  That got us the new chat server architecture which has had so much trouble over the last two years that CCP is probably glad they ditched voice and the complications that would have come with it. (Though only 0.4% of players used it, so maybe nobody would have noticed.)

And a new player has come along in the form of Discord.

This is pretty much what prompted this post.  Yes, there are some other additional players out there like Slack, but Discord feels a bit like a game changer.  I first gave it a shot with the 2018 Blaugust and have stuck around with it ever since.  It is light, easy to use, easy to manage, and has voice integrated… and is free.  So when the instance group reformed for WoW Classic we didn’t bother trying to remember our Skype login credential, heading straight for Discord.

The only other voice app I use is Mumble, which remains the Goonswarm comms choice.

So I suppose a new decade means it is time for a new poll or two.  So here, now, in 2020, what is your primary voice application? (Choose one)

And, just to emulated the 2012 poll, which voice applications do you use on a regular basis? (Choose all that apply)

This being the security age of the web, the two polls above may not appear if your ad blocker is on or if you have Firefox set to defensive mode.

The blog being back down in the 2007 range of popularity, I do not expect there will be a huge turnout.  But I will be interested to see how people respond.

I am especially interested if you use game integrated voice.  If you have a moment to pop into the comments and mention the related game or games you use it with, that would be great.

My answers are Mumble for the primary, because I am on it for every EVE Online fleet op, and  Mumble and Discord for the regular basis response.

The March Update Brings Big Things, Little Things, and More Guristas to New Eden

The March update for EVE Online is upon us today, and with it comes a pretty long list of updates and changes.

Where do I even start?  The list this month is so long!

For openers, there is a new event in The Agency called The Hunt.

Fatal and The Rabbit’s turn to be loot pinatas

This seems to fall into the now standard pattern of events from The Agency; find a site, warp in, kill NPCs, collect loot, earn points.  The twist here is that you need to harden up against and shoot kinetic and thermal ammo.

For those using capitals, jump bridges, and back ops bridges, there has been a reduction in jump fatigue.

Having both jump fatigue and range restrictions dropped on us with the Phoebe release about three and a half years back felt like a bit of a double whammy.  From my personal perspective I went from being able to do a series of 12ly jumps in my Archon to just a 5ly jump and an accompanying wait which increased with each subsequent jump.  It had to be done.  Capital travel was too easy.  But that doesn’t mean it didn’t feel like a hit, and doubly so when I had to make my way from Saranen down to Delve.

That has been dialed back some in the past and is being dialed back even more with the current update, as detailed in this dev blog.   Jump fatigue will now be capped at 4 hours, down from five days, with the jump timer being similarly brought down from a maximum of 9.6 hours to just 30 minutes.  No longer will this be seen:

The old jump fatigue maximum

We will see what that means for capitals and jump bridges and the like.  People will hopefully feel more free to go on ops as the participation requirement of “no jump fatigue!” fades away.

There is also a change to tethering.  When you jump in to a cyno on a citadel you won’t tether immediately.  There will be a cool down during which you will be vulnerable.

That dev blog also includes changes to entosis operations related to sovereignty warfare.  We shall see if that makes trying to take space more common or not.  Right now you can sit back and build up ISK and material in a single region if you’re willing to care bear it, so grabbing more space or trying to upgrade your own space isn’t much of a motivator anymore.  It isn’t like the old days where the CFC took Fountain because of moons.

There has also been a balance pass for ships.  Tech I battleships get a boost to lock range and cargo space, the Oracle, Naga, Talos, and Tornado can now fit MJDs, and the Ferox and the Machariel have been nerfed a bit while a few ships got buffs.  We’ll see if this leads to Munin fleets or not.

Also part of that is the new FC ship, the Monitor.

The Monitor Flag Cruiser concept

Since it was brought up by CCP last month it has had the ability to fit a target painter and a probe launcher added (along with the ability to hold some probes) so FCs can scan down enemies and get on kill mails.  We shall see if anybody ends up using this thing.

In addition today’s update spells the end for EVE Voice as well as a revamped chat system that features a back end on its own server.

