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Slimsy Platypus
10-01-2013, 06:28 PM
In Stoic's recent Let's Play video series they touch on Voice acting a bit. I find the voice acting discussion very interesting. To VO or not to VO, that is the question... :)

In games like KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect I think it works pretty well. But there certainly are pitfalls to the system. In those games there were times when I just wanted go fight more, or the spoken conversation was too slow so I would find myself skipping over the VO after quickly reading the text. It's funny when you think about what portion of the budget to make those games that I was skipping over; was I skipping over 10%, 25%, 50% of the game's budget and still really enjoying it? Who knows! Then there's the VO in Morrowind / Oblivion (I didn't really get into Skyrim all that much); they boasted "over 700 hours of voice acting recorded!" and all I remember is the shopkeepers saying the same damn lines in every town of every city!

Being a big fan of classic games, I really don't mind a text driven story all that much. Now, I'm not saying the ol "hold B down as the slow scrolling text fills up a box" method is bulletproof, but I certainly have respect for a solid story told in games via text. One staple that almost everyone can fall back on is the Final Fantasy series. All of them up to FFX had really intimate well delivered stories, completely via blotches of text (let's disregard XI and beyond :)). I think the interesting bit is when you think back to X, which had voice acting, then compare that to the previous. Thinking back does it feel like the story was deliver better or was actually better? To me, no. The stories with VO and without VO were about the same in my memory.

I've touched a lot on how VO doesn't really work. But there certainly are instances where it is really awesome. In the Gears of War and Darksiders series (I've played a lot of games :)), the voice acting complements brief animated sequences very well, and I couldn't imagine the stories told as well in it's absence. But there does seem to be some interesting factor there that this touches on. I think it works well in those instances because you can sit back and enjoy the story in those games like a movie. But even in SWTOR (the MMO), I would listen to the VO line for line... and it was an enjoyable experience. However, that only lasted briefly when exposed to it for the first time. The second time and beyond the VO almost felt like a detriment to the gameplay.

So what makes VO work? Definitely you have to have a well written story. If you slap VO on a shallow poorly written story (sorry Blue Dragon), it doesn't compliment it very well. But what are those other subjective factors that make it shine? I think the various dialogue has to feel meaningful to care how it sounds; but would you care less if you just read it? Does interaction when your choosing dialogue options add to or detract from VO? Those questions certainly appear more subjective.

Regardless, of the whole discussion; I'm super stoked for the story in The Banner Saga! Can't wait to play through it!

Aleonymous
10-02-2013, 08:14 AM
Personally, I don't really care for VO.

Apart from the introduction, the endgame and/or some key points along the story, I am 100% OK with no voice-over at all. Being something recorded means that once you listen to it a couple of times, then you're likely to skip skip-through it entirely. I also agree that its somewhat of a restricting factor, since it costs too much (time & money) to re-do, if something changes along the way.

Some other thoughts on similar subjects:

Would it be interesting to have some sort of synthesized computer-generated voice that can be made to tell different things, i.e. read out texts with the proper accentuation, tone, intensity etc? I guess it's too "heavy" and would probably be of very poor quality, but it is something from which the game-industry would profit greatly from. Imagine having a "palette" of voices that you can use for speech, just as you use colors for images and video. :rolleyes:
What I would like to hear is sound-effects/phrases attributed to the units/characters. Just like classical games (warcraft etc), each unit would have a set of random mutterings, curses, acknowledgments etc that he voices each time you click on him, or when given orders, or just randomly... That would be really great. Also, if each unit's SFX have a variety of tones (lazy, casual, determined, angry, despaired, afraid etc), then, mixing those together could also help blend an "ambient atmosphere" on many different in-game situations, for instance: when camped (casual, lazy), when in an ale-house (happy), when something bad/drastic is happening (afraid, despaired).

epfrndz
10-04-2013, 04:36 PM
^ Synthesized voice with proper tones and accents would be nice but doing that would probably cost more than the entire production of the game. :)

Personally, for story driven games. Voice overs would be a nice touch and certainly something that adds to the polish of the game but realistically, I think it would take too much time and cost a little bit more to do.

An alternative would be, as Aleonymous suggested, to add those subtle "sound hints" for each of the characters. The World Ends With You executed this pretty well.