Why I don’t enable voice chat

Something that crossed my mind recently, and feel like I should probably post about.

Occasionally, there will be some idiots in my party who expect everyone to have voice chat enabled, and don’t even check to see whether the rest of the party can actually hear them. Yes, there is a way to check this.

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See that nice, green, speaker-shaped icon that is either present or absent from your party icon? If you didn’t know what it does, then now you have no excuse for not knowing. That icon indicates whether the party member in question has voice chat enabled. If the green icon is absent, then there’s zero chance whatsoever that the person can hear what you are saying (unless, of course, you know that person in real life and are actually playing in the same room as one another). But even when that green icon is there, it may not be as indicative as you can think, and this brings me to the first couple, among many, reasons why I don’t use voice chat.


Speaker problems

Sometimes, people will leave their voice chat enabled by accident (because this is the default setting) but their speakers may not be working. As a result, they still will not hear what you are saying. On the other hand, everyone has access to the chatbox.

I’ve also noticed that voice chat automatically enables itself again every time you True Reincarnate or Epic Reincarnate.


Microphone problems on your end

Conversely, it’s also possible that your microphone sucks or may not be working. It’s possible that even though you’re talking into your microphone, people may be unable to hear you. On the other hand, if you type, there’s zero chance of there being a misunderstanding because everyone has access to the chatbox.


DDO’s voice chat quality isn’t that great

Another problem arises when you consider that DDO’s voice chat system (whatever it is) isn’t very good. Sometimes when you have it enabled, your microphone will randomly go on without you having prompted it to. In this case, it would’ve save you some embarrassment or confusion by simply leaving your voice chat off.

Sometimes, what you say comes out as a garbled mess, and you’ll end up having to repeat what you said multiple times. In this case, it would’ve been faster and clearer to simply type.


There’s also no content in the game which necessitates voice chat

I used to be of the opinion that, okay, sure, maybe raids and some of the tougher content in the game may require more coordination, and so voice chat may be useful. But I’ve come to believe that this isn’t the soundest of reasoning.

For one thing, the toughest content in this game revolves around monster difficulty rather than coordination and teamwork. EE difficulty comes from having to stay alive and being able to do enough damage to complete the quest in a reasonable amount of time. Hence, you don’t need team coordination to overcome the toughest challenges in this game.

For another thing, every competent raid group designates party roles and lays out a game plan before a quest/raid starts. Before running Hound of Xoriat (which doesn’t happen anymore, but let’s just use this for the sake of example), someone will volunteer to be the tank, another will volunteer to be the charmer, and so on. Thus, the coordination is already taken care of before the raid even begins, and there’s no good reason to use voice chat.


And for another thing, typing is a superior form of communication in DDO

When you say something in voice chat, it may not even be heard due to dysfunctional speakers, dysfunctional microphones, or lag.

To further compound the problem, there are people who go AFK and will not hear what you said.

Assuming that it does get heard by everyone in the party, there’s ample room for misunderstanding. Unless you speak very clearly, someone could misinterpret what you say. This is a real problem because 1) almost nobody has perfect intonation and speaks perfectly clearly and 2) DDO’s voice chat muddles up a lot of words and can blur what you’re saying, even if you speak precisely and clearly.

There are simply too many things which can go wrong, and they almost inevitably do, forcing you to repeat what you have said. This makes it ultimately a less efficient mode of communication, which brings me to another point, which is that typing is simply faster.

How long does it take you to press “f” and say “there’s a trap ahead,” for instance? Probably 1-2 seconds. On the other hand, how long does it take to simply type, “trap?” My WPM is somewhere around the 100-120 range, so for me, it’s around half a second or less.

So not only does what you type linger in the chatbox for people to see, but at a most basic level, it’s faster at conveying important information. Furthermore, there’s zero room for misunderstanding, unlike with voice chat, which is plagued with a variety of problems. As the icing on the cake, everyone has access to the chatbox, while not everyone may hear what you are saying, due to hardware or software limitations. If this still isn’t enough for you, then I’ll put forth several more reasons.


People can accidentally interrupt one another

A more minor issue, but it’s always possible for people to talk over one another in voice chat. This isn’t the case with typing; if two people type at exactly the same time, everyone in the party will still be able to read what both people have typed. In contrast, if two people say something over voice chat at the exact same time, there’s no hope for anyone to understand what either is saying.


Some people are deaf

Yes, it’s a sad truth in life that some people are born with disabilities, but it’s a reality. We should try to have some sympathy to those who are born with these disabilities, and try to accommodate them whenever we can.

There are deaf people who play MMOs, and DDO does have its share. These deaf people may or may not be aware that voice chat even exists, and thus they may accidentally leave on voice chat in their options due to ignorance. Alternately, they might turn it off, and people may stupidly and presumptuously start talking into the microphone even though their party icon clearly shows that they don’t have voice chat enabled. (This is something that personally annoys me. Sometimes, people will come into my party, type nothing, and then a few minutes later type something like “can u hear me,” only for me to respond that, “No, and you should be able to see that my voice chat is off because there’s no green speaker icon near my party icon.”)


Some people don’t speak English as a first language

I know this may come as a shock to my fellow American players, but yes, there are people who play this game who aren’t as adept at English as we are. How astounding. Yes, DDO’s demographics primarily consist of people who speak English as their primary language, but this shouldn’t mean that everyone has to be adept at it.

