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WoWFeb 21, 2019 5:00 pm CT

Blizzard’s parental controls can’t disable WoW voice chat

I don’t use in-game chat. Back when it was first introduced with patch 2.2, my guild jumped on it — we didn’t have to buy chat services from Ventrilo or TeamSpeak. But, to call it “buggy” doesn’t fully cover how bad it was. In 2016, it was announced voice chat 2.0 was coming with Battle for Azeroth. I think we can all be forgiven for looking sideways and wondering, “Well, just how is this iteration going to work?” Turns out, we have reasons to dislike this next attempt at universal chat.

The community doesn’t say it’s all bad. Those who use it have said the voice quality is very good. If you’re in a random group without access to Discord or other voice chat, it makes communication semi-easy. For friends who play different games, its universality across the Blizzard gaming experience is great. You can play StarCraft while I play World of Warcraft and we can chat. But this is about all it’s good for. The big problems are how it doesn’t play nice with WoW and how you can’t disable it.

This all seemed to get worse when Tides of Vengeance and the Battle for Dazar’alor released. For instance, let’s say you are hearthing from Tiragarde Sound to Boralus. Generally speaking, this and taking a portal are the two biggest wait time sinks in the game. That’s expected because it feels like a transporter out of Star Trek — disassembling and reassembling your pixels. The addition of voice chat has made loading times at the destination at least twice as long. If there is heavy use of a portal — say you’re going to a capital city for an event — the load time is longer. When you finally arrive, there are two lines in your chat window: “Lost connection to voice chat. Reconnection to voice chat.” The need to shut down and start up chat seems to be connected to longer log in times.

Let’s talk about other issues. I’ve not experienced this myself but I have seen many guild members hearth to a location only to be disconnected once they get there as voice chat attempts to reconnect them. They see those two lines right before the game crashes. Guild members report longer initial log-in times. My biggest issue has been Battle.net going to sleep and my being unable to wake it. I’ve had to completely reboot my computer in order to wake up Battle.net and log on.

Reddit came up with a work around for their voice chat woes. You needed to enter parental controls, then you could turn off access to the in-game voice chat. It seemed to work at first, but I — and several other guild members — tried to disable chat going through the controls and we couldn’t. Reddit reports the same, with the same start point — this only happened after Tides of Vengeance went live.

This is not good. While Blizzard says their voice chat doesn’t use much available bandwidth, they also can’t account for people’s lag, long log-in times, disconnects, or Battle.net going to sleep. The increase of all these issues seems to tie directly to the patch going live. Somewhere, deep in the coding, methinks there’s gremlin code which simply doesn’t want to play nice. The problem is, it’s frustrating the player base. For me, will this log out be the one where I have to shut down my entire system before I can log back in? That’s before we consider the fact that this means parental controls wouldn’t work like they need to for kids, either.

What I’d love to see is a toggle button. It should be on the Interface menu. It should say, “Start Voice Chat.” You click on that and voice chat is active. There’s no worry about set up. When you’re done using it, click it off. With parental controls, you should be able to toggle off voice chat completely. The click button in Interface wouldn’t override this. You’d have to go back to parental controls to re-enable voice. For those of us who only utilize our guild chat server, we wouldn’t have voice chat on at all. Look at it this way. Some people use the Black Market Auction House and some don’t. Those who don’t aren’t forced in any way to use it. The same should be for voice chat.

This is frustrating. I get that coding isn’t simple or easy. I’ve played long enough to know there’s no such thing as a “quick” fix. Increasingly, evidence points to voice chat causing problems with connectivity. Something should be done and the first step of that something is giving us the option of using the service or not.

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