Saturday, July 28, 2012

New Shattered War Trailer

In order to showcase some of the work that I've been doing recently on The Shattered War, I thought it was time to release something that people could look at to see and hear everything as it goes on during the game. To that end, I have a brand new trailer showcasing some of the voice work and level design that has been taking place over the past few months.

In addition, for those who want a bit of a closer look at some of the action, I've got a screenshot for your viewing pleasure.

Fighting to save a town

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shattered War: The Many Faces of Dialogue

When people think of dialogue in a roleplaying game, frequently mentioned items tend to be the content, the player responses, the player's choice and the quality of the voice acting (if it exists). Lower on the list of things mentioned tend to be the expression or movements of the virtual actors, except for when they are notably bad. A twisted head or a cross eyed expression will draw some raised eyebrows, but a wooden performance will not.

Working within the bounds of the Dragon Age toolset, it's impossible to break free of the "BioWare face" for the NPCs within the game. NPCs can gesticulate fairly wildly, and sometimes in a fashion that makes absolutely no sense in the context of their conversation. So such, it comes down to me to manually tweak the animations for each line of dialogue within the game after I've received the final recording from the relevant voice actor. I've been doing this a lot lately, so I thought I'd talk about some of the associated issues in today's post.

Stay a while and listen. Wait, that's not my line...

Now while this might seem like a fairly trivial and insignificant thing to some readers/players, having believable gestures actually goes a long way to assisting the believability of the delivery of the lines. If someone is upset or angry, they're more likely to wave their hands about, and they're more likely to move them faster. Someone who is calm and confident is much more likely to have smaller and/or slower movements while they're talking. Manually adjusting these actions can support the delivery of the line, or help uncover the truth that the character is trying to hide.

However, if you study people in real life, you may notice that some people barely gesture at all. Now while it should follow that some characters should also not gesture, this should be kept to a minimum. Even small and subtle movements suggesting some type of body language can make a big difference in helping convey the line delivered by the character.

The other key part of adapting the character to the delivery of the line is their expression. This can make a huge difference in how the line comes across while viewing it. The exact same line can give  a different impression upon the player when combined with the facial expression. Take the following screenshot for comparison:

Neutral, happy, and coy

These three different facial expressions, especially when carried through the delivery of the line, convey quite a different feel to the player as they are watching. The expression can help convey a subtext for the character's emotions that would not be present otherwise. A nervous or worried expression while talking about another person can help imply that they care for that person, adding an extra depth to the character that never has to be explicitly stated, but can be determined by the player through the combination of voice acting and facial expressions.

So every single line you'll see in The Shattered War has been watched and listened to by me, and for a significant percentage, I will have manually adjusted the emotional expression and hand and arm gestures, and/or body and head movements for those lines. I'll also have picked which camera angle I want to use, and any transitions that occur. Dialogue is a very important part of The Shattered War, so I want to make sure that every single line is as good as I can make.