Okay, before I start, I would like to make it clear that LOTRO’s ingame voice chat is adequate and has produced results that I have been happy with. However, the facility has its limitations and for every good experience I have had, there has been a negative as well. I’m sure we’ve all encountered the following:
1.) Players who’s volume levels are simply too low.
2.) Players who’s volume levels are simply too high.
3.) Microphones picking up and repeating voice traffic.
4.) Microphones picking up ambient background noise.
5.) Poorly configured microphones, producing “pop”, distortion and feedback.
Considering how crucial voice chat is to the game (oh you don’t think so? There lies another discussion altogether) these technical issues can be a source of frustration. But we do not have to endure these failings. There are alternatives available, “Ventrilo” and “TeamSpeak” being prime examples. Both are proprietary “Voice over IP” software that allows users to speak on a chat channel with others.
Now as I’ve used “TeamSpeak” before, I decided that I would set up a dedicated server using version 3 of the software. Contrary to what you may think this was a relatively easy process. The “TeamSpeak” website has a wealth of instructional videos to guide you through the basic installation and configuration procedures. Once your server is up and running, there are other useful facilities available. Such as registration with a public directory or interactive banners that you can embed on a website to display server status.
“TeamSpeak” does not require cutting edge hardware and high bandwidth. I installed the server software onto a 5 year old Dell Dimension PC with a P4 processor and 2 GB RAM. My ADSL2+ connection is approximately 14MB download and 2MB upload. I have been carrying out load tolerance tests and have so far not had any major issues.
To connect to the “TeamSpeak” server, the “TeamSpeak” client has to be installed on the PC/laptop that you are using. The software is intuitive and on first use, conveniently walks you through setting up your headset or microphone. You then simply have to provide the logon details for the server you with to connect to. Once connected, you may either use pre-configured channels or create bespoke ones yourself. These can be used for raids, fellowships or general chat. Text chat is also supported.
Now not everyone is technically inclined and the above may appear somewhat daunting. So what exactly are the main selling points of “TeamSpeak” over the ingame voice chat? Well the biggest is simply the quality of the voice traffic. It is simply streets ahead of LOTRO’s facility. Individual users can be have their respective volume increased or decreased (a veritable god send in some peoples cases. You know who you are) . There is also the fact that you can talk either in or out of fellowship, along with greater flexibility over the number of people talking simultaneously.
However, I do acknowledge the fact that not every user is comfortable speaking publicly. But even if you do not wish to participate, you can simply mute your microphone and still benefit from being able to hear the ongoing chat. For me, having experienced the benefits of “TeamSpeak” I now find relying on the ingame voice chat a nuisance, especially when it suffers from the issues I listed earlier. I therefore strongly urge those who can make use of this service to do so.