Some Opening Notes
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It has.
But we’re back, just a few days after DHGB’s fifth anniversary, and we’re here to show off a newer service for games, specifically useful for groups. It’s the newer big entry in the VoIP market, and that is Discord.
Before we began, I’ve added a big alteration to reviews written for DHGB from now on: authors of reviews need to state their “disposition” as we’ll call it towards and related to whatever it is they’re reviewing. So say, if a reviewer is writing about No Man’s Sky, they need to state their background in similar genres of games (such as space/exploration games) and what their thoughts are about the game going into it. This way you, the readers, know who is reviewing what and who they are as a gamer, not just a writer, and this way avoid the common gaming journalism favorite of the person who predominately hates a game franchise or genre reviewing a game related to those things.
To note, this is a program I already use heavily for both big groups that I run. I’ve been using it for around half a year (since I started my Guild Wars 2 guild in November), and have used it actively so I am aware of its progress in terms of updates and development, being as it is a new service. I have used mainly TeamSpeak for group-targeted VoIP services previously (not including things designed for one-on-one use, like Skype or Steam’s inbuilt voice). I am all for Discord, personally.
Forward to the Review
Now, the VoIP market is already a market that has a lot of big hitters. Things like TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, Mumble, and lesser known ones like C3 and Raidcall. These are all well and established services, and they accomplish what they are trying to do well. There are still things they do better than Discord (the main thing being expandable subgroups for channels – that’s coming in the future for Discord, though), but Discord does have pretty rapid development that has already added a lot since I began using it.
Discord’s offerings are how modern it looks, feels, and works, as well as its accessibility (you can use it from a desktop client, web, Android, iOS, Mac, or [in development] Linux) as well as it being free both for users and owners of channels (you can make infinite channels freely, each of infinite size, and they’re hosted by Discord). Other things that improve accessibility are things like text and voice channels being independent of each other (you don’t even have to be in a voice channel if you don’t want to).
These are big things as people who run groups will appreciate that the convenience of use minimizes barriers that you usually run into when trying to get people from your groups or game to use an external service.
In a few ways (and getting closer with each update, especially soon when they add one-on-one voice calling, and eventually looking into video chat and screensharing) Discord bridges the gap between – or can replace entirely – other services that, due to their technical details or (lack) of accessibility are specialized mainly for personal uses (Skype) or coordinated ones (TeamSpeak and friends).
Discord is, however, very new in comparison. A lot of features are still being added and worked on, and it is not perfect yet, but as far as my opinions go, it’s served what I’ve been using it for very smoothly.
Layout and Appearance
Discord has a nice, modern and soft-on-the-eyes interface that reminds me of the Spotify client largely; sleek, dark, and having most things you use often on the screen at all times. There are a few options for themes, both light and dark, as well as an option to show chat in a compact view.
You can easily switch between all channels that you’re a part of from the left side (you can stay in the voice channel of one while reading text subchannels from an entirely different channel!). Text and voice channels are shown in the left sidebar, and there’s a collapsible memberlist on the right. Channel admins are able to setup roles for each other, which can include permissions, name colors, and even show members in the memberlist under a separate category.
Discord also has a very large selection of emojis, and should you be willing to open Pandora’s Box in your channel… text-to-speech (and using text-to-speech on emojis).
There is also an in-game overlay for Discord, though right now it is only basic voice channel functionality (no text yet). If you have a game that dislikes tab-alting, or if you dislike tab-alting, you can open the web version inside your Steam overlay for now (it works fine if you run it alongside your client).
As said, Discord hosts the servers for you freely. You are able to pick which datacenter you want your channel to be stationed at, and this includes multiple for America as well as international ones.
You can make as many text and voice subchannels as you want, and assign permissions to each for specific roles or members. Voice channels are also able to be independently set for different bitrates, from 8kbps to 96kbps. Just recently, they added the ability to add user limits to subchannels. For voice functionality itself, you are able to use both customizable voice-activity and push-to-talk.
You’re able to click-and-drag screenshots and files right into the Discord text chat to be uploaded straight to their server (with a size limit per file of course), and you’re able to embed YouTube videos, gifs, images and links inline in the chat.
Also from a recent update, in addition to the standard left-click profile menu displayed when you click a user, you also can right click them for a detailed context menu that lets you do a bunch of things easily, including altering their volume to you personally, admin actions, and other things.
Text and voice channels are independent of each other, and you aren’t required to be in a voice channel. Text channels can be referenced by their hashtags in text chats. Invites you make to the channel can individually be directed to either a text or a voice channel, and there are options for temporary or permanent invite links, as well as temporary human-readable links.
For permissions, you’re able to assign them both to roles and to individual users. A “role” is just a set of permissions and other details that you can assign to members, and you can assign multiple roles to different things (say if you wanted a person to have a role that made their name purple, and a different one that gave them permissions to edit your #announcements channel or delete messages.)
Members can be click-n-dragged between voice channels if both the user and the admin has access to those channels and to the permission for moving members. You can easily organize people into different voice channels this way, or make sure no one is left out if they’re all alone in their own channel.
Discord also has a lot of Twitch streaming functionality, with more being added. If someone is streaming a game, it will show as a status with a purple indicator that they are streaming whatever game.
And finally, you can have channel-specific nicknames, also a recent addition.
Discord is still new and being developed, and there’s a lot of big features they are still working on adding. They even have a feedback page where you can write and vote for ideas.
Most immediately is spontaneous one-on-one and group voice calling (not tied to a permanent channel).
In store are things such as subchannels (now what TeamSpeak?!) and screensharing and video chat (that’s what’s UP Skype fam!). Also, a full Linux client too. Oh, and a Twitch username display.
Discord is definitely a competent entry in the VoIP and messaging market, and a good program by my opinion overall. It’s quite accessible, quite flexible, and quite free, and not only that, has an impressive feature set that works well and is easy to use, which is something most of us would probably like to see more often.
Especially if you like running online communities, I would very much recommend it both because of its accessibility to you and to the members who will use it, which is a big deal when you need to get your group members to use something together.
If you are a person who does a lot of social and group activities, big or small, while gaming, I’m certain you’ll come across Discord in your travels soon, if you haven’t already. The best tips I can give you when you do start using it, is to type /tableflip or /tts :baby: :banana: :boy: