Exclusive: BlizzCon 2010 Voice Actor Guests

10.19.2010

Blizzard Entertainment has surprisingly not announced any of their voice actor guests scheduled to appear at BlizzCon 2010 on October 22-23 in Anaheim, CA.

Thankfully, an inside source has provided Voice Actors in the News with an exclusive, complete list of Blizzard’s voiceover talents appearing at this annual gaming event:

– From Diablo 3:
Michael Gough, voice of Deckard Cain

– From Starcraft 2:
Robert Clotworthy, voice of Jim Raynor
James Harper, Acrturus Mengsk
Neil Kaplan, Tychus Findlay
Josh Keaton, Valerian Mengsk
Dave Fennoy, Gabriel Tosh
Ali Hillis, Ariel Hanson
Julianne Buescher, Adjutant

– From World of WarCraft:
Michael McConnohie, voice of the Lich King
Patrick Seitz, Arthas
Dino Andrade, Mekkatorque
Carlos Larkin, Brann Bronzebeard
Ed Trotta, Malfurion Stormrage

We’ve also been informed that an autograph session will take place Saturday from 1-2pm.

The official BlizzCon 2010 schedule does include a “Blizzard Sound” panel on Saturday at 4:30pm, but no panelists are mentioned by name. Here’s the panel description:

It’s all ears on Blizzard Entertainment sound and music! Join us for a discussion on how topnotch voice acting, dramatic orchestral scores, and striking sound effects are used to make Blizzard’s games even more epic.

Jay Mohr (who has voiced characters for video games and animated productions) is serving as Master of Ceremonies, and rockers Tenacious D (Jack Black and Kyle Gass) will also be performing for BlizzCon’s closing ceremonies.

We hope to provide photos, video and fan reports following the event.

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News

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Video Games That Make *You* The Voice Actor (Part 4)

08.20.2010

Continuing our series on advances in technology which will enable gamers to provide their own voices for video games…

Following a live presentation for the upcoming PS3 exclusive video game LittleBigPlanet 2, NowGamer.com reports that gamers will be able to record their own voices for Sackbot or Sackboy’s digital performance.

“There is no swear-filter,” NowGamer says. “In fact, you can record you own voice or the voice of just about anybody and apply it to everything, from that happy dancing sunflower, through to inanimate level components.”

Addendum: 8.25.2010 — Didn’t want to create a new post for this one since it’s technically not a video game, but social networking site IMVU.com allows members to chat in real time as computer-animated characters in themed 3D environments from such properties as Disney, Warner Bros and Video Games, as well as an entire neighborhood for role-playing as Anime-themed characters.

This seems like it would be a fun exercise in creativity for voice acting hobbyists and animation fans.

IMVU introduced a Voice Chat feature in March 2010 allowing members to use their “real voice or a voice effect” for the site’s public chat rooms. They have since suspended this service for their public chat rooms due to member complaints, although it is still available for private chats between members and groups.

The site’s admin is currently accepting suggestions from members for voice effects they feel should be added in the future.


Exclusive: Kyle Hebert Talks ‘How VO Peeps Get Their Game On’

08.06.2010

Voice Actors in the News is pleased to officially announce our first “celebrity” guest contributor, voice-over actor Kyle Hebert.

Kyle has long been a supporter of this blog. And besides being a skilled character voice actor, he’s also very active in the fandom. For that reason he was selected as the first to be featured in our “Official Site Spotlight” series, and was the first choice to introduce this Voice Actors in the News premiere feature of guest contributors from the industry.

Kyle even went a step further and graciously accepted an offer to become a staff contributor for the blog. We are honored to have him as part of our staff, and look forward to his future contributions.

That said, we are pleased to present Kyle’s first article with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes view into the world of video game voice acting:

KYLE HEBERT: HOW VO PEEPS GET THEIR GAME ON

I’ve been a voice actor for anime and video games for a decade, but I never envisioned that games would comprise a majority of the projects I’ve worked on.   Playing Pac-Man on my Atari 2600 was a very distinct memory growing up in the ’70’s.   Who’d have thought that interactive entertainment would evolve so exponentially?  The digital age has spawned endless titles that engage the player with complex stories and fleshed-out characters.  This has opened up an exciting new world for voice actors to play in, though without a controller.

A common question I hear from fans is “What is a recording session like for a video game?”   In short, a blast.  But perhaps I should go into slightly more detail.

Many people assume that actors get to play early versions of a game at their session.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  (To be fair, how much work would get done if everyone were just sitting around playing?)  Developers are very secretive, and actors almost always have to sign non-disclosure agreements.  I’ve recorded on projects where characters are codenamed.  Being a gamer myself, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve bitten my lip, eager to announce my latest exploits from the highest mountain.  But being under a gag order has me waiting for months, sometimes years, before a game’s release date.

