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Breakfast Topic: Push to talk

Ventrilo. WoW's second communication backbone has been and can be the source of comedy, drama and everything in between. From loot freakouts and epic guild removals to Onyxia wipes and pranks-a-plenty, Ventrilo is ubiquitous with the massively multiplayer genre and experience. We all have our legendary stories, but what does Ventrilo mean to the games we play? In fact, what role does communication play in our virtual worlds?

The first communication backbone of World of Warcraft is the chat itself. The fully realized interaction we have with the people inhabiting the world with us boils down to what appears inside that chat box. Communication with chat is limited, however, by typing speed, range of communication, lack of vocal inflection, tone, and volume. Key components of human communication are missing from the very basic communication apparatus we use to interact in WoW.

Communication has a long and varied history in the MMO genre. Before Ventrilo and Teamspeak, my friends and I had a complex system of phone conference calls to make communication in Ultima Online easier. Before Paypal and other cash services, people would send checks, money orders and cash to other countries to purchase items in MUDs, the proto-MMO. These forms of communication paved the way for the pieces of software we take for granted today.

Humans are social creatures. Ventrilo was an inevitability. But there has to be more, something that will become as ubiquitous as voice. So here's the question -- where is communication in games headed? What is the next or new Ventrilo?

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