Character Names

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Neo Kojiro:
Not to roll out the Japan bandwagon, but there's a japanese series of voice synthesizers known as Vocaloids, which are programmed using the voices of famous voice actors and singers.

Unfortunately, Japanese is an ABSURDLY phonetically simple language. Consider 100ish phonemes (maybe triple if you include the breadth of irrelevant dialects) vs. OVER 9000 for English. By the way, that figure is not a meme but an actual close estimate that just happens to parallel a meme by coincidence. Still, we're at the point where using the Yahtzee robot example, during name input, you could say your name to the robot and if it pronounces it wrong, hit it like a faulty television cycling through all the possible pronounciations until you get one you like. With an optional override/hack switch that lets you just input the blasted thing in I.P.A....

I can't help but love Yahtzee's hatred towards Nathan Drake.
This whole voice creation thing, its a good idea, and might be a little crap to begin with, but shooting mechanics didn't get to where they are today in a single night.

On the subject of Nier, I'm actually surprised such a change was made that was also plot-centric. Of course, I suppose it wouldn't make that much of a difference since you can change the dialogue easily enough (need to translate anyway) and all you need to do is swap the character model.

Still, interesting way to try and appeal to different markets.

I had a friend in High School who named the main character of Chrono Trigger, Crono, 'Lavos' after the main antagonist. Much hilarity ensued.

Well the current consoles all have a form or 2 of a Headset and/or mic to input audio,If something like:

Can copy what's said maybe they could do that to get the name and then you spell it however. Though Lip-syncing would be an issue if they don't have them say it off camera or have their mouths obscured.

Or just call the protagonist "Generic game hero variant 1 - Space Marine with dead family members on revenge against alien invaders and tax evasion" :)

Is it me or did Yahtzee seem.... rather chipper in this article?

I think it'd be awesome to have your character name spoke. If only Dragon Age did this... rather than 'sorry... what's your name?' [you tell person your name] "ah excellent, has everyone met the Grey Warden?' *sigh*

How exactly would you have Nathan Drake act, Yahtzee? I've wondered this since your Uncharted 2 review. Would you rather he was cold and boring? Or acted like a clown? Just wondering, because you seem to exaggerate Nathan Drake's twatness.

The sad truth is, voice synthesizers suck.

When I was a kid, we had this bondwell CP/M computer with a cool voice synth. If you've heard U96's das boot, it's exactly the same synth. I remember seeing some magazine ads for tiny synth chips you could put into any home appliance, and that in the future all devices would speak to us. We even bought a voxbox synth for our speccy back then. The future seemed bright.

Then, nothing.

Couple years ago I did some research on the current state of voice synths, and it's depressing. Text to speech has improved, but the voice synthesis itself? Basically no advances since then, apart from the use of bigger and bigger recorded voice sample libraries. Toss in a complicated word that's not in the dictionary, and the illusion breaks apart.

One hobby project of mine would be to design a voice synth that doesn't just concentrate on text to speech, but would let the "speech designer" to compose the tone of the speech in a more flexible way. This would be perfect for games, except that using actual voice actors would probably result in a better quality, cheaper. Of course you could use it in a mobile game where huge voice samples wouldn't fit in memory, but the budgets there are so ridiculously low anyway that it wouldn't be commercially feasible.

Still fun to think about.

Usually the problem is not the lack of mention in the voice acting, its when games don't much develop the main character at all, and hes not even a relevant part of the story, one of the few good things about Nier is that the main character voices his opinions, acts like he cares etc...

Things that, don't come off so well at all in games where your character must be a blank slate and his personality only comes of during dialogue options which sometimes could make he look like a schizo that doesn't make up his mind... and several other problems.

If there's one thing Bioware hasn't figured out how to do properly yet (which is a shame since apparently they are the only ones who can say what is RPG and whats not) is lead character development.

Now im sure BW fanboys will come out of the woodwork to go completely against this, but all i got to say is... the best RPG of all time for me so far has been Planescape Torment, from a combination of factors (best setting etc) but mostly because the Nameless One is such an amazing character.

