Monday, November 9, 2015

Voices, glorious voices

After a substantial casting round, I managed to find voice actors for all but four roles for The Shattered War - and all of those roles are for Orlesians. Looks like I have my work cut out for me finding people who can and are willing to voice Orlesian characters, but even without them, I've got a whole lot more voice actors and characters added to the roster. The people I've been receiving lines from have been talented and almost universally friendly and professional.

Of course, all of the voice actors who contribute will be credited in the final product, but I feel I should reiterate here how important they are to the project and how grateful I am to them for their efforts. Since I set the bar for this adventure to feel like a "real" Dragon Age experience, I can't deliver that unless I have full voice acting for the entire project.

I could have delivered it quite some time ago if I didn't have this restriction, and arguably a lot more people would have played it if I had done so. Personally I don't think DA:O's combat has aged well, but I'm hopefully that people will persevere through that to experience this adventure and the myriad of choices and characters voiced by these talented actors.

That said their work is just the start for me. After the voice actors have done the hard work of acting their lines, is then up to me to make sure that the delivery matches the overall tone I'm looking for - mostly this is the case because in the scripts I provide appropriate context and emotional direction where necessary - but still give the voice actors enough leeway to give their own interpretation and representation of the character. Some of the lines have been delivered in ways slightly different to how I imagined them, but have been absolutely brilliant and given characters more depth to their personality.

The next step is make sure that there's appropriate silence (or lack thereof) on either side of the line - if a character is having a monologue/dialogue then there needs to be appropriate gaps between each sentence, but if there's an argument or an interjection, there's obviously virtually no gap present.

Then I have to ensure that the overall volume levels are consistent across all characters. For this I have a line of reference dialogue that I use as the benchmark volume to compare all other lines against. If a character is angry and shouting, it'll obviously be a bit louder than the reference line, if they're sad or otherwise speaking quietly, it will be a bit softer, but ultimately the aim is to ensure that all lines within the game have a consistent volume so individual characters do not have vastly different volumes so the player would have to adjust their speaker/headset volume up and down while playing.

These things might seem trivial, but their important for making sure that there's a consistent experience for the player. Finally, once all that is done, it's time to integrate the line into the game, including setting the camera angle, facial expression/tone and individual hand/arm/head/body movements to match the lines being spoken.

This process then has to be repeated to every single line of dialogue I receive. As you can imagine, this can be quite time consuming. Nevertheless, the end result is fantastic, and thanks to the efforts of the wonderful voice actors I've been working with, the characters in The Shattered War are really coming to life beautifully.