June 1, 2000 Update

And the winner is...

BattleCom

After more than a month of usage, the Co-Op Certification Laboratory has found BattleCom to be highly reliable for Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) gaming. Over the course of nine additional evenings of gaming, BattleCom has crashed only once--and that was when I was attempting to close the program anyway. Our quest for reliable VOIP software is over.

We have encountered a few minor problems. The most annoying is that Bryan must speak a little louder than usual to trigger BattleCom's voice-activation on his end--even though his sound card and BattleCom inputs and microphone sensitivity are maxxed out. (And yes, he also has the +20db microphone gain turned on.) Even when he shouts into his headset, BattleCom's volume display shows only a low input level.

The same problem manifests itself less severely on my end. All my settings, like Bryan's, are maxxed out. Yet when I shout, BattleCom's volume display doesn't reach the top. Normal speech registers halfway or less. That's acceptable, but to really maximize sound quality normal speech should register near the top. I don't shout very often.

This is definitely not a problem with our hardware or drivers, as Roger Wilco starts clipping (producing distortion from overloaded inputs) with its volume input level set at the halfway mark. We wonder how ShadowFactor and/or Microsoft allowed such a glaring deficiency to slip by.

Another problem is also input level related. We have found that BattleCom's microphone input level drops drastically on my end when I attempt to launch Quake II after playing a game with ZDoom 1.21. (The level is so low that in our original report, we mistakenly concluded that the input had been cut off altogether.) We consider this a minor flaw because the next version of ZDoom will have new sound code anyway, and we can always arrange our evenings to play ZDoom after Quake II.

Bryan says that BattleCom's greater reliability on our computers is worth the minor annoyance of having to speak a bit louder than usual. Plus, one e-mail from our readers claimed that BattleCom's latency--the delay between your saying something and your buddy hearing it--is lower than that of its competitors; we thought we had noticed this ourselves. Regardless, BattleCom is now the Co-Op Certification Lab's official VOIP software. We're happy now!

Roger Wilco

Nothing has happened to change our opinion of Roger Wilco. It's a great program, and well worth a try to see if it runs correctly on your computer with your games. Though we no longer use it for gaming, Roger Wilco is still handy when we're waiting for large file transfers (e.g., 10MB Quake II add-ons). For this task it's fairly reliable, and its superior sound quality at minimal data rates is helpful. When our file transfers are done and we're ready to play, we switch to BattleCom.

We received an e-mail from a member of an Unreal Tournament clan that tried three different VOIP programs and settled on Roger Wilco, despite the fact that they "noticed the high CPU usage as well."

Teamsound

Another of our readers--a telecommunication and computer networking consultant--reported that TeamSound works better than Roger Wilco for him. He suggested that TeamSound might work better over faster networks than on our little modem-to-modem TCP/IP rig.

In addition, the aforementioned UT clan member claimed that TeamSound "is the only voice-comm app that currently works through firewalls. It does this by offering a non-UDP (TCP-only) stream option." Uh, okay... He agreed that TeamSound "did not offer bandwidth usage options low enough for our modem users" but liked the fact that it has higher-quality sound options than Roger Wilco.

First Contact

We received no e-mails about this program, probably because it's so new. We're going to wait a while for the bugs to be ironed out before we try it again ourselves.

"Over and Out"

That about wraps it up for the Co-Op Certification Laboratory's testing of Voice-Over-IP software. Thanks to everyone who visited, and double thanks to those who e-mailed us about their own experiences.

 
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