While playing video games can sometimes be a solitary activity, more often than not gamers enjoy playing together. Despite their reputation for introversion, gamers can be quite social. Multiplayer games are also extremely popular, to the point where gamers will create them inside single-player games.
Considering that multiplayer games have been so omnipresent, and online gaming has been around since the ’90s, it’s a bit baffling how scattershot VoIP clients can be for gamers. My colleague Joel even said in his coverage of voice chat programs for PC gamers that Skype, of all things, was the most convenient app despite how cumbersome it is.
There have been various chat programs available for gamers for years, but many of them are either difficult to use to the point of inconvenience, or just never caught on due to a lack of features.
Hammer & Chisel, former game developers themselves, have created an app that combines the best of all other VoIP clients, adds several features of its own, and is completely free. Meet Discord, the social gamer’s new best friend.
When you open Discord for the first time after creating an account, you must either join a server or create your own in order to talk to people. Streamers or online gamers who use Discord will typically provide an invite link to their followers and friends, and being invited is the easiest way to join a server.
The typical Discord server is separated into text channels, and voice chat rooms. The text rooms are very much like forums (though if you want an actual gaming forum, you should look elsewhere). The channels can be configured a number of ways, and set aside for specific purposes, such as announcements, contests, or music.
Also, Discord is designed to integrate with Twitch, and YouTube, meaning you can sometimes chat with streamers while they’re streaming, or interact with them in their off-hours. There are a number of options exclusively for streamers, including options for partnered streamers that give privileges to their subscribers and integrating your bot – essential for some streamers – into the text channels.
Talk the Talk
In Discord, you join chat rooms laid out on the left panel in the server. Each chat room can be restricted to a certain type of user. Some can be for subscribers only, if you’re a partnered channel; some are for channel moderators, and some are invite-only.
Your in-room buttons are a simplified version of Skype’s layout. You can mute your microphone, turn off sound altogether (which also mutes your microphone automatically), and exit the room. You also have an indicator that lets you see how strong your connection, with the same “red-bar, yellow-bar, green-bar” color shorthand.
Two other features are in the works for the voice chat are video and screensharing options. The endgame for Discord is apparently to supplant Skype and other gaming video chat options entirely. They say as much – and rather cheekily too – on their blog:
“The ultimate in ‘I can finally delete Skype off of my computer features,’ our third friends list update will include the much sought after and asked for video chat and screen sharing.” – Upcoming Feature Preview: Friends List
Discord has been releasing a plethora of new features since its release, and many of them seem designed to create communities and friendships. For starters, they have instituted a friendship feature, meaning you can have a friends list independent of your servers.
You can send private messages and one of the features currently in development for Discord is the ability to create temporary groups of friends for quick chats not tied to any particular server. They even couch it in gaming terms:
“Wanna grind some dailies with that healer and tank you just met in a popular server? Start up a group chat and get questing. If you then run into a charming DPSer you want to include, they can hop right into the group with you two.” – Upcoming Feature Preview: Friends List
One of the features that the desktop version of Discord supports is an in-game overlay that will allow you to keep track of your Discord voice chat without having to alt-tab out of the game to do so. You map the overlay to a button combo, then press those buttons to bring Discord up while you’re playing the game and make changes to the room from there.
The trouble is that the overlay can be extremely touchy with some games. The above screenshot was taken in the relatively-primitive game Stardew Valley because I couldn’t get any of my other games to work with the overlay. While this might not necessarily be the fault of Discord, they do say this on their overlay tutorial page:
“As we work on the overlay, if you’re experiencing issues with games crashing or ping spikes, we recommend you disable it temporarily.” – Overlay Issues
Hammer & Chisel says there are a number of game with which the overlay works perfectly, and to their credit, the overlay is simple and unobtrusive. Still, take their advice and disable it at the first sign of trouble.
By Gamers, For Gamers
Up until this point, there hasn’t been a chat app specifically designed to be compatible with Twitch or YouTube streaming. It’s something at most streamers probably didn’t realize they wanted until they had it. Discord was created, according to Hammer & Chisel, specifically because other voice chat apps were lacking.
“As gamers ourselves, we got fed up with these tools and decided to fix the problem ourselves. As a result, we’ve built the best all-in-one voice and text chat app for gamers that’s free, secure, and works on both desktop and phone.” – Our Point of View
Discord makes it easy for people playing in multiplayer with their team to communicate without having to rely on the caprices of Skype or Steam’s chat client, or having to cope with the limits of chat clients like Mumble and Teamspeak. They also claim it is safer for gamers, since it is allegedly impossible to obtain IP addresses and DDoS other players – a recurring and serious problem.
Another benefit for gamers is relatively low latency, meaning little delay in sound in voice chat, and an alleged lack of frame-rate loss. Despite its moniker, Discord is fairly bug-free at the current time of writing. If you want a voice chat client for speaking with your fellow gamers, Twitch audience, or anyone else, Discord is definitely worthy of your consideration.
Tell Us What You Think of Discord
How many of you gamers out there have used Discord? Has it replaced your other voice chat options, or do you still think it needs more work and features? Have any non-gamers used Discord for any reason?
Is there anything you wish Discord had that it currently does not have? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below!