Xbox Live has been out for a while.. Voice Chat: Yay or Nay?

I recently purchased an Xbox Live Starter Kit (good deal at Best Buy this week) which I wanted to get before they stop including the communicator device. So far however my experience has been less thrilling then I had imagined, although I haven’t really tried much except for the included demos and a little of Mech Assault. The verdict is still out for me but I can imagine just playing XBL without the communicator connected.

What are your impressions? Do you think voice communication will/should be standard on all future online games (console as well as pc)?

My experience with voice chat is that in the right circumstance with the right people it is absolutely invaluable and adds tremendously to the experience. I’ve had the chance to play Ghost Recon with some friends from Canada and North Carolina, and it was one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I’ve ever had. We played until about 2 in the morning, had some fantastic kills, and just generally caught up during the downtime. It was great fun and a lot cheaper than a long-distance conference call, that’s for sure.

In other games, where I didn’t know anyone, there is usually some jackass who loves the sound of his own voice. Fortunately you can mute him or change the channel, or if worse comes to worse just take the thing off. I don’t need to hear some mouth breather to beat him at NHL 2K3. Xbox Live has definitely done a good job with their voice support in my opinion.

We’re adding it to Madden online this year, because it can add so much in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, it’s only for in-game, but the future will bring voice-anywhere as well as voice-recognition, so if you want to check out the top 100 rushing stats leaders, you won’t have to hunt through the cascading menus, you’ll just speak it.

Voice chat is becoming an increasingly invaluable tool for online gaming as the right products hit market. Only a small handful of current Live games seem to really take advantage of the feature beyond it’s gimmick nature, but there is massive promise as documented above by Jim and his GR tale.

Games such as Unreal, Mechassault, and Moto GP aren’t very team oriented games that demand mass communication with each other, even if these titles were on the PC you barely would find need to communicate with each other using textchat aside from ancilliary functions. Having that hands free ability to communicate does help to provide a less cumbersome game experience, but they are very much solo affairs, and the chat isn’t really given potential beyond talking smack, shooting the shit, and maybe providing unique gameplay tactics in a more convenient manner.

Grab a copy of Wolfenstein on the other hand to really get a proper taste of voice chat communication used to better potential than what you may have seen. The team dynamic is well crafted and heightened greatly with the ability to feed constant hints about team performance and enemy locations. As mentioned again by Jim it really comes down to the people that play the game with you moreso than anything, sometimes it’s hard not to avoid nitwits in a mass population, but there are a surprisingly vast number of dedicated players that are looking to have a good time in a game such as Wolfy and very rarely will you ever need to boot that irritating prick that ruins it for everyone. Voice chat is very much a vital tool that will no doubt be exploited more and more over time. To be honest, after spending a good deal of time with this one on XBox, Enemy Territory truly felt like a big step backwards in terms of that team dynamic despite the improved gameplay enhancements.

I played a co-op game of RON using Roger Wilco the other day, and it was a revelation…

Having tasted its power I want more, more more!

Your Power Pill

Yea. (and yay, too)

It feels pretty sterile playing games without voice now, and not having to type messages is really nice also.

If I had a nickel for every time I was killed while typing…

funny you should ask. I just played my first game of mech assualt with some fellow shoot clubbers. and had a blast. It was really great be able to chat with them and devise plans.

I know it has great potential. A while back I played Xwing v. Tie Figther often with a group using Roger Wilco and the experience is captivating. It will be amusing though to see how a MMORPG would play with voice. I’d imagine it’d be pretty humourus to hear people try to speak in character.

One of the reasons I don’t really care about online PS2 games is because the voice chat just isn’t there. Sure, SOCOM had it, and some games support that headset, but since that’s a fractured market of a fractured market (since the network adaptor is an add-on for now), you can’t count on it being there. Sony should sell a headset with their network adaptor, but then again, that’s really tricky when it’s also a modem and most PS2 online games have to work over narrowband. Can’t just cram voice into there too easily.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be an anti-PS2 rant or anything of that sort. I’m just saying that quality universal voice chat is so important to me that I’ve all but restricted my online console gaming to Xbox. (it doesn’t hurt that it’s easier to find friends cross-game with the gamertag thing)

Yeah, you occasionally get some people who really shouldn’t be chatting, but they’re easy enough to mute. The benefits FAR outweigh the negatives. It’s just so much easier to get across valuable info in a team game. It would take so long to type “two cloakers coming on the right, we need more defense” that it’s almost impractical to do it at all. But you can say that in a heartbeat, and keep playing while you do it.

Now, I really only play team stuff, so the experience in every-man-for-himself games is possibly quite different. I know my view is slanted in this way.