Went on a tangent there for sure, and to go off even more i'd just like to point out my general disappointment on RPG villains these days... at least in Baldur's Gate 2 Jon Irenicus filled the hole left by the main character by being an interesting badass villain, but its rare to find a game where the villain evolves into such a douche you can't wait to get back at him, sometimes, like in Dragon Age, the villain is a complete afterthought.

I always thought it was tricky to let you name EVERY character. Like in FF6, suddenly the game will say "Hey this is a player character, what is their name?" and I can't really think of a name out of nowhere so I usually just stick to default anyways.

For example, perhaps there could be a version of Just Cause 2 in which the protagonist is Puss in Boots. Or a version of Uncharted where the main character isn't a twat.

That slayed me.

I always thought it must be possible. On ventrilo for example you can type in your screen name, but also type something phonetically for the robotic microsoft sam-esqu anouncer to say when you login.

Obviously too much effort for too little pay out (In the developers opinion)

Or... you could make such a good character you could relate, no matter which his name is.
Ask yourself: would Silent Hill 2 would be better if all the characters tried (and failed) to say your name?
These are gimmicks.
Nothing compares to a good story.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
"of releasing several versions of a game with a different protagonist in each one, so everyone can pick according to personal taste".

So... a character editor then instead of a fixed model. Fine by me!
Except if it's the one from WoW, where they call it customization but you can't change more than jack shit and they all end up looking like clones of a few guys and gals :(

It's too bad you generally can't name every character anymore these days; I remember having fun with that when I was a kid, e.g. the time I started a Final Fantasy VII file and named everyone "Barret." Chaos ensued.

If you have heard the voice synthesizer that was made of Ebert you'll know that at least in a year or two you could definitely get a program that could fluidly enter a single name into a sentence.

One thing it could do is when you enter your name in the beginning, if it simply can not pronounce it because it's something like "kqrtrdgkk" the computer asks you to enter a new name, if it can pronounce it, it does so allowing you to hear how the computer actually would sound saying it before you confirm it.

Persona 3 and 4 got around this mostly with Japanese honorifics like senpai or sensei when referring to the main character, but it did get a bit weird at times...

Actualy, there have been a lot of advancements in voice synthesizers. We're very close to the indistinguishable to human speech.

Check this links:

Super Cool Awesome Links, but case in point to my favour (not that we were arguing, tho, dunno that you even read my post, heh), neither of those could pronounce my name even close to what it should sound like, even in my native language. By combining syllables from different languages, I could though, and I guess that's enough for games.

Here's an idea: Voice acting has basically killed the idea of the player naming characters, but how about a compromise? Why not include something like three dozen names that the player can pick from the start? Then you simply have the voice actors say the lines three dozen times so the game follows out with the name the player selected. It won't give the full optionality of being able to name the main character after yourself, but at least you can pick a better name than say "Cecil". Out of 36 names, I'm sure everybody can find something to like.

By the way, the remake of FFT on the PSP had an interesting way of working around this. 90% of the game was just text boxes, but there were something like ten voiced cutscenes. In this case, it didn't matter what you named your main character, because the voice actors would always say "Ramza". Oops!

A voice synthesizer would brake the immersion and flow of the game like no tomorrow. Imagine hearing someone speak normally then suddenly change tone because they use your name. Talk a about needle-scratch moment...

Well, oppp7 mentioned this earlier in the thread but I'm don't think anyone noticed.

You could consider your voice synthesizer as a limitation and design around that. Have the character who uses the synthesizer be a robot, computer, or something of the sort. Maybe have a fortune teller try to predict your name and tell it no every time it was wrong.

I see a lot of people posting that either it isn't necessary or it would be cool. I hold the stance that it would be cool the first time. After that, it would become the norm for games afterward. I just hope the first time they incorporate this into a game will include a plot that makes me care.

There are some ludicrously good voice synthesizers out there for mute people and such, but they cost a comparatively ludicrous amount of money.

One day... one day...

I liked the fable system of picking a title, then hearing every single person on the planet make exactly the same joke about my title being 'pie master'. Truly wonderful...

But unless you have a voice synthesising robot do all of the dialogue, or pay voice actors extra to record every syllable pronounceable by a human throat (in which case some ass-hat will still pick a name like vkxldsghtjklxz), it's still going to sound out of place when someone says your name.