Present at the session is the director, the engineer, and a representative or two from the game company.  Unlike a cartoon session, actors are recorded individually.  At times, clients who can’t be there in person are patched in over the phone or even web chat services like Skype.  Scripts are either in multiple binders, divided into many subsections, or displayed on a monitor via an Excel spreadsheet.  The director or client describes the plot in a nutshell and a bit about the character(s) we will be voicing.  Nothing quite like waking up and driving to the studio to play soldiers, cops, animals, demons, gods, and/or inanimate objects, and getting paid for it.  (Now, if I could just do this sort of thing everyday.   But I digress.)

With anime, actors see the final product onscreen, but with games there is often little or no visual reference.  This is because the game is still being animated when recording takes place.  Once in a while, I’ll get to see rough versions of gameplay footage, or perhaps a sneak peek at a trailer.  Sometimes I see what my character looks like with an artist rendering.  Sometimes not.  Occasionally, I will have to dub some cutscenes (cinematic interludes between gameplay that forward the game’s story), but those are typically in rough form.  I recall recording on Street Fighter 4 as Ryu, and at most, we only had animatics, which display comic strip style sequences in sequential order of action.  We simply had to hope that our audio would match the lip sync.

Many video games come from Japan and when an English version is produced, actors must rely on a frame of reference other than lip sync.  I will hear a preview of the Japanese dialog in my headphones and then follow that with my performance of the same line in English.  The goal is to match the timing or optimally make it slightly shorter.   Sometimes the script is over or underwritten, and slight adjustments have to be made.  The client approves all the takes, as well as any necessary script changes.   I tend to record each line in sets of two or three, varying each take slightly.  If my character has any fight sounds or reactions, those are recorded after the dialog, as they can be vocally stressful.  For scream-heavy gigs, I always keep a cup of hot tea with honey at the ready, and I go through a LOT of bottled water too.

Sessions can last from minutes to hours, to multiple sessions over the course of a few days.  I recorded for maybe fifteen minutes tops on one huge game title, just doing a few bit parts, and getting paid full rate.  I got the gig after receiving a text message saying, “Do you want to be in Final Fantasy 13?”

I’m rarely cast as a main character and mostly play many background characters due to having a fairly wide range of voices in my arsenal.  This puts the game producers at an advantage because they don’t have to hire as many actors (and thus, save money).  Given my resume is padded with many fighting titles, unfortunately I don’t always leave a session with my voice intact.  I remember not being able to speak after two hours of solid screaming on Wolfenstein and Watchmen.  My voice was still shot the next day when I went in to record a few lines on Naruto.  The engineer noted that I sounded like I had gargled razor blades and we had to reschedule.  Being the main character, Rai’ Uk, on James Cameron’s Avatar for the Wii, I spent four hours speaking the Na’vi language after listening to countless pronunciation references.  This was done half a year before the movie came out.  My character was interacting with Sigourney Weaver, who was recorded via phone patch a few weeks before my sessions.  I was bummed to learn that all of that was cut from the final game, but regardless, I got paid nicely.  And that’s a beautiful thing.

The gamer geek inside of me enjoys another perk (even more than the check clearing) — playing or hearing my characters as the game unfolds, which is icing on a cake cloaked in secrecy.  And now, this blossoming genre of voice over has birthed the creation of a new type of demo that many an actor are adding to their repertoire:  interactive.  But compiling segments for such a demo can prove difficult, given most studios don’t have the time to burn copies of an actor’s sound files.   Thank goodness for Youtube, as many fans upload cutscenes and gameplay featuring hundreds of vocal performances.   Which reminds me, I should get cracking on that.

Kyle Hebert — KyleHebert.com
Contributor: Voice Actors in the News


Gus Johnson Voicing Madden NFL 11

07.27.2010

Video of IGN’s Nate Ahearn in the booth recording with sports announcer Gus Johnson, who is the new voice for Madden NFL 11 (releases August 10, 2010):


Game Informer Interviews Nolan North

04.20.2010

The May 2010 print edition of Game Informer Magazine has a three-page feature on Nolan North, which includes an interview where he discusses “his rise to prominence in video games.”

North also responds to criticisms that he’s “overused,” particularly in regards to his “Nathan Drake” character from Uncharted. For starters, North says he can’t help how he’s directed.

“There have been a few roles where I….said, ‘this shouldn’t sound like this. Can we do something a little different? Give him an accent or something?’ But they said, ‘No, don’t worry about the voice.'”

