Voice chat provides an effective means of online communication. This article discusses the challenges, benefits and future of voice communication in online games.
Online games have become rapidly popular over the last few years. In fact, it has become a multi-billion dollar industry. These massive virtual worlds provide a realistic, engaging environment in which people can play and interact. It has been a fertile ground for gamers from all walks of life to come together. As a result, these games have produced large and vibrant online communities.
In these virtual worlds, you can choose an avatar or character that represents you. The latest games offer the ability to customize these characters in unlimited ways; you can change your character’s hairstyle, facial features, size, weight, and clothing. How about the ability to change your voice to match your online personality? That is currently not a standard feature in games. But I do see technology stepping in and providing a solution.
Think of the possibilities: gamers could now change their voice to sound like a troll, giant, dwarf or dark lord. They’ve spent many hours making their online character to look a certain way, why not change their voice to match? It is products like MorphVOX by Screaming Bee that can fill this need. MorphVOX is voice-changing software specifically designed for online games. This tool allows gamers to role-play more effectively. Not only can they look the part, they can also have a voice to match.
Voice communication in games has been around for quite some time, but only recently has gained popularity in online games. Much of this may have to do with the increase in the number of people who now have broadband Internet connections instead of dial-up. This provides the extra precious bandwidth to cover an additional voice channel. As voice chat is becoming increasingly prevalent in online game use, companies like Xfire, TeamSpeak, and Ventrillo have emerged to meet the needs.
One company, Xfire, demonstrates the popularity of voice chat. Xfire provides a free application that can be used by gamers to easily find friends online and communicate in game. Starting in 2004, the company’s market share has rapidly grown to almost four million users.
Many gamers are finding voice chat to be a superior way to communicate as opposed to the slower process of typing messages on a keyboard. If a monster jumps out, there is no need for fumbling with the keys when you need to shout for help. Voice chat also lets gamers coordinate large groups of people effectively in large raids.
What about role-playing and voice communication? There is some reluctance to use voice communication in online role-playing games. Much of this issue stems from the lack of good voice-changing tools in the past that can work effectively with games. In addition, there is less control of good content on voice chat. External noises, such as other people talking in the same room, are very distracting and can’t be easily masked over a microphone. Also, some less helpful gamers could use voice chat to taunt or annoy other people, who may be unable to turn off an in-game voice channel. And role-playing over live voice communication poses a challenge for most people of finding the right thing to say at the right time. Most of us aren’t very good at extemporaneous acting – improvising in real-time.
However, new online games such as Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) provide in-game voice capabilities that are adding a new life to role-playing. Many people are now starting to adopt voice chat as an important part of their in-game experience. As games like DDO become more common, I foresee brighter days ahead for voice communication. By providing a rich auditory experience, voice chat will improve realism for gamers. This is part of the never-ending process of adding more immersion to these virtual worlds.