Oh noes! Vent drama!

(Not)

Yeah, that’s a lie — but it makes for a good title even if it’s not really true to the principles of journalism. Then again this isn’t journalism, it’s the inside of my head (parts of) splattered onto the internet (parts of).

Unfortunately for you if you were expecting juicy CoW meltdown (juicy CoW? juicy meltdown?), you’ll be disappointed. I have nothing but pride in the herd, individually and as a collective. It’s software I have a bone to pick with, and how that software ends up regulating or even restricting my interactions with other people.

Voice chat has a way of insinuating itself. It starts out optional, and yet within weeks it’s a case of “you don’t have it? You really should get it. It’s almost a requirement.” And those are the nice folks, who say it kindly and mean it sincerely (and, as it happens, are right) — the rest just say “Get Vent or GTFO, I’m too freaking cool/busy/leet to type, yo.” I’m glad to say CoW is blessedly cool/busy/leet free. Yo.

Now, while I freely admit having discovered, thanks to CoW, that if you’re in congenial company it really does add to one’s gaming experience, I still don’t like this voice/no voice divide that, it seems, inevitably appears. Even in the best of companies. It’s nobody’s fault – if anything, it’s the tech’s fault because you either have it (can use it) or you don’t.

Why is it that some technologies that are supposed to bring people together only end up doing the opposite when those for whom it works end up having little time or tolerance for those for whom it doesn’t? I find it interesting that it happens even when those involved don’t want it to and, indeed, are determined NOT to have it happen. Like I said, it’s insidious.

So yeah. Voice chat is optional in the bare definition. However, those who have it quite often stop talking to those who don’t. I know it’s not intentional, because when Vent worked well for me I could see it happening to me: a tendency to voice- rather than keyboard-chat because, after all, we are born with vocal cords and not keyboards in our hands. But it’s still the net result.

Vent isn’t working so well for me right now, and again I’m starting to feel marginalised and out of the loop, even if there is no loop to be out of. It’s like sitting at the front of the bus and wondering what the hell the cool kids are up to at the back, when in fact the cool kids are really up to nothing special at all. (Getting to the back of the bus was WAY less of a thrill than I thought it would be. Scarred my teenage years.)

I’m irritating guildies with my frustrations about it, because I’m airing those frustrations in an effort to get help from any possible gurus out there; well, ok, and to vent my irritation at being unable to get that damned piece of software working so that I have a reasonable chance of hearing everyone at a reasonable volume. In doing so I seem to have reached the “gah, she’s on about it again” level; I eventually realised that and have shut up about it, but I am going to post about it here because I am all sorts of frustrated about it on all sorts of different levels, and this is a more appropriate forum for it, being my own.

In all fairness, I should have moved my venting to here days ago, because part of it is prompted by my weird relationship with sound and that really doesn’t need to be of interest to my already rather patient guildies. (I’m sensitive to sounds – repetitive and/or extra loud make me irritable; turns out extra quiet does too, and spending 5 hours asking people to repeat themselves grates, I am sure, on more than just me.)

I do like voice chat. Maybe it’s Ventrilo I dislike. Either way, I’m pissed about how it works and how it affects my interface with people. I’m… Venting. Ah ha. Ha. Ha.

To speak. Definitely to speak.

In one of my trademark changes of heart, stolen straight from Mr Burns, I’m going to come down on the side of voice chat. With the right setup and the right people it’s not the tower of babble at all. Instead, it’s a useful tool and a neat way to get to know people, especially when you’re running for your life (usually unsuccessfully with my WH) in RvR. And with mandatory push-to-talk nobody has to hear my expletives when that same tank kills me AGAIN.

I remain a little worried that voice chat will replace guild chat, which would be a great shame. Not everyone like voice chat (I should know, I was one of them), and more importantly people should’t be forced to try it until they’re ready. I’m therefore going to make a special effort to talk as much in guild chat as I always have, which, if you know me, is a lot. So no worries there.

Thanks again to my fellow CoWs, who have made what I expected to be a fraught and uncomfortable experience a rather pleasant one. Bet you wish you’d kept me off Vent!

If you’re on the fence about voice chat and you’re in Casualties (or any other friendly, noninvasive group of people), I urge you to come and lurk a little. Nobody is made to talk when they don’t want to, which is nice — you can lurk to your heart’s content. It’s not massively noisy, and there wasn’t so much chatter that I couldn’t concentrate on the game. Okay, now and then I was laughing too hard to play, but that goes in the plus column. Definitely a thumbs-up.

(PS – Manamar, I saw you lurking. /wave )

(… can you see someone lurking in a chat channel? eh, whatever.)

To speak, or not to speak?

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.