North says this concerned him “for a while” and he was hearing reports that there would be backlash from fans because he recorded a series of games where he was basically performing the same voice, and they were all released around the same time.

“I don’t think that will happen again,” says North.

North says Nathan Drake is also his favorite role, but it’s a “whole performance capture” and very close to what North is actually like in real life. “He even walks and runs like me,” North adds. And he was directed to not play the character, but to play himself “in his personality, as though his name were Nathan Drake.”

North has now recorded voices for so many video games that even he doesn’t know how many there have been to date. “Probably over a hundred games. But that’s the great thing about voiceover, I get to play hundreds of characters. Hundreds! Sometimes it’s zombies, sometimes it’s an animal, and sometimes it’s the good guy. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to play the same character my whole career. I’m basically a professional schizophrenic.”

And as a bonus, here’s video from North’s February 1999 guest appearance on GSN’s Match Game:

Related post: 2.01.2010 — Nolan North Has Harsh Critics


‘Fable III’ Declared “Greatest” Voice Cast?

04.12.2010

In an April 7th interview with IGN, video game designer/developer Peter Molyneux has proclaimed that Fable III will have “the greatest cast that any computer game has ever had.”

Molyneux, who has a history of exaggeration prior to the release of past video game releases (Fable, Fable II, The Movies), explains that his claim is not just related to the cast, but “how their performances have been integrated into the game”:

“How we’re using these characters is very much dependent on how you play the game. This is not like traditional dialogue – we went into a studio with John Cleese and I think he’d never done anything like this ever before, because we had to say ‘if the player is like this, how are you going to react’. It was a very interesting process.”

“Monty Python” alum Cleese provides the voice of the player’s butler, and Stephen Fry (LittleBigPlanet, Fable II, Harry Potter video game series) has been confirmed to reprise his role as Reaver. British TV/radio host Jonathan Ross revealed via Twitter in March 2009 that both he and British comedian Charlie Brooker are also involved in the game.

I’m going to go ahead and predict that Molyneux once again won’t be able to deliver what he’s promised. I’m not sure what video game has claim to that title*, but I seriously doubt it will be Fable III.

* The world record holder for “Biggest Voice Cast” belongs to Grand Theft Auto IV, but it’s a long, long way from being the “greatest.”

Source: TheTanooki.com

Update: 5.07.2010ComputerandVideoGames.com reports that Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley will voice “The King of Mist Peak” in Fable 3:

“It’s very energising and good for us actors to realise that [acting] is so diverse now,” says Kingsley. “[Games] are as big a jump now as I suppose when cinema was invented, when people went from the stage to the cinema thinking: It’s not really acting, is it? Now, it’s video games – and it is acting. It’s very demanding.”

Update: 9.28.2010 — Lionhead Studios has released a video featuring the voice cast: Michael Fassbender, Simon Pegg, Sir Ben Kingsley, John Cleese, Zoë Wanamaker, Bernard Hill, Nicholas Hoult, Stephen Fry, and Jonathan Ross.

Thanks to GWIII for the heads-up on the video via Twitter.


Star Trek Online Responds to VO Query

04.11.2010

Subspace-Radio.net has published a Q&A with Star Trek Online Executive Producer Craig Zinkievich, which includes a question on the possibility of Cryptic Studios recording more voiceovers for the game in the future:

Q: [There’s] been a lot of talk amongst the [fan] community about the [possibility] of Cryptic [Studios] fully voicing STO. Is it a [possibility] and likely or not, what are the difficulties involved in that sort of undertaking?

A: Adding voiceover to a game is a four-pronged issue.

1) It’s expensive. There are union rules in place for voice actors, and the talented ones who belong to that guild deservedly make good money. That’s something you have to factor in as part of development. 2) It takes a lot more time to add voice to something. Do we want to slow down the content we release to add voice? Does that best serve our customers? 3) Do our customers really want a lot of voiceovers in MMOGs considering content is designed to be repeatable? 4) Localizing can be slow and costly.

Personally, I like voice in every game I play, but I’ve also read a lot of complaints about MMOGs that featured a lot of voiceover in the past. Times are changing, though.

To answer the question: It’s something we’d like to do, but it’s not high on our list of priorities, at least right now. We’re more dedicated to getting a lot of content out to people at a fast rate.

As previously reported, Star Trek Online has a minimal voiceover cast: Leonard Nimoy (the game’s narrator), Zachary Quinto (voices a holographic doctor in the game’s tutorial), and a sound-alike for the late Majel Roddenberry provides the computer’s voice.

Fans have launched a campaign via StarTrekOnline.com to persuade Cryptic Studios to hire more Trek “alumni” to reprise their roles.