Teamspeak or Ventrilo or Mumble
Which voice chat service is best? Voice chat is a necessity for any guild, moreso for any multiplayer PvP games. Our guild contract is up soon, so we will be in the market for a new voice chat provider. There are several different services out there, but three stand far and above the rest. In the order I discovered them: Teamspeak, Ventrilo, and Mumble. I have used all three voice chat programs in the past, and all three are free to download. Our guild uses Mumble for reasons I’ll discuss later. There are a variety of voice chat hosting services for each, and prices vary quite surprisingly. Selecting a voice chat service is a two step process! Step one, picking a client. Step two, picking a host.
STEP ONE: Picking a Voice Chat client
Teamspeak is the oldest of the three voice chat programs. Sound quality was low in the beginning, but given there was no competition you never knew the difference. Now Teamspeak 3 is out and I’m told it has come a long way from the original voice chat program. Teamspeak 3 is generally the same price as Ventrilo, but in every game I’ve played it is by far the least used. Trying to get people outside your guild onto Teamspeak 3 is going to be difficult and time consuming. People will resist downloading it if they only need to use it to play with your guild. If you can overcome that hurdle, waiting for them to install and configure it – for each person that joins your group – can destroy any momentum you might have.
Ventrilo is the most widely used voice chat program in my experience. Our guild used Ventrilo for years in World of Warcraft, and had very few people that needed to download it. Being that we did a lot of things with players from other guilds, having a common voice chat program benefited us greatly. Again, it is comparably priced to Teamspeak 3, so you aren’t paying a premium. The largest problem we experienced with Ventrilo was sound feedback. Some users would have amazingly loud feedback if you talked over them. It did not matter if they were using a headset or just a mic. I looked exhaustively for a solution, but came up empty. Luckily the problem did not occur often, however if it happens to someone you game with a lot, it can be a real headache.
Mumble is the newest voice chat program, and the one I recommend. It is low latency, and it auto-configures things so you can set it and forget it. Being low latency is a benefit that every PvPer can get behind for multiplayer online games. The auto-configure feature just requires you to set up your headset/mic and you’re done. The program normalizes sound levels based on your setup so there is never anyone too loud or too quiet. Pricing is the same as the other two voice chat programs, or often cheaper! The one minor downside to Mumble I’ve found is the extra step you have to take to set your push to talk key. It’s not difficult, but not intuitive enough to be found randomly. I plan to create a video for it in the future.
STEP TWO: Picking a Voice Server Host
I don’t have a lot to say on picking a host. Do your research, because prices are all over the map. Yearly contracts give the best value, but be careful. I warn you now that you get what you pay for. Currently we use a horrible voice chat service and CAN’T WAIT TO GET AWAY. It was a great deal, the best we could find, so we locked in a year contract only to have the server going down and up several times weekly. I’ve sent in multiple tickets only to be told they replaced the old server, or that they fixed the issue and to contact them if it happens again. Keep that in mind when making a voice chat selection. Ask other guilds what voice chat service they use, and if they are happy. In the grand scheme of a year, spending a little more can give better piece of mind. You can also try a voice chat service on a month-to-month contract to test things before committing to a full year.
Something else to keep in mind is that if you are paying to host a game server, some hosts throw in free or discounted voice chat servers. We’re looking into getting a Battlefield 3 game server, and found this offer at a few voice chat hosts.
A few tips for voice chat users:
- Please, for goodness sake, set a push to talk key. People don’t want to hear your cold, chewing or drinking, yelling at your roommate, or everything else your open mic picks up. Voice activated is a terrible setup. PTT or GTFO.
- Make sure everyone in guild can at least hear on voice chat. They may be shy, or have a broken mic, or want to continue making everyone think they are a girl, but whatever the reason, at least hearing what is going on is helpful. One person having to stop and type to another person takes out two people, and puts the whole group behind a few seconds until the ‘plan’ has been communicated to everyone clearly.
- Test out whatever voice chat program you pick. Use a friend’s server, or a lot of times the voice chat host will have test servers for you to connect to.
- There are also voice chat apps available for mobile devices