Poll Question 135 – Would you prefer bad voice acting or no voice acting?

8th August 2009

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

On a recent broadcast of Podcast17.com Emanuel said he prefered no voice acting to bad voice acting. That got me thinking What do I prefer? To be honest I’m not sure. Of course the continual problem with these types of poll questions is that it really depends.

In this case it depends on whether other story telling techniques have been used.

However, if all things are the same then I prefer bad voice acting, because at least that shows the author made an attempt at telling a story.

To be honest, there’s no real excuse for bad voice acting nowadays becasue there are quite a few actors available and even some forums where people can request demo reels or auditions.

So, what would you prefer?

The Poll


  1. Rosco[CoF]

    I had to say no voice acting, due to an experience with a single player mod for Unreal/Unreal Tournament called Xidia Gold. The mapping and gameplay for Xidia was great for the Unreal game, almost retail quality in its time. But, the voice acting was so horrible that it almost took you right out of the game, practically destroying the moment in some cases. In a case such as that, I would have solidly preferred the old F1 hints instead of listening to such poorly written and verbally spoken scripts.

  2. Voted no.
    Calamity is a prime example of really awful voice acting detracting from an otherwise great mod (although the end was a bit silly). Voice acting has it’s place, eg SM where it is well done but there are plenty of good mods and maps let down by the voice acting.

  3. Riven

    I voted no as well.
    I don’t see voice acting as necessary; to me it’s like reading subtitles to a foreign film. You can still get the same feelings you do out of hearing it instead.

    Voice acting is a luxury feature for mods and maps. It should only be done if it helps the story and mod in general. Bad voice acting can counter any attempts at crafting a good story and will not only detract the believability (the opposite of what it should be doing) but will also add negative points to what otherwise could have been a good story.

    With text alone, you can be sure that the story will stand up on its own merit alone. Text is like the neutral medium that can expose any flaws a good story may have. So text, in other words, allows the mapper/modder to consider any weaknesses in an otherwise solid plot. It’s also easier to work with.

    I don’t mind written plot lines over spoken dialogue.

  4. Kasperg

    I guess it’d depend on where the limit of “bad” voice acting is put. If it’s barely audible or really badly voiced, it might be not only distracting but actually harmful if the voice acting actually holds information relative to the game objectives. That’d put it on the same level as bad lighting for navigation purposes, bad weapon placement etc.
    However, voice acting is always a plus. I’m thinking of Raphaël Gilot’s “Rebellion” mod, in which he voiced several characters himself and without a native accent. I still enjoyed it and felt that it took the story and experience to a higher level that other better looking mods just can’t reach.
    I would always prefer bad voice acting to text messages replacing voice, for the same reason I prefer weapons to emit sounds instead of a BANG! or BOOM! game text.

  5. Kyouryuu

    If you aren’t going to take the time to do it right, don’t do it at all. Simple as that.

  6. Voice Acting is ever acceptable, as long as you can see that the actors tried to make it good.
    But every voice acting should also contain subtitles, if the acting is really that bad, turn off the voices and read.

  7. Bluncheonmeat

    Usually, I can deal with some bad voice acting, but when it gets bad enough, I’d rather it be just text or anything of that sort. And then, there’s the script too. If the script sucks and the voice is great, that doesn’t help much either.

  8. Knowitall66

    What I really want is subtitles, so few mods have them (The text in the middle of the screen is distracting/annoying). Generally I can’t hear/distingush what is said anyway, so personally I’d preffer to have bad audio with subtitles rather then no audio (It seems like the modder didn’t really try otherwise).

    1. Kasperg

      Now that Chris Fox and I are implementing subtitles for The Citizen Part 2, in defense of other mappers I have to admit that the procedure is very time consuming and requires much more work than just writing the lines in a file. I can understand why someone would see the process not worth the time for just a few lines of dialogue.

      1. I’m no source mapper, but I guess that it works that way:
        You trigger the text when the player walks through a area, then you define how long the text will appear, after the text is dissappeared it triggers the next textline.
        Well, I mapped for Starcraft quite some years ago and there you had todo it in that way. For my most advanced map I had over hundreds of strings, and all of them had to be triggered in that way.
        Can’t really believe that it’s more work in source.
        Also I can’t believe that voice acting is easier than making subtitles.

