GW2: Don’t Be A Stranger – The Voice Debate in WvW

The faceless masses of low graphic settings... all these people I don't know...

Tobold asks the question of whether we have grown bored talking with strangers in our MMO and posits that it’s the reason behind the difficulty in getting back that “oldschool” community feeling more present in older games, where a certain forced reliance on others was more the norm.

At the same time, cakeboxfox launches into a lengthy diatribe against her server’s hardcore WvW community, which appears to have grown increasingly closeminded and elitist (or just super paranoid of spies) as competition pressures from the WvW league are coupled with the stress of dealing with PvE achievement hunters coming in completely new to WvW and possibly not interested in learning more about the game type.

One thing that catches the brunt of her anger at how insular and “srs bsns” the WvW guys on her server have become is the forceful pushing of Teamspeak (or other voice program) onto everyone in the map and the silence and non-communication over mapchat that follows.

One thing that does raise my eyebrow though, are the following interesting lines:

My parents taught me never to talk to strangers.

I don’t need to talk to anyone else on the online game as I’m talking to flatmate. I don’t play online in any other games, because I’ve realised, just like at Xmas, many people can only see their own goals, and you’re just a blur of pixels as they fly past looking for the next set of achievement points.

Team spirit seems to have died a little, despite having things like Teamspeak.

Now let me make something very clear.

I’m not a fan of voice chat.

Never have been.

In those tests of visual, audio, kinesthetic intelligence, I am a primarily visual person, followed by doing stuff to learn it, and if you tell me shit using your voice, I have apparently been trained over the decades by incessantly boring lecturers and a mother who never stops talking the moment I get into her vicinity to automatically fall asleep.

Failing which, I tune out. I’m physically, but not mentally there after fifteen minutes or so.

I’ve heard that the average attention span for lectures is only around 45 minutes anyway. (For me, it takes fairly herculean effort to get to that point if the speaker isn’t phenomenally talented.)

I don’t use a microphone.

I live in a household and a country whose culture tends to look cross-wise at people wearing headsets speaking to machines, eyes glued to a tv screen, “playing games” when one should be concerning themselves with “serious” and “mature” things becoming to one’s age like work, food, small talk, complaining about everything under the sun, playing the “I have a bigger car or house than you” Jones game and discussing the latest tv show or soap opera because that’s what everybody else does and one wants to blend in and fit with the crowd, no?

Suffice to say, no mic. It’s just not worth the long family debates it’ll raise over and over, and how little opportunity I’ll get to use a headset, when I could spend the same amount of money on a gaming mouse and get the full benefit from one.

The Tarnished Coast community gets into the Mumble or no Mumble debate every couple of months on the forum boards.

As is usual with our diverse and quirky and occasionally dysfunctional but generally civil and tolerant community, folks from all sides weigh in with their opinions. There’s always a couple extremists on either end who would love nothing better to force everyone to their way of thinking. There’s moderates who recognize the value of both options, text and voice, and try to mediate the potentially tense exchanges. There’s lurkers who simply roll their eyes and go “this again?” at the dead horse being beaten to the point that one can make a shepherd’s pie out of the mince that remains.

Someone will try to point that there’s very little point bringing all of it up again because everyone’s going to play their own way and that the best consensus that has only sorta kinda been reached is to reach out both ways. Folks listening in on Mumble to transcribe what the commander says in text, to help those who can’t get onto voice. Folks sitting on the fence about voice programs to be encouraged into Mumble by advertisements, that may anger those staunchly against the program, but that can’t be helped.

And then someone else will jump onto it and argue that no, it’s worth rehashing all this again because sweeping issues under the rug and pretending they don’t exist is not the way to resolve problems.

Yeah, well. That’s our erudite TC community for you. :)

The thread dies a natural or unnatural death (euthanasia by moderators may take place) after a while, and life in WvW goes on.

But here’s what I don’t get.

Maybe some of you can help me understand.

How do you complain about the quality of a community, in the same breath as saying that all these evil, selfish people are strangers to you and that you don’t want to talk to them, ever?

