The Power of Voice - An Interview with Vivox's Monty Sharma at AGDC '07

by Cody "Micajah" Bye

When you're a part of a large raiding guild like many of our Ten Ton
Hammer readers, you can thoroughly understand the underlying meaning
behind the title of this article, "The Power of Voice." In WoW, style="font-style: italic;">EVE
Online, and even Everquest
before them all, voice communication has
become almost a necessity as guilds must have near perfect
communication in order to defeat the largest raid encounter - or in style="font-style: italic;">EVE
Online, the biggest fleets. Players must have full
communication with
their raid or fleet leaders in order to perform the complicated
maneuvers required to take out those large scale encounters. Thus
voice-over technologies arose with solutions presenting themselves in
the form of Ventrilo, DiamondWare, PlayXPERT, and even Skype.

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title="AGDC Pictures 061"> src="/image/view/11757/preview"
alt="" height="1" width="1">

style="font-style: italic;">Cody takes a moment
to listen to what sort of 3D effects Vivox has integrated into their
Second Life client.

However, there's been another VoIP (voice-over IP) solution that has
been making a big splash in the MMOG scene lately, a company by the
name of Vivox. By integrating their technology into some of the world's
biggest games, a list that includes style="font-style: italic;">EVE Online and style="font-style: italic;">Second Life,
positioned themselves as one of the clear front runners in the VoIP
wars. According to their official site, the Vivox technology platform
"delivers superior quality voice chat, video, Instant Messaging (IM)
and presence – all of which greatly improve gameplay and
interaction. Today, Vivox is bringing voice to over one million
subscribers in more than 180 countries." At the Austin Game Developers
Conference, we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Vivox's Monty
Sharma, who was pleased to fill us in on what had been happening since
we last talked to them at the Online Game Developers Conference and
where the company was headed in the future.

When we had talked with Monty last, he was currently in the midst of
integrating the Vivox platform into the style="font-style: italic;"> Second Life
virtual world and
we actually had a chance to experience a demo of the technology that
was used in the current Second Life platform. As I slipped the headset
over my ears, an out of conference developer was sitting on the other
end, and I maneuvered my avatar around his as I listened to him talk.
As I drew closer to him, my volume automatically increased. By stepping
away from him, or to the side, the voice area changed with his
location. It was pretty impressive and much more immersive than any
VoIP technology that I had experienced before.

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title="AGDC Pictures 057"> src="/image/view/11760/preview"

style="font-style: italic;"> A shot of the
Vivox booth and Katie Postma's back.

"In Second Life it's
all about the 3D spatialization," Monty said. "You
can hear the voices as they get closer or farther away from you."

"We do over 300 million minutes a month in style="font-style: italic;"> Second Life,"
Monty added.
"The sheer scale of what we're doing there is unbelievable."

While the Second Life
3D spatialization effect was pretty neat, it
wasn't anything compared to what we experienced next. By adjusting a
few controls in our Vivox client, Monty allowed us to emulate a pair of
voices - one that was described as an "Orc Voice" and another as a
"Female Voice." When Monty switched the setting to the Orc voice, I was
blown away by the deeply disturbing quality to my voice. If you've ever
watched Stargate SG-1, it's similar to how a Goa'uld changes a persons
voice on the show. Instead of the average-voiced Cody Bye, I was now
Micajah the Orc Warrior and had a voice to match. I chuckled, which
sounded like a grunt to my ears.

"It's all about emulating the 'size' of the character or what you'd
like that character to sound like," Monty said. "You heard the 3D
effect, you could tell where he was when you were moving. Aside from
that, it's all about the sort of scale we're working on in style="font-style: italic;">Second Life.
We can have over 2,000 people in the same channel, and we
can break
them up so you can actually distinguish them."

"If you listen to Stu behind us," Monty added, pointing to his gigantic
co-worker, "you can tell that his voice is deeper and louder. This is
because he's a larger man and has a bigger chest where the sound
resonates. Talk for a couple seconds and you'll really hear the

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