In a certain viewpoint, I agree to some level. As I see it, my opinio is largely based more around the games that lack voice acting, but still utilize character names as obscure as what most Poke'mon names would be. This didn't exactly shine on me until very recently with Monster Hunter Tri. Now let's not beat around the bush--a good handful of the monsters in that game have names that are likley to have online disputes at some point in the future as to how they're actually pronounced. Seriously, how the pluck do you pronounce 'Lagiacrus'? I had enough trouble with Lugia while I still gave a crap. That's one of my main nitpicks of most Japanese fantasy games; they might lack voice acting yet still only use the most illegible compilations of letters for the sake of finding some kind of middle ground for international players. FFXIII gave some level of compensation, but when you look at the names, you can tell they just weren't trying. Hell, I'm sure 'Vanille' was named such just because naming a character after the certain orchid flavoring was going too far.

What was the point of changing the characters looks and story? It's so pointless and I hate when they do that crap. I want to original game god damn it. Same with the censoring, they took out part of the game just because one of the girls had a dick(That you don't even really see)

Ontopic though, games like Mass Effect and Dragon age handle this really well. Though I still prefer the characters to already have names if it's a linear game.

The Gothic series also has an interesting way of doing this. You don't name your character at all and whenever you're character goes to say his name the NPC will interrupt him immediately.

The sad truth is, voice synthesizers suck.

Arby and the Chief beg to differ.

Ontopic: that robot idea sounds fun, actually.
And funny, I got around the "Exile" part in Kotor II by naming my character "Exile Kun."
It worked wonders for immersion.

I'm not really convinced that an English language voice synthesizer is quite feasible for this kind of thing yet, although that robot idea could work. Changing the protagonist for the western release of Nier was an interesting idea, but one which is slightly undermined by the fact that both versions of him look pretty terrible and unbalanced.

Or better yet, let you create you own character with hairstyles other than short brown.

And the voice synthesizer could also work if one of the characters is Stephen Hawking.

Every time Yahtzee mentions abuse of "input your name" I laugh again at the memory of a college friend who played through Suikoden with a main character named "Eyikeelu".

Maybe, if a synthesizer was sufficiently limited to only being a name, and nothing else, it could work. Especially if further limited to highly dramatic scenes like Yahtzee mentions. Though as people have suggested, any method of "Is this right?" the game tried would be horribly immersion-breaking. Though at least it'd be less immersion-breaking than listening to Yuna desperately trying to tiptoe around not using Tidus the-name-of-her-newest-Guardian-that-she-thinks-is-cute. (I actually rerolled without renaming Tidus in the hopes that the voice-acting had at least recorded a version with his name and a generic some-other-name version. Oh how naive I was.)

Reminds me of a gag they did in Shadow Hearts where they have you 'input name' but then mock you for trying to rename the character.

Okay, I'm pretty sure Yahtzee is in my house.

My name is Frank, and when he mentioned my name after going on and on about hearing your name in games, it creeped me out.

Then he mentioned Puss in Boots with Shrek playing right next to me.

Yahtzee, get out of Illinois and go back to Australia. :P

Mass Effect got around the naming problem by having a set last name that every character calls you by. Though it gets weird when your love interest is still calling you "Shepard".

i didnt think so since all me friends call me by my last name and i've never had a girlfriend call by my first name.

I remember that the original Knights of the old republic somewhat alleviated this problem by having the aliens who didn't speak English say your name in the subtitles then near the end they revealed that the name you chose wasn't your real name so other characters could identify you directly like a normal person. Still a bit off at times but it kind of worked. The thing I wonder about is that if voice synthesizers get good enough will the need for voice actors ever drop off completely? It would certainly make some games cheaper to produce.


The sad truth is, voice synthesizers suck.

Arby and the Chief beg to differ.


I really hope they manage to get a new series of that done.

They have the same Nier in Japan, but they have two different versions (Similar to Pokémon), where the protagonist is different on PS3 or 360, but they only released the father one here, because they wanted the Japanese to have a standard JRPG protagonist.

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