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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » KoA: Reckoning - Ken Rolston Interview @ AusGamers

Default KoA: Reckoning - Ken Rolston Interview @ AusGamers

September 3rd, 2011, 03:42
I've filed this under Reckoning but the surprisingly good interview with Ken Rolston at AusGamers spends most of its time discussing Ken's attititudes to RPGs and development. Here's a clip on the worst thing to happen to RPGs - fully voiced dialogue:
AusGamers: Yeah, but RPGs are big business now. And back in the day, they were almost closet in themselves. You had your kind of core audience and now theyíve reached this mainstream saturation point. Surely people can take that kind of risk factor, like ďletís just put this out there and see what happensĒ.

Ken: Ah no, because what the audience wants is a polished product, and it turns out that if you wanted to make an experimental role-playing game, you could not make a modern looking one or a modern feeling one. For example: letís talk in the abstract about the worst thing that ever happened to role-playing games is recorded audio for dialogue. I happen to believe that was the death of my joy. Because that limits… that causes production things… the content has to be nailed down at a certain point.

So [voiced] text is not easily revisable. As I play, text is easily revisable; audio isnít. As I play, I want to make tiny little changes to the tone, to the feel of things, but you canít do that when you have all this audio — oh my god, all the audio that we have to record! So what Iím going to say is: for what the audience wants, we are forced to create these things that are very brittle, that cannot be revised.

Whereas in the happy old days of Baldurs Gate and things like that, I thought you had the best of both worlds. You could have a little snippet of dialogue that would give character, but then you would get in text trees which you could easily scan and click through. For page, thatís the important thing; dialogue pace. In a good old-fashioned role-playing game, the user controls the pace, where unfortunately in both video and recorded audio, you canít scan it and you canít backtrack in it.
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September 3rd, 2011, 03:42
Have yet to read the article, but for this quote I very much agree.

The (potential) dynamic behavior of text is simply incompatible with the rigidness of recorded voices. Text dialogue isn't really dynamic, but you can read the same line ten times and not notice (because first it's said by a paladin, then by rogue, then by a merchant and then by a truant, etc.) but if you hear it ten times (even by ten different actors) and you will suddenly notice they say the same thing.

Greetings in dynamic text:
Hello, Nord.
Welcome, Bard.
Nice to meet you, madam.

The above text can all be 'created' by pulling info from the Player Characters stats. With just-text it's pretty easy. But If you want the same detail in a full-vo game and you have 70+ actors combined with 20 professions, 10 races and two genders then 2240 greetings need to be recorded.

If you go even more immersive you can go for:
Hello, Nord Warrior.
Welcome, Dunmer Bard.

In this case for one actor there would be 200 combinations greetings to record. For 70+ actors it would be 14.000 greetings to record.

I don't know where I read it but someone explained that in Morrowind the NPCs first say a line (which can articulate negative attitudes to the Player) which sets the tone then followed by a neutral/general text saying or explaining something. But the negative or positive first line colours the neutral lines. As a result in your mind the NPC can talk very negatively to you all the while the actual content of the message is neutral.

It also means things can be changed on the fly. For Full-VO they need to bring back the actors if a line gets changed so they don't have any wiggle-room or room for improvement once the voices are recorded.

Maybe not important for most people but full-vo has made it almost impossible for mods containing dialog to match the vanilla quality. Even if voice-actors are found it doesn't really work if you change dialogue to vanille NPC since there is no way you'll get the original vo's to rerecord. I think the quality (measured as fitting and matching vanilla) accomplished by Tamriel-Rebuilt on Morrowind is probably not possible for a full-vo game exactly because of that production difficulty and rigidness.

Sidebar:
Going even further than Voice-Over, the recording technique used in LA Noire doesn't seem such a great development for the future. It makes the production even more rigid and makes games more interactive movies than games.
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September 3rd, 2011, 22:23
Interesting interview. I don't agree with all of it myself. I have to say one thing that has crept more into modern RPG's that I like is the aspect of humanity - meaning companions, better interactons, relationships, etc. I wasn't sure where Ken Rolston was coming from in that regard. At first it seemed like he was against that in games - he says go read a novel or watch a movie - but later it sounds like he means only in the abstract sense. In other words many pepole might look to a game to fufill some empty space in their life through their interaction with characters in a game and that just isn't going to happen. Dialogue trees and options are just so utterly limited in comparison to anything in real life. But he then says but when just playing it as a game those aspects of humanity can be a lot of fun. Not sure if that paraphrasing is totally accurate but that was my impression.

One thing I agree 110% is the voiced dialgoure. I still think its the worse thing to ever happen to an RPG.
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September 3rd, 2011, 22:54
Originally Posted by wolfgrimdark View Post
One thing I agree 110% is the voiced dialgoure. I still think its the worse thing to ever happen to an RPG.
Nothing a good text-to-speech engine and searchable transcripts can't solve

Seriously - voice over only really happens for dialogues. Dialogues aren't meant to be like text books that you take at your own pace. They're conversations. Things can and do get missed, or boring, or at the wrong pace - it's all part of having a conversation. Certain genres still believe that you can't properly express an idea in prose - it should be dialogue.
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September 4th, 2011, 01:54
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Certain genres still believe that you can't properly express an idea in prose - it should be dialogue.
I think anything can be expressed in prose, as long as it's written properly and the right punctuation marks are used.

