Monday, 29 October 2007
Posted by Dave
A decade of gaming under our collective belts and I think there's one issue I've been yelling at people to sort out all that time. Microphones. This was brought home to me recently in reading someone's review of Valve's Orange Box and TF2. They said they prefered to play the Xbox 360 version purely because it was likely you could communicate with people in game. They're right too, most publics are silent with the occasional talker.
Our server is very heavy on voice comms but even so, at any one stage I'd say 50% of the server don't have microphones or wont speak. It's funny, we said there's no way they'd allow 360 users to play with PC players because PC guys with their keyboards and mice would annihilate the console guys. However one thing I've noticed on the PC is that you can basically call out the losing team right away (if you're on it) by the complete lack of anyone talking and coordinating things.
It loses you games, quite a lot. I was getting highly annoyed with a team I was on last night because none of them deigned to tell us where they had gone when picking up the enemy intelligence. Naturally they were then killed somewhere, who knows where. Now we can't get the intel if we want to, it's not in the intel room, it's some random place along the way being camped by enemy until it returns.
It wasn't like it was one guy. Multiple guys came in, picked up the intel and carried it another 10 meters before dying. All without saying a anything. The chap who wrote how he prefered to play on the 360 spoke about the TF2 heavy/medic pair. The medic is often another pair of eyes that needs to call out where bad guys are lest he get taken out first. On PC, from what I've seen, it just doesn't happen.
So I thought an interesting excersize is this: Have a team of Xbox 360 players with voice comms go up against a group of PC players with no voice comms and see how they get on. Of course it's not practical because Valve haven't provided a mechanism for that but it'd be interesting to see.
And of course the handicap on the PC side is entirely user created. It's amazing how just making a microphone as standard on Xbox Live has done the trick. I guess you reach a critical mass and everyone realises oh, I just put this on my head and talk just like everyone else and they just do it.
On the PC you've got to go out and buy a headset. Then you've got to get it working in Windows, which is a complete fuck up - has always been a complete fuckup. Then get the levels right so that you aren't inaudibly quiet (very common) or completely distorting out (very common) so that you may be heard. You'd think it wouldn't be a problem for PC gamers, used to higher levels of complexity and faffing about with their gaming, but evidently it is.
The thing is, lots of people can be bothered and you know what, they tend to be gamers who do give a fuck and who, coincidentally, you want playing on your server. Not just because they tend to be more clued up, more tactically aware, it's the social issue too. It's almost as if what we want is some sort of cvar set on the client side if they have got a headset configured and working. Then the server can test for it and not let people join who haven't got a headset sorted out.
Impractical on many levels since microphones are purely analogue. And it'd require Valve to do something on this front and it's clear they will not. So that just leaves it down to human control. We're working our way towards a sort of white list, if you like. Where everyone in our Steam community has a reserved slot. Generally we invite people to the community if they are >14 years old and they talk etc.
It's still nowhere near there though. Howling on the MOTD blatantly wont work. What would? [Microphones required] in the hostname?