Voice Acting for the Masses

30th August 2005

Introduction

I’ve been writing Mod Stories for a while now and they nearly all rely on characters within the story to explain the reasons and motivation for certain actions. Can you imagine Half-Life and Half-Life 2 without voice acting? Of course it’s possible, and recommended, to have subtitles at the bottom but a large part of a character is their voice. I’m sure you’ll agree that part of the attraction of the G-man is his pauses and sibilance.

It’s also possible to make good mods with voice acting and simply reuse the built-in stuff but what if you want to develop characters etc?

A Question of Quality

Even in expensive retail games bad voice acting often spoils a game, this is of course very closely linked to the script but it often seems to be either neglected or just badly done. Now think about the mods available, they compete on almost equal terms with professional productions in terms of artwork, models, textures, gameplay, matinees and a whole host of other aspects that go into making a great game.

Where they are let down is often the voice acting, not just in quality, admittedly it’s partly the script as mentioned earlier, but also in not being able to use the same characters that developers have spent a lot of time and money creating. (Clearly this doesn’t apply to many multiplayer mods or total conversions).

The G-Man

To take a real example, the G-Man often appears in my stories. Obviously he has something to say, but if I was actually going to make the story into a mod I would suddenly be faced with a serious problem and have these choices:

  • Change my story so that he doesn’t speak
  • Get somebody to voice act that can sound similar to him
  • Try to reuse the set phrases and sentences that were used in the original game.
A Solution?

Unfortunately I don’t have a fully thought-out workable solution! Sorry. I do have a number of ideas that may be worth discussing.

Idea One

Valve offers mod teams a certain number of minutes of voice acting time, the voices are supplied by the original actors. These can be split into any number of characters (probably just the main ones would be required). This of course would cost a lot of money and couldn’t (shouldn’t!) be offered to every mod in development. There would need to be a strict screening process to ensure only the mods that will definitely be completed are allocated time. I would imagine that Valve would only accept applications that are in the final stages of beta testing. These minutes could also be offered as prizes in competitions.

Ultimately the quality of mods released reflects back on the game/engine developers. The better the mods, the more people play them and more people want to create mods with the engine. It’s a simple snowball effect. We’ve all heard of people buying games just so they can play the mod.

Idea Two

A team is formed made up of talented voice actors (perhaps even non-gamers!) and a few technicians. This team would hire themselves out to various mods. How payment is accomplished I’m not clear on. Perhaps mod makers need to consider actually paying for some services.

Mods work on the principle of team members giving their time free but in this case the voice actors may not be gamers and therefore part of the gaming community.

Maybe somebody should start a website (www.gamevoiceacting.com) to allow mod teams to communicate with potential voice actors.

One last point here, lots of team members are looking to become professional within the game industry and view a mod as a perfect opportunity to showcase their skills, why not the same for voice actors?

Idea Three

Facial animations are fast becoming incredibly realistic; who’s to say the same won’t be true voice synthesis? A game engine that included this feature would be on the top of my list because it allows me to tell my story in a more realistic manner. To me, this feature is more valuable than high definition graphics!

Conclusion

For me, voice acting enhances a game/mod’s ability to tell complelling stories and this is often neglected in mods even ones that claim they are “AN INTENSIVE STORY-DRIVEN SINGLE PLAYER MOD””. They often don’t tell a story just put a player in a set of circumstances.

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6 Comments

  1. Well, if anybody would like to “hire” me for voice acting, tell me where to sign up!

  2. Goddess, there are plenty of mods looking for voice actors.

    I ‘ve just looked for some forums but I can’t seem to find them. From what I remember there was a mod recruitment section.

    If you are really interested just find a mod that you like the look of and visit the forums, you may be surprised at the eagerness of the response.

    Good Luck

  3. Aww, you guys are so sweet. Actually, this has become more intriguing. Carlo Piscelli had asked about me doing some voices if/when he ever makes a sequel to DayHard or something else. Even though he has no plans for making anymore mods, I still thought the idea very interesting. I would love to do something like that just for fun.

  4. I’d recommend the Voice acting club – haven’t used them but apparently they will do high quality recordings for free! All they want is some credit!

    http://www.voiceactingclub.com

    Check out the voice demos!

  5. Berrie

    I bit of resurecting, but since I’m not the first.

    Perhaps the point was more aimed at characters already in-game, but there is always the more obvious choice of not using those characters.

    Investing in someone too write the script who is good at it (perhaps the same person who does your mods PR?) and clearly indicating the situation and emotions involved in a scene/line are more realistic pointers for mod team.

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