Imagine for one minute that you find a Korean or a Japanese MMO which you really like. Let’s say that your Korean or Japanese isn’t the best, but you have a basic grasp on the language to be able to read what the NPCs are saying, and to know what your party members are saying. That’s great, and you will have no problem playing the game.

Unless, of course, that game has a built-in voice chat and most people playing the game insist that you use it.

Then, imagine how lost you’d be. I’m not fluent in Japanese nor Korean, but I’ve heard enough of either language to know that Japanese and Korean people speak pretty fucking fast. This is also the case with Spanish, but I digress. The point is that, even though you may have a basic grasp of the language and can make your way around this hypothetical Korean or Japanese MMO fine, this does not mean that you will be able to keep up with native speakers of the language.

This is essentially the position in which many DDO players would find themselves. I’ve seen and met enough people in this game who are nice people, but who use somewhat irregular grammar patterns and otherwise type a little peculiarly. Almost always, this can be chalked up to them being from a different country and thus not speaking English as their first language. I’ve met Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, Serbian, Russian, German, Japanese, and all sorts of other nationalities of players (in some cases, I learn their nationality through their bio, and others, I get into conversations with them and they tell me directly something like, “Oh, I am from Portugal.”). This is great, and I’m happy that the game has this sort of international appeal. But this is also why I’m sympathetic to them if they happen to join a group full of redneck drunkards from Texas who communicate only through voice chat.

(As a funny and somewhat weird side-note, one thing I noticed from the year or two that I had voice chat enabled was that there was an incredibly large amount of people from Texas, or otherwise had that distinct southern drawl. It was weird. I would think that in the Bible belt, given its history of biblical fundamentalism and… well, its warped views of games like Pokemon and D&D as being Satanic, that D&D and by extension, DDO, would be less popular than in other parts of the USA, but whatever.

Anyway, it got to the point where my DDO buddy with whom I ran quests decided to troll the next person to enter the group who was from Texas. We were running The Faithful Departed, and when the next person joined and introduced himself over voice chat with the inevitable, “Howdy,” my friend used his best faux-Texan accent and responded likewise.

My friend then said, “Hey, pardner, you from Texas?” Of course, the guy who had just joined confirmed that yes, he was from Texas.

Picking up on my friend’s [apparently passable] Texan accent, he then asked my friend, “You sound like yer also from Texas. Where you from?” It was at this point that my buddy was frantically doing a Google search on cities from Texas so that his cover would not be blown. The whole while I was rolling on the floor laughing. Anyway, back to the list…)


Speaking to random people on the internet is weird

Sorry, but if you join my party, all you are to me is a party member. I don’t know you or anything about you, and to me, all you are is a character who will help me run a quest. That’s it.

Yes, of course there are people in DDO whom I would consider friends, and in the hypothetical situation that they or one of my real life friends joined me on DDO, I would perhaps turn on voice chat to be able to talk to them, should they wish it. (Even then, however, I’d be much more inclined to go on a Skype, TeamSpeak, or what have you, than to use DDO’s voice chat system.) But the reason I’d be fine with talking with them is because I know them as people and because I’m comfortable interacting with them like that. This isn’t really the case with some random person named “Numnut” on the internet whom I will likely never see again. Additionally…


There are other things I’d rather listen to than some random person on the internet who happens to play the same game that I do

Ever heard of music? I’ve heard of it. Over my head, I hear music; music, music, I hear music, music over my head. There are so many great bands and composers I’d love to listen to, and relaxing and playing a game which features virtually no music affords me a great opportunity to listen to them. I guarantee you that I’m not the only person who listens to music while playing DDO. Music can be an important part of life, and some people are too busy otherwise to be able to really unwind and appreciate it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would rather listen to a Paganini caprice, or a Thin Lizzy album, or even some nice chiptunes, instead of some asshole drunkard in my party who can’t shut the fuck up.

There are also a wide variety of podcasts, many of which can be informative on current events, philosophy, and other important issues. I’d rather listen to a well-done podcast than random people in DDO yammering on about whatever as well. Some YouTube channels such as MundaneMatt’s are similar in nature to podcasts, and provide some interesting, thought-provoking content which can help take one’s mind off of grinding a series of quests.

And let’s not forget about audiobooks. For someone who loves a good story and has already experienced all of what DDO has to offer in terms of story-arcs, listening to a good Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or even Dan Brown novel can be exciting and add some enjoyment to the monotonous grind that DDO can be.

I’m sure there are other things, though those three are the main ones which I personally find myself listening to. In every other MMO I’ve played, nobody has criticized me for listening to them and otherwise doing what I enjoy; DDO is the only MMO where I get any flak for this, and it’s only because DDO has its own voice chat system.  Music is something I personally love, and the DDO playerbase has been the only one which has ever tried to discourage me from enjoying it. I can play RuneScape, SWTOR, Runes of Magic, World of Warcraft, or any other MMO without a built-in voice chat and no other random strangers on the internet will criticize me for doing what I enjoy.


So all in all, there are too many reasons for me in favor of disabling voice chat. Voice chat provides no benefit, seeing as typing is a vastly more universal, accessible, and efficient mode of communication. It’s weird on a social level and makes more sense to interact with other random people on the internet through typing rather than voice chat, and I’d much rather listen to other things than random people in DDO using voice chat.

I’m fine with others chatting among themselves in voice chat; they can do what they want and I honestly don’t care. But when you see that my party icon clearly has voice chat turned off, don’t expect me to respond to anything you say in voice chat. Typing is the norm in every other MMO, and from a utilitarian standpoint, it’s simply easier and more effective in DDO as well.

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