So, I decided to go back and spend a bit of time with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, because I like me a bit of squad-based first-person tactical action, where my brains count for more than my reflexes.
And the weirdest things started happening. Things go alright for a while, then my avatar starts barking all sorts of conflicting orders at my squad-mates. I get them set up for a two-pronged attack on the bad-guys, and suddenly my avatar’s ordering them to hold, or go off from weapons-free, or to run around a corner, or to go have coffee.
And this keeps happening and gets worse and worse.
“Prepare for entry,” I order, indicating the door. Which is immediately followed by my avatar ordering “Regroup!”, “Halt!”, “Go over there!”, “Regroup!”
All the while punctuated by considerable swearing from yours-truly.
It’s like my tactical doctrine is suddenly being choreographed by Ray Charles. In the middle of a firefight, my avatar is ordering my squad-mates to scurry around like children on a play-date.
Maybe it’s my wireless keyboard? Try changing the batteries. Try another, wired keyboard. No go.
Some sort of lag-based problem disturbing the input processing? The CPU and memory monitors look fine. To be safe, I turn down the video settings to “bland crap” to see if that will make any difference.
That seemed to work. Nevertheless, it was time to call it a night, and I returned to the game the following day. Was it still behaving correctly?
No. It was like a Busby Berkeley musical with the terrorists as a heavily-armed audience of critics.
What could be the cause? Finally, I found out – thanks to an obscure forum thread.
Turns out that a USB device plugged into my PC happens to have a microphone in it. Vegas 2 will accept voice-commands for controlling your squad, and that is enabled by default. There’s no little icon or anything that appears when it is processing a voice-command to let you know that is actually what’s happening, though.
So, the game was listening. It was listening to everyone in the house. It was listening to itself. It was listening to me cussing when it started to misbehave, causing even more misbehaviour.
And the time it seemed to be working? I had headphones on and everyone was asleep. It couldn’t hear anything then.
The basic problem was that it was enabled by default, and I had no indication as to what was going on. Even a tiny icon would improve things – or not having voice-commands enabled by default.