        1. Kasperg

          Subtitles have nothing to do with game_texts.

          Remember they have be optional (you can’t turn game_texts on and off at will) and they have to accomodate for multiple languages. As such, all the work related to subtitles is done outside the Hammer map editor.

          -For every new line of subtitles, you have to add an entry in the game_sounds_manifest.txt, create a new script file for the sound (with parameters like channel, volumen, pitch, soundlevel and file path) and make sure there aren’t inconsistencies between those files.
          -Then you need to edit the closecaption file for the language (or languages) you want to have the subtitles for, making an entry for each sound that corresponds to the script file.
          -After you’ve done that, you have to make sure the scene files in Faceposer have registered it (if the scene already existed you have to redo a lot of the scene’s setup) and then playtest it ingame.

          As you said, voice acting isn’t easier than subtitles, but its difficulty is enough to keep a lot of people from doing the process I described above.

  9. Joe

    Well, I actually prefer some really bad voice acting over some really poorly spelled game_texts. I think it’s a good idea to promote more custom content than less custon content.

    The bad thing about bad voice acting is that the mod shows signs of being unprofessional and what we as critics so readily deem as “crappy”. The good thing about bad voice acting is that the negative feedback the modder gets regarding his poor voice acting will probably compel him to make better voice acting next time.

    I think it’s important to foster a sense of “nice try, here’s how to do better next time,” rather than a sense of “if you suck, then don’t bother.”

  10. Ben E

    Great voice acting can greatly improve my game experience just as easily as a bad acting can ruin it. The point is to make a character more believable when we know they are fake, and bad voice acting ruins my suspension of disbelief in more ways than one. I prefer none because I can project my own meaning onto text and still care!

    I like what Joe said, I’m all for producing and improving. But definitely as a player I’d rather have none.

  11. Pingback: C:15761 » Podcast 17

  12. feckineejit

    I would definitely say no voice acting, especially when the voice is high pitched, nasal sounding or can not act to save their life.

    a big part of playing a FPS is the immersion & escapism of it all. Having a non-VA voice or having what is clearly a teenager faking the Gman voice ruins the experience and takes you right out of the game.

    My favorite mod of all time ‘minerva” used text messages to get messages to the player and it worked very well. On the other hand there are so many amateur voice actors out there that it would be only too easy to get someone to work on your game for free because they can put on their resumee that they did voice acting for a video game.

    Just because you think your voice is good, doesn’t make it work – listen to a playback of your voice and if you don’t want to get a real VA and you NEED voice acting, modify your voice! There are tons of programs that will change your voice.

  13. Chris Fox

    I like some B-movies. So I don’t mind bad acting, as long as there is some kind of interesting story behind everything.

    Sound quality is important – and pretty hard to achieve consistently, especially if you have many actors using different equipment. Owning a recording studio would prove extremely useful here.

    But, reasonable results can be achieved with a half-decent microphone and a copy of Audacity. It’s not perfect and picky people can pick lots of holes in the results. But it can certainly be acceptable for an amateur mod, in my opinion.

    If voice acting is completely inaudible, like if it’s too quiet or distorted or whatever is wrong with it, then I’d prefer it not to be there.

    But as it goes, I’d prefer to listen to a character speak, I just need to be able to understand them.

    I think it’s perfectly possible for bad voice acting to add to a mod. The mod itself just needs to be interesting behind it.

    So I’d vote that I’d prefer bad voice acting — except in cases where it’s so bad you can’t tell what is being said.


    Subtitles are really really really annoying to implement in Source. Just try it with a long script. It’s fairly baffling ….. and very time consuming. I can completely understand why modders don’t do it.

    We’re doing it for Citizen 2. It’s a pain in the rear end.

  14. I’d honestly rather use subtitles than have bad voice acting, but it really depends on how bad we’re talking and for how much of the mod it is present in.

    If it’s only a couple lines at the beginning or end, I’ll put up with it. If there is voice acting through the entire mod, but it’s a random rebel that has soso voice quality, I’ll put up with it, but if I had some guy with a russian(or whatever) accent trying to pretend to voice Kliener or Gman for the entire mod and failing miserably then yeah, I’d rather have subtitles.

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