You’ve not even tried to participate in the community. You’ve just tarred and feathered them all with the same brush of imagined prejudice.

(Now if you have, and you’ve decided that the people in it have a culture that doesn’t match your preferences and that you want out, that’s different.)

We are all strangers to each other until someone extends a hand and says, “Hi.”

Maybe I’m just really lucky on the Tarnished Coast. Our community, by and large, is an amazing place.

Yes, there have been certain weeks and months that a guild has decided to be morons about Mumble.

There was a point in the past where my own guild was being fairly retarded about it – advertising like a drug pusher, failing to read map chat (AND GUILD CHAT, much to my disgust as I got run over by an opposing zerg while trying to scream for help and solo defend a tower when five other guildies were conducting a nonessential conversation about WvW builds in my ear and the zerg was off milling over there when we could have really used the help here) and then being tactically unsound and running us all into a meat grinder, pretty much destroying trust and morale in their commander tag and our guild rep to boot.

But you know, those are individual people.

Their attention span for text is plainly the same kind of attention span I have for audiobooks. Those situations are one-off and thankfully, not too habitually common. (Worse case scenario: I take off and go solo thieving by myself in a silent vote of no-confidence.)

I’ve met plenty of other people who are awesome at marrying voice and text. I listen, they talk. I type, they read. We manage a conversation fairly well, both making allowances for each other.

I run dungeons with the same guild that way, and did fine with TTS on their Teamspeak too.

There are commanders on the Tarnished Coast who do utterly stellar with keeping track of text reports from a variety of sources, while responding and commanding on Mumble. And some really crazy good-at-multitasking individuals manage to echo themselves with text at the same time.

Here’s my point.

How would I meet them if I didn’t just extend a hand across the gap as well, and download and install a quick program to give it a shot?

They’ve extended a hand. “You don’t need a mic,” they say.

Which suits me just fine. I can’t ever join those super-picky hardcore guilds where everyone must have a mic, 100% everything required…

Hell, I probably don’t even have the time to spare for those. They play the game their way, keeping away the hoi polloi, and I leave ‘em to it, closed communities eventually die off or move on to the next game rather quickly.

If you want -some- kind of community though, why not take just a little bit of effort and try to join it?

Especially when following zerg commanders.

Here’s my line of thinking. You’ve chosen to follow them. You’ve given them a certain amount of trust and responsibility to lead you right. In the interests of playing well, and helping your team play well and not die horribly, why not plug in some earphones and get on whatever voice program they are using so as to hear where the zerg is moving next and survive better?

Maybe it’s hard for me to understand because I’m a bit of a compulsive problem-solver and optimizer.

The first time I joined zergs in WvW, I did it with a PvE built guardian in a shabby mix of PVT and other gear with no coherent build worth speaking of. I observed that I would regularly go splat the instant I was asked to charge forward and through an opposing zerg.

No matter what I did. Double dodge? Yeah, tried that. Go around the side? Worked silghtly better, but not great. Conditions would coat me, and then I would die. Over and over.

When this happens, I take it as a sign that SOMETHING IS WRONG. Especially when I see other people managed to make it through just fine.

My next step is always to ask myself, HOW CAN -I- FIX THIS.

Note the locus of control. I find blaming others rarely helps anything.

I try to improve myself and my understanding of what’s going on, up to the point where I personally can’t take what’s happening in the situation around me, and scarper off somewhere else where I do have a better locus of control (ie, soloing dolyaks. Choice of where to go, and when to engage and when to run screaming like the hounds of hell are after my hiney is all down to me.)

Whatever gives me an advantage, I take.

I fix my build. I go research what other people have done with WvW builds, try them out wholesale to see if they fit me, and tinker a bit for understanding and customisation.

I read WvW guides on what I’m supposed to be doing. In a zerg, target the commander and key in on the red target sight like it’s your lifeline, always keeping it in the center of your screen.

I practice. I try again, searching for what worked better this time around, and what still didn’t work as well.

I get on Mumble. I hear the comm’s commands, run in a tight ball with the core, and live where others die.

