Voice and Video chat in online gaming

I’ve just read the post by Wilhelm about Discord and other voice platforms. I play MMORPGs and (virtual) tabletop gaming with a set of different overlapping groups of friends and family members. For the most part I game with a fairly static group of closer friends who I have know a long time. We adopted voice (and video) for gaming relatively late considering the technology has been around for many, many years.

As was discussed recently during a dungeon run in World of Warcraft Classic, I have pretty clear memories of the first use of this kind of technology: I can remember running a game of Shadowrun over IRC (a text chat program) circa 1997. I believe we started using Yahoo Messenger voice not long after that to have  catch-up chats, but not for gaming.

I can remember being asked to use in-game voice chat for Dungeons & Dragons Online (2008) & Lord of the Rings Online (2009) dungeon runs with the cross-game guild I was a member of at the time. I remember that I found this stressful as I wasn’t used to using voice chat in gaming back then.

My husband started raiding during the Cataclysm era of WoW with a larger guild, an activity that required voice chat, so I saw the obvious benefits of using voice over time and second hand. We started using voice, at least regularly, around the time Battle.Net voice was introduced (2016). It’s use has crept in bit by bit, usually for one specific activity but then becoming more widespread. We used voice to join other larger groups as mentioned already, but then eventually started using it regularly for our own dungeon groups. Discord came into the mix to play non-Blizzard games such as Destiny 2 and Divinity Original Sin 2. This year we adopted Discord’s newly introduced video chat feature for virtual tabletop roleplay, driven especially by the COVID lockdown that started back in March.

It strikes me that my own introduction to voice chat and eventually video chat seems to have been rather drawn-out. I’m an IT professional so I’ve been using/managing web calls and video conferences since the late 2000s. Yet the advantages are obvious to me now: voice chat makes for more enjoyable, and better coordinated, dungeon running in WoW. Video chat and Fantasy Grounds have allowed us to play a lot more tabletop roleplay than we would otherwise have been able to (especially in 2020). The caveat to note here is that this is all in the context of playing with friends and guild-mates. I’m not interested in being on voice with random people in a pick-up group like WoW’s Raid Finder!

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6 Responses to Voice and Video chat in online gaming

  1. Gray's Otome says:

    I agree about the voice chat, it’s more enjoyable to use with friends but not random people you have barely met for a dungeon crawl of sorts. (・∀・´*)ゞ

  2. bhagpuss says:

    My problem is that I really like to talk in character as much as i can and a lot of the personality comes from the spelling, punctuation and grammar. If I was to talk out loud the way I type what my characters say, people would think I was extremely peculiar. Ironically, the better I know the people I’m playing with, the more in character I get. It’s only with strangers in pick-up groups that I type everything with normal spelling and grammar.

    At one point we were promised all kinds of RP voice-masks so we’d be able to sound like our characters looked. I’ve looked into that quite a few times but it never really seems to work the way you’d imagine and I don’t imagine it would go down very well either with friends or strangers.

  3. Nogamara says:

    > Yet the advantages are obvious to me now: voice chat makes for more enjoyable, and better coordinated, dungeon running in WoW.

    Interesting take that I don’t find obvious at all. I hate being on the phone and I also prefer stuff without voice comms if it’s not needed. I.e yes for raids and hard content, but not for a simple mans.

    Might be because I never play with friends though, or at least not regularly.

    • Telwyn says:

      That is indeed the difference, as I stated, I wouldn’t use voice normally if pugging content. But it makes playing with friends a lot easier – no need for long pauses while we type chat to one another.

  4. Sylow says:

    Yea, Discord is an interesting topic for me. And i still don’t really get why people are that attached to it.I mean, i do understand the advantage of voice chat when used properly: when doing hard content it’s really helpful to be on a voice chat. Even if you don’t talk, just listening to the leader is helpful. After all, the leader also is in the fight and he also can’t afford to stop moving and stand in fire for a while, just to type out things. Voice chat allows him to coordinate the group while staying alive, which really can be an advantage.

    At the same time, i avoid voice chat for most of the rest of the time. First of all, all the voices of other people kind of invade my living room. Then there’s the open microphone, picking up everything being said. So when i have voice chat active, my wife stays silent. I don’t want to permanently silence her, though, so cutting down on voice chat really helps.

    As a sidenote: yes, this indeed is a difference to how i played while i was solo. When i was alone, that aspect did not affect me and being in a voice chat for hours was perfectly fine.

    Last not least i switch over to my experience of my guild in ESO. We some time ago got rid of Discord again. We found that having Discord after a while resulted in a split in the guild. Veteran players lived on Discord and organized there, while newer members of the guild, not constantly keeping an eye on Dicord, lost out. Considering that our guild is open to beginners and our guild is built to help them, this was not a good development and we decided to fix it.

    Giving up Discord and moving back to the in-game chat really improved our guild. Our guild definitely got better and stronger for it. By having all normal communication, groups forming for dungeons and the likes, on one channel unified the guild again, eliminated the boarders between different kinds of players and strengthened social bonds. Our guild went through a few rough weeks when we made the change, but the result is overwhelming and we are sure to have made the right call. (Disclaimer: I don’t say that each and any guild should give up Discord. But for a beginner training guild like ours Discord was contraproductive and moving away from it was the right thing to do. )

    We were not able to completely give up voice communication. Doing trials without it was a short lived experiment, you need a way to quickly communicate, especially if your guild is open for beginners and you take people of very limited experience along. But by using TS, which unlike Discord doesn’t forcefully try to turn people into permanent residents, we managed to avoid the split.

    The only drawback of the whole move is that once a while potential new recruits decide against our guild as we don’t use Discord. Considering how much giving up Discord improved our guild, that’s a price we’re willing to pay.

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