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Fallen Earth Interviews: Monty Sharma

By  on November 07, 2006

Monty Sharma of VIVOX talks to us about his VOIP gaming technology

Currently in use in EVE Online, VIVOX has also signed deals with Icarus Studios to be part of Fallen Earth, as well as engine builder BigWorld. They believe that in the future we'll all be talking to each other as we play. Learn more below.

MMORPG.com: Tell our readers a little about Vivox. How has your company entered into the MMO market?
Monty Sharma:

Vivox provides in-game voice services that allow players to talk to each other while they are playing - one-to-one and in groups, avatar-to-avatar, character-to-character, and within their gang, corporation or guild. We tailor the voice features and integrate them into the game. Most of us are enthusiastic gamers, and we saw a need in the MMO market for in-game voice communication. Being able to talk to other characters enhances the overall game experience because it improves tactical control and social interaction. As we've all learned the hard way, typing and combat don't mix - it's a good way to die. And being able to talk freely improves strategy because your guild can discuss the plan of attack in detail without being tied to the keyboard for IM.

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MMORPG.com: What are your thoughts on third party companies entering into MMO games to help manage and control parts of the game play?
Monty Sharma:

To the extent that companies like Vivox can bring specialized expertise to particular aspects of the experience, like voice, physics, etc., and leave the game developers free to design and improve the game, it's a good thing. Game developers are experts at the game so it only makes sense for them to turn to experts in other areas to be a part of the development.

MMORPG.com: Can you tell us about your partnership with BigWorld? How has it helped your company grow?
Monty Sharma:

This is a very exciting partnership for us. We have integrated our voice services into Big World's suite of game development tools. Game developers using the BigWorld Technology Suite can now have access to a pre-implemented and tested voice solution.

MMORPG.com: With Vivox getting more involved in the voice chat of games do you believe it to be a step up from Ventrilo or TeamSpeak?
Monty Sharma:

The biggest difference between Vivox and the others is that our voice services are integrated into the game. There is no separate application to run, and no credentials and server addresses to negotiate. The service reflects the look and feel of the game and supports the established social structure. The solution is fully managed and supported by Vivox - you don't have to run your own communication server anymore.

In addition, our service allows you to talk to anyone else in the game, not just people on a particular server. This opens up a huge range of possibilities for grouping, adventuring, and conquering. Imagine approaching another character and just starting a conversation, or having guild-to-guild or corporation-to-corporation negotiations. Similarly, by integrating with the game, we can match the communication hierarchy to the command hierarchy, so that raid leaders or fleet commanders are automatically mapped to the communications infrastructure.

MMORPG.com: One of the issues I had while playing DDO is that groups would invite you into a party and immediately set up voice chat. Suddenly strangers were on the game talking to you over your computer. This seemed a little more open than having a password to get into say Ventrilo and only allowing certain people in. What are your thoughts on this type of open communication?
Monty Sharma:

Vivox provides game developers and publishers with tools to set moderator and admin rules according to the social structure of the game. This helps guilds/groups/corporations to better manage themselves and meet the needs of individual players. We believe that more widespread voice has huge potential to improve gameplay and social interaction, but player choice is hugely important and no one is forced to use voice.

MMORPG.com: Are you excited about your upcoming work with Icarus Studios on Fallen Earth? Tell us about the partnership.
Monty Sharma:

Icarus clearly sees fully-integrated voice as an essential component of their upcoming release, Fallen Earth. They are a fantastic and imaginative team to work with. They got our API codes and had the voice features integrated and running within a couple of weeks. Like our other partners, we have teamed to implement a complete solution so that players will be able to talk to each other one-on-one and in groups to coordinate, strategize, and socialize as they do battle with giant mutant rats and other post-apocalyptic challenges. Fallen Earth is sure to cause a stir in the industry.

MMORPG.com: How can Vivox help players communicate when not in game? Are there ways players can get in touch prior to logging in and say organize a raid or something?
Monty Sharma:

Sure, imagine that your guild is about to plan a raid and you need to have an important strategy meeting, but you are stuck in your car commuting, or your corporation is under attack, and you need to get a message to all of the members whether they are in the game or not. You shouldn't be left out just because you are not running the game. We have a voice client that can be used when out of the game, which is great for staying in contact even when you can't log in to the game. It's got a lot of great features including one-on-one and group voice chat, the ability to see when your friends are online and in game, and links to other IM networks, so you can stay part of the raid planning even when you can't run the game itself.

MMORPG.com: Are there any profanity filters in Vivox? Only reason I ask is that many children play MMOs right alongside adults, just curious if there are measures in place for kids to enjoy the live chat while not being exposed to poor language.
Monty Sharma:

This is a very important issue. Filtering voice in real time is very difficult, but we provide the game companies with various controls to address this area, including easy links to game moderators, controls to mute, kick or ban misbehaving players, recording, to have "proof" of problem behavior, tagging based on reputation, and others. We understand the need for these controls on a player level, as well as the need to address the concerns of players, parents, and game companies with the content of voice conversations. Safety and security are very important to us.

MMORPG.com: Are there any other games in the upcoming future that Vivox will be a part of?
Monty Sharma:

Yes, if we have anything to say about it! We actually have several new games in the pipeline.

MMORPG.com: How do you see voice interaction growing in the MMO industry? It seems to be getting to the point where typing won't be needed anymore to play a game.
Monty Sharma:

Yes, voice is a power to be reckoned with. There will still be a role for typing in game communication, but we won't be constrained to just text or setting up our own communications server. The real-time strategy is too important, and the socializing is too much a part of the fabric of these games to leave the communication in a rudimentary form. Voice is elemental in this context.

Visit us at www.vivox.com for additional information.

I've enjoyed sharing Vivox news with MMORPG readers.

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