The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

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The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Jeme'Maer on Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:36 pm

James Ohlen is the Creative Director and Lead Designer of The Old Republic,
I, (Shauna) am the Director of Audio and Localization for BioWare

Character
Line
Comment
Phone rings
Shauna:
HelloIn a good mood
James:
Are you in a good mood?
Shauna:
Yes…?Suspicious
James:
You know how the game was going to be multiple times bigger than any game we’d ever done?
Shauna:
Yes… every NPC gets recorded.More suspicious
James:
We did a prototype.
Shauna:
OK…Very hesitant
James:
We want to voice all of the characters including all player characters.
James:
Hello?
Shauna:
Pardon me?Weak in the knees
James:
We decided that we--
Shauna:
I heard you, but this is already the biggest game we have ever done. What does that do to the line count?Cutting James off
James:
We're estimating hundreds of thousands of lines, give or take a few thousand.
Shauna:
Wow... You’re insane, completely insane, you know that don't you?After an uncomfortable silence
From that moment forth my nickname for James became “Crazy Man”.


And so began the crazy odyssey of voice-over (VO) production for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. It would be a joint effort between BioWare and LucasArts. BioWare would write all the scripts, create the schedule and be responsible for the tracking and integration of all VO assets. The LucasArts Audio Department, led by Darragh O’Farrell, would handle recording the voice talent and sending the VO assets to BioWare.www.swtor.com/sites/all/files/na/na_20090710_devblog10_131x99.jpg" alt="" />

I was excited for the chance to work with the LucasArts Audio team. They had done the VO for a previous BioWare game, Star Wars™: Knights of the Old Republic™, before I joined the company and it had been very well received. In fact, when I joined the world of VO production for games, my goal was to match the KOTOR quality bar.

But – The Old Republic would have at least ten times the lines of dialogue of KOTOR. Since neither BioWare nor LucasArts had experience on a project of this magnitude, this was an exciting and intimidating challenge. BioWare would be responsible for providing the reams and reams of scripts, as well as, managing the writing/VO production schedule. The LucasArts team would be responsible for finding the actors, recording and post processing the dialogue.

So how do we do it?

As I said, The Old Republic is the size of at least 10 KOTORs recorded back to back. Basically, it takes a very large team all focused on the same outcome - producing the most VO assets ever produced at the highest quality possible. There are dedicated internal teams at both LucasArts and BioWare, and externally, there are also multiple studio audio engineers and post production teams. On any given day, there can be over a dozen people working specifically on The Old Republic voice-over and that doesn’t include any actors!

The Process

It all starts with the writing. The story is written by a team of writers and signed off by the Principal Lead Writer. Then it is handed off to the dialogue editor where it receives a pass for ‘voice’. This ensures consistency and also that the writing is the tightest it can be to be delivered by voice actors.

Once the editing passes are complete, the conversations are formatted into scripts for the actors. Like all BioWare games, dialogue in The Old Republic is nonlinear. As a player, you can select from a number of different conversation lines which, in turn, lead to multiple options for NPC responses. This creates highly complex scripts (unlike a movie or television scripts which are linear). In studio, all the various permutations of the story must be recorded - and often in a variety of orders. Because the scripts are nonlinear, we have to provide enough context for the actors to understand what is going on. We need to set the scene for them.

There are two ways we work to ensure the actors have what they need to deliver a quality performance. First, prior to any large section of the game being recorded, the Principal Lead Writer meets with the VO directors for a story summit. They spend hours discussing the story content and going into detail about many of the characters. This is very powerful for the directors and I can assure you it doesn’t occur on all video games. This gives the directors crucial information to be able to successfully direct the performance.

The actors’ voice-over scripts are another tool we use to communicate our intention. Each new conversation script starts with a synopsis outlining the setting and purpose of the conversation. As well, “voice-over comments” are provided for all lines of dialogue, so that the intention of the writer is completely clear to the actor and the director.

After each batch of dialogue is recorded, it is edited and post processed as per the character requirements. This work is then verified and put into the game.

