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Default Dragon Commander - The cost of dialogue

December 20th, 2011, 02:33
An interesting post on Lar's World, with Swen Vincke thinking about the 6-figure cost of doing voiceovers for Dragon Commander and wondering if the money could be used better to develop other features. I'm pretty sure I know how our readers will feel - and also what the final result will be - but it's worth a read:
I’m sitting with an egg. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, but it’s a popular Flemish expression for ‘something’s bothering me’. We say – “ik zet met een ei”
The egg of it is that we’ve been making some fuzz about all the choices and consequences in Dragon Commander. Right now however, all these choices & consequences only exist as text. And now we need to find a cost-effective way of translating all that text into animated dialogue.
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.
More information.

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December 20th, 2011, 02:33
I wouldn't mind if they just kept it text, but realistically that can't happen. Too many people would pass by this game just because they actually had to read something on the screen.

At the time when Lands of Lore was the first game I played that had all spoken dialogue I thought that was pretty cool. Now, however, I wish it never happened. That the companies left the dang games with text only. That would have forced the developers to concentrate on other areas of the game to make it more interesting.

Oh well, no point in crying over spilled milk because I do like a game with voice acting, but not to the point where cooler features get axed because devs have run out of money/time to develop them.

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December 20th, 2011, 03:23
Voice only - without any text - can become a hindrance in playing games for deaf people.

I doubt that the reps in bigger companies would think of this - and if they'd do, they wouldn't care, because a lost sales by the few deaf people wouldn't count to them, I fear.

And the main gamer wouldn't care as well. I've seen comments in forums so that I'd thing they'd rather create nerdrage because someone was actually caring for the needs of a minority - of handicapped people …

Cynically speaking …

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December 20th, 2011, 04:10
Well, even your biggest budget AAA titles usually have subtitles, so I don't think it's that big a concern.

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December 20th, 2011, 05:53
The only time where I felt VO was truly worth the inherent cost to an rpg's other features was with KOTOR2's Kreia.
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December 20th, 2011, 08:58
I am wondering if that could be the reason why many jrpgs don't do that well in sales since most dialog is just text and people pass them by because of that.
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December 20th, 2011, 12:12
I prefer lot of nice and interesting characters/NPC in my RPGS and I think voice can extra dimension to a character. Voice makes it easy for me to relate to a character and makes them more "real". So prefer voice acting in my RPGs.

Having said, towards the second half of many games, I tend to read the dialog and skip the voice acting because at this point most of the NPC are now "familiar" to me and they do feel "real". Plus its faster to read than listen
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December 20th, 2011, 13:07
Originally Posted by lostforever View Post
I prefer lot of nice and interesting characters/NPC in my RPGS and I think voice can extra dimension to a character. Voice makes it easy for me to relate to a character and makes them more "real". So prefer voice acting in my RPGs.
Me too, even if I'm "guilty" of frequently skipping spoken dialogue. It depends a bit on the game though. I can easily imagine a low budget indie game with pixellated graphics and a fixed top-down or isometric point of view with no VO but I can not possibly imagine a Gothic/Risen (or Alpha Protocol) game with its close-up character views and shifting camera angles without VO.
In the end I would recommend to a game maker that whenever in doubt but concerned about the costs -> Go for VO and if cost is a concern then look at your script and cut all the inane drivel from the dialogue. The reason a lot of people -myself included- skip spoken dialogue is that it is often times plain uninteresting and too long-winded. Cut all the filler drivel and make every sentence count.
Actually that should generally be the motto when writing the dialogue IMHO, VO or not.
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December 20th, 2011, 14:10
Interesting, I was just considering this issue with the Kaptain Brawe point-and-click adventure game. For some reason, adventure games are able to get away with a lot more, because a huge percentage of those gamers care more about story and puzzles than anything else. And so there are modern, commercial games released that run in 320x200 resolution with no voice acting, and they do well. Personally, I am really on the fence about it, because voices do matter a lot for me. I want to sit back and watch a story one in a while as a reward for gameplay.

And yes, I remember when games first got actual cut-scenes and voices. It was a game changer (pun not intended).
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December 20th, 2011, 14:26
Originally Posted by Thaurin View Post
And so there are modern, commercial games released that run in 320x200 resolution with no voice acting, and they do well.
Any examples? (I do enjoy a good adventure game)

Daniel.
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December 20th, 2011, 16:32
I think they took a good middle path with Drakensabng 1 : Only the first lines were spoken.

However, there were quite a lot of people who rather considered this to be a bug, not a feature.

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December 20th, 2011, 16:50
Generally, graphics are not the wow factor for me. But I like voice overs. It fills the imagination gap for me and completes the world picture. Voice acting in games does not have to have AAA well known actors, just good voice over actors, which I'm sure can be done on a smaller than 6 figure budget.