And, finally, there is the Little Things update, where CCP has updated or improved a bunch of small items that should make capsuleers happy.  There are quite a few on there that make me happy, especially being able to see the ship type of people broadcasting for reps.

Who is asking for reps?

It isn’t that logi doesn’t like you frigate pilots, but spending time locking you up to find you’re already dead or have zipped out of range is annoying.  Logi has bigger ships to protect.

So that is what I have to report.  The update has gone live and further details can be found in the Patch Notes and on the Updates page.

Addendum: The game is down while they look into issues that may have come from the new chat system.  The whole thing was troublesome enough during the first mass test that I am surprised that they didn’t push it off to a future release.  This may be a rocky launch.  It is a good thing we all have a skill queue now.

Addendum 2: According to the forum thread the game is up as of 19:00 UTC, but there are still issues:

CRITICAL ISSUES:

CHAT SYSTEM:

  • THERE IS CURRENTLY A DELAY OF UP TO 10 MINUTES FOR UPDATES TO LOCAL CHAT
  • OTHER CHAT CHANNELS ARE ALSO AFFECTED BY SUBSTANTIAL LATENCY
  • WE ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON A SOLUTION TO THIS WHILE TQ REMAINS ONLINE

BOUNTY SYSTEM:

  • WE ARE AWARE THAT BOUNTY TICKS ARE CURRENTLY NOT BEING PAID OUT
  • ALL NPCS THAT ARE BEING KILLED ARE BEING LOGGED
  • A FIX FOR THIS IS CURRENTLY BEING WORKED ON
  • MISSED WALLET TICKS WILL BE REIMBURSED IN THE COMING DAYS WHEN A FIX IS IN PLACE

Addendum 3 – The bounty system has been fixed and now pays out correctly.  Those who did not get paid today should see a payout in the coming days.  Chat, however, is still not working as expected.  When I logged in earlier, Jita was silent.

Addendum 4 – A final summing up of events by CCP Falcon.

Voice Software Poll – Five Years Later

About five years ago I put up what may have been my first poll related to gaming.  It was my second poll, the first being a simple test of some odd, external polling plug-in I was trying out.  This was before WordPress.com integrated with Poll Daddy for build-in polling.

The topic of this poll was voice software, and the poll was taken at a time of transition.

For me, the instance group was well and truly under way and we had settled on Skype for our group coms, which was a change for me.  At the time I was much more used to having TeamSpeak or Ventrilo speech servers available for guilds and gaming clans to which I belonged.  Just a few months before I had let our last guild voice server lapse.

But there was also change going on in the MMO space.  Voice communication was starting to be integrated directly into our games.  We were starting to hear about companies like Vivoxx.  The separate server/client voice software seemed to be getting some competition.

And so I wanted to know, what were people using.  I wanted to see if the integrated voice software was catching on.  The results (not scientifically valid) seemed to indicate that integrated voice was not catching fire..

That is a small sample, but it was heavily weighted in favor of the two most common guild voice servers, TeamSpeak and Ventrilo. (Nice typo in the poll, me of five years ago! Some things never change!)

Skype and “never” were each more popular than game integrated, while nobody chose “other” or Roger Wilco.  The latter I added for historical/sentimental reasons.  That was the voice software we were using in 1998, back when we did a lot of gaming at the office in part because we could use the phone system for conference call coms.

So here we are, five years later.  Voice software has moved ahead.  There are new players in the voice server sphere, while the old standards are still around.  Integrated voice coms in MMOs is now a standard and has had five years to work out glitches.

So I thought it might be time to ask the question again.  This time though, I am going to ask the question twice.  The first time will be the same question, what is your primary voice software, if any.  Same question, different year, a couple of new options.

Now for the part two.  The same list of options, but this time it is multiple choice.  Check all of the boxes that apply.

Right now, for me, the answer for the first question is probably Skype still, five years later, though Mumble, which is the CFC coms standard, is pretty close.

