Voice chat is probably the way of the future in MMOs; actually, it may be the way of the now, and I’m just stuck in my old-fashioned ways. I am not an enormous fan of voice chat, for several good (rational) and less good (not so rational, but actually more compelling) reasons.
One, everyone always makes fun of my English — oh sorry, British — accent. That won’t change till I move back to the UK, and since that’s unlikely, I’d better stop letting it bother me. One-point-five, people used to invariably exclaim something along the lines of “well f*** me, you really are female!” That’s not so common now, and almost nonexistent when one picks one’s gaming buddies judiciously. Still, it contributed to my general unease with voice chat.
Two, those chats I did get involved with often ended up with inane chatter that really, utterly, totally didn’t interest me one bit. The chat output then becomes something like random background buzzing, only more distracting. It feels rude to leave such chats, especially because I fully understand that what may bore me clearly doesn’t bore others, and vice versa. People have a perfect right to express themselves in voice chat in any way and on any acceptable subject. I just wish I could say “Ok guys, this really doesn’t interest me, I’m going to turn this off and if you need me, just send me a tell in game.” Maybe in CoW-voice we’ll be able to do that; I’ve tried it previously and despite my attempts to be as … non-dramatic? as I could about it, it still caused a few ruffled feathers. I really don’t see why; not everything is interesting to everyone, and if you still think everything you say will fascinate every conceivable listener, you need to look away from the mirror for a while.
Three, and this is the thing that bothers me most because it seems the hardest to prevent or palliate, in my experience, extensive use of voice chat seems to kill guild chat, or indeed typing of any kind. Once you stop paying attention to typed guild chat it’s not long before you stop paying attention to any typed chat whatsoever. I was in an otherwise very nice guild that ended up this way, and it was disheartening. For me, a large part of MMOs is still seeing those various coloured chats scroll across the chat window. It’s not an MMO if there’s no typed chat – it just isn’t.
This last reason is a large part of why I strongly resist voice chat these days, and get a little stroppy if anyone even intimates that it might be made compulsory. For one, I don’t like to be compelled in general, and for another I think it’s unhealthy.
I suspect I’m part of a dying breed, and that within a few years chat windows will be optional and voice chat will be integrated (and expected) in all MMOs. For all its fantastic advantages (immediacy, a little more reality, etc), I’m not sure voice chat uber alles is something I’m looking forward to.