Posted by John on August 19, 2011

PS3 Cross-Game Voice Chat Not Happening, But Vita’s Got it

PS3 Bluetooth headset

While the PlayStation 3’s online service has made great leaps since launch, one key feature it’s still missing is cross-game voice chat. In order to voice chat with other players, you have to be playing the same game; one person can’t be playing Uncharted while another is playing Flower. We now know the reason for why that is and that it’s unlikely to ever happen. Meanwhile, thanks to the abundance of RAM included with Vita, Sony’s new handheld does support this very feature.

Its absence on PS3 is due to the way RAM is handled. All of the system’s memory is handed over to a game once it’s started up and it’s not possible to take it back to handle cross-game voice chat.

“Once a game gets RAM we never give it back,” SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida told Eurogamer. “It’s not possible to retrofit something like that after the fact.”

“The game has to use its own memory to do [in-game voice chat]. There’s always voice chat in the game,” he continued. “But it’s a part of a game feature. It’s not a part of an OS feature. That’s the reason in terms of the ability to have voice chat across different games.”

Several years ago, it looked like it was going to be implemented. Naughty Dog suggested it was coming in an upcoming firmware update. Prior to the announcement of PlayStation Plus, there were reports that it would be a premium feature, and it was even reportedly listed on an official Plus website at one point.

The reason this issue once again came up is that Yoshida revealed to Eurogamer that the Vita will support cross-game voice chat.

A press release Sony sent out this week cleared up the confusion over the amount of RAM that Vita is equipped with. A report earlier this year suggested the handheld’s memory had been cut in half. In reality, that’s not true; it was never downgraded and carries 512MB, just as planned. Toss in the fact that it has an additional 128MB of VRAM, and Yoshida points out this means Vita has more RAM than the PS3.

Explaining why such an amount was deemed necessary for Vita, he talked about making game development as easy as possible, also adding, “But as important as that is to allow the PS Vita always to do more while the game is running in the background, or when you switch between the game and other applications or system software functionalities.

“So the reason why we were able to include something like Party, which enables cross-game voice chat, is because we designed Vita so it always has enough resources to handle something like that behind the game while it’s running.”

Vita has a built-in microphone, as well as Bluetooth support, so you’ll have more than one option for how to go about using voice chat. Useful as that might be to some, it’s strange to think that a console will be incapable of cross-game voice chat but a handheld — where voice chat is arguably less useful and prevalent — will be able to do it.

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