But five years after integrated voice started showing up in MMOs, I still have never used it regularly in any game.  I think the instance group experimented with it in LOTRO one night, but we went back to Skype pretty quickly.

The REAL Problem With Voice Chat

I have heard people complain about various aspects of voice communications when used with MMOs.  I have seen rants on:

Quality – Voice quality was once the prime barrier to voice chat over the net.  Lag, distortion, clipping, and all sorts of bandwidth related issues kept voice from being viable until a few years back.  That was one of the key advantage of playing games at the office.  We would just use the company phone system and set up our own conference calls. 

These days, however, quality is relatively good.  Part of this is through improvements in the voice over IP software and the increase in bandwidth available to the average user.  But I am convinced that part of our acceptance of voice over IP is related to the fact that we have all gotten so used to crappy connections with our mobile phones that IP based voice chat does not have to work too hard to sound good in comparison! 

Annoyance – As in, it is much easier to be annoying when you are talking than when you are typing.  Darren at The Common Sense Gamer posted some of the likely suspects in this category, (his post prompted me to finally finish this one), though he forgot The Kibitzer and The Fifth Wheel on his list. (They might belong to a guild-only subspecies not covered by his topic.) 

You know The Kibitzer, the person who isn’t actually in your raid or group, but who is hanging out on your channel, giving advice. 

And the Fifth Wheel, who is similar to The Kibitzer, but who avoids the topic of what your group is doing and simply distracts your group from the task at hand with all sorts of off-topic comments and questions. 

I have been in enough guild voice servers to have gotten my fill of those two. 

Immersion – The purist viewpoint: If that moon elf hottie turns out to be a 42 year old guy from Great Neck, the immersion is totally ruined.  And it puts a strain on role playing because, as anybody who has ever attended a renaissance faire can tell you, the ability to do a good and convincing English accent is a rare talent indeed.

Those are but mere trifles.

Let me tell you what I see as the main problem with voice chat.

Pronunciation –  I can’t say your name, I can’t tell you where I am, and I am not going to attempt to pronounce the thingy I’m wielding. 

It might just be me, but my brain can accept a string of characters to represent something without ever having to work out how to pronounce that string.  Years and years of playing games with strange names I have not had to pronounce has reinforced this tendency.   

If I am reading a book and I get to an odd word or name, I will often say it aloud, just to get my mind around it, but in a game such a word just becomes a symbol in my brain for that name, item, or location.  I even have characters with names I have never even thought to try and pronounce aloud.

So, as an example, there I was in EVE Online with Potshot, we were on Skype, and he asked what system I was in.

Of course, I was not in Jita or Mara, or even Todaki.  I might manage those.

No, I was in Uemisaisen. 

And I was about to use the gate to Litiura, because I was travelling to the State War Academy in Uosusuokko to pick up the skill “Plagioclase Processing,” but I cannot pronounce any of those names on the fly. 

I cannot pronounce most of those names after sitting and thinking about them.

So, instead I said something like, “Uh… I’m headed to the system that starts with “U-O” that was one over from where we were mining last week.”

Not very helpful.

An extreme example maybe, but not uncommon. I have more like that one. 

I started my first EverQuest character in Qeynos on the E’ci server.  For years I said the city name as KWAY-noz instead of KEY-nose.  And E’ci?  I just said “E-C-I.”  It was only this year, eight years after I rolled that first character, that I learned it was pronounced “EE-see.”

And it happens every day on voice.  

Even World of WarCraft, which has done a commendable job of keeping things pronounceable (should that have been a Pardo speaking point in his keynote at AGC last year?  Is “make the world easy to say” a secret of WoW success?) trips me up once in a while.  I always feel like I am saying “Gnomergan” wrong, though most people just say “Gnomer.”

So when I use voice chat, I can deal with moderate voice quality issues, I know how to avoid the annoyances, and I can cope with the occasional bad fake accent, but please don’t ask me what star system I am in.  I might be passing through Uemisaisen again, and I’ll have to wait until I get to Ossa to respond.

(Ossa. Is that “AH-Sah” or “OH-sah?”)