For entirely self-interested reasons, it makes sense to me to at least give the voice program a shot.

I join the TTS Teamspeak when I do Tequatl runs. Strictly speaking, it’s still very possible to run Teq without it at all. But for the purposes of the actual fight, where one can get a bigger picture and a bigger sense of which portions are in trouble and may need people to come by and help out, I find it useful to be listening in on voice.

And yes, there are certain people who can never seem to shut up while waiting for Tequatl. It’s not their fault. They’re built that way. It’s also not my fault that I find this exceedingly annoying and irritating. I’m built that way.

So what? Do I swear off using voice chat because there are some people I can’t stand also using the program?

Well, there are always volume controls and the ye olde stand by of yanking out the earphones. (If one wanted to be very rude, one could also visibly mute certain people or deafen oneself in the voice program when necessary.)

While waiting, I tend to just not be listening to the Teamspeak at all.  I’ve already heard the briefing several times over. Only Merforga’s airline briefing is still amusing now and then. I let the chatters chat amongst themselves. I play my own music if I want to.

When it’s time for the actual fight, I listen in.

The same goes for WvW, I should think.

If I’m running with a zerg commander that uses voice, I should be getting on voice.

If I don’t like it, then fer heaven’s sake, why am I running with that commander?

Give him a vote of no-confidence for his commanding style and scarper off and go do your own thing.

Some commanders curse a lot. I happen to have a fairly thick skin and don’t mind vulgarity, but I perfectly understand if others do not like that commanding style and don’t want to follow them. Some commanders are tactical amateurs, and as much as I might like to support them to the point where they can learn and improve, some days I just don’t feel like dying repeatedly to bad calls and will simply not follow those doritos.

I’ve met one commander who was intensely abrasive and a little bit racist with not much redeeming features (as opposed to another who just cursed a lot but was hilarious and funny and knew how to spin a situation around to keep his followers engaged with high morale)  and after fifteen minutes, simply decided to break away from that little group. Not my thing. They were still contributing in their own way, so I went off to contribute in my own way somewhere else.

When I want to be alone and not listening to anybody and playing my own music, I log on an alt for WvW roaming and I run around on my own, only keeping track of and supplying reports via text chat.

But when I choose to play with a group, to me, it makes sense to help that group be the best it can be.

Even if it means downloading an evil voice program and having to meet and talk to strangers.

Who knows, maybe after some time of getting to know them, they won’t be strangers any longer.

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13 thoughts on “GW2: Don’t Be A Stranger – The Voice Debate in WvW

  1. cakeboxfox says:

    I’ll try and clarify my point about not talking to anyone else here. By that, I mean, not verbally talking to anyone else. I type chat a lot in the game and enjoy meeting new people in it (as much as many stop playing) but I don’t want to talk to them verbally. Sometimes it’s easier for everyone, as I became friends with some Dutch players, who could type English, but not speak it very well.

    I also hope that you realise that the entire post is laden with sarcasm ‘don’t talk to strangers’ is British sarcasm. I am well aware that you need to talk to strangers to make connections. The post is taken in the same attitude as many people take when advertising the pro’s of teamspeak, but in a more light-hearted style. I don’t do serious face.
    I don’t want to sit in headphones and ignore my flatmate on the other side of the room to do WvW. I lived with someone that did that, and it made me feel pretty crappy.

    Sure we could have teamspeak on if we were both playing in WvW to listen in, but that is a rarity, as I don’t play WvW often and neither laptop is likely to cope with everything at once. I am from PvE and just want to poke my head in for a while, run around and then get out of there. Call it no-strings attached fun, 20 minutes in the map tops.

    TC sounds like a server with it’s collective heads screwed on the right way. The fact that you can have a debate about it every so often without heads rolling proves this. Yes, I want everyone to play their own way. No, I’m not against Teamspeak, but I’m against the cult-like attitude surrounding it. If someone had sat down and explained all the pros and cons to me, instead of just throwing the same advert at me every minute or so, I’d probably be warmer to the idea.

