Please introduce yourself and explain your role with Vivox.
My name is Monty Sharma and I am the Vice President of Product Management and Marketing at Vivox. My role at Vivox involves overseeing the direction and creation of new features and bringing them to market in clever ways.
What are the most unique features of Vivox as compare to, say, Ventrilo?
Vivox integrates into the games so that game designers can make voice a part of the game experience. It is simpler and more powerful to have voice just work when you join a group or a guild. Vivox is massively scalable – we recently had 6,000 real people (not test bots) in a channel. Vivox offers sophisticated security and management tools, 3D positional audio, voice fonts, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are committed to giving gamers the best overall experience we can and working in partnership with game developers goes a long way in creating both a simple and powerful solution.
What makes Vivox unique as far as voice chat programs go?
There are three major areas, clearly Vivox leads the market when it comes to features: First off, from 3d to voice fonts we have the broadest set of features for game developers. Secondly we have the experience of working with many game developers, millions of users in 182 countries. This has given us the understanding to really polish what we do and make the experience fabulous. Finally scale – we do big really well, lots of users connected to the network and talking in huge channels. We bring all of this together as a hosted and managed service with a network infrastructure that rivals some of the telcos. The experience and expertise of our operations team is unrivaled by any other voice chat provider in the game industry. These elements combined make our quality and scalability unmatched. Plus, our sole focus is voice for games. We design and deliver the technology for online gamers who have unique requirements, and high standards.
What have been the highlights in development?
We are thrilled to see new highs almost every week, our numbers just keep getting bigger with no degradation in quality. We are excited to be in development for the PS3. It is a tremendous opportunity to bring voice to consoles, and with the direction of cross-platform games we see an exciting trend. Imagine playing on your medium of choice, PC or console, and being able to connect to your guild no matter where it is as well – even on a mobile phone! Game developers are pushing the envelope of gameplay and our work with porting to the PS3 is helping drive the vision.
What have been the greatest challenges and how have those been overcome?
The biggest challenge has been with the market’s willingness to adopt and implement voice chat. When Vivox came on the scene in 2005, voice chat and enhanced community communication tools were still a nice have, and last minute additions in the dev process. It took some education and solid business results to turn that tide. Now we are seeing developers adding communications early on in the dev cycle to help formalize their social structures and influence gameplay. For older games, studios like SOE are taking communications to new levels by offering it for out of game use and integrating it into older titles seamlessly and with great success. What was once a challenge for us is now one of the biggest trends the industry has seen in some years. It’s been an exciting ride.
Vivox has released its code and network as open source. What precipitated this decision?
We see this as a great opportunity to push our development and innovation further with the open source community. By putting the code in their hands, they will come up with newer features and ways to use the technology that we may not have – and quicker. We have always been about using communications in the context of someone’s life. By releasing the code, we can make that happen even faster.
How do you anticipate that the community will use the code?
Widgets and new connections, getting access to their friends and communities from new angles. And customizations. I see the community really customizing the tools, which will be great. Again, it’s all about personal context. Having said- the open source community has proven that it finds problems to solve, often not what you would have thought would be the next problem to solve. But the wisdom of the crowds has great benefit for us and our ability to stay in the lead – mmm more brains good.
What are the key features in Vivox and how do those features enhance the MMO player’s experience in game?
Integration and scale. By putting voice chat directly into the game, players can stay immersed and not worry about running other applications or having passcodes. Access is readily available and connected to the entire player base. Which brings me to our scalability – no more silos of players communicating with just each other. Our network can support thousands of users so there are no limits to the community. These two elements combined also allow devs to use the communications and social structure to push the story along. Some of our customers are really delving into story development through the use of PC & NPC communications. We’re going to see some cool stuff emerge with the next wave of MMOs in development.
Recently Vivox announced its partnership with Sony Online Entertainment. Currently it is available in Everquest II and Star Wars Galaxies with plans to be implemented in Everquest. How has the introduction of Vivox in those games gone?
Seamlessly! From agreement to launch, working with SOE has been a pleasure for us. SOE understands the power and influence that our technology can bring in fostering their community and have embraced it. The way they designed the UI and conducted usability testing was top notch and paved the way for a successful launch where over 70% of the players are using. We are excited by the ideas SOE has and the effort they are putting in to change MMOs as we know them.
How has player reaction been to Vivox?
Players have been very positive in their feedback on the experience. The forums were abuzz even before the live date with comments and suggestions – but all very positive and engaged with how it would improve their play experience.
Is there any way to assess how many players are actually using Vivox in game?
We have internal tools that can tell us how many people are using voice at any time in the games. Like I said, for the SOE games, 70% of players are actively using voice at any given time. That’s pretty impressive. And other stats have shown us that players who use voice, stay in the game longer. Every dev’s dream.
What are the future plans for Vivox?
Besides more new customers and integrations, we are working on porting to the PS3. Developers will soon be able to make use of our software development kit (SDK) for integrated voice on the PlayStation 3. It’s a pretty exciting deal as devs talk more and more about connecting and crossing platforms. Players can talk to friends anywhere, anytime, find them and connect and play.
Add any teasers/tidbits as appropriate.
Our goal is to make it possible to a player to find and connect with their friends no matter where they are, the PS3 is a step in that direction. We want everyone to communicate! So by 2110 it will be a global network of mind reading satellites that will relay your messages directly into the brains of your guild mates.