OTH, game production is global and when you figure in all the languages that have to be used, then I guess the cost rises dramatically. If I was the developer I would probably go the local actors route (college or community playhouse) and place my trust in the game's vocal director.
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December 20th, 2011, 16:54
>>OTH, game production is global and when you figure in all the languages that have to be used, then I guess the cost rises dramatically. If I was the developer I would probably go the local actors route (college or community playhouse) and place my trust in the game's vocal director.<<

Heheh, we tried that with Beyond Divinity and I don't think we want to repeat that experience
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December 20th, 2011, 19:09
Originally Posted by darklord View Post
Any examples? (I do enjoy a good adventure game)

Daniel.
Actually, yes. I was thinking about Gemini Rue when I said this. It has a Metacritic score of 82/100! It's discounted on Steam now and goes for only 4 euro! (= how much Steam pounds? *shrugs*) I don't have it, so I'm not sure about the exact resolution or voice acting, but that's still pretty amazing, yes? It looks old-school, I sometimes think people prefer it this way as a throwback to old times.

Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is also available on Steam and has very nice cartoon graphics, but no voice acting, on the other hand. This one has been trying to steal money from my credit card for a while. I wonder how much the omission of voices will matter to me.

Jolly Rover is a piraty adventure game that will have you thinking about Monkey Island with its old-school approach, but does have pretty decent graphics and voice acting.

Also, check out the impressive list of amateur/indie Adventure Game Studio games that are offered for free download. There are some of exceptional quality, some running in 320x200, others in 640x480 or highest, with or without voice acting.

As for (slightly) bigger budget commercial games, I am playing The Book of Unwritten Tales, which is superb. Lost Horizon is discounted on Steam right now for 15 Standard Europe coins. I have a few more in my Steam list that I never played.

The Whispered World was dirt cheap when I bought it at 5,- (still only 10,- right now, discounted, of course) and is a pretty high quality 2D cartoony adventure game. I just heard that the ending is the biggest cliche in the world and I'm afraid that pretty much tells me how it ends. :/

Lastly, I was recently pointed towards The Silver Lining again, the King's Quest tribute episodic series. Episode 4 was just released, I think. It's free and of high quality.

Sorry, lengthy(ish) reply. I recently made a much welcome comeback to adventure games. Oh boy, I think I'm gonna spend a few euros on Steam in a minute…
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December 20th, 2011, 19:24
Sounds great, I read a quick review and it sounds good so I've just purchased it.

I'll look forward to giving it a go after Skyrim.

Daniel.
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December 20th, 2011, 20:03
One of the issues with voice acting is that when it is absent, it may easily lead into inconsistent audiovisual experience when the game sports current-gen detailed visuals and players view these from the first person or over-the-shoulder perspectives.
No voice acting in games like Ultima Underworld still feels "natural", because the game´s visuals already condition players to get used to abstraction/ utilize imagination, thus text-only dialogues don´t constitute a significant jump in this regard.
The games which utilize bird´s eye view usually still contain a good amount of this "abstraction conditioning", even with current-gen visuals.
Can´t say the disparity, basically an inconsistent presentation, is problem for me personally (by far my favourite quest mod for any game is an Oblivion mod which contains more dialogues than the whole parent game altogether and all of it is silent), but when the audio "immersion" is on a significantly different level than the visual one, it may be distracting.

I think that narrowing this audio-visual gap via partial voice acting may be
the most effective solution, if implemented sensibly.
For example, in my opinion this compromise didn´t work well in Drakensang because characters still used their speaking animations when delivering the silent lines, but it worked well in Mask of the Betrayer where interface and character presentation were different for voiced and non-voiced conversations.

Dunno what type of this compromise would be the most fitting for Dragon Commander, but I´d say having some key conversations animated and fully voiced and leaving all other on a hybrid system (either only first sentence in a given dialogue voiced, or just few default voiced greetings before a dialogue starts + using some kind of default not-really-speaking/gesticulating character animations or stopping them altogether during the non-voiced parts) might work in a "have your cake and eat it too" way - audio characterizations get in without really limiting the amount of dialogues.
And as for example Baldur´s Gate 2 or Planescape: Torment showed, partial voice-overs can add a good deal of character to characters.
Last edited by DeepO; December 20th, 2011 at 21:44.
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December 20th, 2011, 20:04
Originally Posted by darklord View Post
Sounds great, I read a quick review and it sounds good so I've just purchased it.

I'll look forward to giving it a go after Skyrim.
You know what? I'll purchase it (i.e. Gemini Rue) too. At least once Steam is working again… heavy load, oh really!?
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December 20th, 2011, 20:33
Originally Posted by Thaurin View Post
Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is also available on Steam and has very nice cartoon graphics, but no voice acting, on the other hand. This one has been trying to steal money from my credit card for a while. I wonder how much the omission of voices will matter to me.
The German-language version of the game actually has voice-acting.

A game where I really, really, really wished it had voices, was Fairy. You know, that Fairy RPG.

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December 20th, 2011, 20:58
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
The German-language version of the game actually has voice-acting.
Yes, I actually just found that out from YouTube. Too bad, I think I'd understand most of the Germna, but still much of the fun would be lost somehow (too much effort? Not enough familiarity with the language to "get" much of the, er, "in-meaning"?)

And… Steam is still horribly failing. I had to put Steam in offline mode or I couldn't even play a game!!
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December 20th, 2011, 21:32
Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post
The reason a lot of people -myself included- skip spoken dialogue is that it is often times plain uninteresting and too long-winded. Cut all the filler drivel and make every sentence count.
Actually that should generally be the motto when writing the dialogue IMHO, VO or not.
Totally agree with this. And it is often voice-acted too slowly and the interaction is too slow. It's like a dialogue where everyone has slowed down their brains 50%.
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