And if anyone causes a problem, muting them is as easy as opening the Social window, and right clicking their name. I'm a little disappointed that there aren't other options here as well-- we should be able to report and ignore players directly from this interface also. Maybe that will be added before the realms go live-- in the FAQ
, Blizzard actually says that you should be able to ignore people from the menu, so maybe that's not done yet as well.
And creating a custom channel (you can see my "custom1" channel above) is as easy as hitting the "New" button. When you create a channel, you can name it, create a password for it (if you want), and you can choose to enable voice chat on it.
As far as I can tell, there is no way, however, to invite people to your custom channel from the Chat interface. So you still have to tell your friends to join the "nerfwarlocks" channel, and then they have to hit the "Join" button, and type the name in. It would have been really nice if you could right-click the custom channel, hit "Invite" and then chose the players you want to bring in, but there's no way to do that right now.
So what did I think overall? It's a good, robust system that will very likely keep a lot of midrange players from using separate programs for voice chatting. Super casual players who haven't jumped into a voice chat yet probably still won't feel the need to-- setting up the mic correctly (even before you get into the WoW client) is still going to be a barrier, and of course there's the social barriers of having your voice be heard by other players. If you haven't jumped that rung yet, the new voice chat system probably won't encourage you to do so.
And for bigger guilds (as in guilds with more than 40 players, like mine), my guess is that this system won't be enough. Sure, there's almost no reason to have more than 40 people in the same channel (and the Guild channel itself doesn't have voice chat), but one thing I like to do on Teamspeak is run around to the different groups and see how they're doing-- check in with the Karazhan group and see who they got for the Opera, or ask the Shadow Labs group how things are going in there with the new guildie. With this voice chat system, I can't chat with those groups at a glance, since you have to be in a group or raid to voice chat with the people in there. Not to mention that I can't tell you how many times someone's WoW client crashed on them during a raid, and we only knew what happened because they were still chatting with us on Teamspeak.
So Teamspeak and Ventrilo, in my estimation, have nothing to worry about. What's the point of this voice chat system, then? I think it will be huge for people who don't already have their own Teamspeak server, or for smaller guilds who don't want to pay for one. Good PUGs (as in, PUGs that consist of a few friends, or of a bunch of knowledgeable players from different guilds) will only get better, as people won't have to share their Vent info and coordinate all that madness. Some casual players may get more involved (and become better players), if they do make the jump to voice chat.
Players on both ends of the spectrum (super casual, and fairly hardcore) won't have a need for it. But at worst, WoW's new voice chat system will at least help midrange players coordinate their groups and strategies. And at best, just like Xbox Live, this voice chat system will be just another brick in the wall for bringing new types of social interaction
into online gaming.