    SFR has commanders that say nothing on Teamspeak and only a few things on mapchat or ones that say it on map and Teamspeak. These get shouted down and are generally bullied into switching off their tag, to be replaced by someone solely on Teamspeak. There is little to no compromise and there is never more than one commander tag on the map-if I could run with a text only/combo commander I would.

    Rarely someone transcribes, and is generally moaned at for doing it, as it encourages people to not be on teamspeak. If I was fully into WvW chances are, I would be on Teamspeak for some time and would probably transcribe for people. I’m not though, I’m in PvE and even my interest in that is fading away.

    If I could move server to a smaller, more relaxed one I would, but the only options at the moment for me are French and German language servers or one that’s not so hot on PvE- which is the main reason why I play.

    What I’m trying to say, is that for my server, compromise is something that needs to be found. The community is fracturing for many reasons- not just teamspeak alone. I need to compromise if I’m going to do WvW, I recognise that. But at the same time everyone should have the option to play their way and not be shot down because of it.

    • Jeromai says:

      There’s always a big danger of elitism enveloping the hardcore. I don’t like it myself, and always argue for inclusivity wherever possible.

      I’m a big moderate in the voice debate, as I personally don’t like voice, but recognize how useful it can be in certain situations. I’d also like for staunch voice supporters to realize that text is a good way of recording information like reports, that can be referred to again at a glance, rather than have 3 voices speaking at the same time and then hoping everyone has a good memory.

      I just found the juxtaposition of ‘not talking to strangers’ and wanting a good ‘community’ intriguing enough to write a post about it. Hope you don’t mind. I spin off other blog posts often, and it’s usually just a phrase or two that gets the idea machine churning.

  2. chromebiatch says:

    Epic post, very interesting read.
    As a shy, introverted person wanting to be completely immersed in a fantasy world, Teamspeak is like a nightmare to me. Me and my bf play GW2 to be taken away from the reality of life (of each other perhaps haha). In WvW, we have tried Teamspeak twice – both occasions were incredibly stressful and confusing.
    Like cakeboxfox, we’re on SFR, so I don’t know if this has anything to do with it. But to be honest, I don’t see how sitting on any well populated server would be different from another in terms of attitude and ‘community’.
    To be fair, I think WvW as an entity just doesn’t suit me as a player, it’s not just TS or any other mass chat function. I find it sort of pointless, an endless zerging you could literally live in 24/7. It can be fun occasionally but I can’t shake off the feeling that nothing is really happening, and also that there’s nothing more I can contribute.
    No, I think I’ll stick to a WvW/TS free existence and just live in Caledon Forest forever, I like it there ;)

    • Jeromai says:

      I’m of the thought that says server communities can be rather different in feel. If one is not happy with the attitudes and culture on one server, it may be worth considering if somewhere else would make it better. The Tier 1 servers for example are usually a lot more competitive-minded and prone to zerging, while lower tiers are more relaxed and favor more small-scale skirmish fights.

      I played on Nimrodel in LOTRO, and the server was a big part of why I had no energy to continue on after a while. Too quiet, no crowds, only a few hardcore people around that left casual old me in the dust. If I’d started on Brandywine or Landroval, the outcome might have been different.

      In CoH, Freedom was the home of the l33tspeaking powerlevelers. Justice had more Oceanics. And I ended up gravitating to Virtue because roleplaying servers just have the right sort of folks around for me.

  3. rasli says:

    It really seems to be the problem with SFR then if even trying to transcribe on map chat is moaned at. I am on Blackgate, one of the top servers in NA and super competitive about winning about the league, and I know for a fact that the WvW community on BG actively discuss what’s the best way to communicate with people who doesn’t use TS. We encourage commanders/or people on TS to at least transcribe to map chat and reach out to militias. We are trying to organize reach out events to PvX guilds etc..

  4. I don’t mind talking with voice to random people in NWO or Warframe, or chat (texting) to anyone in any MMORPG. In fact I’m one of the noisy ones! However where I draw the line is – if it’s not part of the game, I shouldn’t have to use it. Mumble / TeamSpeak is not part of GW2. If they wanted people to use a voice system they should have included it in the game.

