Official Codex Discord Server

  1. Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.
    Dismiss Notice

Editorial Voice acting in RPGs - yay or nay?

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Zed, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Zed Codex Staff Patron

    Zed
    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2002
    Messages:
    16,804
    Codex USB, 2014
    Tags: Alpha Protocol; Chris Avellone; Fallout; Fallout: New Vegas; MCA; South Park: The Stick of Truth; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

    Joystiq has a column up by Rowan Kaiser discussing whether or not voice acting is... well, good for RPGs. He discusses pros, cons, and also talks with MCA (that's Chris Avellone from Obsidian Entertainment for anyone uninitiated) about his experience on the matter.

    An excerpt:

    However, I do find that voice acting often disrupts the pacing of the games to their detriment. I tend to read much faster than people speak, especially people trying to enunciate clearly for a recorded story. The slower pacing can be grating, especially if the writing and the voice acting aren't done well.

    That's one of Avellone's main points as well: "RPG cinematic conversations are incredibly labor-intensive and something that only a few studios excel at." He cites BioWare specifically, saying that they succeed where so many others fail. "BioWare is good at cinematic dialogue because they have the resources, skilled personnel (and the resources to hire specialized personnel as well), and a pipeline built and established from iterations of a conversation system across several similar titles, which is a damn smart way to do things."​

    Read it!
     
    ^ Top  
  2. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
    Joined:
    May 14, 2004
    Messages:
    36,924
    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech
    Updated my journal.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  3. Icewater Artisanal Shitposting™ Patron

    Icewater
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,873
    Location:
    Freedomland
    Project: Eternity Wasteland 2
    The 'dex might brand me a lover of the popamole for this, but I think good voice acting adds a lot to a game. There are many characters out there who were truly made by their voice actors, and wouldn't have been even half as good otherwise.

    I didn't mind the lack of voice acting "back then", but now that I've been spoiled by stuff like VTM:B, it's hard to go back.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  4. sgc_meltdown Arcane

    sgc_meltdown
    Joined:
    May 8, 2003
    Messages:
    6,000
    Have good writing first, then you can go ahead and have your good voice acting. Otherwise what the fuck is the point of you paying some guy to read out the fetch quest objectives to me in a british accent, if you are the kind of wanker who turns off the dialog box for full immersion you are killing games

    Your run of the mill action heavy FPS would sound weird now without voices though, and the ever-present lipsynching technology doesn't make them any less mandatory. That's about the only place where I'd notice their absence. That and in prerendered intros I guess.

    also: yea or nay god dammit
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  5. DragoFireheart all caps, rainbow colors, SOMETHING.

    DragoFireheart
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Messages:
    23,706
    - Pretty much this. Your voice acting is only going to be as good as the dialog you give to your voice actor.
     
    ^ Top  
  6. Icewater Artisanal Shitposting™ Patron

    Icewater
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,873
    Location:
    Freedomland
    Project: Eternity Wasteland 2
    Eh, I'm not so sure. Vegeta in DBZ is a great character, not because his lines are amazingly well written but because his voice actor managed to pull off the "arrogant asshole" attitude just so damn well. BG2's Irenicus is the same way. Quality voice acting can really make or break a character.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 5
    • Agree Agree x 1
    ^ Top  
  7. Azrael the cat Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Azrael the cat
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Messages:
    6,207
    Location:
    The island of misfit mascots
    Icewater - sure there are good characters that were made by their voice actors more than their writing - Irenicus is well-accepted around these parts as an example of that (although in fairness he also is a trope-breaker for Bioware - instead of the 'big bad' being beaten by the chosen one, you've got a guy who jacks the destinies of the chosen one (i.e. the PC) AND the 'big bad' (i.e. Bhaal) for his own vendetta), as is fem-Shephard. The voice-acting added a hell of a lot to PS:T - each actor not only nailed the lines, but managed to nail the characters in a way that was consistent with the text descriptions.

    But then think how little voice-acting was needed to establish that. Irenicus gets a lot by those standards - but quite a bit is cutscenes (well, Bhaal taking the form of Irenicus). PS:T just uses tiny sound-bites to give you a feel for how the characters talk. Arguably it's the best of both worlds - you get enough so that you know what the character sounds like, and get a feel for age, sophistication etc (and start reading the text in the actor's voice), while the actual writing is both unconstrained in its length, and the writers don't get lazy and skimp on characterisation in the text itself through the expectation that the actor can do all the work for them. Bioware is better than most (in that it doesn't expect a voice actor to be able to convey 'tough guy' by doing a stupid cliched tough guy voice, despite there being nothing in the character's dialogue or actions that actually makes him tough) and it still went downhill when it adopted full voicing, losing the tics and quirks to character dialog in favour of much broader brush-strokes (want a sexually confident woman - make her talk about sex so much she sounds like a desperately under-sexed teenager trying to disguise her lack of experience, or in other words, Black Cat).

