Video Games That Make *YOU* The Voice Actor (Part 3)

01.19.2010

Following up with the third entry in my series of reports on video game experiences that make the gamers’ actual voice an integral part of gameplay…

MacLife.com has a review of “The Movies Superstar Edition,” which includes an interesting in-game feature that allows players to record and edit their own voice-overs for the movies they create as part of the game:

If you don’t mind a game that uses chest size as an indicator of success and happiness (we certainly don’t), The Movies packs a ridiculous amount of depth and replayability that’ll reel in gamers, creative types, and machinima fans.

The Movies simulates the creation of a movie studio, from the dawn of the industry in 1920 to the present. The object is to build your studio’s reputation and win awards, and there’s about a squillion ways to do so. You’ll place buildings and sets around your studio lot, then add transportation, amenities, and decorations. You’ll hire actors, directors, crew, extras, writers, builders, and janitors. You’ll assign writers to produce scripts, then cast and shoot them. Then you’ll release them, earn money and experience, and head back to the writers’ room.

The main story mode has you competing against rival studios for awards and prestige, and there’s ton more going on in this game, like a sandbox mode with no awards where you can set your own starting parameters and focus on the areas you like. The optional Advanced Movie Making features let creative people really get hands-on, choosing a sequence of scenes, the actors, costumes, sets, props, camera angles, and lighting. Then they can edit their film in the post-production office and even record voice-over dialogue that in-game actors will lip-sync. Audio clips and samples from iTunes, GarageBand, and iMovie are available, a Mac-only feature. Export options include iPod/iPhone size, and direct export to YouTube. Oh, and the StarMaker application lets you play God’s plastic surgeon by completely designing a new actor from the ground up, including physical aspects and personality.

I also dug up an older news item from April 2009 that I never got around to posting here — via TGDaily.com:

Two upcoming online games, “Jumpgate Evolution” and “Mission Against Terror,” will integrate Dolby’s Axon 3D voice platform, the company announced today.

Axon promises a realistic voice experience that matches the online game environment as well as a clear signal that is free of unwanted noise, echo, and clipping. The first games to adopt the technology is the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Jumpgate Evolution as well as the first person shooter Mission Against Terror.

Dolby said that Axon’s client bandwidth allows an average of 10 people to be within the hearing range of a user. The server-side integration supports up to 7000 simultaneous users per server (Dual 3 GHz Xeon-based).

And if that’s too technogeeky for you to decipher, here’s a simpler explanation from the Dolby Axon official site:

By mapping players’ voices to the actual game environment, Dolby Axon adds a new level of realism and immediacy to your game experience. Now you can follow your teammates and enemies as they move in relation to you, and tell where they are within the game simply by listening to their voices or the sound of their footsteps. This provides a great strategic advantage over your fellow gamers and makes for a more immersive, thrilling experience overall. Once you’ve tried Dolby Axon, there’s no going back.

Dolby Axon Benefits:

– Enables true-to-life voice communication in 3D surround sound
– Maps voices to the game environment for added realism
– Allows players to alter voices to match their in-game personas
– Provides a clear voice experience, free of unwanted noise and clipping

I’m still not quite sure what all that tech talk means, but if it lets me be a voice actor in my own gaming experience, bring it on!


Digital Spy on Celebs and Video Games

04.19.2009

Digital Spy’s Liam Martin offers an overview of celebrity involvement in video games from the past to the future: When Worlds Collide: Celebrities in Games.

Previous report: 4.16.2009 — Bloggers Complain Video Game Voice Acting Sucks.


Resident Evil 5’s D.C. Douglas Interviewed

04.18.2009

This is a perfect tie-in with my recent article on video game voice acting [link: Bloggers Complain Video Game Voice Acting Sucks] as D.C. Douglas explains in an interview with Kombo.com how voice acting differs for video games compared with that of other media.

Douglas has provided the voice of villain Albert Wesker in a few games for the Resident Evil franchise and says that he doesn’t get a script in advance for video games and thus has to give a completely cold read with no preparation. Video game voice acting, Douglas says, “requires more technique and less preparation for any particular audition. Many times you don’t know what the hell is going on with a character in VG because you are only given your lines or maybe a preceding line, then yours. With on-camera, you have the whole scene, or script in some cases.”

And on recording dialog for the Resident Evil games, he adds, “Each time, they had me listen to a sample of a different actor to sound similar to! My main thrust, though, was to try and merge what other actors [Richard Waugh and Peter Jessop] had done with Wesker into my own style and sensibilities. It’s been an on-going struggle because there are several versions of him. But the Capcom and Just Cause folks have been awesome, as well as Liam O’Brien – who directed me in RE5.”

Douglas also found himself involved in an unexpected aspect of performance on RE5: doing motion capture in addition to voice acting: “It was FREAKIN’ WEIRD! See, [voice-over] people move their arms and body in odd ways to fully emote through their voices. In on-camera acting, we start from inside -— it’s in the eyes. In facial mo-cap, your face has to emote a little larger than real-life, but your arms and body have to be STILL! Oh, and they prefer you don’t turn your head! It was a challenge, indeed, but fun!”

Continue reading: D.C. Douglas: Interview with a Wesker.


Bloggers Complain Video Game Voice Acting Sucks

04.15.2009

This topic is apparently a serious enough complaint with gamers that it’s created something of a blogbath this week on the subject…and these are just a handful of articles that came up in a recent Google search:

The Brainy Gamer: Voicing Concern — definite recommended read on this one as it includes an interview with an unnamed actor who offers insight from his 10 years of experience working as a video game voice actor.
The Brainy Gamer: Voice for Change – also a recommended read as it offers an overview of a panel presentation from the recent Game Developers Conference by a company that specializes in video game voice recording.
The Escapist: Why Voice Acting Sucks In Video Games
Kotaku: How Dumbed Down Acting is Creating Dumbed Down Games
1Up.com: Voice Actors Discuss Challenges in Game Industry
Voice Overture: The State of Voice Acting In Video Games
CandaceHolly.com: Bad Acting, Bad Games – perspective from a video game voice actor.
GoNintendo.com: Quality voice acting is hard to come by

As both a gamer and a voice actor, I’m in generally in agreement with most of the points these bloggers address. However, I wish they weren’t overall so neglectful in mentioning more games that do feature great character voice acting. I’ve even played some games that were formulaic, mediocre, crappy, or frustrating for various reasons (Ex: RLH: Run Like Hell, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for the PC, and the Transformers: Armada game for the PS2), but became tolerable and entertaining (for me, at least) on account of the quality voice acting.

How about the upcoming Ghostbusters game, which has the celebrity voice cast heavily involved in the project? Or Vin Diesel‘s extensive involvement in The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena? And what about Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard featuring the voice talents of Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris? While the reviews for the game weren’t all positive, those I read all made favorable comments about the voice acting.

And of all these articles, very few offer any counter-perspective by mentioning recent titles with solid voice acting, such as MadWorld which received fair praise from critics and gamers for the improv-style performances by John Di Maggio, Greg Proops, and Steve Blum.

But I’ll grant that far too many video games unfortunately do have poor voice acting, and for the very reasons cited by Brainy Gamer blogger Michael Abbott. He makes some very valid points and offers some great suggestions for improving the quality of video game voice acting, so here’s hoping game developers/producers take note and perhaps it will motivate them to make the effort to produce better quality voice performances in the future.

And I’d be remiss myself if I concluded this article without mentioning AudioAtrocities.com — an entire website devoted to “the study and enjoyment of truly terrible voice acting in video games.”