    Yes it’s archaic thinking, but that’s just the way I’m built I guess. I had a post that sort of touched on it here:

    http://josephskyrim.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/mmos-cheaters-in-third-party.html

  5. j3w3l says:

    You make me completely aware of how much of a hypocrit I am. I talk big about creating and maintaining communities yet I’m really only primarily involved with my own isolated guild. I like the idea of it, just as long as I don’t have to maintain or be that involved with it.
    I’m very much the introverted type so all that communicating isn’t for me.

    I agree that that you should never paint a broad picture of the community and avoid it on that principle alone. t happens though: lol is that to me. People do need to break away from their own self interest like you said too, have a little accountability in regards to bettering their experience rather than just crying and quitting.

    It’s also about understanding these groups which is really quite impossible from the outside, and without that understanding it’s just personal ignorance. We’re all entitled to our ignorant opinions from time to time but realising when your doing it seems to be the better way.

    anyway, nice reflective post

    • Jeromai says:

      I thought about League of Legends too when I was writing the post. It has a reputation, I haven’t much interest in even coming into contact with that kind of reputed toxicity, but I think the key is that I make no demands of that community to get better just so that I can join in.

      If I want to try the game, I’ll at least give the community a shot and have my eyeballs seared with some choice imprecations before deciding that I may no longer want to play random multiplayer and only find friends to play LoL with.

      Same with Eve Online. I did log on for a trial period to observe the chat channels – which wasn’t actually too bad. I am certain also that Eve players would assure you that if you shop around and find the right corporation, you can have a perfectly good time and enjoy a great community. If I wanted to, I bet with a little effort I could find some really good fleet commanders to join and have fun PvPing with. (Except that orbiting at great distances watching several red lasers blink on and off and staring at meters in the hope they don’t crash doesn’t sound like my idea of fun PvP. At all.)

  6. Beetle says:

    Isn’t our gaming alter-ego some sort of mirror? You write an interesting post, but in the end, where it all comes down to, people are self-centered beings.

    The example you put out, people / random people organizing and working together, that is a minority. Always has been. Why should it be different in a videogame?

    • Jeromai says:

      Not really a minority in the case of WvW. Organized groups have more chances at victory than randomly formed ones. Similar to raiding, in a sense. So there’s a certain selective pressure in favor of organization.

      I’m appealing to people’s sense of self-interest: if they are interested in a community, they should participate in it or at least give it a chance without writing it off.

      The same lecture also applies to elitists who dismiss pugs without patience. That worthless pug may be tomorrow’s (ok, next month’s) zerg commander if someone took the time to coach them and give them appreciation of the game.

      And if they are interested in not dying and getting better, they might want to consider improving themselves, and organizing and working together, with whatever tools (including voice) are at hand.

      • Beetle says:

        But you’re writing this with a lot of experience under your belt when it comes to using tools (I’m guessing). In my humble opinion, most people just want to go Call of Duty on things and blow sh*t up. Without the hassle of additional programs etc.

        And sure, the whole WvW setting screams for organized teamwork and command structures in some sort.

        Don’t get me wrong, the time I played GW2 on gunnars hold was interesting WvW wise. The people dedicating their time and effort to organize groups and realm forums / teamspeak servers was very inspiring to see. But I still feel that this group of people is a small minority. A tight, vocal, outgoing group yes, but small in the grand total of players.

        But then again, I’m no expert :-)

        • Jeromai says:

          If you compare WvW interested people to the greater part of GW2 players, then yes, they are indeed a minority. That is what gives the community some of the ‘oldschool’ feeling where you recognize the same names always playing.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that, when in Rome, why not do as the Romans do? One might have a better experience (involving not dying as much, and viewing other people as friends instead of strangers) by taking a step to enter this minority, to at least blend in for the time one chooses to spend there.

          The majority gets mowed down by the minority that play better than them. If one is content with this state of affairs, then by all means, continue. If not, then there are things that can be done.

          Maybe I just really loathe dying and find any way I can to escape it. :)

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