    I wouldn't want voice-acting dropped altogether - but you don't need to voice every line. Intros, responses and 'big moment' dialogues do the job just fine, without constraining the writers and without giving the voice-directors as much of an opportunity to fuck it up (I'm not blaming the actors, because game developers tend to expect the impossible - acting nuances that simply aren't there in the character's actions, doing lines out of context, implausible character motivations/behaviour that screw any attempt by the actor to envisage a character, etc).

    Same applies to the PC - voiceless is okay, if you have a character pre-located in the story (ala TNO) then a few responses, the first couple of words of lines and 'major character moments' can add a lot, but voicing the whole thing seems to have resulted in worse dialogue.

    The only game I can think of where FULL voice really added a lot was VTM:B, and that was a game where every tool in the characterisation shed was used - facial animations were awesome, character is conveyed through action, characters have comprehensible motivations, the writing and animation match the vocal style and the voice-acting was superbly directed. And even then, the PC wasn't voiced - allowing for full dialogue choices rather than shitty 3-choice wheels.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 10
    ^ Top  
  8. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    84,959
    Grab the Codex by the pussy Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    :eek:
     
    ^ Top  
  9. Sceptic Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    Sceptic
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Messages:
    10,572
    Divinity: Original Sin
    The only other game I can think of is Anachronox, and for exactly the same reasons - obviously not a coincidence.

    I generally don't care much for full voice acting, but I really cannot imagine something like Anachronox without it. It's also one of very few games in which I never wanted to skip lines because I'm reading faster than they talk (the other one being PST). I think, as you do, that BG2 and PST got it right - just enough VA to establish mood/tone and then full text, though I do wish PST had more VA at particular points (specifically the TTO/FFG confrontation in the Fortress). As for BG2, I did end up skipping a lot of voiced passages because the quality of the voices does vary, I think the only ones I never skip are Irenicus's, but then it's David fucking Warner.
     
    ^ Top  
  10. Oriental European Learned

    Oriental European
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    Messages:
    574
    Location:
    right here brah
    This, motherfucking THIS! Bloodlines changed everything (for me).
     
    ^ Top  
  11. Esquilax Arcane

    Esquilax
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2010
    Messages:
    4,822
    Absolutely, that's the whole point of having a great actor: they can make even the shittiest and most cringe-worthy lines sound good. Look no further than Mass Effect if you need proof for this: Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale both read the same mediocre script with the same corny lines, but Meer doesn't do the writing any favours while Hale really manages to make a silk purse out of a pig's ear at times. A skilled actor can make poor writing sound passable and good writing sound great.

    In a perfect world where we have games with unlimited budgets, good actors, superb facial animations and great writing (along with good direction for the actors), full VO for NPC's would be nice. However, realistically, all that's needed is snippets during introductions, important plot moments, narration, that sort of thing. The games that probably handled this the best were Torment and Mask of the Betrayer, although I would understand if somebody would find the frequent switches from text interactions to voiced dialogue in MotB a little bit jarring.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  12. mbpopolano24 Arbiter

    mbpopolano24
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
    Messages:
    183
    Definitely NAY. I mean, considering how much resources are 'wasted' on actors, I'd rather play more contents and interactions than listing to a (usually) silly voice that just slow dwon my pace.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 3
    ^ Top  
  13. DragoFireheart all caps, rainbow colors, SOMETHING.

    DragoFireheart
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Messages:
    23,706
    - The same can be said of dialog and lines. Voice acting can save mediocre scripts, but it won't do anything for badly written ones. I suppose I'm half wrong in my previous post, but the point still stands that voice acting isn't going to make cRPGs. That's what writing does. What good is the voice acting if the story/dialog/setting isn't pulling me in?
     
    ^ Top  
  14. Metro Arcane Beg Auditor

    Metro
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Messages:
    27,190
    The only way it could be a 'con' is if: 1) it's bad; or 2) too much of the budget is spent on it. Either way neither of those are really arguments against having or not having voice acting itself. They are merely flaws in implementation.
     