I really, REALLY wish there was a nice universal solution for voice for the PC. Right now you’ve got various external programs that everyone has to go download, and a few games have built-in voice but it’s often flaky and not everyone has a headset. Not to mention that the PC headset solution leaves something to be desired - the quality is often poor, and the voice fights with the game’s sounds to come out of the crappy headphones.

The Xbox communicator I find very comfortable, the noise-cancelling mic is quality, and best of all, it only has the one earpiece from which ONLY the voice chat comes. The game’s sounds still come from your speakers. Since all the voice is talking right in your ear, you can very clearly hear what people say. Such a solution would be a big step up for the PC, but of course it’s a bit more tricky since PC gamers sit a lot closer to their speakers.

Still, I wish Microsoft would step in with a very robust “DirectVoice” module as part of DirectX that’s very easy for developers to slap into almost any game, along with an easy USB headset that’s similar to the Xbox communicator. USB because DirectVoice would talk to this headset device only, sending only voice to your earpiece, and sounds could continue to go to your speakers. And because it would be easier to plug/unplug since many computers have USB jacks in front.

AMEN.

I’m sick of arguing the benefit of voice to PC gamers, having to practically blackmail friends into downloading the third-party software, take the time to connect to a voice server, etc. Voice isn’t just a luxury, it’s a component of online teamplay gaming that when removed can be as debilitating as replacing a PC FPS player’s mouse and keyboard with a gamepad. You can still play the game, but it’s an uphill battle.

And like Jason says, the PC voice solution really sucks in that both game effects/music and the voice have to share the same output device. Makes it even harder to convince people to use it. Counter-Strike’s in-built voice chat is flawless in quality and yet so vastly underused… why?

Quite likely the worst deterrent though is that PC gamers themselves, generally socially stilted compared to console gamers (go on, act insulted), will shy away from voice communication. The worst “cover-up” reason I’ve heard for this is, “Ugh! I don’t want some 12-yr old kid saying he’s l33ter than me in my ear.” SUCK IT UP! Mute him! Ignore him! The people who are annoying or abuse voice are so much in the minority and so outweighed by the benefit of it (judging by the 99% awesome experiences with Xbox Live and voice). It’s time to stop hiding behind the anonymity we’ve all become so comfortable with in text chat.

It looks as if the Steel Battalion sequel will be using voice as an intergal part of play. AFAIK it will be 5 on 5 teams in the game with the potential of some meta-game tracking of provinces taken and what not.

Here’s a link to the Capcom Japanese trailer, feel free to fast-forward though the team line-up at the start:
http://steel-battalion-clan.pippin.us/Video/tekki_E3_high.asx

If you watch closely you see the girl scouting ahead intercept the transmissions from other mechs. Actually listening in on the conversations the other team is having. Quite the spiffy feature I must say.

you know, voice chat is still pretty damn anonymous. I mean unless you have a totally outrageous accent, it’s not like people are going to be able to identify you by voice unless they already know you.

Anyway, yeah, voice has it’s problems with annoying players. But the advantages far outweigh that. And you know, I found that the annoying players are able to cause far less grief on Xbox Live because of the voice chat - typing to chastise an annoying punk in chat is a pain, but yelling at him is easy. When someone is being a dick, the other players just let 'im have it on Live. And most of the time he either stops, or goes away. Just my experience…

My final comment on whether or not voice is really all that cool:

Want to see what you’re missing? Play some console game on the couch with your friend. Any game will do, it doesn’t even have to be multiplayer, he can just watch. But don’t talk to each other, at all. Not a word. Instead, keep a notepad with you and write to each other everything you want to say. That’s essentially what we’ve been stuck with all this time, and once you have reliable, universal, quality chat - well, you can imagine what going back is like.

I hear the upcoming Xbox SWAT game will make use of the communicator during solo play with voice recognition. Like, you yell “S.W.A.T. - FREEZE!” and the bad guys might put up their hands. Or you give orders to your teammates by saying “breach and clear” instead of picking commands from a menu. If it works, that sounds TOTALLY BADASS to me.

Actually one of the upgrades to MechAssault now has the speaker’s name pop up in the upper right corner, so you can associate names with voices. Not too sure if other games do that though.

Voice recognition always seems gimmicky to me, maybe because it still seems like recognition hasn’t reached that Star Trek-style level of being able to understand everything you say and as fast as a human. Even those clever automated telephone systems with chatty personalities on the other end still often have to respond with: “I think you said… ‘Get me a fucking live operator.’ If that’s correct, please say, ‘Yes.’”

Did anyone ever set up Game Voice or Game Commander to use with the Activision Bridge Commander game, so you could shout “Red Alert” and “Fire phasers” at the crew? No? Oh, er, uhm… hey, what’s that over there?

[door slams]