I have to agree that voiced dialogue has added very little, if anything, to crpgs. It's expensive and time consuming, and probably takes too much away from the overall budget… resources that could be used to improve other aspects of the game.
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September 4th, 2011, 02:05
I certainly really enjoy a game with solid voice-acting, but I can also see why it is detrimental to developers. It simply takes way too much time, resources, and budget to make a game with even reasonable levels of voice-acting quality, and it's not truly necessary at all in order to make a strong story.

But the worst thing ever to happen to RPGs? I don't know about that… I can think of plenty worse. At least voice-overs have the potential to add to an RPG.
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September 4th, 2011, 04:49
I like the article and agree but only to a point. Try to imagine fully voiced characters in a top down RPG, like Baldurs gate. What would be the point. you walk into a room and the NPC's are having a conversation without depth, who's speaking?

Now try to imagine a fully 3d rendered world that when you engage in conversation, you obviously must face the NPC anything else would take away from the immersiveness of the game. Standing there with a blank look on his face while you read text for what he is saying is not very immersive. You could have the character lip sync while text is being displayed but that wouldn't be any more immersive and probably serve only as a distraction. The technology that brought us fully 3D rendered world (which i love by the way) is probably the largest factor for the need of full voice-overs.

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September 4th, 2011, 16:07
Originally Posted by Madigan View Post
I like the article and agree but only to a point. Try to imagine fully voiced characters in a top down RPG, like Baldurs gate. What would be the point. you walk into a room and the NPC's are having a conversation without depth, who's speaking?

Now try to imagine a fully 3d rendered world that when you engage in conversation, you obviously must face the NPC anything else would take away from the immersiveness of the game. Standing there with a blank look on his face while you read text for what he is saying is not very immersive. You could have the character lip sync while text is being displayed but that wouldn't be any more immersive and probably serve only as a distraction. The technology that brought us fully 3D rendered world (which i love by the way) is probably the largest factor for the need of full voice-overs.
Heh well this clearly rests with the person. I have seen forums wars on par with the whole "what is an RPG" on the debate on whether VO for a game is good or not. I think many folks like it if it is very well done *AND* they happen to like the voice picked. Many folks also agree it takes away from resources that might be better used. Certainly it is *NOT* "needed" for a 3D RPG though, thats just opinion.

But your statement indicates how subjective it can be for a player. You indicate that in a 3D world it can take away from immersion but I don't feel that way myself. I never even noticed it in DAO for example. I was always "speaking" my wardens voice in my own mind so I never noticed that he was quiet.

I do the same for any NPC. As I read the dialogue I hear it in my head so don't really need to have it spoken outloud to be fully immersed. I tend to like the approach of MMO's where you get some minor VO and then the rest is the text - gives you some flavor while also allowing the flexibility of text.

I will admit I enjoy VO, I enjoyed it a great deal in DAO as some of the lines were just awesome. However it isn't required for immersion by any means (for me) and given a choice by a developer to have VO or use that money and time to do more in-depth dialogues and other things for the game … I will always say chuck the VO. Its not that I hate it - I just dislike its cost. I fully understand, however, other people really enjoy it.

I exaggerated a bit on the whole "worst thing ever". I do think its a detrimental trend for the RPG games I like (again this is all personal opinion) - you want VO put it in the cinematic games. However I don't see it going away, to many people like and want it (I tend to be in the minority), so its a rather mute discusssion.

Hmmm… I am not sure what I would say is/was the worst thing to ever happen to an RPG. A bit tongue in cheek I would say maybe consoles or "the masses" :-)
Last edited by wolfgrimdark; September 4th, 2011 at 16:13. Reason: minor typo's and other fixes
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September 5th, 2011, 01:40
Originally Posted by wolfgrimdark View Post
Heh well this clearly rests with the person. I have seen forums wars on par with the whole "what is an RPG" on the debate on whether VO for a game is good or not. I think many folks like it if it is very well done *AND* they happen to like the voice picked. Many folks also agree it takes away from resources that might be better used. Certainly it is *NOT* "needed" for a 3D RPG though, thats just opinion.

But your statement indicates how subjective it can be for a player. You indicate that in a 3D world it can take away from immersion but I don't feel that way myself. I never even noticed it in DAO for example. I was always "speaking" my wardens voice in my own mind so I never noticed that he was quiet.

I do the same for any NPC. As I read the dialogue I hear it in my head so don't really need to have it spoken outloud to be fully immersed. I tend to like the approach of MMO's where you get some minor VO and then the rest is the text - gives you some flavor while also allowing the flexibility of text.

I will admit I enjoy VO, I enjoyed it a great deal in DAO as some of the lines were just awesome. However it isn't required for immersion by any means (for me) and given a choice by a developer to have VO or use that money and time to do more in-depth dialogues and other things for the game Ö I will always say chuck the VO. Its not that I hate it - I just dislike its cost. I fully understand, however, other people really enjoy it.

I exaggerated a bit on the whole "worst thing ever". I do think its a detrimental trend for the RPG games I like (again this is all personal opinion) - you want VO put it in the cinematic games. However I don't see it going away, to many people like and want it (I tend to be in the minority), so its a rather mute discusssion.

HmmmÖ I am not sure what I would say is/was the worst thing to ever happen to an RPG. A bit tongue in cheek I would say maybe consoles or "the masses" :-)
Agree with the importance of quality voice overs, brings to mind the Gothic 3 expansion (shutter).

IMO Handholding is the worst thing to happen to RPG's.

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