SOE and Vivox recently announced that they would be partnering to allow in-game integrated voice chat in all of Sony Online Entertainment’s games.
Need standard chat for groups and raids? Check. Don’t want to tie up your own bandwidth? Roger that. Want your voice to sound completely different? Done. Late for your raid but want to take part in the group setup by cell phone? Can do. Dream of having in-game voicemail? There ya go. Playing a non-SOE game but want to use this service, free of charge? Aye.
These powerful community building features and tools are coming to SOE games at no additional cost to players and go far beyond basic real-time chat with the usual headset and microphone setup that is commonly used today.
This could be really interesting. Audio will apparently be spatialized, so if you have the permissions turned on, you will simply hear people who are nearby when they talk over the channel. And they will get louder when closer, and sound like they are ahead, behind you, around a corner, whatever.
Not only that, but Vivox is supplying “voice fonts” which will make your voice sound different, male to female, and ranging in size from Fae to Barbarian. Apparently, there will be a fixed set of voice fonts available at first, and EQ2 will be among the first MMORPGs to provide this as part of the service.
One comment that puzzles me is the “don’t tie up your own bandwidth” business. Of course, you’re going to use your own bandwidth. How else will the voices get into your house? Apparently Vivox will host the voice servers, and processing, spatialization, and routing will be handled there, and then the voice signal will be sent down to your client in an easy-to-decode compressed format. So it won’t use that much CPU or memory or bandwidth.
There’s another comment that’s interesting. “Playing a non-SOE game but want to use this service, free of charge? Aye.” I’m guessing that only holds if you subscribe to an SOE game, and/or use the Station Launcher. So, if we decide to go play WoW for an afternoon, we can still use the Vivox chat to talk to each other.
Apparently, the service will be enhanced with all manner of “presence” features. Text messaging, connection to the normal phone system, etc. That’s not really what I’m about, but I think some users will like it.
A big hat tip to Joshua at The Joshua Tree, who will be working on making this happen from the SOE technical side.