So, how do we ensure quality and consistency across hundreds of thousands of lines of dialogue? You have to work with the best and be willing to throw away the stuff that doesn’t work. Often it takes hearing a character in-game, or hearing a combination of characters together, to be sure that you have achieved the quality that you need. The LucasArts and BioWare teams each review the voice-over in the game and then make final decisions as to what will stay and what will be re-recorded. In the end, while the script calls for hundreds of thousands of lines of dialogue, we will actually have recorded much more than that! And by the time this project wraps, we will have completed easily over a thousand four-hour voice-over sessions!

Here are some other tidbits about the VO on The Old Republic:

  • The voice-over is being recorded in 5 different cities (so far); Los Angeles , London, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto
  • By the time the project is finished, we will have worked with hundreds of actors - many on multiple occasions.
  • The entire game ‘script’ contains approximately 40+ novels worth of content.
  • One of the biggest challenges of the production: consistency in pronunciation across the whole project! You would be amazed at how many ways there are to say “Thul” or “Holo” Projector. An audio pronunciation guide sure has helped :).

Shauna Perry
Director of Audio and Localization
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Jeme'Maer


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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Arashi Storm on Sat Jul 11, 2009 1:44 am

Interesting. I wonder how many months it adds to the release hehe.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Quinlan Sa'athis on Sat Jul 11, 2009 3:25 am

Is this the only update we get this week?
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Korrin Valus on Sat Jul 11, 2009 3:43 am

Yes it is.

The last few updates seem very lightweight.

What concerns me about this update is that if every NPC and player character is fully scripted and voiced over it does not seem to allow for free roamimg and genuine player interaction. It sounds much more like a multi-player version of the KOTOR games.

Anyone else think so?

*Korrin puts his flameproof underpants on again*
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Quinlan Sa'athis on Sat Jul 11, 2009 3:53 am

It just sounds like any other MMO in that regard without the reading.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Carlen Darko on Sat Jul 11, 2009 4:24 am

A mediocre update to be sure, but still nice to hear about.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Tyren Vaal on Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:26 am

I think I'm breaking with all of these soft updates.
They seem to be very busy right now.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Guest on Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:08 am

I think they think this is bigger than it really is. I know when I first heard it I was like "ok.." Seems to me they could be putting resources elsewhere... like advertising, so the game doesn't fall flat on its face two months after release.

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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Jeme'Maer on Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:32 am

yeah, I have yet to see them advertise that much for their game, like everything else, they must be waiting till the launch date gets closer.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Gatho on Sat Jul 11, 2009 4:42 pm

Garr Talon wrote:I think they think this is bigger than it really is. I know when I first heard it I was like "ok.." Seems to me they could be putting resources elsewhere... like advertising, so the game doesn't fall flat on its face two months after release.

I have to disagree. If they were to make let's say no voice-overs at all, this game would be fun and storywise good and so on. But not a chance that it would reach as high as to KotOR:s potential. Imagine all the characters in KotOR without voices, and that would be TOR without voice-overs. It would just be plain, boring characters, like any other MMO. Voice helps people understand the characters, in a much easier way than reading.

Personally I think the story combined with the voice-overs will be so awesomeasticly boombastic that I will just walk around in the game and laugh of happiness the first few minutes after log-on.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Guest on Sun Jul 12, 2009 2:40 am

Gatho wrote:
Garr Talon wrote:I think they think this is bigger than it really is. I know when I first heard it I was like "ok.." Seems to me they could be putting resources elsewhere... like advertising, so the game doesn't fall flat on its face two months after release.

I have to disagree. If they were to make let's say no voice-overs at all, this game would be fun and storywise good and so on. But not a chance that it would reach as high as to KotOR:s potential. Imagine all the characters in KotOR without voices, and that would be TOR without voice-overs. It would just be plain, boring characters, like any other MMO. Voice helps people understand the characters, in a much easier way than reading.

