In an interesting bit of news originating from GDC, Sony Online Entertainment has announced that it will be partnering with VOIP provider Vivox to bring powerful new voice-chat features to its lineup of online titles. These features will come at no additional charge to players, and will include services such as voice mail, the ability to synthesize player voices into specialized in-game voices, and the ability to receive external calls in SOE games. Furthermore, North American players will receive a special PIN number that will allow them to contact members of their guild from an ordinary landline or cell phone.
With 3D voice chat, players will be able to communicate with other players in ways not seen before. Upon entering a given area in an MMO, a player could strike up a voice conversation with whomever they wish; much like they could in the real world. Sony Online Entertainment has been responsible for a variety of RPGs, and is best known for massively multiplayer online games such as EverQuest and EverQuest II.
In any case, it will be interesting to see what kind of effect this will have on the MMO community. Vivox has already provided groundbreaking VOIP service to EVE Online, and is in talks with Blizzard as well. If this type of voice service becomes the norm, then the realm of online gaming would change significantly.