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The cost of dialogue

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The cost of dialogue

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 20 December 2011, 12:39:35

Tags: Dragon Commander; Larian Studios

Larian Studio's Swen Vincke blogs about the woes of an indie dev.

Obviously, we also want whatever dialogue animation we put in the game to be as good as possible, so everybody’s saying – have you seen LA Noire ? And I say, yeah I’ve seen it.
Then I think of Divinity II -the Ego Draconis part, remembering that the voice recordings, lip-synchronization and associated dialogue animations required an intense piece of work, so I ask Benoit, the producer who was responsible for that , exactly how much voice did we have ?
He tells me, over 9.5 hours of voice recordings, per language, but he phrases it as over 34000 seconds, just to make sure I’m well aware of what I’m asking for. I guess he emphasized the seconds bit because he’s seen me talk to a variety of people in the team about how to handle the performance capturing, and nightmares of the past came back to him.
So I tell him, well take those timings  as a reference, I have no clue how much dialogue we’re going to have in Dragon Commander, but it’s going to be a ton. Find out what the best solutions are for this, and let me know the cost.
I’m sure he’s going to come back with a 6 digit number, hopefully one we can manage. I also curse. Curse that this is going to cost me man-years of development that I could otherwise put into extra features, but knowing full well that if I don’t, the game won’t be taken seriously. At least not by that group of critics that demand that games have the same production values like the ones on display in the best AAA productions.
I can already see the quotes – “Interesting dialogues, interesting choices, but brought in a manner not on par with AAA production X”.
Or maybe I’m just imagining things.
I am after all  traumatized by past experiences in which I  proudly showed what a team of 6 animators, 45 voice actors and slaving designers/producers managed to do in terms of dialogue work on Divinity II, trying to bring some life to those 9.5 hours of voice acting, only to read afterwards that “the animation is stiff, the voice actors passable”.
So I’m sitting on an egg. Should I actually invest all that money into something that might get me another “the animation is stiff, the voice actors passable”, or should I just do text-boxes, and spend the money on something else ?
If it was just me, I wouldn't care about "only textboxes". I'm reading much faster than the voiceacting is carried out and when I'm done reading I just skip the dialogue, so most of the voiced dialogue is wasted on me anyway. But I guess having only textboxes will lead to even worse critics.

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