Gamers rejoice! Like many other VoIP (Voice over IP) programs, Mumble is a free software program designed for vocal communication in mind in a digital age. What sets Mumble apart for gaming communication is the promise of high quality sound and low latency, all while minimizing the use of CPU resources.
This low-resource design makes Mumble a top notch choice for gamers when compared to more traditional VoIP programs such as Skype which take up large amounts of CPU RAM and resources. Mumbles interface and bonus features, however, are what really makes the difference while in game.
Mumble is distributed as an open-source, free software, and is available for download at their website via SourceForge. This is an excellent choice for users looking for great quality, but free program. As the program promises, installation requires very little time. The program itself requires just 30MB of memory, once again sticking to the promise of low computer resource cost.
The graphical interface is very user friendly, employing symbols and pictures for shortcuts to many common functions such as muting/deafening, configuring settings, recording and server information. The crown jewel that really makes mumble distinctive is the option of an overlay graphic, which appears on the screen so that users can be distinguished from one another even while in game.
This proves to be incredibly useful, especially when dealing with complex scenarios when it can be difficult to distinguish who is talking. The overlay lights up whenever a user speaks so you can tell who’s who, a nifty feature that will ensure that you never get your team mates mixed up again, and run to the wrong person.
Upon startup, Mumble gives you the option to connect to a server within countries around the world. The program automatically chooses your home country, then provides a list of servers, fastest to slowest (based on the ping response time). Some servers are open to all, and other servers require a password before entering. There is no indication on the connection screen whether the server will require a password before entering or not.
After you have successfully connected to a server, you will usually automatically be put into a room as “idle” “afk” or “away from keyboard”. You must then right click on a channel inside this server and click “Join Channel”
Here, you will see join a group of people who are free to talk to each other through Mumble’s crystal clear chat room. Voice is transmitted to each user in that channel very clearly and is it disturbed by static or any other distortion. Every time a user speaks, the icon next to their name will glow red. More than one user can speak at once without either person’s voice being distorted through the program.
In fact, a feature called “priority speaker” allows you to give priority to specific people. While playing a game, important teammates can be given priority and their voice will override any one else speaking. This only affects you, so it does not necessarily have to be a consensus by the channel either. Everything from a whisper to a shout is clearly audible.
Users can also be muted, and you can mute yourself – by muting your microphone or headphones while still remaining in the channel. This is best done using the Shortcuts, which must be configured through the settings dialog. After choosing one of these options, a text-to-speech feature tells you that you have just “muted” or “muted and deafened” yourself. This ensures you don’t accidentally deafen / mute yourself.
Mumble has also integrated an excellent feature that lets users choose “Push-To-Talk”. Unlike other VoIP’s such as Skype, where the microphone picks up everything spoken, Mumble allows you to utilize this feature and push your own customized button before your microphone turning on. If you are playing in a noisy area with background noise, push to talk is a useful option.
Mumble allows you to set your own customized hotkeys for features including Push to Talk, Mute Microphone (Mute Self), Mute Headphones (Deafen Self), Whisper/Shout and Toggle Overlay. Connecting and Disconnecting to a server are preset to Ctrl+O and Ctrl+F4, respectively. These hotkeys cannot be changed, something that can cause problems.
Both hotkeys are a combination of keys that are often used for “opening” and “closing” other programs. If one accidentally presses this during their game to connection/disconnect from a channel, it may lag the game or close it completely.
Mumble does not to consume too much memory from the system. Tested it with Skyrim: Elder Scrolls, no lag is visible. The program (when inside a channel) uses approximately 40,000K of memory. If you have an older system, this may cause a bit of lag, but should not be a problem for most modern computers. The program is also very quick to respond to any action, from connecting / disconnecting to servers, as well as microphone/headphone toggling.
I was impressed to see that almost all the servers (except Africa which didn’t have any for some reason) had a lot of people on them. America has many channels consisting of close to a hundred members, while Asia had channels consisting of close to three hundred members. Because the program is so well known around the world, you can log on practically at any time and connect with someone!
The program does exactly what it’s supposed to and uses very little memory. You can easily chat with your friends and game away using Mumble. Its only caveat is that although it is graphically user-friendly, I did not find the program itself user-friendly.
It’s a bit difficult to understand for users who are new to voice chat for gaming with a lot of jargon. The program really leaves you to guess everything, which may take a while. But after about an hour of using it, it’s not difficult at all and you’ll see yourself gaming away!