    ^ Top  
  15. Gondolin Arcane

    Gondolin
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Messages:
    4,358
    Location:
    In the Playground, reading LPs
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  16. Gakkone pretty cool guy eh Patron

    Gakkone
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2010
    Messages:
    917
    Location:
    schmocation
    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2
    That's only from the perspective of someone playing the finished product and not paying attention to the design of the game. For the developer it can be a 'con' because it can reduce the amount of dialogue in the game and also make it impossible to rewrite stuff after the recordings are done. This might leave to unpolished scripts making it into the game and more linearity in conversations. Actually I'm pretty sure the latter is the reason why Bioware came up with the dialogue wheel - they could present the player with superficially different choices although the actual line uttered by the character would be exactly the same due to voice acting being both expensive and time consuming.

    Of course you could say that this is a matter of implementation as well, but you can't really ignore the practical side of things when examples of this done right are non-existent.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 3
    ^ Top  
  17. Angthoron Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Angthoron
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2007
    Messages:
    12,926
    If the writing is good, the medium it's delivered in won't matter.
    If the writing is shit, the medium it's delivered in won't matter.
     
    ^ Top  
  18. Gakkone pretty cool guy eh Patron

    Gakkone
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2010
    Messages:
    917
    Location:
    schmocation
    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2
    This isn't really about the writing though, it's about whether voice acting affects game design.
     
    ^ Top  
  19. deuxhero Arcane

    deuxhero
    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
    Messages:
    8,826
    Location:
    Flowery Land
    I liked how Persona 4 had minor characters say their name when first introduced as their only voiced dialog. It let the player know what they sounded like and how to pronounce their name.

    Other than that, VERY few games managed to make me listen through dialog instead of skipping it as soon as I read it. Most of them are alreddy listed by others when the issue comes up, but Baten Kaitos: Origins (ironically the sequel to a game with some of the worst voice acting ever, even if you remove the filter by turning on surround sound) I feel really did this well. An interview I read mentioned that the translators (read:writers) had full control over the voice acting, as a result, the lines have great delivery ("I'll get wood" line wouldn't have been half as hilarious if the voice actor hadn't gotten the "dazed" tone so perfectly), though Guillo's "gestalt" voice is VERY cool.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  20. Surf Solar cannot into womynz

    Surf Solar
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2011
    Messages:
    8,629
    I like when Characters give short prompts when clicking at them "Half the loot is mine" "Death to y'all" ( :D ) etc. like in the Infinity Engine games. Fallouts Talking Heads were nice too, but even there I clicked the text away when I finished reading it instead of waiting for the guy to finish his speech. I don't really need VO at all in my games.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  21. Stelcio Savant

    Stelcio
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    Messages:
    237
    Choosing between voice-over and text is like choosing between blondes and brunettes. You may like one more than other but it's still just a part of a whole, unsignificant on it's own.

    If Mass Effect had been done without full voice-over, it would have been a totally diffrent game because it would had been designed differently in the first place.
     
    ^ Top  
  22. Metro Arcane Beg Auditor

    Metro
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Messages:
    27,190
    Yes, I'm sure it wouldn't consist of linear corridors, horrid pop-a-mole console shooter combat, and shallow mmo-style grind quests.
     
    ^ Top  
  23. Tolknaz Savant Patron

    Tolknaz
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2008
    Messages:
    479
    Location:
    Estonia
    Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    The benefit of full voice acting in really long games with a lot of dialogue is questionable at best. For RPG-s doubly so, because they usually contain a shitload more of spoken dialogue than any other genre. First of all even good actors alone can't do a thing. A good script and a really good VA director with a vision is also needed. Take a look at various games that Stephen Russell has been in for example. Thief games had extremely strong sound and VA direction, and Russell truly shined in his role as Garrett. In Arx Fatalis on the other hand the whole cast including Russell sounded ridiculous. Everybody did several voices, and they seemingly didn't even try to separate their roles. The only good voices in this game were goblins (they were truly funny). Only a handful of games and even less RPG-s have had worthwhile voice acting, and even those have heavily suffered for it.
     
    ^ Top  
  24. Stelcio Savant

    Stelcio
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    Messages:
    237
    Different approach determines different execution, and making ME without full voice-over would have to mean completely different approach in design. So yes, I believe much so.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  25. kaizoku Arcane

    kaizoku
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2006
    Messages:
    4,132
    That's what I like in voice acting. It helps defining the personality traits of the character you're interacting with.
    This can also be done with textual narration about the character in question, but good voice acting can enrich the game a lot more.

    The problem: it's expensive. And branching storylines make it even more expensive.
    The solution: partial voice acting. Introductory lines, some tidbits here and there, and reaction lines that would make better use of acting skills. (fake edit: what Azrael said)
     
    ^ Top  

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.