Personally I think the story combined with the voice-overs will be so awesomeasticly boombastic that I will just walk around in the game and laugh of happiness the first few minutes after log-on.

In my opinion, I don't consider VO part of the equation of what makes a great mmo. I think WoW is a great example. There are some basic greeting voices that allow you to get a sense of the tone and that's about it. I think it actually is going to limit the story and the number of responses possible since every line has to be voice acted. I think they know that we would think that as well so they are promising thousands of lines and acting as if this is going to take half the budget or something, etc, but I am still seeing the quest/story suffering or the number of responses suffering since I believe making a game where all the lines don't have to be voice acted would be easier and might allow you more time to do more. I also think it extends the development time of both the game and future expansions and as far as I'm concerned is just a "neat" feature. I've never had a problem with being totally immersed into a story I was reading and supplying my own version of character tones in my head. (see: Books) Again, just my opinion.

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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Jacan Na'al on Sun Jul 12, 2009 4:18 am

The voice overs will be epic in-game but in text it isn't as exciting as class/planet/species reveals because we can't DO anything with voice-overs right now, but we CAN work with reveals to plan characters and RP.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Arashi Storm on Sun Jul 12, 2009 8:10 am

Jacan Na'al wrote:The voice overs will be epic in-game but in text it isn't as exciting as class/planet/species reveals because we can't DO anything with voice-overs right now, but we CAN work with reveals to plan characters and RP.

Amen brother! Go go gadget hi five! lol. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. I wanted to voice my opinion but couldn't find a way to do it and not be complaining. But you said it perfectly.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Ruka on Sun Jul 12, 2009 12:17 pm

Ah well progression is still moving foward even though its at snail speed I guess.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Jacan Na'al on Sun Jul 12, 2009 12:34 pm

OP fixed.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Tyren Vaal on Sun Jul 12, 2009 1:46 pm

Ruka wrote:Ah well progression is still moving foward even though its at snail speed I guess.

Hopefully EA can pump enough money into all of this.....somehow I'm guessing that they have done most of the scripts and plots now hopefully.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Jeme'Maer on Sun Jul 12, 2009 7:23 pm

Jacan Na'al wrote:OP fixed.

Thanks Jacan, I was just about to submit my edited version, you beat me to the punch there.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Skeevenmac on Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:48 am

What if.... now hear me out on this... it is a hoax. There is no huge update because there never was a game? What if there is a massive cover up and they are actually working on a Battlestar Galactica MMO. OR *gasp* a Carebears MMO?
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Quinlan Sa'athis on Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:51 am

Calm down cadet or I will have to slap your face with the side of a building.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Skeevenmac on Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:03 am

A response from the Grand Inquisitor trying to silence me! He's in on it!
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Tyren Vaal on Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:07 am

Skeevenmac wrote:What if.... now hear me out on this... it is a hoax. There is no huge update because there never was a game? What if there is a massive cover up and they are actually working on a Battlestar Galactica MMO. OR *gasp* a Carebears MMO?

No...no, not possible, quiet you, you need a memory wipe.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Jeme'Maer on Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:37 am

Skeevenmac wrote:A response from the Grand Inquisitor trying to silence me! He's in on it!

(puts on sunglasses) Now if you will just look at this red light for me. (flash)
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Skeevenmac on Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:20 am

What? How did I get here? How did I hijack this thread? (sorry about that)
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Cullis on Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:12 pm

Quinlan Sa'athis wrote:It just sounds like any other MMO in that regard without the reading.

Agreed. Its a simple choice...would you prefer quest givers and other npc's to talk to you and give a feeling of immersion or not?

Age of Conan had voice-overs for npc quest givers and others in the first 20 levels (the semi-solo component) and only some npcs after that if i recall correctly. Of the 70 levels the first 20 offered the greatest immersion and voice-overs was a big part of that.

All good.
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

Post  Tyren Vaal on Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:43 am

Is someone going to put up the next update? I've seen it, but I seriously want to vent out my serious excitement for the game now....
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Re: The Crazy Odyssey of Voice-Over

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